Ah, the official day of love expressed! What’s not to like? A lot, in my mind. I’m all for feeling and expressing love, but the idea that we need an official day to remind us to do so is a bit sad. Really, Valentine’s Day – regardless of the saint behind it – is a commercial construct whose purpose is to wrestle money from our guilty wallets, as we try to make up for the other 364 days we feel we failed to express our feelings sufficiently.
Yes I’m a Valentine’s Day cynic. But I’m no cynic when it comes to love.
Love takes a lot of gumption. To go for it, to give in to it, to let it go. I personally experienced a decade of volatile relationships in my twenties before falling into the sweet embrace of marriage, which lasted 30 years but ended in divorce, followed by two years of lying fallow to replenish my emotional fertility, at which point – probably because I wasn’t looking – the universe sent me a captivating seat-mate on an airplane and I had the wits to recognize a good thing when I met it.
Ending my marriage was an act of gumption. It’s terrifying to let go of being married. To give up having another beating heart in the house and the conceptual comfort of having a partner in life. It’s terrifying to recognize that the reality of those things is not the same as the idea of them, and is no longer good enough. I thought that act took more gumption than I would ever have to muster again in my life.
Then the possibility of new love presented itself.
Following the spark that showed up on the airplane and letting it develop into something deep and unrestrained took a different kind of gumption. I started off thinking the usual thoughts of where will this go and how can I make it go someplace I want. Then I realized that I’m no longer fifteen years old and I can create a new idea for myself about how I want to love. One that is less tied up in outcome and more concerned with the celebration of how good it feels to love and be loved in the moment, regardless of what the future might hold.
I was inspired by a passage in a book that wasn’t about love at all. Its subject was civic duty, but in the forward the author wrote about love letters:
[A love letter brings] something delicate and intimate into the light of shared vision. This disclosure is hazardous and frightening, but it is necessary because the kind of love that moves between people cannot survive in solitude… Love letters, then, require the courage to stake oneself on an expression of hope that may well come to nothing. They also indicate a perception of importance, a sense that some possibilities, however unlikely, are so important that not acknowledging them would be an act of terrible neglect.
– Jedediah Purdy, For Common Things
For Valentine’s Day I don’t want chocolates or roses or even a declaration of love. I already know how my love feels. My wish for the day is that, on this day or any other, those of you who might be thinking of love will ‘stake yourself on an expression of hope’, if you should feel it. So as not to let a lack of courage result in an act of terrible neglect.
There are lots of uses for gumption, but love strikes me as the greatest use of all.
If you have stories about how you’ve been gumptious in love, please send em’ my way in the comments section. Because just like everyone else, I love a good love story even if I’m a conscientious objector to Valentine’s Day.