February brings shop windows full of scarlet hearts, chocolates & roses. But Love is so much more than Valentine’s Day, glorious though it can be. Enjoy celebrating love alone, with your partner or family, or with friends on Zoom. With Pizza & Prosecco, Pringles & pink champagne, or a pot of builders’ strong tea and a piece of fresh buttered toast. The home menu of your choice, or whatever is accessible in Lockdown. But Valentine’s is only a tiny part of it.
You’ve probably got hundreds or thousands of snippets & scraps of Love given and received; hidden away & forgotten about like loose change down the back of the sofa. If you can remember & locate them to stitch together like a patchwork quilt, it will warm & snuggle you for longer than the fleeting embrace of a lover.
This is true for even the most cynical among us. If you’re lucky, you grew up surrounded by love from your family of origin. It might have been a Parent, Sibling, Grandparent, Aunt or Uncle who first showed you complete acceptance and love in a way you hadn’t known before. Or was there a neighbour, a friend’s parent, a foster carer or someone at school or in a local sports or drama club who cared about you and showed you a safe, supportive kind of love?
Maybe at school or college, or the day you left, if that wasn’t the ‘best time of your life’, you finally found your ‘tribe’ and found your true home. Some ‘families’ we create from friends who also didn’t fit in at home or elsewhere. Looking out for each other in difficult situations and genuinely wanting the best for each other helps us to create bonds thicker than bloodlines.
Consider your ‘first love’ or ‘crush’ – perhaps a pop star who articulated that sense of alienation and feeling like an outcast. You may have felt a connection with their artwork, and the songs you ‘loved’ really spoke to you. Did you blue-tack their poster to your bedroom wall, so you could see their perfect face before sleep, to try and programme your dreams about them?!
Maybe a teenage romance that didn’t last. It wasn’t meant to. But for those weeks or months you felt utterly loved and adored in a way that melted through double maths lessons at school as you daydreamed, almost Shakespearean in your early swooning. Enjoy laughing as you cringe, if your tastes have changed!
Our adult relationships may have been complicated or messy and sometimes broken our hearts, but they still helped us to know and understand love. It takes courage to love and be loved by someone, and even if it ends, that doesn’t have to dissolve the love we shared. Like a week long holiday that ends with a weekend of rain; it doesn’t negate the weekdays of sunshine or our first flush of love.
Collect up all these snippets and fragments of love that still reside within you, and gather them together. Add in the love from and for your child or children, if you’re a parent. Or the children of those close to you, if you’re a Godparent or Aunty or Uncle. Love isn’t about ownership. If a little hand reaches for yours to hold on walks in the park, that love bridges the gap and might give their parent a chance to drink a coffee in peace.
And when someone else’s puppy in the park runs excitedly towards you, that moment is yours to collect. The pets you care for, or friends, neighbours, colleagues, and those in any local community you feel connected to. Many of those may be via Zoom or Social Media currently, but still provide powerful nourishing bonds of kindness. Include anyone you’ve ever loved, including those no longer with us, but whose kind words and affection you keep tucked deep within your heart.
Whilst ‘rummaging’ down the back of this metaphorical ‘sofa’ for forgotten bits of love, please don’t forget the places you inhabit. That Raymond Carver quote springs to mind, from Late Fragment. ‘And did you get what you wanted from this life….To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved upon the earth.’
When you walk on the earth, as many of us have regularly during Lockdown, as it’s one of the few things we’re allowed to do, you can feel yourself ‘beloved’ on the earth. Noticing the sky, feeling the trees are standing there for you and the February Snowdrops are flowering just for you, to show you their love.
Enjoy this privilege of feeling loved by whatever place we call home, whether it’s a big noisy city with graffiti hearts on the pavement to appreciate, & pockets of green parks to perambulate, or a wild landscape deep in the countryside where badgers, owls and deer outnumber us.
Until travel is permitted again, we can scroll back through favourite past holiday locations remembering the pleasure and love we experienced there. Maybe that quiet little beach we walked miles to discover, skinny-dipping for the first time, or that scruffy little cafe with the warmest welcome and such sublime food… that is all ‘Love’ to stash away today.
Your bookshelves may hold more Love you can dust down into your treasure chest of Love, with favourite authors who feel as though they hug & comfort you as you read familiar words and stories. Or Netflix. Many us have felt the ‘Love’ of Bridgerton recently, or more precisely, enjoyed the Duke from Bridgerton!
Simple pleasures in life like really good coffee or tea, a boiled egg and planks of toast, or a Zoom pub quiz with friends all translate into love, so tip them into the Love pile as well. Anything at all that gives you that warm glow counts, so add it into your Love Stockpot and keep stirring. Maybe I’m getting carried away with the Love images here, but you know what I mean! Stockpots make use of lots of forgotten bits & pieces to make something delicious & nourishing.
Whether you’re currently happily single or in a long term loving relationship does not define how much love you can gather up from all your experiences. This February is the time to celebrate and cherish each moment and experience of love so far in your life.
And throughout 2021, to continue to look and find Love in unexpected places, just like rummaging down the back of the sofa. Worth a look there too, you never know… there might be a souvenir of love. Maybe an old cinema ticket, restaurant receipt or a Love Letter or Post it Note. If not, write one now, and tuck it away behind a sofa cushion for someone to find one day in the future… Signed with Love. xx