All through high school and college I wore black on Valentine's Day. True story.
When I got engaged to the love of my life, I begrudgingly added tiny black heart earrings to my holiday wardrobe. After the wedding, I bought little red heart earrings, mostly because my husband was so outwardly enthusiastic about expressing his love and I didn't want to look scroogish about my own love.
Then I had kids. And Valentine's Day became a blur of red and pinks, of heart-shaped pancakes in the morning and chocolate hearts painted on the inside of their milk glasses and pink-frosted sugar cookies and cupcakes and lots of kisses and "I love you"s.
I suppose we could psycho-analyze why I almost never said "I love you" before I met my husband, why I wore black on the day of expressing that love, but really, who has the time or stomach for that? The thing is, I grew up in a great family, had good friends, an occasional boyfriend. I wasn't love deprived. I wasn't stingy showing love. I just didn't say it.
But now... I'm realizing there are all sorts of love, and lots of people to say it to without having it involve romance. It started with my kids, showering them with hugs and words, but now... well, the more you love, the more you love. It kinda grows and sneaks up on you and all of a sudden I've become overwhelmed with how many people I truly, deeply love.
I love my husband, madly, passionately, can't-breathe-without-you kind of love. I love my kids in the how-could-I-believe-I-ever-lived-before-you kind of way.
I love my Pacific friends, who are all amazing in unique and wonderful ways, who have laughed and cried and stressed and listened and complained and rejoiced and walked on the beach and drunk coffee at Maggies in the morning and wine at night with me. I love my advisors, who invested so much of their time and selves into me and my work. I love the directors of the MFA program, who are never without a smile, an answer, an encouraging word.
I love my friends here who spend hours with me over coffee or lunch, spilling their tears, trusting me with their deepest heart's cry, filling my day with stories that make me laugh hours later, letting me be a part of their lives in that same way. I love the bloggers I've met online but never met in person, who comment and email and sometimes even call, who have become personal to me despite the most impersonal way of meeting.
I love the people in my small group at church, who open their lives and hearts and love Jesus and pray with me and for me.
I used to think saying I loved lots of people - in all these different ways - diluted love, watered down what it meant - but I've come to see it only makes it more powerful.
I was beyond fortunate to get to read a manuscript this winter of a book coming out in 2014. It is, in essence - a love story. It is the story of a man and woman who meet, fall in love, think they will have the perfect life together, and then life around them falls apart. But their love remains.
It isn't a romance. It's just... their life. But there were places I was so overwhelmed by the power of love in it that I found myself unable to breathe, my chest tight, my heart pounding, feeling as though if I read one more word I would explode into a million pieces. I had to put it down a few times, get up and walk around, find my breath again. But I could never stay away for long.
Life should be like that. Overwhelming, breath-taking, unable to contain kind of love. I think sometimes the only reason it isn't is because we don't let it.
And don't think for a second that this black-clad pessimist isn't the most surprised by this realization.
Happy day today - not just because it's Valentines, but because you are loved, every day.