Okay so I’ve broken significant writing rules in this title about Valentine’s Day – too many capitals, and too many exclamation marks… And yet I’ve determined to keep it. Why? As anyone who’s ever worked with me knows, you don’t get poker face with me. You get expression, and arm waving and yes, exclamation marks! For years I’ve identified this as my “American” part. This is the part of me that has made me feel “too big”, “too noisy”, “too enthusiastic” in a British context. And yes, “too sentimental” too.
So when I write “Happy Valentine’s Day – to YOU!!!” I’m doing so with my American self front and centre. And when you hear it, what part of you is reacting?
Our cultural experiences massively filter our feelings about this holiday – and every other one for that matter too. I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day in one form or another every year of my teen/adult life – whether or not I was in a “couple” at the time. My first exposure to Valentine’s was via my high school community abroad – international school “American” culture (“American” because we were multicultural with a dominant American strand). So it was teachers giving out heart themed candy to all the class, female friends leaving origami love notes in lockers expressing appreciation for our friendship, and parents throwing co-ed Valentine’s parties with heart-shaped jello, pink Koolaid and cutsie cakes.
And then England. And it’s not that.
I remember the first Valentine’s Day I was single after my separation (divorce pending) and a friend (also recently single) landed at my home for a short stay. Her face as I offered her heart shaped cookies was a picture. “Of all people,” she exclaimed, “I thought you’d be the one NOT doing Valentine’s! I thought I’d be safe here!” Ooops. It hadn’t occurred to me to avoid the holiday just because I was getting divorced. How unEnglish of me. Again.
So how do you do Valentine’s? Avoid? Gal-entine? Bro-entine? (Is that a thing yet?) Do you include your friends, your children? Or is it only relevant if you are coupled? Here a number of couples avoid it anyway as over-commercialised ick. Fair enough. But a missed opportunity for cookies in my book. Or pink dyed pancakes as was my case this morning (!)
Okay, maybe this is a better question: How would you LIKE to feel about Valentine’s Day?
Is today an opportunity to re-write how you do this holiday? I’m always talking about stories – what kind of story do you want to make of this day?
Can you show yourself some self-love… a Self Love Story?
Can you use it as an opportunity to send appreciative messages to your family or friends? (No shoulds here from me! Only send if actually FEEL in that space in these relationships!) – a Loving Friend/Family Story?
Can you review how you want to celebrate it if you are in a romantic relationship? Do you feel you ‘shouldn’t’ care – but find deeper down you do want a bit of fussing? Or do you currently celebrate it but find it a bit stressful as things actually aren’t great between you right now? – A Relationship Story?
Today is an opportunity – to do, or not do, or re-work into an entirely new iteration. And I do love me an opportunity to write my own story – my own Love Story.
What is your Valentine’s Day Story today?
Whatever it is, tell it to yourself with kindness – and perhaps with heart-shaped cookies.