How do I love thee? In small ways, every day

If you read my post on the holidays back in November, you might guess that I’m not all on fire about Valentine’s Day.  It’s not that I don’t love the idea behind most holidays. I do. Maybe that’s why I get all hot and bothered at how they’ve become something often far-removed from their origins.

I like the idea of taking a day to appreciate those we love. I don’t appreciate the relentless barrage of messages that say we must buy and give and do to fully show our love.  Neither does Cane, which is why we’re about the least-romantic couple you can probably find on Valentine’s day.

Or maybe not…

Tomorrow, Cane will not be taking me out to a fancy dinner.  He won’t even be making me one.  I won’t be doing anything like that for him, either.  See, Tuesdays are his night to teach (jiu jitsu) at the gym, and that’s what he’ll be doing. I’ll be hanging out with Grace, and likely working on a post for Wednesday.

Grace (nearly 14) is rather horrified by this–because she’s been drinking the Kool-Aid of all those messages about what love is and looks like.  Doesn’t matter how many times I tell her the truly romantic thing is for me to give Cane a guilt-free night in which to indulge one of his passions that isn’t me.  She’s not buying it. She wants for me what she wants for herself:  hearts and flowers and feelings that sweep you off your feet.

A little true romance

As a couple of people whose youthful dreams of love didn’t quite come true, we’re a bit wary of fairy-tale notions of love. I think each of us blames them, at least a little bit, for misguided thinking at the root of our romantic mistakes.

It’s not that we aren’t crazy about each other, but–well, we aren’t crazy.  And we don’t want to be.  We’re something else.  Something way better than the crazy we’ve each been at earlier stages in our life. 

What are now is something solid. Something steady, calm, and deep. The kind of something that won’t rock if one of us goes to the gym on Valentine’s Day.  Because Valentine’s Day is just that–a day.  It might sound really corny, but I think it doesn’t matter much to me what we do on that one day because we do things every day to show and celebrate our love for each other. Things that you can’t buy at the store.

So what kind of Valentine love do I get on a daily basis? The kind of love that:

  • Gets up to let the dogs (my dogs) out when I’m focused on writing a blog post.
  • Laughs when my daughter jumps on his back and wrestles her, even as she’s choking him.
  • Packs the other person’s lunch if we’re packing our own.
  • Rubs my shoulders when they are sore (which is almost every day).
  • Stops at the nightmare that is Winco in the late afternoon because no other store carries the same kind of honey, and I don’t really like any other kind of honey in my tea.
  • Encourages me to take a long, hot bath all by myself when I’m tired and migrainy.
  • Listens when I’m upset about something and doesn’t try to fix it or tell me why it’s not that bad.
  • Means it when he says he wants me to go out with my friends and have fun, even if it’s during time I might spend with him.
  • Smiles when I say I can’t eat in some restaurant because it has bad lighting, and walks back out the door without complaint.
  • Helps me understand my teen-age son and provides counsel that keeps me from blundering into parenting disasters with him.
  • Appreciates it when I say those 4 little words that sends dread coursing through the veins of lesser men (“we need to talk”).

Taking back Valentine’s Day

So, the traditional Valentine’s Day just isn’t for me.  But that doesn’t mean I’m a total V-day Scrooge. I decided last year that I was tired of huffily protesting holidays that have become more about buying than being–that it was time for me to reclaim them and celebrate on my own terms.  I was reading a book that talked about determining our personal non-negotiables (a really valuable idea), and I created a list of things that are non-negotiable for me on Valentine’s day.

My Valentine’s Day Non-negotiables List:

1. Other than for my kids (or other people’s kids), I will not buy any gifts for Valentine’s Day.

2. For my kids, I will spend no more than $5 each.  I will buy no heart-shaped or -themed anything other than, perhaps, candy—because it is the only heart-shaped or -themed anything they will want for more than 10 minutes.  (Or, it will be consumed within 10 minutes, which is even better.)

3. Any Valentine card I choose to give anyone else will be handmade. The card will contain my words, not someone else’s.  Homemade cards are like firewood you chop yourself:  They warm twice.  I get the fun of creating them, and the recipient gets the fun of getting my creation.

4. Nothing will be done on Valentine’s day from a sense of obligation.  Acts of love must be done freely and willingly.

5. My happiness on this day is not dependent upon any particular gifts or actions from anyone else.  That means I do not need my friends, my children, or my sweetheart to do or be any particular thing on this day, just because our culture has decided it’s the day to celebrate love.  What do those people do on the other 364 days of the year?  That matters much more to me than some big gesture of love on this 1 day.  It is non-negotiable that I remember that.

How did it work?

It was great.  Wonderfully freeing. So great that I’ve got the same non-negotiables today.

But enough about us…

How do you celebrate the day of love?  Anything you want to change or let go of? We think it’d be sweet if you left a comment telling us what works for you.