Today is Valentine’s day. The day of love, my favorite holiday! I love Valentine’s day and always have. When I was a kid it was an opportunity to tell my friends that we were friends and that they meant something to me. To tell my family that I loved them. It’s simple. Christmas is stressful. There is so much to arrange, even when it’s simple, presents to buy, worry that people won’t like things or that someone or something will be forgotten, etc. But Valentine’s day, there is no expectations, at least not from any one around me. A simple card that says I love you, I care about you, I am thinking about you especially today. That’s all it takes.
Over the years I have had time and opportunity to ponder on what love isn’t. I have learned several things, not only looking back on my life, but looking around me as well. I think when we think of love, we think of Hollywood. That burning, passionate drive toward someone we find attractive. And while I believe being attracted to someone can be part of the equation, it is not the end all. I think we put way too much emphasis on that, and not enough on the heart. That is not what makes for a good relationship, that is not love. Looks change, exhaustion sets in when there’s small kids and jobs and school and life. There are so many people now that view love like Hollywood, and when that attraction starts to dwindle, that burning starts to go out, when life starts to get real, they move on. That was never real love.
So, just as I’ve pondered on what love isn’t, I have pondered and learned what love really is. My husband and I are very similar in a lot of ways, how we believe, how we think politically, how we view the world. However, even though we have the same end goal, we have totally different ways of getting there, which on occasion clash with each other. Most of the time it’s little clashes that never go any further. Sometimes they are bigger clashes and we have to step back and think about things. One day my kids wondered if we loved each other all the time. I said, “of course we do, sometimes we just don’t like each other very much!” Love isn’t about living in this la la land of happily ever after all the time. Love is sticking with things even when they’re hard, because hard doesn’t last forever. Love is sticking with each other even when there’s nothing exciting going on, because most of life is pretty mundane. Love is helping each other, even when they don’t know, because it’s not about praise or recognition, but about getting the job done, just because it needs doing, and it really doesn’t matter who does it. Love is not about 50/50, but about giving 100% to the relationship, and when one person is weak, and only giving 75%, the other person steps in and gives 125%, knowing that when they need that same help back, it’ll be there. Love is never perfect, because well, there is no such thing as perfect in this life.
A few months ago we were sitting at the dinner table eating dinner and my kids were telling me that when they were little and would get scared at night, once in a while when they would try to wake me up, their dad would have them come over to his side so that I could sleep, because he knew how tired I was. I always want him to be able to sleep because he has to get up and go to work. That is love. We burn wood to heat our house. It’s the only form of heat we have. Sometimes when my husband is super tired, I volunteer to go fill the boiler for him. Always, without fail, one of my boys will volunteer to come and help me, knowing I struggle getting the last few pieces in because of their length. They hate filling the boiler. That’s love. I still get nervous about driving long distances to take my art places around the state. My daughter will get off work early just to ride along. She likes road trips, but doesn’t have to do that for me. That’s love. When I tell my kids we are going to go do something they don’t want to do, but we go and do it anyway, and sometimes it’s miserable, but they go the next time. That’s love. But I haven’t just seen love in my family. The friend who has done an advent calendar for many years for my kids every Christmas, not just the little cheap premade ones, but a really nice homemade one, my mom calling me just to say hi because I was on her mind, my dad sending me the Sudoku and crossword puzzles from the newspaper just because he knows I love them, my mother-in-law feeding us dinner every Sunday, a friend calling up and asking if I want to go walking with her and her dogs, etc. These are love.
We all have the opportunity to be who we are, to believe what we believe, and to become what we choose to become. I want to become like my Savior. He has said to love my neighbor as myself. I have beliefs and opinions that differ from many people, but that doesn’t mean I can’t truly care about others, because from they beginning, they are also children of God. And, after all, we are all loved by Him first. This world is a crazy place, and can be really hard sometimes. But it’s a lot easier when we can love those around us, and when we feel love in return.