It is my guess that the vast majority of people are at best ambivalent towards Valentine’s Day. Even couples. Let’s be honest, V-Day is maybe exciting for brand-new couples, but for people who have been together for any length of time, it’s really just a random day where you’re supposed to try extra-hard to be nice to each other. And even within that category of sparkly-eyed new lovebirds, there must be some who object to the hyper-commercialization on principle. So I’d put the estimate for people who sincerely enjoy Valentine’s Day at around, oh say 4%. Call me cynical. If you don’t, I will: I’m cynical.
I’ve thought for a long time that I’d like to see V-Day metamorphose into a celebration of love in all its forms – whether between friends, families, or yes, couples – or even as a sort of unifying force for all of humanity. (I do get that way sometimes.) For several years I thought of sending my friends and family little notes telling them what I love and appreciate about them, and encouraging them to do the same for someone else. But I always chickened out for one reason or another. I’m not really sure why; maybe I was afraid nobody would participate and I’d feel silly. But this year, in the weeks leading up to the holiday, I heard and read a lot of people voicing similar opinions to mine, and I promised myself I was going to do it. So on Thursday morning I wrote an update on Facebook saying that whoever responded would get a personalized note from me.
In a lot of ways, it ended up being the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had. I reinforced bonds with a few good friends, but also made some real connections with people I don’t talk to that often or even know that well. For each person, I took a few minutes to genuinely consider what I appreciated about their presence in my life. The response was incredibly heartwarming. Several people told me they’d been having a hard time and really needed the boost. Others declared that they were going to start writing notes to their own friends right away. Nobody made me feel silly.
Yesterday I received a sombre phone call that contained a seed of potentially serious news. It served as one of those reminders that we human beings always seem to need, about how important it is to express love to the people we care for while we can. We read about these kinds of reminders when they happen to others, and think to ourselves, “Oh yes, this is definitely important. I’ll get right on that.” And sometimes we do, but other times we chicken out. Maybe we don’t want our friends to think we’re weird or overly sentimental. Or maybe we (and by “we” I mean “I”) find it difficult to connect meaningfully with other people in non-super-awkward ways. Those are all perfectly valid feelings. But this call made me even more glad that I’d finally chosen to go through with my little project this year. Maybe next year I’ll be brave enough to write spontaneous notes to all my friends and family, whether or not they respond to my post.