*sigh* It’s almost Valentine’s Day. I can hear many of my readers moaning cynically about this “Hallmark holiday” and about love, in general. My family and friends will be the first to tell you that I am in love with love. I’ve read and written countless love poems, watched hundreds of movies about love, read dozens of romance stories, melted over love in all its many forms, and admired the ways in which love pulls people together. I’ve fallen deeply in love, fallen apart when love has ended, longed for signs of others’ love for me, and given more love than some have deserved. I’ve squealed in delight over love, sobbed over love until my body ached, and felt nauseous over blossoming love. I have been blessed beyond belief with the love of family, friends, lovers, co-workers, and church members.
And yet, I can totally understand why some are cynical about Valentine’s Day. I myself get annoyed that there is only one day a year when we’re reminded to express our love for each other. Worse yet, card stores, florists, and chocolate shops would have us believe that the best expression of love is a tangible one. It’s certainly showy, but is it as long lasting as the memory of a hug, a written note, quiet time spent together, or a meal shared? Definitely not.
For those of us in recovery from disordered eating, Valentine’s Day can be agonizing. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that “only attractive people deserve (and get) love”. If you’re anything like me, you’ve at some point linked “attractive” with “thin”. When I was dissatisfied with my weight and shape, I knew there was no way anyone could love me. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary (such as a steady partner), I’d dismiss that love as a fluke: “That person must have fallen in love with me when I was thinner. Now I’m fatter. The love won’t last unless I lose weight.” That inner critic would say anything to convince me that if I want to hold onto whatever love I have, I have to lose weight. I have to admit that, even now, that voice tries hard to infiltrate my consciousness.
In recent years, though, I’ve tried to be open to the myriad types of love that exist between humans. This has helped quiet that inner critic and take the emphasis off of romantic love. So, on Valentine’s Day, in addition to spending quality time with my partner, I tell my friends and family and co-workers how much I love and appreciate them. I even pet my cats a little more. And, more importantly, I show myself a little love. This year, I plan to write myself a love note. Perhaps I’ll begin it with the opening lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”.
May you all know how much I admire you and how very much you are loved.
Peace, joy, and health,