Today is the first day of February. We are now being bombarded by society’s demand for love via a Hallmark holiday full of chocolate and candy hearts about a saint that actually shot people in the heart with his bow and arrow. Twisted? I think so. But that’s just me.
This is how Valentine’s Day went down in my house during those wonderful years of childhood between the ages of 7-10 when I was a fully functioning human being, but didn’t have homework yet, just time on my hands. My brothers, on the other hand, were older and usually occupied. So, in those late afternoon hours, after friends had gone home and while my mom made dinner (à la June Cleaver) and the TV played Brady Bunch and Happy Days reruns, I was left to my own devices.
On Valentine’s Day, my mom would set the table early and lay out 3 bright red, shiny, heart-shaped boxes of Whitman’s chocolates on the sideboard. They were the truffley sort – with caramel, fudge, strawberry cream, coconut, pineapple and the like waiting beneath their chocolate shells.
The task at hand.
But I didn’t like the fruity ones. I’m sure the wordage I used was something along the lines of ‘they’re sooooo gross’. Why would I want these nasty ones in my heart box? I wouldn’t. I couldn’t figure out why they were even invented (like Marzipan). So. I went into the dining room and systematically opened the boxes and took a tiny bite out of the bottom of each piece of chocolate. When I found a ‘good’ one, I put it in my box, when I found a ‘bad’ one, I put it in Jon or Steve’s boxes, until, before long, my box was exactly the way I wanted it, perfectly filled with chocolate, nougat and caramel. My brothers’ boxes? Not so much.
Then, I’d yell to my mom, “Should I put the Valentine’s boxes on our plates for you?” And she’d respond, “Thank you, Julie! That would be great!” And remark on how helpful I was being. Anytime, lady, a-n-y-t-i-m-e.
I was found out, of course.
Jon rolled his eyes, my dad gave me a look, Steve was actually pissed, my mom somehow managed disbelief (how long had she known me?). But, I was still thrilled with myself and my genius plan.
I’m not ashamed of my Valentine’s Day behavior. And I wasn’t then. Really, it was a sign of things to come. Not being devious or underhanded so much as my natural-born ability to identify what I want, develop creative solutions and take real action to get it. In this instance, I clearly cased the situation, had a strategy and an agenda and worked stealthily to see it through. I think it’s called Verve. I think it’s called Pluck.
But, I also had a feeling about something else.
Even then, I knew that this holiday was bullshit. Even then, I knew that giving out candy and paper Valentine’s didn’t prove my love or even represent it. Even then, I knew that the outward focus of all of this love was somehow mislaid and fake.
And in those afternoons on my own, I remember clearly thinking about something else: that the most important person to love fully and truly was myself. (Even if that was attained by securing the best chocolate). Does that sound heady for a seven year old? I was seven going on thirty (or so my dad would say), but this was really born out of time that I had to spend on my own. It wasn’t my first choice and it often made me sad. I wanted to be totally happy by myself, but I wasn’t. I was restless and empty and searching. And it fascinated me.
For some of us, it’s a long road to feeling good alone. We have to quiet our inner-judge, take risks, look inside, make mistakes, trust, forgive, forget, leap, fall, get back up. But, once we get the hang of it, we realize that the most kickin’ part is that no matter what’s going on around you, no matter what other people do, you always have you. The you that gets to create the best career, writing, friends, lovers, home, family.
How is it created? I’m going to say through years of tasting as much as possible, keeping what is most delicious and giving the rest away.
It’s your box, fill it with exactly what you want.
Image credit: McAuliflower