It doesn't hurt as much as I expected. For the first time in years, I'm single on Valentine's Day. I thought it would be all tears and heartache and sadness, struggling to figure out what's wrong with me and why I'm not able to find a strong and lasting relationship and why won't anyone love me?
But after waking up, taking care of some final pre-trip details for my housemate (like driving her to work with her suitcase) and letting the electrician in to look at the breakers, I am settled into the sofa with tea and books and good music.
And I am reminded of Valentine's past where I was single, and blissful.
As an undergraduate student I co-directed The Vagina Monologues">The Vagina Monologues as a fundraiser for the local domestic violence shelters. I had been volunteering at the shelters and participating in Take Back the Night rallies for many years, and it was a perfect match for me to suggest this level of activism to the campus women's center (where I volunteered). It was an opportunity for me to give back to organizations that brought me community, belonging, and a sense of doing good in the world.
For three years, I was part of a group of women (always changing) who made posters, learned monologues, designed costumes (all black, but never dull!), told friends and family, and created an evening of solidarity and charity. Over that time, we raised nearly $5000 for three organizations providing legal and physical support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault covering 5 northern Minnesota counties.
When I wasn't spending my energy focusing on how to work SO hard on finding and maintaining a sexual/emotional relationship, I was doing incredible social justice work. As soon as I started focusing so much on working on a relationship, I lost my focus and was no longer active in social justice, peace activism, and survivor rights. Don't get me wrong: I am in no way saying that being in a partnership means you can't be an activist.
Every time I tried to get into a relationship, I repeated a pattern: become who they are seeking. The way I acted, the way I dressed, the food I liked, the dreams I had, all of these suddenly became partner-centric. It somehow wasn't okay for me to have my own independent dreams and aspirations. This relationship pattern repeated itself year after year, relationship after relationship. It's what prevented me from going to my dream college, pushed me back into the closet, caused great rifts in my family, and got me into some pretty terrible situations (homeless and across the country from everyone I know, for one).
For the past 9 years I have repeated this pattern in EVERY relationship I have entered. EVERY single one.
It's been just over a year since my last relationship (though some days it seems like less), and I am happy being single on Valentine's Day. I may just take myself on a date tonight. Or order take-away. Or take a bubble bath by candlelight with my favorite kirtan playing softly in the other room. This year, Valentine's Day is about self-love, about acceptance, about freedom. It's about recognizing the really unhealthy patterns I have been using to protect me from looking at my own personal stuff and growing as a strong and healthy woman.
So on this Valentine's Day, when I am reminded of a quote from ee cummings, I honor being single and loving myself above any else:
it takes a lot of courage to grow up and be who you really are.