“If you’re listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; it’s purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold ever more wonders.” ~ Andrew Harvey

                       

“Basically, the only thing we need is a hand that rests on our own, that wishes it well, that sometimes guides us.” ~ Hector Bianciotti

Monday afternoon. Unseasonably warm and sunny. Valentine’s Day.

This is not going to be a post about Valentine’s Day, nothing about rampant commercialism, no statements regarding overpriced flowers for which guilty lovers shell out copious amounts of cash in attempts to be in good graces, no judgments about how gift receivers subconsciously compare their own presents to those received by co-workers, competitor’s for the heart’s affection, or past presents from former paramours, no morality lessons on how we should love one another each and every day, say so often and earnestly and not wait for a marketing ploy to make overtly romantic gestures.

Not going to do it. Have done it before.

Besides, for those of you not up on your mythology, Cupid’s great love affair with Psyche was fraught with jealousy (his mother, her sisters), secrecy (she was forbidden to see him), drudgery (three of the four great trials Aphrodite set for Psyche),  peril (Psyche’s task to go to the underworld supposedly to steal a box of Persephone’s beauty cream), vanity and insecurity (Psyche opens the box in an attempt to make herself more beautiful to Cupid), and finally, bargaining (Cupid appeals to Zeus to restore his stricken love).

Of course, mustn’t forget the story’s coda: the vengeful mother-in-law (Aphrodite) who changes her tune once her beautiful grandchild is born: Pleasure.

In other words, the path to true love is not strewn with rose petals.

It takes hard work, trust, respect, compromise, forgiveness, devotion, and romance more than once a year. It also means knowing when to hold your peace even when not doing so might feel better momentarily (I’m talking about picking your battles, here).

And (take heed on this one) it means developing a keen sense for when your partner needs some basic TLC: encouragement, understanding and unconditional loyalty—I’m not talking about the kind your dog gives you; I’m talking about being able to mean it when you say, “You are great at your job, and your boss doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s lucky to have you.” Or, “No. You don’t look the way you looked when we got married; you look better, if that’s even possible.” Or this one: “Oh that woman over there? I was only noticing how her skin-tight black leather pants make her look really hippy. You would look so much better in those.”

Who of us doesn’t need that once in a while?

“My heart is full of so many things to say to you—ah—there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all.” ~ Beethoven from the “Immortal Beloved” letters

Vintage Wedding Bands and Poesy Rings

When writing about love, few things compare to Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved” letters of 1812:

July 6, in the morning
      My angel, my all, my very self—Only a few words today and at that with pencil (with yours)—Not till tomorrow will my lodgings be definitely determined upon—what a useless waste of time—Why this deep sorrow when necessity speaks —can our love endure except through sacrifices, through not demanding everything from one another; can you change the fact that you are not wholly mine, I not wholly thine—Oh God, look out into the beauties of nature and comfort your heart with that which must be—Love demands everything and that very justly—thus it is to me with you, and to your with me. But you forget so easily that I must live for me and for you; if we were wholly united you would feel the pain of it as little as I—My journey was a fearful one; I did not reach here until 4 o’clock yesterday morning. Lacking horses the post-coach chose another route, but what an awful one; at the stage before the last I was warned not to travel at night; I was made fearful of a forest, but that only made me the more eager—and I was wrong. The coach must needs break down on the wretched road, a bottomless mud road. Without such postilions as I had with me I should have remained stuck in the road. Esterhazy, traveling the usual road here, had the same fate with eight horses that I had with four—Yet I got some pleasure out of it, as I always do when I successfully overcome difficulties—Now a quick change to things internal from things external. We shall surely see each other soon; moreover, today I cannot share with you the thoughts I have had during these last few days touching my own life—If our hearts were always close together, I would have none of these. My heart is full of so many things to say to you— ah—there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all—Cheer up—remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am yours. The gods must send us the rest, what for us must and shall be—
Your faithful LUDWIG

Evening, Monday, July 6
      You are suffering, my dearest creature—only now have I learned that letters must be posted very early in the morning on Mondays to Thursdays—the only days on which the mail-coach goes from here to K.—You are suffering—Ah, wherever I am, there you are also—I will arrange it with you and me that I can live with you. What a life!!! thus!!! without you—pursued by the goodness of mankind hither and thither—which I as little want to deserve as I deserve it—Humility of man towards man—it pains me—and when I consider myself in relation to the universe, what am I and what is He—whom we call the greatest—and yet— herein lies the divine in man—I weep when I reflect that you will probably not receive the first report from me until Saturday— Much as you love me—I love you more—But do not ever conceal yourself from me—good night—As I am taking the baths I must go to bed—Oh God—so near! so far! Is not our love truly a heavenly structure, and also as firm as the vault of heaven?

Good morning, on July 7
      Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us—I can live only wholly with you or not at all—Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits—Yes, unhappily it must be so—You will be the more contained since you know my fidelity to you. No one else can ever possess my heart—never—never—Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V is now a wretched life—Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men—At my age I need a steady, quiet life—can that be so in our connection? My angel, I have just been told that the mail coach goes every day—therefore I must close at once so that you may receive the letter at once—Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together—Be calm—love me—today—yesterday—what tearful longings for you—you—you—my life—my all—farewell. Oh continue to love me—never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
ever thine
ever mine
ever ours

                    

Music by Bon Jovi (still love this man), “Want to Make a Memory”

                      

Perhaps not to be is to be without your being

Perhaps not to be is to be without your being,
without your going, that cuts noon light
like a blue flower, without your passing
later through fog and stones,
without the torch you lift in your hand
that others may not see as golden,
that perhaps no one believed blossomed
the glowing origin of the rose,
without, in the end, your being, your coming
suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life,
blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze:
and it follows that I am, because you are:
it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we:
and, because of love, you will, I will,
We will, come to be.

~ Pablo Neruda

Lessons in Love

tristan-and-isolde-by-todd-peterson-at-fine-art-america 

Tristan and Isolde by Todd Peterson at Fine Art America

 Pourquoi faut-il de cette façon? (Why must it be this way?)

I had a bit of an epiphany the other day. After I picked up Brett from school, we went to Target to pick up a few things, including Valentine’s Day cards. Brett commented that he didn’t really like Valentine’s Day because it reminded him of how lonely he was.

That made me pause. I told him that when I was an undergrad, I always felt lonely on Valentine’s Day because although I was dating, there was no one special in my life. It was at that moment that I realized that Valentine’s Day is a complete non-holiday, perpetuated by the greeting card industry for couples, married and otherwise.

I know. I know. Valentine’s Day does have its roots dating back to the Roman Empire when the feast of Lupercalia occurred on the Ides of February, or February 15. Lupercalia was an ancient fertility ritual that was held around the time that birds began to mate. The festival was held in honor of the god Pan. Gifts were exchanged and couples would be paired. Our celebration today hearkens back more to the pagan holiday as we still celebrate with signs of Cupid or Eros as the symbol of the day.

According to the Christian legend, there was a Saint Valentine who went against the order of Emperor Claudius Gothicus and married young men to help to keep them from going to war. Valentine himself was sent to jail, and there he supposedly composed the first valentine to the jailer’s daughter.

Whatever it’s origins, the day has been totally exploited by greeting cards, pink teddy bears, and red hearts. Those of us who happen to be paired with someone feel an incredible sense of obligation to buy the perfect card and with it, the perfect gift to reflect our love. Those of us without a special someone are left feeling as if our lives are bereft of love and that no one will ever love us because no one gave us a gaudy pink teddy bear or mushy card that expressed his or her undying love.

I used to wait for my flowers or chocolate or both on Valentine’s day, measuring my love’s love for me by what I received on this day. Until the day of my epiphany. Truly. I mean, why is this day any different from any other?

The price of a dozen roses jumps $10 on this day, and falls back to normal just one day later. Isn’t that exploitative? Will that dozen roses prove that Corey loves me?

gustave-klimt-the-kiss-close-up
Gustave Klimt's "The Kiss" close-up

Corey and I say “I love you” to each other several times each day. Whenever we end a telephone conversation, we say it. If one of us is leaving the house, we say it. Before we close our eyes at night, we say it. And it isn’t just perfunctory; we mean it. Okay, sometimes it’s perfunctory. But when we sense that we are saying it just to say it, we back up, take a look at ourselves, and then say it as if we mean it with all of our hearts.

I don’t need roses for that. I don’t need a card for that. I love the cards that he chooses for me. As I have said, he always chooses well. But too many couples go way overboard for this holiday: diamonds, roses, chocolates, everything. What do they do the rest of the year? Do they say they love each other to each other and really mean it? Do they take care of one another without a second thought? Do they make each other feel loved through their actions and their words?

Roses are beautiful flowers, but they are not everlasting. Chocolate is wonderful; you know how I feel about chocolate, but once you eat it, it’s gone. Diamonds are spectacular, but I once knew a man who gave his wife a diamond anniversary ring and then left her two months later. These things are symbols.

I would rather have something that I know to be real and true every day than something that is just a symbol for a few days. I told Corey how I was feeling about this the other day, and he was completely shocked because I have always been such a romantic. The truth is that I am still a die-hard romantic, but I don’t want my romance dictated to me by a greeting card industry. Perhaps I am too cynical for my own good.

But when my son made that statement, it took me back to those years when I sat around feeling sorry for myself because no one was delivering flowers to me at work and how unloved I felt. And from that feeling I extended my sense of being unloved to my sense of self-worth. If I wasn’t worth loving, then perhaps I wasn’t worth anything at all. This is how the young mind works. It’s not logical, but these leaps in logic are not far-fetched for someone who already feels like an outsider.

And I know that I was not alone in feeling like that, and I am certain that people of all ages feel this way when Valentine’s Day rolls around and no cards are appearing on their desks or flowers are arriving at their doors. It shouldn’t be this way. We shouldn’t be consumed by the hype, but unfortunately we are.

That’s why I asked Corey, and he agreed, that we are going to boycott Valentine’s Day gift-giving from now on. We can still exchange cards, but the hunt for the perfect gift to show our love to one another seems superfluous and non-essential.

Some of the best presents Corey has ever given me were for no reason at all: a card put in my carryall for me to find later in the day, freshly-cut gardenias, planting a new mock orange beneath the bedroom window so that the smell will drift into the window, surprising me with tickets to see my favorite comedian. Unexpected tokens of affection. No prescribed holidays.

And so, the joint boycott of Valentine’s Day. We will continue to live our life together just fine without red teddy bears or sparkling glitter or overpriced roses, and I believe that regardless of what the commercials would have you believe, we will be just fine.

More later. Peace.