Originally Published on my Psychology Today blog on 2/14/11
It's that day. The day when single people who think about such things, or even some who pretend we don't, grumble and gripe and pretend to be cynical about love, and those of us in relationships that aren't perfect do the same. I wonder if there are more fights between couples than normal on this day, as we take turns disappointing one another by not giving gifts or the right gifts, but not taking our lover to the right restaurants, by not proclaiming our love enough or in the right ways. Boy, what a ridiculous day! And most of us understand that Valentine's Day is merely an economic tool designed to make money for card companies, candy makers, and flower sellers, but even when we pretend not to care, many of us do. In my neighborhood, every street corner has sprung up with makeshift booths offering gigantic plush teddy bears in pink, white, and red, bouquets of carnations and roses shipped from Mexico, and piles of pink, white and red heart tchotchkes. I suppose the booths are there for the men who forgot to buy their lady something for the day and are now terrified of her wrath should they come home empty-handed.
But, as we all know, a day is what we make of it. I've always loved the heart symbol. I collect them. I have a bag full of heart-shaped rocks that I've found. I even have a string of mardi gras beads that are heart-shaped that I found in New Orleans a couple of years ago. Today is the day of the heart symbol. It's everywhere. Yes, it may be, as one blogger pointed out, also the shape of the engorged hindquarters of a lady baboon in heat (he's not bitter about Valentine's Day, though!), but it's a day - regardless of why it came to be or who benefits financially - where we celebrate love.
Love, as we also all know, is wider than the love between a couple of people who have sex together. We also feel love for our families, friends, pets, plants, the planet. Love is everywhere. It's in the art we see around us, the music we listen to, and the books we read. No act of creativity comes without love. No act of kindness does, either. So today, can those of us who can see beyond the media and retail hype of this day use the ubiquitous heart symbols to remember to appreciate and generate love of all kinds? Try a smile at a stranger. Try forgiving someone something, just for today. You can pick a fight with them tomorrow. Try letting go of bitterness about yet another "how I met the love of my life" commercial on TV. Try laughter. Try calling someone you've been meaning to call for ages, and just asking them how they are (and meaning it.) Create something and dedicate it to love. Just find ways to generate love today. And possibly, that love will last until tomorrow, and the next day, and to the ends of time. But start today.
What Is Joy?
Can life really be joyful, even when hard things happen? Maybe not on the surface, but below our pain and fear, below the judgment of ourselves and others, there's a kernel that's an inherent and unstoppable desire to live; to see what happens next. At JATHT, we'll explore life, love, joy, and sorrow and hopefully learn something in the process. Welcome!