As February 14th rolled around this year I thought about my past Valentine’s Days. I thought about snowy hikes and winter hammock sessions, about star gazing and cabin stays, about cheesy handwritten books and buses caught across town in the pouring rain. I thought about all my love stories. And it hit me…
I had spent every Valentines day since my senior year of high school with a partner. That is six years of February 14th’s spent in the arms of another human being, spent focusing on a love story that involved myself and someone else, spent buying presents and preparing surprises for partners I loved or cared for.
Honestly, it was a difficult realization to come to, and it’s hard for me to admit to you now.
Why? Because so many emotions are wrapped up in this realization, and they feel vulnerable to share. However, I think that they are important, and I imagine many of you have felt some of them yourself.
The first emotion is the most difficult for me to explain and grapple with. And that emotion, is shame.
This shame emerges because I prize myself as a solo female traveler, as a wild woman, as a free and independent spirit. And somehow the idea of spending so many Valentine’s Day’s loving someone outside of myself invalidates my independence, my solidarity, and my ability for self-pleasure, love and care in some self-questioning part of my mind.
While this is not the case, while you can still be a fully independent, self-loving and prosperous person within a relationship, in the past I have lost myself within other people.
And if I’m getting really vulnerable, one of my biggest fears is launching myself back into love or partnership in some form, and finding out my feet are not firmly planted on the ground, watching myself float away into someone else’s world and losing everything that makes me so happy and whole.
So, the shame comes, the judgement comes, the fear comes, when I realize how much I love being loved by others, how much I love being held, and touched and connected with. Because in some fearful place in my being, it feels like weakness, it feels like self-sabotage, it feels like letting go of some part of me that I still very much need.
Over a year ago, I listened to a podcast where two women recounted their single 30’s filled with self-care, discovery and deep retionshiops with their girl gangs. Newly in a relationship, I thought to myself, “fuck, fuck, fuck, I’m not going to get that if I stay in this relationship.”
I stayed in said relationship for some good time, I shared a lot of love, healing and a super rad Valentines day with that partner. But eventually, I turned toward that dream of being single in my 30’s, of loving myself, of cultivating incredible friendships and businesses and joy all my own.
And that’s what I went into this Valentine’s Day focused on.
Which leads me to the next emotion, which is absolute joy and liberation.
Because ya’ll despite everything you just read, this Valentine’s Day was actually incredible!
It was spent hustling hard doing work I love for the business I’m building.
It was spent reflecting on the way my life has filled with amazing, supportive and loving women this year in the absence of romantic partnership.
It was spent singing throwbacks and belly laughing with my best friend, people watching and beer drinking, noodle slurping and guitar listening.
I still got hugs and love, I still had a drink purchased for me, I still got connection and care. And, I got to do exactly what I wanted to do, I got to focus on me.
And it was absolutely incredible. It was so different. And I LOVED IT.
But, the last emotion I felt was sadness.
Not that day per say, but in the days following. That next morning when I woke up and no one was there wrapped around me snoring softly, a few days later when I just wanted to held and no arms were outstretched. I still crave it. I crave that affection that you can’t get from your platonic girl gang, no matter how amazing their love might be.
So it’s a weird balancing and navigating act for me…
It’s about getting past that shame of craving love for me. About not judging myself for my fear. It’s about knowing that although I’ve given myself up in the past because of lessons learned in childhood, because of patterns formed, I have since stepped into my power. I am learning how to keep my feet rooted on my own ground and not float off into someone else’s world. I can trust myself.
It’s about embracing that absolute love and joy I feel when I spend time solo wandering this world, when I step onto a dance floor independent on another being, when I grab lunch with my best friend, or video with my girl gang loves on Instagram. It’s embracing the self-discovery and self-love I have stepped into; the beauty and power within this phase in my life.
And it’s about knowing that the sadness is okay, the wanting the touch and connection is human. And about remembering that there are so many healthy and beautiful ways to get it.
A relationship doesn’t have to look like fear, like giving myself away, like losing some part of myself. A relationship doesn’t have to look like the rest of my life in a kitchen and a white wedding dress like I thought it did when I was a child.
A relationship can be with myself. It can be with a lover. It can be with a best friend. A long term partner. A short term partner. Multiple partners. A sweet little kitten. There are so many ways to navigate connection and so many people to spend Valentines Day with. Might as well explore all the options until we find the ones that feel most fulfilling to us.
So here’s to more Valentines Days - an arbitrary holiday but one that is good for reflection nonetheless - spent with whoever, wherever, in the ways that feel good! And to knowing, that no matter how we feel, even when it’s complicated, that feeling is just right!