When it’s over, I want to say: All my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
‘Tis the season of candy hearts and candlelit dinners.
If you’re rejoicing and making juicy plans for Valentine’s day, I salute and celebrate you!
For many, however, Valentine’s season can bring up complicated emotions like sadness and disappointment. Whether in relationship or not.
It’s tempting to feel the pressure of expectations set by a culture of romcoms and Hallmark cards. To feel like there’s a prescribed experience we should be having. And if we’re not knees-deep in rose petals, then we must be doing it wrong.
In my years as a singleton, I learned to tune out Valentine’s day. But in brief moments, I felt like I had somehow failed because I had no one to celebrate the day with.
And now, in a loving marriage, I’m still aware of the pressure. There’s a flavor of performance energy, pushing us to match an externally defined image of romance.
With Valentine’s on the horizon, I’m taking a step back and looking at my relationship to romance itself. I’m giving myself permission to let go of any cultural expectations I’ve internalized about love and romance. I’m using it as an opportunity to reimagine and redesign romance in my life. How do I want to experience it, express it, celebrate it?
It’s not that I’m down on Valentine’s, it’s just that I want to get to the heart of what romance means to me, and then choose how to celebrate in my own authentic way.
Yesterday I was mulling over this very question while on a hike around a favorite lake. I noticed there was a white egret perched on a rock in the middle of the lake.
Egrets are especially shy birds and keep a healthy distance from humans. Every time I’ve encountered one at this lake, it’s been swift to remove itself to the far shore. I’ve always longed to see one up close, but never really expected it to happen.
Yesterday I paused by the shore to admire the bird from afar. And just then, it flew towards me, landing on the bank just three yards away.
There we stood — the egret and I — gazing at each other for several minutes.
I stilled myself there at the water’s edge. I breathed as deeply as I could to make space within me for the presence of such beauty and grace. I took it all in… feet shaped like black starfish, eyes like gold rings around onyx beads, feathers so white they glowed like a halo in the midday sun.
Aware that this was a rare gift — to be so close and intimate — I silently communicated my gratitude and praise to the bird.
And then what emerged in this silent communication was a new understanding of romance and intimacy. There was such depth and simplicity in being present with this magical being. There was no doing involved. Simply being. Being with, being receptive of the creature’s beauty, being in admiration and love.
I realized that this is how I want to experience romance in my life. Not just in my marriage, but in all things. To experience the world as beloved. To be in an active state of receptivity. Present to the magic that surrounds me each and every moment. To contact the inner stillness that is the doorway to the depths of intimacy with all things.
And it seems that this is the heart of romance, for me at least. From this space, I can choose in the moment how I wish to express and celebrate it. In those few moments with the egret, my expression was a silent praising of this creature. In other moments, my expression will be different. But the key is that I’ll know what is true and aligned for me, because I’ll be sourcing romance from the well-spring of my own heart.
And so, what I offer as we approach Valentine’s day, is an invitation to explore your relationship to romance. Give yourself permission to define it for yourself. Whether you’re in relationship or not, your experience of romance is something that is first sourced within your own heart. It is the experience within that will discover its own objects out in the world, whether it be an egret on the shore, or a lover in your arms.
If you’re up for exploring your own relationship to love and expanding your capacity to create love from a foundation of inner stability and wholeness, then I’d love to have you join me for my online course Whole Hearts in Love that begins On March 3. Sharing this course is one of my greatest joys, and I’d love for you to join in if you feel called. I’ve laid out the details over here, and if you have any questions, add a comment below or email me at elizabeth[at]elizabethhunterdiamond.com.
In the meantime, sending you love and warmest wishes for a Valentine’s of your own design,
PS – Whole Hearts in Love begins March 3. Register by February 25 for the early sign-up rate.