It Starts At Home

Maybe I do love to bash this holiday, but more than anything, it needs to be reframed.

The last Valentine’s Day I celebrated was when I was 33. I was in a new relationship, the first in a long time, and the person I was dating really loved steak. I didn’t want to drop the ball, and I also like to think that I listen to what my partner wants. It’s a lot easier than taking some big creative swing. On the actual day, we got dressed up, and went to a steakhouse in the heart of Boston. Everything was pleasant. I remember seeing other couples there as well, which isn’t surprising. We had a lovely meal, chatted, and that was pretty much the gist of it. It was a fine day. It had gone well, but when I think about it now, something feels off.

Not much of a story, I know, and yet, something about that day was wrong. I spent that Valentine’s Day dressed in finery, doing something so conventional, almost dated. It felt like I wasn’t being true to myself, that I wasn’t doing something I would ever normally do. I don’t judge anyone else for going to a steakhouse on Valentine’s Day, I’m just not that person. I understand the value of doing something for someone else, of putting aside your interests for an evening, and yet, I can’t help but think that the day could have been more inspired, more interesting and creative. I suppose that’s when I’ll know I’m with the right person, when we’ve done something for that special day that’s on brand for us, wonderfully unconventional, where we’ve put some serious thought into the occasion. Maybe we’ll even celebrate earlier or later, and avoid the rush. I could get on board with that.

It’s been a hard thing for me to admit that I want a partner. For such a long time, I had this idea in my head that going it alone was the way to be, the way I should be. I do love the freedom, have even made a point of celebrating it, but I’m not sure that that’s what I want forever. I want to know firsthand that I can be in a functional, healthy, adult relationship, and I also think that this type of relationship could enrich my life. After all, I love when people show me new things, things that open my eyes, and maybe even change my perspective. After so many years, I can finally admit that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to share my life with someone. I know that’s not the strongest sentiment, but it feels like progress.

Relationships come up for a lot of people at this time of year, and the association is not always positive. The December holidays through Valentine’s Day can be rough. While for many it’s a celebration, it can also highlight what people do not have, that absence in their lives. I’ve been thinking about what holidays I celebrate, and how I’ll go about observing them. I’m not sure where I’ll land, I tend to be indecisive, but I do want something that feels better for both me, and for everyone else. Valentine’s Day tends to recognize romantic love, but I love the idea of celebrating love in all of its forms, from family to amazing friends, to whatever it is in your life that brings you joy. A day where we celebrate love is not an inherently bad thing. It feels very contrived in some ways, and I could do without a lot of what is typically associated with the day, but given the state of the world, it’s easy to see that we need more love than we currently have. The stock would seem to be perilously low.

“It’s just me living in my apartment, which means that if I ever start to spiral, there’s no one else there to ground me. It’s all on me,” I said to my therapist.

It had been a great day, one I felt good about, where I was incredibly productive, but also kept my cool. Some days, I have so many cases going that it all builds up, accumulates, and I can end up feeling fried and frustrated. Today, every time I got close to that threshold, I was able to bring myself back to my calm center. I’m grateful for that. It’s been a long, slow climb getting here.

When I moved into my current apartment, I was ready to live alone. I was excited to come home to a quiet place, but I also knew that it had the potential to be challenging, having this place where it was just me, alone with my thoughts. A lot of work needed to be done. I’d lived with someone my entire life, and while the chaos made me better, more flexible, and adaptable, it was also a distraction. It kept me from having to focus on myself. Here, in this apartment, I’d have a place of my own, but I’d have to take care of it, and also myself. There was no one else to blame if either fell into a state of disrepair.

I’m getting closer to being able to articulate that time in my life several years back, but I’m not quite there, not yet. What I do know, what I am able to talk about, is what it was like after. I was in group therapy, a decent enough program, and every now and again, I’d come home to my apartment to check on things, grab stuff, etc. I was living with my family, but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. At some point, I’d have to go home and face myself, face my apartment, and the memories and emotions that it all stirred up. When my living situation came to its conclusion, I went back to my apartment, and even though I’m sure I was very nervous, it was nice to be home, to be in a place where I could just fall apart, and have no one expect anything of me.

I’ve been able to forge a new relationship with my apartment, and it’s once again a place where I feel comfortable and welcome. I’m grateful for the peacefulness and tranquility it granted me, when I was working so hard towards the end of 2021, and just needed a place to rest. I’ve made amazing strides when it comes to working on myself, and in some ways, it’s humorous that now is the time that I’m interested in a partner. I wouldn’t mind having someone in my life, even as I’ve never been better at being with myself, at calming myself down, and becoming self-sufficient in a lot of ways. I do love a good paradox. Maybe I’m realizing that just because I can do it alone, it doesn’t mean I have to. Maybe it’s time to let someone in, and to even have them stay for a while.

I continue to become the person I want to be. I’m a believer that the love we put out into the world is the love that we get back, and yet, it takes a lot to become that loving presence/person. We all take on a lot of damage in this life, as we go, sometimes without even realizing it. It takes a lot of work to face yourself. It can be terrifying, but think of it as a labor of love. You are worth the time and the investment that it takes to heal, to get better, to improve. You owe it to yourself, not to anyone else. It starts at home, realizing that the love that you have is already within you, and that you can change how you approach life, should you so choose. I may not be exactly where I want to be in that process, but I’m happy with the work that I’ve done. Loving yourself is the greatest love affair you’ll ever be apart of, and it makes being in the world so much easier, so why not start today? Maybe that’s what this day should be about. Thanks for reading.


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