In case you haven’t been to a store or listened to the radio lately, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and like any holiday, Valentine’s Day comes equipped with feelings of loneliness, disappointment, and insignificance.
I watch the effect of ‘Valentine’s Day’ with my students every year. Suddenly, everyone’s favorite movie is ‘The Notebook’. The girls start wearing “cuter” clothes. Couples are paired off, leaning against walls and lockers, gazing into each other’s eyes. Of course, this kind of behavior is always prevalent, but it definitely spikes the week before Valentine’s Day, because everyone feels they MUST have someone to celebrate with, no matter who that person is. I’d bet if you got a bunch of adults together, they’d exhibit the same behavior.
Of course, all of these things stem from our creation of unrealistic expectations (plagued by the movies and shows we watch). When we live in a dream world, we expect to be taken to fancy dinners, gifted expensive diamonds, our crush’s to jump out of bushes and profess their love to us. And, year after year, we expect all of these things to happen.
But, when we live in reality, we realize that actually when the time comes for that fancy dinner, we are actually EXHAUSTED from the work week and would prefer to put our pajamas on. We realize that having the fancy diamond would mean we take away from our savings, and we’d rather save up for a house. And if my crush jumped out of a bush and professed his love to me, I’d probably be more creeped out than excited…
I think expectations stem from airs of entitlement. I feel entitled to that raise (because I feel like I have worked so hard), so when I don’t get that raise, I am disappointed. I feel entitled to be in that wedding (because I’ve been friends with her the longest), so when I’m not chosen, I am disappointed. I feel entitled to be at the front of the line (because that is JUST the person I am), so when I start bumping and shoving everyone, I’m confused as to why they don’t like me…
Or, I feel entitled to BE loved. I feel entitled to be taken out to dinner, to be bought fancy diamonds, to constantly have someone professing their own love to me. And, it’s when I feel this sense of entitlement, that constructs my expectations, that when I don’t have these things, I feel lonely, disappointed, and insignificant. Of course, the Bible tells us we are all deserving of God’s love, and no matter who we are, where we come from, what we’ve done, God’s love is always available to us. But, I think it’s kind of pompous and arrogant of us to believe we should always BE loved in these materialistic ways by others.
Last year, I wrote about giving love to others, and how we can still participate in the grace of the day without needing a significant other to feed our attention. I believe in our lives, we play different roles at different times. Sometimes, we are to be loved. People are to plan nice dinners for us, buy us thoughtful gifts, profess their adoration to us. And other times, we are to love others. For seven years of my life, I had a Valentine, and I was in the position of to be loved–and at this particular period of my life, I believe I am to love others. And, I think it’s important we learn to play both roles so that we can appreciate the other. When I plan a romantic dinner for someone else, I know how anxiety-inducing it is, so when someone else does it for me, I’m appreciative of their efforts. I know how confusing it can be to pick out a gift for someone else–because a gift often symbolizes how serious I think the relationship is, and if they don’t feel the same way, I put myself at risk to be rejected–so I’m more sympathetic when someone gives me those diamonds. When I’m the first one to drop the “L” bomb, I know how scary that can be, so when someone does it to me, I can understand their fears, and hopefully respond in an appropriate way.
We often get so hung up in our short term satisfaction that we ignore the long term happenings. This happens during the Christmas season; we expect EVERY SINGLE Christmas to be PERFECT. We will all be in the PERFECT holiday moods. We will all drink the PERFECT amount of pumpkin spice lattes. We will attend a PERFECT amount of holiday gatherings and all of our traditions will go PERFECTLY. But, life has some kind of reality to it, and reality dictates that sometimes our moods are tarnished by a life-altering event. Sometimes, Starbucks runs out of pumpkin spice lattes. Sometimes, work is so crazy that we cannot attend all those events. The average human lives to be 85 years old, which means we have 85 Christmas’, birthdays, Valentine’s Day’s, Mother’s Days, Earth Day’s, etc. to attend–realistically, by the words of Mary Poppins, it’s perfectly impossible for every single one of those to be PERFECT.
The good news is, the moments we ARE the loved will forever exist. Just because I am not the loved this year will never take away the fact that I was ONCE the loved, and anytime I walk down memory lane, I can re-visit those moments of being so loved. I can turn on the song as I’m driving, and remember the way I felt as we threw goldfish at each other. I can re-read that love letter I received, and remember the smile that evaded my face. I can stumble across a picture of that big banner that was hung in the school hallway for the dance, and remember just how special, and surprised, I was in that moment. Despite how things ended up, it does not take away from the fact that, at one time, those things were very, very real, and I was, at some point, very, very loved.
Those times, I sat in the “be loved” Valentine’s Day seat, and this year, I’m sitting in the “to love” seat. This means indulging in my friends’ Valentine’s stories, being an active listener and engaged in their own love stories, asking questions and feeding into their excitement so that someday, when I have my own, someone will play that role for me as well. This means finding ways to serve others on that day, such as covering a shift so someone can go on their own romantic dinner, offering to babysit, or cleaning the house. This means reminding other people of why they are so important to me, helping my friends come up with gift ideas, reminiscing in my own love stories, and reminding myself that, one day, I, too, will fill that role, but it’s just not now. The day is designed for selfless acts, and in a world of capitalism and consumerism, we are trained to feel entitled, hold expectations, and feel disappointed when we don’t have one special someone to spend the day with. But, it doesn’t have to be that way, and the day can be just as fulfilling. I can’t look at these single moments as times in which I am LACKING love, but rather, look at the moments I DO have love as ones that enhance my life. We just have to be careful not to put too many conditions on love.