Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone and boy did I mess up this year. Again. I didn’t get my wife any flowers or candy. I didn’t take her out to a nice dinner. I didn’t do anything special for her at all. I didn’t even get her a card. To tell you the truth, I just wasn’t paying attention to the calendar and it completely slipped my mind. If I only had a nickel for every Valentine’s Day that I’ve forgotten, I probably could have at least have afforded to buy her a box of heart-shaped bite-sized chalk pieces that tell her how “gr8” she is or command her to “Hug Me”.
The truth is that I forget Valentine’s Day every year because a long time ago, my wife and I decided not to participate in it. The greeting card and candy companies don’t get to tell me when to celebrate my love. They’re not going to guilt me into spending my hard-earned money on the 14th of February just because everybody else is.
The general them of Valentine’s Day seems to be that money=romance. It’s all about the sales. “Buy this or she won’t be happy!” “Spend this much or you’re not good enough!” I just don’t buy that. It really sets off my allergies.
A lot of people say that they “don’t celebrate” Valentine’s Day, but then they buy the overly-priced roses and make the restaurant reservations. If that’s the case then guess what? YOU CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY! I’m not going to tell you what to celebrate or not to celebrate, I just think you should be honest about it. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Valentine’s Day. It’s a perfectly nice way to express your love and appreciation for your significant other but it’s not one that I’m overly fond of. I don’t care for the way that people who are “alone” on Valentine’s Day are made to feel pathetic, lonely and inferior. I don’t appreciate the fact that women are made to feel inadequate if they aren’t wearing their sexiest red dress and sipping champagne with strawberries in a room full of 60 red roses and gently glowing candles. Hollywood, television and magazines are confusing love with romance. There’s nothing wrong with romance at all, in fact, everyone can agree that it’s a very important part of a happy and healthy relationship. My problem is with the kind of romance they’re trying to sell us.
I believe that true romance comes from within. It’s not that you shouldn’t spend money to be romantic, it’s just that if you have to, then you need to try harder. Love and romance aren’t about what you spend, they’re about what you do. If you only put forth an effort to be romantic once a year, then you need to try harder. I don’t love or appreciate my wife any more or any less in mid-February than I do in late September. Do you? Ladies, you’re not any less beautiful, sexy or fabulous on February 13th or 15th.
I know that I’m not alone in thinking that this is a bogus holiday. Even so, if you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or just go out as a group of gals and make men wish they’d been your dates, more power to you. Just don’t forget to celebrate the other 364 days of the year with each other too!
You know, we all have those bad days. The kind of days where you wake up and the moment that your feet hit the floor, it starts hitting the fan. You stub your toe on the way to the bathroom…you discover, far too late, that you’ve run out of toilet paper or toothpaste. You miss breakfast, you’re late for work, you get yelled at by the boss for something that had nothing to do with you. When it rains it pours, doesn’t it?
When it fall on our heads, we have two options. Number one: we can follow the example of “Chicken Little” and run around in circles screaming “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”. I blame no one for having this reaction. It’s instinctual, it comes from the gut. It’s emotional, and the first reaction of a human being is almost always driven by emotion. I’m no exception. My wife and I have had our share of troubles and I’m no stranger to dealing with emotional reactions. (What husband is?)
My wife and I have been struggling since the day we got married. We’ve had unexpected medical bills, worker’s comp claims, a plumbing system that collapsed. My wife suffered a very bad injury in college that cost her most of the mobility in her arm and causes her constant pain to this day. I suffered from terrible depression when I was laid off and couldn’t get a job anywhere for well over a year. I still wrestle with insomnia. The list goes on and on. “So what?” you may think, “that’s life. Everybody deals with those things!” To an extent this is true, but not the way we did. It was back to back to back, the hits just kept on coming with no reprieve. I’m not saying that there aren’t people in this world, in this country, hell, probably in my own neighborhood with worse problems, but they were our problems and they were painful. Try walking a mile in my shoes and then tell me it was easy. I’ll bet you won’t.
What was especially hard about all of it, was how hard it was on my wife. Kristen is my wife, my friend, my love…when she hurts, I hurt. It has been many a night that she cried herself to sleep. Panicking, literally panicking over whether or not we were going to be sent to collections or whether we could afford groceries. We couldn’t afford to go to the doctor when we needed to. We were balanced on a high wire with no safety net. One more hit was all it would take and we would be bankrupt. Would we be able to hold on to our house, our car? I’d already sold all of my music gear to keep us afloat. I stayed as strong as I could for her. Depression and all, I fought to keep us together and I fought to keep us sane. Together, we fought, and we clawed and we held on, holding our breath as our debts, anxieties and emotions threatened to drown us.
Thomas Jefferson said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Nobody ever accomplished anything by doing nothing. Emotion is a reaction, and that’s perfectly okay, but eventually, the time comes when reaction isn’t enough. You can’t just react, you have to act. Change doesn’t happen by itself, you see. You have to take the initiative and move forward on your own two legs. If you’re going to make lemonade out of lemons, then you’ve got to get busy, and be ready to get your hands dirty. Very rarely do things fall into place all by themselves, but all it takes is a little push. As much as we might wish that we were living in the “Harry Potter” universe and could just wave a magic wand and make all our problems go away, it doesn’t work that way in our mundane muggle world.
Even so, nowadays things are finally looking up. My wife is very appreciated at work, and is being very nicely compensated, which was just enough to lift our heads above the water and and allow us to take a blissful breath of air. Since we were a little more stable, I decided to go back to school so that I CAN get a good job to help provide for us, and I’ll tell you what, I am in LOVE with it. I am so fascinated by learning and I wish I’d been this excited about school when I was a kid. I’m even able to slowly start buying some music gear again, and I can’t even tell you how excited I am about that.
Studying martial arts for nearly ten years has taught me many things, (but that’s for another time.) One of the most important lessons that any true martial artist learns is that There is no such thing as defeat. You either win, or you learn. Life itself is a perfect teacher if you are a willing student. Somewhere along the way, I learned that it’s all about attitude. I’ve learned about myself, about who I am and what I believe in. I have grown so much as a person, and found out what my values really are. What a gift that is! I’ve gained insight, and compassion for the hardship of others and appreciation for the things that I DO have. I’ve discovered that you have to learn how to be happy with nothing, before you can be happy with anything.
It’s true that when it rains, it pours, but if you’ve learned anything at all, then hopefully you grab a coat or an umbrella, you batten down the hatches. You may get a little wet, but you’ll live. Unfortunately, or then again, perhaps fortunately… it can’t all be sunshine and roses, but I’ve always preferred rainy days anyway. Rainy days are the ones that wash us clean. Rainy days are the ones that make everything good and green on this earth grow. Rainy days are the ones when you curl up on the couch with a good book and a better woman. It’s all a matter or perspective. The next time you feel like complaining on a rainy day, just remember that mama said there’d be days like this.