It’s officially Valentine’s Day now, which has never really been my thing – in all its commercialized clichés and demands that people pay attention to each other in a pre-packaged and boring way. It’s not that I don’t appreciate shows or showers of affection, love, friendship on this (or any other) day, but I’ve mostly been on my own on this “holiday”, involved with non-Americans (it’s really not such a big deal for people outside the US) or just indifferent to it.
With the years, my cynicism about Valentine’s Day has grown – not so much because of the holiday itself but more because of some greater failure to find the kind of openness I needed to see or feel love –or the idea of love – with clarity. Valentine’s Day is emblematic of the prized status of being “in a relationship”. But the whole thing is something I have vowed again and again to be more open and unflinching about. Yet as I assess my own behavior, attitudes, expression of feeling, I realize I have still held back, still been too analytical and governed by fear (and what better evidence do we have of my distance than the fact that I use words like “assess” and “analytical” and “governed” to describe my approach to emotional life?).
I recognize that there have been times in the last few years when I have been so out of touch with what real feeling might feel like that I have ignored all the warning signs of … nonsense.
In one situation, for example, I spent a good deal of time talking to and with someone but even from the first moment I recall lengthy phone conversations in which I was literally rolling my eyes and writing down annoying things he said, grammatical errors he repeatedly made, dull stories he repeated… he was dead annoying and I was trying to remind myself of this each time that I caved in and started talking to him again. I questioned again and again whether I should trust myself about these initial impressions – because I have been on my own, independent and purposely staying out of relationships for so long, could I possibly know for sure that someone was much more trouble than he was worth? Could I know that my giving someone the benefit of the doubt would be expensive, frustrating and filled with the kind of exposure to insensitivity that is almost impossible to fathom?
It’s funny to realize that even someone annoying, whom you don’t really like, can still somehow cause you to form expectations and be disappointed. Example – I expected a basic level of humanity but instead got something unpleasant, smug, boring as all hell with an incomprehensible attitude of superiority. Something full of excuses for all the missteps in life instead of taking personal responsibility, all kinds of unfinished, procrastination-fueled messes, and a non-listening, self-absorbed ass suffering from stunted development and an inability to read situations and people. Again the benefit of the doubt made me dismiss most of the anger I felt and write it off as just being at totally different spots in our lives. Truth is, though, I have experienced that before, but I don’t find that I feel residual and active dislike for any of the people who have made appearances in my life other than for this one completely oblivious person.
All that is neither here nor there (I have always hated the expression “neither here nor there” so I am surprised at myself for using it). I am far from perfect and am probably screwier emotionally because I feel like my experiences and choices have given me a skewed sense of feeling. I have let the falsehood of comparison overtake me. Worst of all I have not really allowed myself to be in the moment despite all my self-admonition to do otherwise. So many losses both for me personally and in the lives within my close periphery have infused everything with a sense of urgency about living in the moment and, more importantly, feeling in the moment and exploring real feeling without excessively questioning it. Earlier in the year I thought I had messed up a situation that has been nothing but a blessing by overanalyzing it, applying crude stereotypes, generalizations and presumption to it, overthinking it – but for once, every bit of my resistance has been met by intention and understanding.
I don’t know what will happen but I am in the moment, feeling, and following my heart, and it does, on this Valentine’s Day give me the best gift of all – hope that love and compassion are possible in a way that even I can feel.