It will be like any other day.
I will wake up and do the dishes, make breakfast, prepare for work even though it’s a Sunday because the best distraction is to keep busy with something that will eventually get me somewhere.
And as much as I fight against feeling sadness over Valentine’s Day, as rational as I am about what the day signifies, and how we must practice self-love and all the strong, single-lady anthems we sing when yet another couple-centric holiday rolls around, the truth for this year is that I do feel sad.
I do feel enormous longing for what is absent in my life: true partnership, being seen and appreciated for the person I am right now, being intensely connected with someone through mutual admiration, joy, passion, respect—love.
These kinds of connections are rare. They aren’t the sort that are easily made or kept with ribbons and bows, red foil boxes filled with chocolates, or even diamonds. Such gifts are only symbols, and the giving or receiving of them never means anything if the feelings they are meant to represent aren’t acted out in the ways we treat each other every single day of the year.
I’ve never needed the symbols, but for a woman like me—career-focused, creative, unorthodox, undomesticated, hopeless romantic and cynic—what those symbols represent are hard to find.
I have the choice to settle down, to strive for normality, to give up the dream of finding someone who gets me without even trying for someone who gets parts of me occasionally and thinks that’s enough to offer a house complete with picket fence, material comfort, and the promise to take care of me. But to exchange my heart for security sounds like a sin, sounds like a sham, sounds like trickster coyote.
In the end, I’m being tricked by some imaginary idea of who I’m supposed to be as much as the person who is so eager to lure me behind that fence and keep me there without seeing enough in me to know that I will thrive in that place only if my heart and mind, body and soul, are fully engaged.
But it’s a common trade, a normal exchange in a woman’s life.
Regardless of how far we’ve come in this world, there are certain battles we continue to fight. Notions that have been passed down through generations of women. Many of our mothers, independent as they may be, still can’t rest easy until they see us happy—and happiness too often means, “with a man who can offer stability.”
And so we remain programmed to believe that this is what we need to survive. No matter how much we pay our own way, how much we build our own lives, have our own thoughts, take care of ourselves, we still somehow believe that we must have someone fold us up in their arms, sign contracts, and make us promises if we are ever going to feel truly safe and of value in this world. That we must be part of a pack.
Because lone wolves have a shorter life expectancy.
Because life is more dangerous when you are moving through territory that is not yours knowing you might die alone even while howling for someone.
When days like this come around, when the world at large is celebrating love and I am merely celebrating my ability to drag myself out of bed and put on something other than a bathrobe, I wonder what I would be willing to buy at the price of my freedom. And I don’t mean the freedom just to go about doing whatever I want because no one is telling me otherwise, but the freedom to be all of who I am without conforming to someone else’s view of me out of fear of loss or being alone.
I mean trading my wild spirit for one that is subdued, trading this complexity of emotion, the rawness I feel, for a demeanor more easily understood, for a version of self that is more pleasing and pliant.
I mean trading what I know my heart is capable of feeling for the inevitable numbness that settles in once I have allowed myself to give up on passion for reason; to give up the unknown for the known; to give up the fullness of love for half love, for safe love, for tepid love—which isn’t love at all.
Every day, in that life, I see myself waking up, writing my hopes on headstones and planting them on the path behind me, one by one. Those lost dreams stretch on far as the eye can see, miles and miles of a woman I don’t know anymore, filled with cemetery.
And I don’t want that.
I may eventually give up the dream that true partnership is in the cards for me, but I never want to give up true partnership with myself—not in exchange for security, or in the name of practicality, or for the chance to believe that whatever’s around the next bend in the road isn’t going to devour me.
I never want to give in to the notion that I have to be safe, that life can’t be raw and messy and scary. Because that’s nature—our nature. And nature isn’t something dirty we have to scrape off our bodies. It isn’t something we have to deny. We don’t have to vacate ourselves to get along in this world, or reject all the wild and riotous realities of life just because sometimes it can be gruesome business.
I’d rather grow into the wise woman archetype, wrinkled and weathered but with light still behind my eyes. I’d rather have tangled hair and be the strange one lying by herself in the grass under sunbeams—fleshy and rough and untamed—than to wake up sheltered—safe and secure, yet trying to remember what it was like to be connected to my own heart.
That is my wish for every woman who is like me, sad and lonely on days like this even though we might fight against it. There is no shame in that sadness, in the desire for that connection. There is no weakness in that longing. It is built in to me as much as the wildness, this desire to love and be loved. It’s simply that, in the end, I will always long for myself more.
I will always want to protect the beauty that is the fullness of me more than I want the protections of a partnership or an offer of love that would accept anything less.
Author: Stephanee Killen
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Milada Vigerova at Unsplash