How many of us have found ourselves dreading Valentine’s Day? Be honest now…
Either because we are with someone, but it’s new and the whole thing feels very staged and awkward… or because we are without someone and we are painfully aware that we have only two options in our approach to this festival:
Option One: Add our vocal disdain to the chorus of ‘it’s just a mainstream materialistic holiday for the masses’
Option Two: Declare lack of interest in the whole rose-bedecked circus
After all, you may have been raised in a country or countries that didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or you may have been raised to celebrate it in a way completely foreign to the cultural norms of the country you now live in. Or you may find the whole thing an uncomfortable reminder of your own singleness.
Transitions, both geographical and relational, can pull our lives in so many directions that a festival of Love can feel confusing at best, and painful at worst.
Okay, so Valentine’s Day might feel a silly sort of subject to get so heated about… but it’s not, is it? Because it’s one of those many points, along with birthdays, graduations and weddings, that makes us feel the extent (or perhaps the limits?) of our connectedness to the world.
It is so easy to feel disconnected, by continents, by cultures, by languages, by experiences… A client said to me recently, “I just want to know that I’m liked, you know? To feel I belong…”
Disconnectedness tells lies. It tells the eminently likeable, the talented, the compassionate, the funny and the wonderful that they are disconnected because they aren’t worth connecting with. In other words, Disconnectedness whispers that our worth is linked directly to the reach of others; that if they like us, we are worthy. Disconnectedness lays all the power of belonging at the doors of others.
“Okay, so who do you like?”
The power of connectedness and belonging returns to our laps as we answer this question. For some, the answer will be in generalities: I like people who… fight for justice, are kind, like dancing in the rain (!) For others, the answer will give out names, family and friends… mentors, heroes, educators…
Somehow, this question can be harder to answer than expected… alternative wordings might be:
“Who do you enjoy spending time with?”
“Who do you admire?”
“Whose characteristics would you like to emulate?”
Here’s the thing, the key to connectedness and belonging lies beyond our acceptance by individuals or groups. Belonging is not to be achieved simply by feeling wanted or liked by others.
Instead, belonging is achieved when we find somewhere or someone where we long to be, as well as somewhere or someone to whom we may be said to belong.
And perhaps this is a peculiar challenge for the cultural chameleon, the one who, thanks to an upbringing full of transition, can infiltrate many and various groups and imitate belonging with a certain ease: Learning to belong may have taken precedence over learning where we long to be.
Forget for a moment the materialism surrounding Valentine’s Day, forget the flower-strewn frippery of it all… and notice its invitation towards connection and belonging, an opportunity to declare where you long to be!
Where do you long to be this Valentine’s Day? With whom?
Unsure? Then answer this question, “Who do you like?” And once you’ve answered that, tackle the next challenge, “How can you show them you like them?”
For beyond the sentimental cards and floral offerings, lie the wonders of Connectedness and Belonging.
And if you would like support to establish connectedness and belonging in your life, get in touch here.
I’d love to hear your story, and encourage you as you write your next chapters.