For those of you who coerced me into this blogging thing, my apologies for only getting around to it every few months. It seems that I’m most compelled to rise above my hectic schedule to write something lately only at New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s (Singles Awareness) Day. You get what you pay for, I guess.
For a very long time, Valentine’s Day was a kick in the head. At my high school they even allowed girls to get flowers at school on February 14th. To put it another way, at my high school the girls with boyfriends were glorified, the girls without boyfriends were embarrassed, the boys who had girlfriends were obligated to purchase flowers, and the boys who didn’t have girlfriends were off the hook. I think it appalls me more now than it did at the time, but it is an appalling holiday that distorts and glorifies romance, isn’t it?
Bitter party of one, your table is ready…
If that’s you, please, in the name of St. Valentine, let’s leave the restaurant and do something good. I like chocolate as much as the next girl (or probably a lot more than most girls) and the sale on February 15th is enough reason to celebrate. But let’s really celebrate this year, not with a pity party or some sort of consolation prize, but a celebration that life really turned out the way it was supposed to, and it’s good. Single people are not without love. We love others deeply and we are loved in return. (Nat King Cole said that was great. I’m not going to argue.)
I didn’t have a boyfriend the year that they had flowers delivered to my school. (Or any other year, for that matter, but never mind.) I had a mighty crush on someone, I’m sure, because I always had a mighty crush on someone, but there was no one that I realistically expected to send me flowers. Imagine my surprise when I was called to come to the lobby. I had a single red rose from my mom and dad. If I were in a bad young adult novel, I would have told everyone it was from a secret admirer. I’m sure the thought crossed my mind, but only fleetingly. That rose made me happy, and I was proud that it was from the two humans who had loved me the best and the longest.
This year I’m going to a show for Valentine’s Day, but I doubt that either of the two people who are reading this will think for a moment that it’s a date. This is my third year spending Valentine’s Day with Dale Grogan and Jim Hammond at the GTA stage, and I couldn’t be happier about it. My happiness isn’t because I’m busy or distracted, or because I have an excuse not to be part of the left-out single unwashed herd. I’m happy about it because it is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. And yes, I’m doing what I love. I celebrate that many days of the year, and it seems appropriate to celebrate it on a day set aside for love.
Last week one of my fellow teachers—a woman I’ve come to love tremendously because she has a gift of knowing exactly when to be compassionately candid—asked me about my singleness. I usually have some very succinct answer when people ask me about it, but I didn’t feel like wrapping it up in a neat package for her at that moment. I told her (as quickly as I could, because I had 3rd graders headed to my classroom) that this was not what I planned. I wanted and expected to be married, to have children, to have a “normal” life. I also told her with all my heart that I’m only so content with this life because I’m grateful for it—truly grateful. I didn’t settle for the wrong man. All those “mighty crushes” of mine ended up with the wives and the lives that they were supposed to have (and in some cases I’m wholeheartedly relieved that it wasn’t me!) If I had children when I thought I would, I can only imagine what a mess they would be by now.
Even that is not the point. Life isn’t about the “what if”s. Gratitude isn’t a consolation prize for what we don’t have, what other people have, what we wanted and think we are missing. I’m truly grateful that I have the life that I have rather than the life I said I wanted. I love my students, and I love being able to wholeheartedly invest myself in them. I love spending time with my parents and my brother’s family. I love that my life is flexible enough that I can celebrate my friends’ lives in a way that would be difficult if I was managing a household with other people in it.
My view from the pit (the orchestra pit, not the pit of despair) is the same as it has been the last few years: I wonder how many people dining by candlelight are as truly happy with their lot as I am. I have so much more than I could have asked or imagined. Maybe one year I will be sharing the day with someone, but only if that person is part of the plans God has already laid out for my life, not because having a man on the other side of the table is the goal of my life or the object of all my gratitude.
Valentine’s Day is no longer a black day for me (except that I’m usually being paid to wear black…never mind…) It’s a day when I can say with all my heart
I am my beloved’s
and his desire is for me.
(Song of Solomon 7:10)