by David McElroy
I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. It’s artificial, manipulative and commercial. It’s a “holiday” that’s manufactured by the makers of cards and candy and other gifts. It’s meaningless. Really.
Except when it’s not meaningless. Maybe when you wish you had a chance to say — in a sincere way — what the mushy cards and saccharine sentiment of the day says. Do I actually hate it? Or do I miss the chance to say these things to someone who feels the same in return?
In many ways, love is a conflict between the head and the heart, especially when it’s not clear what the right direction is. I’ve faced this conflict many times. If I didn’t know that other people experience it, too, I would feel crazy because of the ways in which these conflicts pull me in different directions.
One thing can seem to make so much logical, pragmatic sense, but leave me feeling cold. That’s the head talking. Another thing can seem to be as necessary as air and water just to continue living. That’s the heart talking.
For me, fear has been the thing that’s spoiled everything — fear that I might marry the wrong person, fear that something I see inside of someone might be dangerous long term, fear that I might disappoint someone. And on and on. So many fears. So much regret.
When I’ve listened to my heart — and worked to make myself a better person at the same time — I’ve enjoyed what love brought to me. But when I’ve listened to fear — and run away from love — the conflict has made me miserable.
And even now, I can’t decide whether to listen to my head or heart about the worth of Valentine’s Day.
My head knows that it’s worthless, trite, manufactured, manipulative and on and on. I know that my head is right about that. I grew up listening to that logic from my father. I grew up thinking that it’s best to show your love year-round rather than believing there should be one day that someone else dictates. It makes sense. My head says so.
I want and need love — the very things that this day celebrates. My heart recognizes in the day those things that it craves and needs and longs for from another. And at that moment, I don’t really care about the card companies or the control that someone has over when something is expressed.
At that moment, I just want to say, “I love you. Will you love me, too?”
My head and my heart will keep warring over love. They’ll keep disagreeing over Valentine’s Day. My head will keep sneering at it and hating it and making fun of those who treat it as though it’s important.
My heart, though, will know better. My heart will feel all the things that the day is supposed to celebrate. My heart will feel heavy for the memories of times when it hasn’t expressed what it felt. And even though my brain won’t like it, my heart will keep looking outward to another heart and saying, “I love you. I need your love.”
And the long-running battle between my fears and my needs will continue.