TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — It is Valentine’s Day again, and maybe you are not feeling so lovey-dovey.
Maybe you are feeling low or lonely. Maybe you are feeling the cold emptiness of loss of those who should still be here but are not here anymore. Maybe you are feeling the defeat of making ends meet when no matter how hard you work, the numbers are not adding up. Maybe your career plan is not going as planned. Maybe the drought is sucking the joy right out of you.
Maybe you feel like Valentine’s Day is not for you this year. Maybe you feel completely left out, watching people around you exchange kisses and love while you stew alone in your despair.
But if you want to try something new to do when you are feeling blue, this day of love is just for you. Love’s most valiant duty is to keep us going in times of sadness and pain. Choosing to love when you are blue or even emotionally black-and-blue is a choice to say yes to living.
It is a choice to courageously look your darkness in the face and say “I see you, but you do not control me.”
A choice to love when you feel terrible inside does not mean you have to put on a fake smile and pretend that everything is good and fine.
Love has many faces and infinite expressions.
In a broad sense, love is anything that emerges from your intention to connect in a way that honors your self, other people, and/or the world in which you live.
So on this Valentine’s Day, take your sad and despairing self and dive into the great expanse of love…
Cuddle your baby.
Kiss your husband.
Take your dog for a walk.
Text a friend.
Call your mom.
Weed your garden.
Take photographs of the sky.
Go on a walk through the woods.
Go to the city and try a new restaurant, go to a gallery, or look at the architecture. Sit in the park and people-watch.
Watch your favorite movie.
Sing in your choir. Sing in the shower. Dance through your living room.
Meditate. Go to a place of worship. Read a book about growth or transformation.
Connect with yourself. Validate your feelings of fear. Kindly remind yourself that “it is going to be okay.”
Let yourself stay in bed and cry.
Savor a slice of chocolate cake. Inhale the aroma of coffee.
Express your emotions. Tell your sister that you feel sad. Ask for a hug. Ask (nicely) for space from your partner to work on your project. Let a friend know you feel hurt by something they said.
There are so many possibilities.
However, choosing to love when you are feeling down is often neither easy nor simple. It is common for people to shut down, numb themselves, turn against others, push others away, and/or withdraw from life when feeling scared or angry or powerless. Perhaps this is your pattern. Perhaps it has developed through a combination of your inborn temperament and your life experiences.
So on this day of love, maybe the first step toward choosing love is to get support to learn how make a shift from this pattern of shutdown and retreat to a new pattern in which you actually do the opposite and lean in toward life when feeling emotional pain.
You might also need to learn to differentiate between healthy ways to love when you are hurting inside and unhealthy behaviors like ignoring the reality of an unhealthy relationship by clinging to the hope that “if I just keeping loving this person, he/she will stop treating me badly.”
This learning process can take time and patience. You may need treatment for depression, addiction and/or trauma.
You may also need support to deal with the feelings and vulnerabilities that can arise as you begin to practice overriding your instinct to disconnect and instead begin pushing to connect more deeply in those darker moments.
Valentine’s Day might be sold as a heart-shaped “box” of happily-ever-after romance.
But really it is about love — an experience so vast and powerful that it does not need to try to defeat or obscure pain in order to triumph. As you let your feelings of sadness, fear and hurt propel you to seek connect more, live more, experience more, love wins just by showing up.
Danielle B. Grossman, California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializes in relationships, loss, anxiety, co-dependence, and addiction. She has a private psychotherapy practice and conducts professional consultations by phone. Contact her at 530-470-2233 or visit her website at www.truckeecounseling.com.