Couples and roses and romance and candlelight and passion and…y’know, that’s enough. I’m rewriting Valentine’s Day.
At a recent reunion of friends, all of us in our 50s and 60s, we spent several hours each day, over a long weekend, catching up on our lives. Children and grandchildren. Second and third careers. Losses and gains. Triumphs and defeats. One woman had recently divorced her husband and was still finding her balance. Another had divorced years ago, remarried a wonderful man, and felt steady and strong. She was kind and empathic toward her newly divorced friend, and reassured her that another relationship, a better partner, might be around the next corner.
My reaction was different. When we go through a huge life-change — for good or for bad, for better or for worse — the ground shifts under our feet. We struggle to find a new equilibrium in all aspects of our lives, including relationships. In the aftermath of a divorce, we might not know how to relate to ourselves as single, how to define ourselves outside of a couple. The first relationship to reevaluate, rebuild, rewire, rediscover is your relationship to your own self.
If you have a partner and you choose to celebrate with roses and candlelight, then I wish you a wonderful day, every day, not just a command performance on Valentine’s Day. If you have a friend and you choose to celebrate your bond — again, I wish you well. If you have a family and you choose to celebrate your bone-deep connection — I hope your day is filled with wonder. If you’re remembering someone who has died, I hope you can feel the love you once shared, as well as the pain of your loss. If you feel alone on Valentine’s Day, then I encourage you to honor your relationship to your self. In my revision, Valentine’s Day is for everybody, for the many forms of healthy love.
Valentine’s Day lands in our lap every year, and the holiday has never made sense to me when it’s confined to romantic couples. Cupid — you’re a strange creature — zooming around, zapping unsuspecting folks, sending them tumbling ass over teakettle in love. You’ve got some disturbing relational issues on board, so I’m rewriting Valentine’s Day. Going forward, keep your arrows to yourself. Respect boundaries. Don’t intrude into other people’s hearts. Instead, put down your bow, feel your own heartbeat, renew your vows to yourself. That’s the foundation for all healthy relationships.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Amy’s first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, deals with homophobic bullying in high school, racial and economic diversity, and the power of friendship. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives — the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment — the patient struggling to heal — the supervisor guiding the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case.
Amy’s novels are available on Amazon.