Thursday was Valentine’s Day, which is a holiday I have famously mixed feelings about beginning with whether or not it should really even be a holiday at all. It seems, a little bit, like a scam. But my tender heart always seems to then take over and I think about how love—in all its forms—is worth celebrating. The world is generally a kind of dark place. Making time to stop and focus on big love and how it shows up in our lives is good thing, right? Granted, the cultural emphasis on hetero-monagamous relationships is problematic, but even that might be starting to shift. Brighter skies seem to be ahead for Valentine’s Day, at least in this writer’s view.
Except, of course, this year I was thinking about how we show love. What love actually looks like. Every year I hear some variation—sometimes directly—how it shouldn’t be a once-a-year thing, how we should be showing love year round. Every day should be Valentine’s Day. I love that sentiment, I think it’s true. I appreciate it for what it’s saying. But what does it mean, exactly? If we take all the normal Valentine’s Day tropes as evidence of affection, it means we’d all be poorer in cash and richer in plastic. Hothouse flowers and cards and chocolates and balloons don’t come that cheap.
Stop me if I’ve said this before, but I don’t actually think that’s what love is. Here’s the thing: I think that in our daily lives we actually do a lot of love celebrating. I see so often love made visible through action all around me: in the way old friends laugh together easily after being apart for too long, in how Cedar lays his head on my shoulder in the car, in how my dad waits at the coffeeshop to order until my mom can get there, in how my sister smiles in secret delight at how her fiancé can’t keep secrets, in how I patiently answer panicked emails from my students the weekend before their projects are due, in how tenderly my neighbor looks after the new shoots coming up in his yard, in how when I go to a friend’s house they already have water out for Cedar.
The world is full of examples of how people are taking care of each other, every day, if we only stop to look. Love, to me, has never been flowers and chocolates and a fancy dinner. Love is a verb, the kind we live and breathe. Once again, I’ve convinced myself into believing in another Valentine’s Day…but only because I know it’s always here, even when we’re not giving it a name.