The first thought that may come to your mind is irony perhaps. I do love irony, and it is generally not lost on me that I am a divorce attorney writing once again about love. My celebration of Valentine's Day on Friday the 13th is a bit less macabre that it sounds -- well, ever so slightly. After 21 years of being a divorce attorney, one would expect I might be a touch of a cynic. Well, you caught me. I love everything about love but Valentine's Day does it. It brings out the full-blown pessimist in me. Valentine's Day is the mandatory day for showing love and affection to those we hold dear, right? There are those cards, written by the finest Hallmark writers who somehow have crawled inside our very soul and poured out onto this $8.95 card just exactly how we love each other (How do they do this? It is magical.) Of course, they are so picked through by the end of January this may have you sending the one you purchased on February 12th at CVS, wishing your sweetheart a happy first year of marriage, when you have actually been married for 10. Let us not forget there are the expensive flowers and boxes of mystery chocolates, the Prix Fixe menu at your favorite restaurant. Just horrible, the indignity of it all, I lament.
I clearly remember my childhood was full of wonderful Valentine's memories. There were shoe boxes decorated with pink and red hearts and white paper doilies awaiting the tiny Valentine's in the box or if you're lucky, a taped on lollipop. I remember conversation hearts and the absolute happiness I felt when my then fairly new stepmom got us each the little red heart shaped box of Russell Stover candies, which of course, meant she "loved" us. I am my father's daughter; they say, and I think my Valentine's Day aversion came from him. I am quite sure I was seven. My dad called it a made-up holiday, a greeting card company conspiracy, if you will, forcing people to proclaim love. I grew up to be someone who espoused if not at best a "not my favorite holiday" commentary to at the worst, someone who regularly reminded my significant other, I can't stand Valentine's Day. I would happily concur with my husband that the restaurants are too full, the food is always terrible, and the flowers are too expensive and a waste of money. I am fully insulated by ever being disappointed on Valentine's Day, ever. No matter what.
So, as Valentine's Day approaches again, I begin to wonder why I never really liked the holiday once I "grew up." The answer was surprisingly simple. Expectations: If you have them, you might get hurt. I don't like being hurt, especially by those I love. On Valentine's Day people are expected to show they love you in some big, over the top expression of love and if not, well, I guess you just are not "loved." Maybe there is a fear of no one really loving me truly. Maybe it is the fear of being disappointed or of disappointing someone else by not showing them the exact right way that I love them. Fear of the love not being real, because it is forced. But these expectations, these fears, are just my silly excuses to insulate myself from the pain I see every day. Quite frankly, they are a poor excuse to dislike a day that celebrates love. I realize that while my days are spent managing expectations as a divorce lawyer maybe a little too much of this had seeped into my life.
But my daughter Ella is not having any of it. Ella came along shortly after Valentine's Day in 2010. She came into this world fighting to breathe and to live. We loved her alive, if it is at all humanly possible to pour so much love into a child she just lives, we did it. And she has spent every minute of every day giving it back to everyone she meets. So now as the holiday again approaches, I feel like my Grinch-like Valentine's Day attitude is starting to melt away. Maybe it is that little 4-year-old of mine with her big, brown eyes spending hours writing the four letters of her name 19 times with equal excitement for each little friend as she states for each and every card she just "loves them so much!" Love, pure and simple, no rhyme or reason, just hearts overflowing. What's not to celebrate about that?
So this year, I will celebrate on Friday the 13th not out of my keen sense of irony, but because I will be a classroom mom helper for a room full of little loves in Valentine's themed shirts watching them exchange their tiny expressions of love painstakingly autographed with their still chubby little hands. I will keep my promise on the 13th and the 14th and everyday thereafter, to love out loud.
My mom used to say, "people will live up to your low expectations of them." So this Valentine's Day, I will try to not be afraid or lower my expectations just to avoid being disappointed and enjoy the love exactly how it comes, and when it comes. I will be confident I am loved. I will be more like Ella, who "loves everyone in the world, even the people she hasn't met yet." She does that every day, and she sure doesn't skip Valentine's Day. I will use it as just another opportunity to say I love you. We just don't get enough of those, do we?