Thursday, 13 February 2014

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue...

...Ahhh, yes. It's Valentine's Day tomorrow (in case you hadn't spotted).

If I'm honest, I almost didn't spot it: I had a big work event on Saturday (the 8th), that put blinkers on me to anything else that was happening in the world in the run up to it. But, I emerged happily on the other side, to realise that Valentine's Day was only six days away. I think only having six days' notice is quite a blessing - normally the mental torment begins almost as soon as people have forgone their new years' resolutions (so, the second week of January, then...)

Taken from Buzzfeed's 'emotionally repressed
Valentine's cards for British people'
It was drawn to my attention by this Buzzfeed article of 'emotionally repressed cards for British people'. I can't say that I laughed at all of them *ahem*, but there's a certain excellence in some of their sentiments. If I were to send Valentine's cards, they may well be somewhat like that. (Especially 'You make tea properly'. Who could ask for higher praise?!)

In reality, in all my twentythree and five-sixths years, the extent of my true Valentinian exchanges amounts to two: one in either direction. Sure, I've sent cute cards and pidged little chocolates to my friends...but I'm talking genuine emotional reality here:

1. Sent: one, hand-drawn Valentine's card, 2004, aged 14, to the boy I had the biggest crush on in the entire world. It was anonymous, but he knew it was me because I was about as subtle as..well, as subtle as a 14 year old girl who has a crush. Well done, teenage Emily.
One Rose

2. Received: one red rose, 2010, pidged anonymously to me. Sender identified 18 months later.

Good. A potted history of not very much romantic action.

The thing is with Valentine's Day, is that it can be cruel in its very existence. For many people who receive Valentine's cards and gifts, those things will be entirely expected, as part of a loving relationship. But for people who have no other half, and are not expecting anything, there's still the idea that there just might be someone out there (perhaps a particular someone) who would think to send you something lovely to express the sentiment of their feelings towards you. And that brings a little spark of hope. 

I've written about hope before: it's such a powerful thing. 

There's that little thought in the back of your mind, just to check the doormat for post when you get home from work... Just to check your messages again... Just to wonder if anyone actually has your address? 

I even had a worry today at work, because I'd sent a hand-written piece of post to someone, that I knew would arrive in their pidge tomorrow morning. I know what catching a glimpse of personal mail on Valentine's day does - and the disappointment when it's something completely other. I was worried I would stir up hope there, where there was only work-related admin. (So, I'm sorry, if you read this!)

In the film of the Hunger Games, when President Snow is trying to curtail the ambitions of some of the plucky competitors, he comments: 

"Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it's contained."

I'm sure there's a lot of reality in what he says. Maybe for some of us this reflects in our Valentine's expectations? The little spark of excitement and looking forward to the 'perhaps' is ok - but piling too much hope there leads to pity and self-doubt.  It's very true that a lot of hope in something uncertain is a dangerous thing.  How many girls have joked about, if not actually acted out, the classic Bridget Jones 'All by myself' scene, especially when contemplating another Valentine's day alone?

It's funny, but in a 'because it's true' way...

One of my favourite proverbs is: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life" (Prov 13:12)

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
Hope deferred makes the heart drink red wine alone in pyjamas
Hope deferred makes the heart sing 'all by myself', and play air-drums, because there are no messages.

I guess, on reflecting on this, I have to return to the second half of the proverb...but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. I'm sure when Solomon wrote all those proverbs, he probably wasn't specifically thinking of romance and Valentine's day. But. Maybe we have to think about where our hopes and dreams really lie, and where we're seeing fulfillment of our dreams...and where that tree of life is growing

Hoping in a Valentine's affirmation can be exciting flicker of hope, but hoping in it solely for justification is dangerous way to make the heart sick. Our hopes aren't in flowers and chocolates and affectionate sentiments, even though they are lovely. Our value and worth does not come from another person's gestures. Where we find our value is a huge topic, and I won't try to delve into it now - but know for sure that it isn't found in one, a dozen, or a thousand red roses.

So. Tomorrow. Check the doormat for post. Let your heart rate rise a fraction when the DHL man arrives to deliver a parcel (it'll be that thing you ordered from Amazon a few days ago, remember?), and don't squash the flicker of hope; because who knows, tomorrow might be the day the red rose arrives.

But. If it isn't, don't let your heart grow sick, because there is always more hope. Different hope. Bigger hope. And your extraordinary value is not diminished by a lack of roses, not one tiny bit.

So I'll leave you now and head to bed to build up some energy for tomorrow - y'know, just in case a huge bouquet of flowers arrives that I have to lug home across town...

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