About 10 years ago, I was newly divorced, and alone on my first Valentine’s Day.
Now, it should be noted that I always thought Valentine’s Day was a totally contrived holiday solely for the purpose of boosting sales in certain industries. And it wasn’t the case that it was always an amazing day when I was married. But there was a stigma and shame I was carrying around as a woman in her 40s totally alone (kids with their dad) on the day when I thought everyone else in the world was feeling loved and cherished.
I tried to be proactive and set up a night that would keep me in a good place. A little shopping. Take out for dinner. Home before it was dark. A warm bath. But life has a way of reminding us we can’t control everything. When paying for a cute little sweater (one I didn’t really need, but that is another story), the young cashier cheerfully asked me, “Are you doing anything special tonight?”
The question, while obviously harmless, was like a punch in my gut. My sad, scared inner child wanted to say, “No, I’m not. No one loves me and I’m all alone and I feel pretty pitiful and unlovable right now.” Instead, I kept my “mask” on (figuratively, this was before Covid) and I just said, “No, just a relaxing night at home.”
But just because I didn’t say it out loud didn’t mean I didn’t say it over and over to myself the rest of the night.
Now, years later, and another Valentine’s Day almost here, I can honestly say that I wish my answer had been, “Yes, I am. I hope you are too.” Because what I had planned was special. It just took me some more whispers from the universe, nudges, and sometimes pushes to get it.
If you aren’t in a relationship this year with someone else who fits society’s view of what makes you feel loved, here are some reminders for all of us about love every day of the year:
1. A relationship is like a job interview—you might be the best accountant in the world, but the emergency room down the street won’t hire you because that’s not what they are looking for. We wouldn’t take it personally if we didn’t get the emergency room job, so we shouldn’t take it personally if someone we are into doesn’t feel the same way. As it has often been said, you can be the juiciest, ripest peach, and someone might just not like peaches. Don’t dim your light or your juiciness or the right person won’t be able to find you. Keep being you.
2. Similarly, remember that we wouldn’t go into a hardware store and demand an ice cream cone. If you are in a relationship where you are upset because you aren’t getting ice cream from your partner, and she/he/they only have hammers and wrenches, then it’s up to you to decide if you are okay with no ice cream or not. We can’t change other people. Accepting people for who they are makes life a heck of a lot easier.
3. Remember that a romantic relationship is only one part of your life. There are a lot of other roles we play, and if we think of life as a pie chart, are we focusing our attention and energy where it really matters?
Sylvester McNutt III said it well:
“Never obsess about chasing love. Chase goals. Chase dreams. You don’t chase love, you allow that to find you by accident. And when it finds you on accident, you’ll know that it was supposed to find you purposely.”
4. I always hated it when people told me I had to love myself before I could truly be in love. Because it seems to me like there are a heck of a lot of people out there who don’t love themselves and are in relationships. But it is true. It’s true because we attract the energy that we are and are putting out. I’ve learned the hard way that it isn’t finding someone to love or who loves you that is the hardest part. It is doing our inner work to figure out what barriers we have to accepting love that is given to us.
5. Life is a revolving door, and if we are blocking the door of life because we don’t want to let go of a past relationship, we aren’t working with the universe to let other people come into our lives. Turn the page and start the new chapter. Remember, characters from the past can come back into new storylines. But you’ll never know if you don’t keep reading.
6. People come into our life for a reason, season, or a lifetime. When someone leaves earlier than we wanted them to, it can affect our energy and what we are putting back out in the world. Try to make the shift to gratitude when you are ready. Every relationship I’ve had since my divorce I got something out of—whether it was a new interest, skill, or knowledge about myself. It’s the journey that matters. Be grateful for all of it.
7. It’s important to remember that love is not a limited resource. There is enough to go around. Change your mindset that you are missing out on something and you won’t be.
Trust the journey. Be yourself. Love yourself. And remember that while all love is precious, once you have your own, all the rest just makes this sweet ride of life even sweeter. Enjoy the ride.
When I got divorced, I thought I’d find somebody else. The ironic part is I did. Myself.
For a deeper understanding: 7 Ways to Find Belonging & Connection in the Loneliness of Life’s Struggles.