You may look at the title of this post and think, “Oh, yay. Another Valentine’s Day blog.” And yes, you have likely been inundated with ruminations on love.
The holiday thought up in the hearts of marketers that little resembles its original roots is today. And yes, it’s fun to exchange cards and gifts, to take a day to celebrate those you love. No lie, Mr. Not Martha is a consummate Valentine’s Day celebrator, and now with Tiny Hiney around, it’s even more fun.
But this post isn’t about the big, flamboyant displays of affection so common during Valentine’s Day. This, really, is for two sets of people – the people who didn’t have a “valentine” today, the people who think they’ll never find someone to love, someone who loves them back; and the people who have become cynical and believe love unnecessary, foolish and for those that are fooling themselves.
Now, the first group, I know these people, because I was these people. And let me tell you something, from the get-go: In order to have love, you must first have like.
It seems simple, I know, but so many times I would go on that first date and put so much pressure on myself and the other person because we both mentally were thinking 5 dates, a year, two years down the road, instead of really listening, really talking. It wasn’t until I made a conscious decision on my own to think of every new meeting as an opportunity to make a friend that I became a more fun date.
It took some effort, yes, to look at the mirror on my way out the door and say, “You’re making a new friend, not looking for a husband.” But I did it. And sure, some of those dates still were disasters. But when the fate of my empty uterus and my bleeding heart (snark alert) weren’t on the table, it was a lot easier to walk away with a funny story to tell at girl’s night out.
And then, one day, a guy I had been emailing and chatting with after we found out through a blog post of mine we had a workplace in common asked me to meet up for a snack at Cafe Brazil. I went there thinking I was meeting my new friend face-to-face for the first time. I left there thinking I had met a new friend – even after we talked for two or three hours and still hadn’t run out of things to say. It wasn’t until he asked me out on an actual date that I realized that we had moved from friend to something else.
And on June 5, 2010, I married the man who had become my best friend. And then I got pregnant. And no, I wasn’t always pleasant to be around, especially towards the end. And after John was born, there were a few months of sleep deprivation when we’d find ourselves on the couch, me crying, him looking helplessly on. But we survived all that (and a few other things in between) because we are best friends.
So my advice? Go look for a best friend. The worst thing that happens is you have a new best friend. The best thing that happens? Well, I think I’ve already covered that.
Now, you cynics. My message to you is tougher, because most of you are straight-up assholes, and generally whiny to boot. You have likely become cynical about love because you feel that the women/men in your life have done you wrong. You’ve got a string of dysfunctional, broken relationships behind you, and yet, you insist it’s not you, it’s that love is stupid and for fools and doesn’t actually exist.
You are wrong. Here’s the deal: If you find history repeating itself frequently in your life, it’s not them. It’s you. The answer of whether love exists, my friend, is not found first in someone else, but in you. Are you capable of unselfish love? Are you capable of sticking with it when things are hard? Are you patient? Are you willing to see another viewpoint, and meet in the middle? Are you willing and able to provide what the other person needs, knowing that sometime’s it’s not 50/50 all the time, but 40/60, 15/85, 90/10 at times, but in the end, it all averages out?
Because if you aren’t, even someone who loves you will leave you. People gravitate to where they feel safe, cared for and loved – that’s a fact. It’s likely what drew you to that person – they made you feel safe, cared for and loved. But if it’s never reciprocated in the same way, if they don’t feel those things, they will, indeed, leave you. Fact.
It’s easy to call love foolish when you haven’t really tried. Because love isn’t something bestowed upon you by a benevolent cast of heavenly angels, or even one slightly corpulent one in a sheet with a bow and arrow. Love is a choice. Love is an action. Love is something you pursue, which always requires effort.
And I suppose, in the end, it’s far easier to be cynical and call everyone else foolish. But you’re pissing me off when you do. I have found love, and I am not a fool. I know countless others who have found love, and they are not fools, either. Love is a real thing, but demonstrating it and living it is definitely for people made of much sterner stuff.
In closing, though, I happened upon this wonderful story on NPR today about comedian John Fugelsang’s parents, who met as a nun and a monk. What struck me about this story was that it perfectly illustrates exactly what I’ve talked about – they were friends first, and then became more, and that Fugelsang’s father chose love, and chose to take the first step.
At the end of the story, he says:
“You know, we live in a culture where men are not really celebrated for love,” says Fugelsang. “And so for me, the most defining personal dynamic in my life has been watching a man madly in love with his wife.”
“And now I’m going to be a dad for the first time,” he continues. “[And] the fact of the matter is, my kid gets to grow up in this beautiful, complicated world because many years ago, some guy in Brooklyn chose love.”