Pictured: Our last Valentine’s Day together, 2016. We were in Playa del Carmen celebrating my sister’s wedding. The kids were taking a nap when this photo was snapped. Not long after this I was walking around, trying to rock the baby to sleep. Read: not a very romantic V-Day.
Disclaimer: I apologize in advance to the people who love Valentine’s Day who I am about to offend. But just so you know, this isn’t exactly a bash-on-the-holiday post. It’s more about why we shouldn’t be sad if we’re alone this year.
For the record, I haven’t cared about Valentine’s Day for a long time, even when my husband was alive. I don’t like being told what to do, and Valentine’s Day feels like a societally-imposed obligation to buy store-bought chocolate, flowers, and exchange sappy cards. It’s like we’re being told to look madly in love and happy and we have to keep up with what everyone else is doing.
No thanks. Please don’t tell me when and how I should show my affection.
As a kid holiday, sure. It’s kind of nice exchanging cards and treats with classmates. I’m not thrilled about the candy part of it and I was that mom who got non-candy items for her kids to exchange at school. But it’s a cute kid holiday.
As an adult, I think the entire day is silly.
First of all, when you’re not in a relationship, you have to feel bad about not having someone to get the flowers and the chocolate and the sappy card from. I remember many years ago feeling a little depressed that my friends got roses from their significant others and I wasn’t in a relationship.
If you’re in a relationship, you might have to deal with the other person not delivering the exhibition of love that you expected. Maybe there were no roses. Maybe the sappy card wasn’t sappy enough, maybe he/she didn’t think about making dinner reservations, or maybe you got stuck with a cheap bastard. I don’t know. It just seems like even if you have someone to pretend to be over the moon in love with, there is still a lot of room for deflated expectations.
As a widow, I feel like this is supposed to be a triggering day for us sad souls. We’re supposed to be devastated that our significant other isn’t here to lavish us with a dozen roses and fine dining. Widowhood is a little different than just being single because if our significant other were here, they would probably do something for us. But they aren’t. So here we are, alone.
I cared about Valentine’s Day so much this year that I made my weekly work schedule, arranged childcare, and then realized days later that I booked myself at the coffee shop to work on love day.
Well, that sounds exactly where I would want to be. I subconsciously did exactly what I wanted.
But maybe I should be at home watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, eating barkThins with a tissue in hand because surely I’ll sporadically burst into tears over not having my beloved here to give me that sappy card.
Yeah, not gonna happen.
I had a husband who actually did remember to buy me flowers throughout the year, just because. It was a lovely gesture. I appreciated it. He gave me sappy cards (year-round) and even enjoyed watching romantic movies more than I did. He did a good job in that department.
And now he isn’t here to continue showering me with his affection. But I’m not sad about it. That might seem cold, but I think it’s actually a coping strategy.
I had to make a decision about what to do with my sadness. I could let it fester and gnaw away at my insides, especially on triggering days that would remind me of my solitude, or I could do something else with it.
After my husband died, I learned that when life disappoints us–when something happens that ruins our expectations, something that derails the life we planned for–there is an alternative to our sadness.
We can choose to let go of the expectations that cause us pain.
There is more in life to experience. There are multiple sources of joy and contentment. Love can come in many forms. There are different paths to take, and they might be just as fulfilling or even more so than the one that didn’t work out for you. It’s not game over. We don’t have to settle with a death sentence of sadness.
I think it’s a matter of thinking strategically. Instead of having scarcity mentality that all of our joy and love is gone, we can choose to believe that we have the power to continue creating more experiences and more love. There isn’t a finite supply of any of these. It’s limitless.
I mean, I can buy my own flowers just fine. I can arrange my own entertainment. I don’t need a sappy card to validate that I was loved, am loved, and will be loved. I used to buy my own birthday presents, even when Kenneth was alive. I could never understand the song and dance we do with our partners, where we either a) expect them to read our minds and guess the perfect gift, or b) tell them exactly what we want and let them buy it for us, even when we could just as easily order it on Amazon.
I’m probably romantically stunted, but that didn’t happen in widowhood. I’m pretty sure I was born that way. I just don’t get it. (FYI, I make a really cheap date.)
Maybe in lieu of having my husband around, I’ve opted for a different kind of relationship. The most important relationship there is: one with myself.
If you think about it, you’re the only person you’re guaranteed to spend your entire life with.
Dare to be madly in love with yourself.