Love is in the air and it’s the eve of Valentine’s Day – a day to exchange cards, flowers, tokens of affection between lovers. Legend has it that St Valentine was a priest who secretly married Roman soldiers who were forbidden to be married. Invisibility a feature of the Day, with rituals like getting a secret note signed from your Valentine has, and is, a treasure for many a young person before the correspondent is discovered. I have a friend who works in an all-girls school and each year witnesses the arrival of bunches of anonymous roses, separating, in a very public way who are the loved and unloved. There must be many heart aches.
The American sitcom Parks and Recreation introduced the idea of Galentine’s Day (2010) where women celebrate their female friendships. The diversity of ways in which love and friendship can be celebrated will no doubt continue to morph as gender diversity and fluidity transcends the heteronormative and binary ways of understanding gender. So much love has been hidden for many who have found themselves outside the norms of their dominant culture.
Falling in love brings giddiness, a soaking in joy feeling, anticipation of recognition and reward. When a baby turns their head to the sound of the familiar voice of their mother or the crooning sounds of their father, love is visible. I am watching a few love affairs unfold around me at the moment and the one that is captivating me the most is the head over heels experience of a six-year-old with his baby brother. I think he might actually explode with joy at any moment. All those happy hormones running around his little body and being mutually exchanged as the new-born starts to find his voice is beautiful to witness.
This is in contrast to noticing a litany of social media posts of unrequited love being matched with self-love messages as a young adult experiences loss and rejection. This relationship, completely dissolved, she is now untangling what it means to be unloved by one and still lovable in the world.
I appreciate that odd word of being noticed, the occasional unexpected gift, the extra hand on a task when under the pump, a hug of gratitude – all different ways of expressing love and friendship. I am not risking myself to be in any place or position to invite intimate love into my life, although there is plenty of intimacy in conversations with friends, I have no inclination towards any romantic love.
In reflecting on Valentine’s Day I realise I haven’t been asked out on a date since I was in high school! I was married at 19 and after nearly 40 years of marriage ending with my husband’s death 4 years ago, dating is not something I have any experience. I am loving every day. Loving the people and places around me, finding ways to show my love and practising how to bring more loving kindness to every day situations. I find some days easier than others.
I’ve held the words of Martin Luther King Jr close to my heart for decades: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Maybe this Valentine’s Day power and love will partner up and be high octane fuel empowering, unleashing and unlocking what is most needed in these times. Changemaking requires love to come to town (thanks U2 and BB King). I got a taste of that watching two 26 year old women speak their fierce truths to power and lovingly bringing to birth a future that privileges survivor voices. Their Galentine love is visible, noisy, uncompromising and next level. Love is in the air.