This Valentine’s Day, I am celebrating the love in my life.
The love in my life doesn’t look the way other people’s might, or the way I ever expected it to look. It certainly doesn’t look like a Hallmark card, a Hollywood romcom, or a Disney fairy tale. Well, maybe the part of the fairy tale where she lives in the woods with her animals, and sings a lot. That’s me.
Life has shaken my faith in the order of things more times than I care to remember, has taken turns I couldn’t have foreseen, didn’t expect, and often didn’t like one bit. I have had the pleasure of loving relationships with men, and perhaps I will again. Right now, not. What I have discovered is that with or without romantic love, my life is rich in love, and I’m okay with that. Even better, I am happy.
My dogs have been my teachers in exuberance. First Annabelle, and now Lucy, show me endlessly that every moment can hold joy, that each moment ripens simply by being present to it: a snuggle or a smooch, a romp outside, a good meal; whatever is next, it’s wonderful. It’s perfect. It never gets tedious, this quotidian life. They are patient with my surprise that the same squeaky toy thrown the same way is an adventure, every single time. They have shown me that the walk we take 3 or 4 times every day has infinite potential and possibility, never any less. And that all of this opens up to us simply because we are there to receive it, together.
I have a complicated grey mare who recently entered into my life and my heart. She is helping me find quiet, softness, and focus in a new way, and yet, being 1200 pounds, she also demands I be strong and assertive. Most of all, she asks for clarity: I have to know what I want from her, communicate it without obfuscation, using only my body and my intention, and then wait for her honest response. If I meet her with a head full of lists and schedules, she is distracted and uncooperative. When I am present to both myself and her, I feel her answer in a mix of buoyancy and power, the lengthening of her stride, the relaxation of her beautifully muscled neck. Back and forth we go, refining our ability to listen and understand one another. I am learning to be incredibly centered in myself while connecting to her, an utterly different being. It’s an enlightening conversation, a new language of love, and I love learning it.
I have two children, adults now, out there in the world, who are teaching me the upside of my long-mourned empty nest. Seven years after my beloved daughter left home, four years after my beloved son took flight, I am receiving a gift that lights up my whole life. My kids no longer have to spend time with me, nor need to. They do it because they want to; because they love me right back, whole-heartedly. Nothing opens my heart wider than this.
I have family that is far away geographically but makes me feel their love, support and presence all the time. My relationship with my family of origin has not always been easy or sweet, but their surprising ability to accept me despite a long knowledge of my occasional idiocy makes me feel loved beyond measure. I don’t know how they have forgiven so much, but I am very grateful to be so loved. My friends too, near and far, surprise me by keeping me in their hearts, by thinking of me with kindness, love and support at the most unexpected moments.
I have a body, mind and spirit that, much to my relief and delight, continue to bounce back after many trials, with incredible resilience. I have learned to treat myself with kindness and respect almost all the time, and to remember that the only perfection I can expect of myself, or anyone, is in intent and in forgiveness. These are the only perfections possible for us humans.
And then, my work. The very wise Mister Rogers said “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story” and that is true, in my experience. I listen to people’s stories all day long, and my heart fills with love for each of them. Whatever they are going through, for whatever questions they are seeking answers, I recognize that it takes incredible vulnerability to ask for help, and I am so humbly fortunate that they are asking me, and that I can provide that help.
So I won’t be having a romantic dinner by candle light. No roses. No box of chocolates. Instead, I will celebrate the soft sighing nicker of my horse’s happy greeting when she sees me enter the barn; my little dog, for whom this day, like every day, is one burst after the next of true joy and delight; the knowledge that there are people in the world who love me deeply, and whose love I treasure; and the opportunity to keep paying all that love forward.
I am a happy woman, and I can’t wait for Valentine’s Day!