How to Avoid Valentine’s Day Disappointment
If you’re into Valentine’s Day, I hope it’s going well for you.
I can’t say the day has ever been anything but a spectacular disappointment.
And not because I haven’t been well loved by good people.
See, when I was nine, my father painted this poster for me.
What chance did anyone have, really?
During an early Wuthering Heights obsessed phase, I submitted a complaint to a lover about the quality of his romantic gestures which were not ‘mad and moonly,’ (thanks e e cummings for that igniting phrase). I sighed that all I wanted was to be loved like Heathcliff loved Cathy – was that so much to ask? He drew back. ‘So you’d like someone manipulative and cruel. Preferably with PTSD?’
At least someone in the relationship was seeing things clearly.
Long before we were married, Zed, told me I shouldn’t expect flowers. As far as he’s concerned romance is just a capitalist marketing strategy by the florists, chocolatiers and candle-makers and he’s not falling for it. He goes for practical in the gifts department. Which is romantic in its own way.
So I buy my own flowers. And let me tell you I am never disappointed. I always get just what I want: blended roses, pink peonies, parrot tulips. I never have to put up with the messiness of lilies which are spitefully poisonous to cats, nor the morbid attempts of a carnation to coax joy.
But I get that Valentine’s Day can make those of us without romantic love in our lives feel bereft, somehow unworthy. Exclusion is part of its allure. That’s if we buy into its narrative.
Which Joan Armatrading didn’t. She reminds us, ‘there is more than one kind.’ And maybe she meant friendships. Parental love. Filial affection. Adoration of a pet, a place, the ocean – all the ways in which we connect and feel alive because of it.
Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?
Love is a way of being in the world.
It begins with our own gaze. It is impossible to wholeheartedly love outwardly if we do not love within.
When it comes to writing, we must always write from a place of self-compassion. Not judgement or self-loathing. If we do not have soft eyes for our failures and shortcomings, how can we ever hold the brokenness of others without hurting them with the hidden blade of our unarticulated criticism?
We teach others how to love us, by how kind we are to ourselves. We role model what we are willing to tolerate by the yeses and no’s we say inwardly.
Love is yes, to all the worlds that exist in and through us.
Generosity, forgiveness and self-sacrifice for the sake of others are admirable qualities, sure. But if they don’t flow from the great love we have for ourselves, from what unsustainable diminishing motherlode are they sourced? The need for approval? Fear of rejection? Desperation to be liked?
We all know how to break our own hearts more unrecoverably than anyone else can ever hurt us – by all the promises we don’t keep, plans we delay and voices inside we shush; by ghosting ourselves and diminishing our dreams.
Oh my God, what if you wake up some day and you’re 65, or 75 and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy, creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart.
Don’t let this happen.
And so, to those of you who have put off that writing retreat, that book you’re going to write someday, that longing to put words on a page, come join me in August in Mystery Bay for some real romance. Where you get to love you. All of you. Not just the pretty bits.
MYSTERY BAY WRITING RETREAT
Maybe then we can speak about what true love is.