gratitude and Valentine’s Day

Ugh.

Valentine’s Day.

Ugh. Pressure, expectation, I’m single, consumerism, set menu’s that cost twice as much, everything that costs twice as much than usual, a million marketing emails clogging up my inbox, predictable gifts, social media saturated and sparking envy. Ugh.

Valentine’s Day is a great example of something that can lead to discontent but changes when we approach it with an attitude of gratitude.

valentines-quote

If we strip it back to what it’s about, it’s something almost all of us can celebrate.

Love. Connection. Vulnerability.

“In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.”

From history.com

Isn’t that fascinating? “Small tokens”… “handwritten notes”.

Nothing extravagant with an emphasis on personal words of affection. And not just to boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses and partners but also to friends.

V-Day doesn’t have to force you to face up to what you lack. It can point you to how rich in love you are. It doesn’t have to make you envy what others get. It can change your focus to what you can give.

Why not see it as a day to show love to whomever you love or whomever needs love? Spouse. Friend. Neighbour. Auntie. Colleague. In-law. Recently-widowed Grandma. Homeless man on the corner.

I had never viewed Valentine’s Day in this way until I received an email newsletter from a parenting guru. Here’s the link to the article that suggests several ways in which you can bring some Valentine’s traditions into your family.

“Parents often ask me how they can find time to deepen their connection with their children, given how busy they are. Because Valentines Day is all about love, it gives you the perfect opportunity to create more love in your family, not only between parent and child, but between siblings.” Dr Laura Markham

I want to encourage anything that enables my children to express themselves and I think we have definitely inherited that emotionally reserved culture referred to in the quote. We struggle to make ourselves vulnerable. Do you recall the fear you felt over delivering any Valentine’s you sent as a youth? I’ll leave it on the doorstep. But what if they’re in and they see me? ARGH! Or the cold sweat you’d break out in when you had to decide what was appropriate to get a boyfriend/girlfriend you’d only been dating for a month or so?

One of my favourite Valentine’s Day memories is the first V-Day after Robb died (my long-term boyfriend who died of cancer when I was 20). It was only two months following his death so it was all still incredibly raw. What a sad and depressing day for me, right? It was painful. But, a red envelope dropped through my front door. It was a Valentine’s card from a member of my family (I won’t say who in case it embarrasses them!). It was so precious and I think I still have it. Ten years later and I’ve never forgotten it and the love I felt that comforted me. It helped me to feel grateful for the love I had in my life rather than just dwelling on what I’d lost.

It takes courage to be vulnerable and that’s what you’re doing when you show love to someone. I’m not going to thoughtlessly buy-in to a consumer holiday… But a day that celebrates the most precious aspect of our humanity and a defining characteristic of our creator – well, I’m up for that. A day that encourages us as a family to freely express love and gratitude to one another and then praise the courage and vulnerability that it demands – I’m definitely up for that.

Today my husband, my two children and I wrote little notes of what we appreciated and loved about each other on red hearts. My four-year-old and two-year-old dictated to me, naturally. We will save them for next year and use them to decorate with on February 14th, year upon year. I also sent a card to someone in my family. As suggested in the article, we were specific about the things we appreciate to let that person know that they were seen and loved for who they were.

love-image

It’s nearly the end of the day, but it’s never too late…

If you have any Valentine’s Day traditions I’d love to hear about them in the comments or via Twitter or my Facebook page.

Happy Valentine’s day, readers. Thanks for being interested in the stuff I say.

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