I didn’t use to have any issues with Valentine’s Day. Where I come from (one of those cold, arguably unemotional Northern European countries) ‘Valentine’s Day’ is actually called ‘Friend’s Day’ and although increasingly starting to be become more like it’s American counterpart, February 14th has traditionally been more about spending time with your friends and family, than a ‘special someone’. Growing up, I remember spending ‘Friends Day’ afternoons with my best friends chatting over a hot chocolate and cinnamon buns after a morning of tobogganing in the cold of the winter.
However later in life, whilst living in Australia and under the influence of a much more commercialised Valentine’s Day, I have spent the most of the last decade of February 14th’s in a relationship. And true to my heritage, I have mostly disregarded Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark holiday and told my partner at the time not to worry about doing anything special “just because it’s Valentine’s Day”. As in the end, I am more of an ‘everyday romance’ kind of girl, a believer of having flowers and chocolate (the vegan kind please!) given to me on a random Wednesday – ‘just because’ – rather than being on the receiving end of forced grand gestures on days picked out by a greeting card company.
Admittedly though, my Australian partners still tended to do something special for Valentine’s Day. Especially as February 14th also ended up marking the anniversary of my ex-husband and I meeting for the first time. In the end, I did enjoy my partner somehow acknowledging this day that society seemed to go a bit crazy on romance, love and all things red and pink.
But this year is different – very much so. About two weeks ago, I realised that this year for the first time ever, I am slightly dreading Valentine’s Day. This is for several reasons.
Firstly, it has hit home for me that for the first time in 10 years, I am not going to be part of a couple on February 14th. Now, honestly after the year I’ve had, I didn’t seriously think I would, but I’ve had to admit to myself in the past few weeks – as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching – that there is a part of me that had hoped to have found someone special by now. As it leads up to Valentine’s Day 2016, it highlights to me very clearly my marital status. I’m not ‘in a relationship’, ‘de facto’ or ‘married’, but ‘separated – soon to be divorced’. In other words, “On my own.” “Just me.” “No, not even me and a dog, just me.”
On a day when the whole western world seems to be concentrating on the importance and beauty of love and having someone special to share your life with – all things that I believe in and wish to have in my life again one day – I don’t have right now. I won’t have anyone to hold hands with on the beach, cuddle at an outdoor cinema or have a chat over dinner with. No one writing me a romantic card telling me that that they love me or even to just messaging me from interstate to say they miss me.
And this leads me to my second concern about Valentine’s Day 2016. I am slightly worried that I will feel lonely on Valentine’s Day. There, I said it. It’s a big thing to admit by someone who is as strong and independent and honestly quite comfortable in her own company most of the time. But I have had to come to terms with the fact that there is a fair chance that on Valentine’s Day, I might feel alone – and lonely. I’m worried that the things that I normally enjoy – like having my house and bed to myself, being able to decide what to eat and when, not having to negotiate which movie to watch or what to do with my Sunday afternoon – will not feel like positive things on Valentine’s Day. I’m a bit concerned that these same things will instead, make me feel lonely.
Thirdly, I am worried that on Valentine’s Day, being surrounded by romance and love, the little voice in my head that I don’t listen to 99% of the time, will be given a loudspeaker. That voice, that says such rubbish as ‘there’s something wrong with you’, ‘you’ll be alone for the rest of your life’ and ‘you are pathetic.’ These are things that on a normal day, I would disregard as rubbish and laugh at, but on a special occasion such as Valentine’s Day, it might just seep in and start doing damage. I might start believing it – even if it’s just for an afternoon.
But luckily I have also had some revelations and learnings in the past 12 months, which are proving to be useful and giving me tools to prepare for February 14th. These are the lessons that are helping me, and I am hoping they will help others too.
First and foremost, I have come to realise that you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. I have an inkling that this Valentine’s Day I will actually feel less alone and sad than I did last year when I spent Valentine’s Day home by myself in an empty house, in a relationship war zone that would only in a few weeks time become the ruins of my marriage. Sometimes you feel the loneliest not when you’re alone, but you’re surrounded by the wrong people or in a situation when those who are supposed to love you treat you wrongly.
I have also come realise, that although I believe in love, and am a sucker for romance and romantic gestures in general, not having a date or not celebrating Valentine’s Day is better than forcing a relationship that just isn’t working or going out on a date just because it’s Valentine’s Day. Both will just leave a bitter taste in your mouth – believe me, I’ve been there. It’s better to be strong and by yourself than in a relationship or on a date that really is just a band-aid fix to fear, insecurity or even loneliness. There’s a quote I like: “Being alone is better than being with the wrong one.” This applies to relationships, dates, business partnerships and friendships.
And finally, I have learned that although that voice in my head tries to raise it’s ugly head every now and then, it is not speaking the truth. It’s just fear, insecurity and all the other negative things that I should never stop fighting against. And the key to fighting against these ‘voices’ is to keep yourself busy and concentrate on the positives. Which is exactly what I plan to do this Valentine’s Day.
So, rather than feeling sorry for myself or seeking out a date just for the sake of it, this Valentine’s Day I am going to spend it with the people who truly love me – my friends. I am going to go back to my roots, and instead of celebrating Hallmark Valentine’s Day, celebrate Friend’s Day by doing all the things I love (hiking, brunching, cooking, dancing) with the people who are my friends and chosen family.
This Sunday I will also take time spend on my own. Make a conscious decision to celebrate the positives in being single. The ability to do whatever you want. So, I will be meditating and reading and will probably finish the day off with a trashy romantic comedy. Just because I can. Because although I am not in a couple, I refuse to give in to the feeling of ‘loneliness’ on Valentine’s Day, or any other day for that matter.
And who knows, this might be the last Valentine’s Day I get the chance to do this! 🙂 And even if I do find myself on my own again February 14th 2017, I know that I am strong enough to handle it.