I’m not great at anticipating occasion posts.
I posted about Christmas on December 26th, after people had been rocking carols and drowning in tinsel for a month. It seems I need the spirit of the occasion to take hold of me before I can reflect on it. Valentine’s day this year was no different.
The holiday never used to do it for me. Let’s face it, it’s the Hallmark holiday that coined the term Hallmark holiday. It makes sense that Cupid is its legacy. The Romans commercialized the Greek myths, just like the consortium of chocolate, candy, and flower companies have commercialized February 14. If New Year’s Eve is the amateur night out, then Valentine’s day is the amateur romantic getaway to the Poconos (that’s where they have those heart-shaped Jacuzzi baths you thought were only in spoof comedy flicks.)
Zach Nelson, a brilliant graphic poet and friend of mine summarized it better than I ever could:
For more of Zach’s poetic designs, visit his Facebook page, The Napkin Chapters, HERE.
In the midst of my obligatory run to the florist, and my kids coming home from preschool and day care with their weight’s worth of candy, I did experience some very un-obligatory lessons on love from my wife. Miranda has taught me more than I ever imagined I could learn on the subject.
Life is about other people
If this post had volume, I’d ask you to turn it up.
Life is about other people.
Life is not about me and all my petty concerns. Life is truly about what I can give to others or share with others. True love is experienced through the love of another. And for a long time, my greatest revelation was learning to love my self. Miranda taught me that is just the beginning.
Allow me to drop you in our conversation on Valentine’s Day.
Her: “Let’s go pick up the kids!”
(I always make fun of her for the overuse of the exclamation marks she demands are necessary and intentional.)
Me: “It’s Valentine’s day, relax. I’ll go pick them up. Have some you time.”
(I will admit that this offer held onto the hope—as most of my self-sacrificial offers do—that she will say something back like, “no, that’s OK, I’ll get them, you stay here.”)
Her: “Exactly, it’s Valentine’s day. We pick them up together. The kids will love that.”
Of course, she wasn’t thinking about herself. She also wasn’t thinking about my selfishness like I had hoped. She was thinking about the kids. The joy we could bring into their hearts if we showed up to get them together.
Without Miranda, I would never have learned that happiness is attained when I live for other people.
In relationships, don’t keep score
I have a confession to make. I am a debilitatingly competitive person. I turned my classroom into a playing field where young men score points for their team in a variety of ways. Mock me you may, but you should see the energy teenage boys can muster for a Shakespearean sonnet if there is a win at stake.
I played competitive sports all my life, and I have a theory that they saved my life. I still play pickup basketball once a week to fill that competitive vacancy that organised sports left behind. So, when it comes to chores, I am great at keeping score.
I have estimated the time it takes to wash dishes and mow the lawn to get out of other household chores. I have taken stock of all the nights I put the kids to bed and use them as bargaining chips. I’ll go above and beyond in my household responsibilities one day only to have leverage in a demand to get out of the house the next.
And then, the Sunday before Valentine’s day, I’m sick. I can’t hold down water I’m so sick. That’s when Miranda—whose other roles include full-time Occupational Therapist, mother, cook, cleaner, ringleader, teacher, fashion faux-pas preventer, clothe shopper, interior designer, bag packer, photographer, and toy curator to name a few—goes into nurse mode.
Not only does she handle the kids while I’m sick, but she makes my stay as comfortable as possible. Like hospice care, my pillows are fluffed, chicken soup bought, room quarantined.
This totally ruins my score keeping. All of a sudden, I can’t keep track of all that I owe her. And it’s when I’m done calculating weeks of back chores that I realize she’s not keeping score at all.
She’s playing this other game altogether. This game where we simply love and care for each other, especially when we’re down and out. A game where nothing is owed or expected in return. It’s this beautiful and fluid motion of kindness. I didn’t know you could live your life playing it. She’s showing me the rules.
Tell who you love how much you love them as often as you can
Miranda lost her grandmother on Valentine’s day. That sucked. We were traveling to Pennsylvania this weekend regardless to see her, only Miranda never got the chance for that dramatic farewell.
It pains me to see her grieve. I know how much she loved her.
Miranda’s heart is so big that you can measure when it breaks on a seismograph. There are a thousand things I want to tell her to help her grieve.
I want to tell her that she never missed a chance to tell her grandmother exactly how she feels. Miranda doesn’t miss a chance to tell anyone how much she loves them.
I want to tell her that she is our matriarch the way her grandmother was hers. She is that strong force of a woman that every family should have, hold, and respect.
I want to tell her that I know how proud her grandmother was of her. I saw it in her eyes whenever she listened to Miranda speak.
But it’s too late for some of those words, and too soon for others.
If Miranda’s taught me anything, it’s that life’s big moments go beyond words. I can be there for her, for now, for however she needs me.