Good Morning, Happy Wednesday- and Happy Galentine’s Day, everyone!
As I dig myself out of the aftermath of Winter Storm Maya (the snow actually wasn’t too bad. The freezing rain, however? That’s a whole other story…) and prepare to head back to work for the day- I’m reminded at all sides that tomorrow is actually the “real deal” Valentine’s Day holiday and then I’m subsequently forced to face my current relationship status- or lack thereof- head-on as I navigate my way through glitter-soaked Hallmark cards, boxes of chocolate, bouquets of overpriced flowers and bizarre, couple-inspired offerings at my local restaurants, bars and pubs.
I am unabashed when it comes to my affection for all things sappy and lovey-dovey. “The Notebook” is one of my favorite tearjerker love story movies. I get weepy eyed with joy watching elaborately planned proposal videos on YouTube- and on more than one occasion I’m sure I’ve looked like a living, breathing heart-eye emoji whenever a guy did something unexpected and/or over-the-top sweet for me. As sarcastic and quick-witted and as biting (and dare I say bitchy?) as I can be sometimes- I am a true hopeless romantic.
Which is kind of funny- considering most of, if not all of my past relationships have been anything but something out of a romantic comedy.
I’d like to preface this post by saying I have no intention of dragging or putting any of my ex-boyfriends or ex-lovers on blast here. With every relationship- good AND bad- I’ve gone through, I’ve learned a little something about myself and about what I want/need in my life and from the people I had chosen to surround myself with.
I also learned that through every hardship that came with certain, rockier relationships- I had deep and profound strength and resilience I otherwise never would have known about. I was capable of walking away from situations that were detrimental to me and my well-being. I was capable of finding solace alone, in my own company- and discovered that a relationship wasn’t a defining characteristic and wasn’t a necessity in telling the story of my life- and I also learned the importance of forgiveness when it was justified, reasonable- and actually deserved.
I could and did survive being physically assaulted by an ex in my early twenties. I could and did survive being manipulated and essentially used by a considerably older guy I had gotten mixed up with when I was still pretty young and impressionable. I could and did survive the breakdown (and the gradual, cautious rebuilding) of one of my longest and dearest friendships/relationships when said guy had given into the ways of perpetual, non-stop deception instead of being the honest, upfront and outstanding person he has continually and actively been working towards becoming in the years since things initially crumbled between us.
That last example is where the aforementioned “learning the importance of forgiveness” comes in. While some mistakes and people don’t warrant a second chance- and I’d never tell someone to “get over it” or “move past it” if they’ve been betrayed or hurt- there are still some instances of genuine mistake-making that can be teachable moments for everyone involved. And, depending on the person and situation- sometimes there can be redemption, too.
Ariana Grande wrote a song about being thankful for her exes- and while I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m thankful for past heartbreaks, arguments, messy splits, etc.- I can understand and agree with the sentiment of coming out of the other side of those shitty situations and being a stronger and wiser person for it.
So, as a presently single but casually dating thirty-something year old female with a less-than-ideal dating history- Valentine’s Day elicits a lot of mixed reactions from me and those closest to me.
My happily dating/engaged/married and otherwise enamored friends will say it’s a holiday that serves as a reminder that you should be actively celebrating the one you love. A lovely thought, no?
My single friends- some of whom are deliciously cynical and still plenty of others who are not- will tell you it’s a marketing strategy. A made-up “Greeting Card” holiday to get consumers to spend more money on frivolous things- and that celebrating people you love shouldn’t be reduced to a once-a-year reminder as you’re buying them a heart-shaped box of candy- which also makes some sense when you think about it.
To me, and it took years for me to reach this level of self-assurance and confidence- Valentine’s Day is a day to remind myself of everything I’ve been through in my love-life, express gratitude for the person it has made me into and the lessons I’ve learned throughout the process- and acknowledge that while I’m not jaded enough to think that finding a healthy, soul-strengthening and world-enhancing love with someone else isn’t a possibility- that loving myself is the priority and that my wants/needs should never be placed on a back burner or forgotten about.
One of my favorite quotes from Lucille Ball comes to mind almost immediately as I type that:
It’s simple and oh so true. The most important relationship you can have is the one with yourself- and if you’re not happy or satisfied with yourself as an independent person and where you’re at in your life right now- finding happiness and contentment with another individual will prove to be incredibly difficult. You really have to learn how to stand on your own- and enjoy your own company- before you can truly open the door to allow others into your life and your head-space and to potentially become a part of your world in a big and meaningful way.
Valentine’s Day also serves as a reminder that despite the pressure many single people face to “couple up,” “settle down,” and “find that special someone RIGHT NOW!“- that there is no time frame, no time limit, and no expiration date when it comes to not only meeting someone you’d want to possibly share parts of your life with and/or face milestones and adventures together- but meeting wonderful people, friends and connections in general.
Twenty-something year old me- who was still struggling to learn all of this and felt crippling pressure to be in the right relationship then and there- would be miserable on a day like Valentine’s Day (I’d also be buying a completely unnecessary gift for a guy, I’m sure…) whereas now- thirty-something year old me writes all this with a grin and is looking forward to the cheesy-ness- wearing red and pink and buying 50% off candy first thing on Friday- and is in a much clearer, even-keeled frame of mind when it comes to sex, dating, and love.
And yes, I’ll still be watching “The Notebook” or “Sex and the Single Girl” (my favorite Natalie Wood/Tony Curtis rom-com!) within the next 48 hours. I have my traditions, after all.
Now get out there and enjoy yourselves, everyone!
– Ashley –