Valentine’s Day is encroaching. Is it horrifying for you or is it a joy?
For me, aside from a few bad pre-marital memories (thanks Mom, for starting me in a new school on February 14!), it’s a joy. I have been married to someone for almost 31 years who chooses to recognize his commitment to me every year (as budget allows!) in a way that is romantic, fun and always leaves me feeling loved.
But not everyone is as fortunate, and for many the day is loathed and reeks of “wake me up when Valentine’s Day ends”. And for those, my compassion and understanding is heartfelt. It can be devastating.
Why does society put us through this? The endless sea of red hearts, flowers, cute little cherubs and chocolate everywhere for weeks beforehand, and you can’t escape it unless you’re a space traveller, because it is celebrated in almost every country of the world. In fact, over 150 million Valentine cards are exchanged yearly. That’s a lot of trees!
Not to mention all the poor parents scrambling to make sure their children are equipped with small paper cards to take to school for their classmates, most of which will inevitably meet the trash can the next day. Do you remember your blood pressure rising on the evening of February 13, class list in hand, making sure your kids were readied for the day so they wouldn’t miss out or come home feeling sad or otherwise unliked? I sure do.
So, how did Saint Valentine come to invade our lives every February 14. Well, apparently it all started from the Romans and the Christians.
It turns out there have been many Saints named Valentine throughout history. And here, I thought there was only one. If only life were that simple. It turns out as well, that some of these Saints were martyred; meaning that they were killed (in often gruesome ways) because of religious beliefs that they would not give up. Seems we are worlds away from love and romance here, although there’s an interesting legend surrounding a Roman priest named Valentine who was executed during the 3rd century.
It seems that Emperor Claudius II, who reigned at this time and served in the Roman army, believed that unmarried men were better warriors. So he banned marriage. However, a priest named Valentine felt that this was wrong so he performed weddings in secret. The truth can set you free, as they say, but unfortunately, the truth can also get you executed. That was what happened, and many references suggest that the execution occurred on February 14, and it is his execution date and the reason behind it that we celebrate today.
However, Saint Valentine was also included in the Christian Calendar of Saints, the days of which are “feast days”, meaning that different Saints would be celebrated on different dates. February 14 was, you guessed it, the date that Saint Valentine was “feasted”. Nothing to do with food. Pity. But nothing to do with love either. Many Christians also believe that Valentine’s Day originated from a Pagan festival called Lupercalia which was celebrated in Rome and was meant to increase fertility by ridding the city of evil spirits. History.com has a great description of Lupercalia here.
So, it’s still not really clear why February 14 is associated with love and romance, but by the 1600s, 1601 to be exact, it is clear that the reference of calling a loved one a “Valentine” had been established. William Shakespeare’s Ophelia in Act IV, Scene 5 of Hamlet says, “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s Day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine”. And so, I suppose, it has continued and escalated to present date celebrations.
This is all well and good, but the fact remains that for the lovelorn, it can be a brutal day of self-reckoning, self-loathing and disappointment.
So how can you survive it if you’re not in a relationship, or worse, have just come out of one you hoped would continue? Here’s 5 ideas:
Acknowledge That It Sucks
If you’re feeling down, don’t deny it or keep it inside. Acknowledge it by identifying what you are feeling and confirming with yourself that these feelings are ok. Sometimes if our feelings are negative, we feel like we need to repress them, and we scold ourselves for having them or worse, we feel guilty for having them. This isn’t healthy and will make things worse.
Self Care (Self Love)
Do something for yourself that you would have hoped a loved one would have done for you. Here’s some ideas:
- plan a special meal; if you like to cook, make a new meal that you have been wanting to make, but haven’t had the time
- order take-out that you haven’t had for a while but that is a favourite
- take a long, hot bath with some scented candles and a good book that you really enjoy
- buy yourself something that you have been wanting for a long time but wouldn’t otherwise purchase
- book a massage or another self-care activity like a manicure or pedicure
The key is to plan it and be mindful about it … and, to follow it through.
Connect with someone who you enjoy spending time with but don’t see often – maybe someone who lives far away. This will help you to not to feel alone, and will also get the endorphins going, because you don’t often spend time with this person and it is therefore something you will look forward to. You also might just get some much needed support.
Go Out With Friends
If you are feeling sad and depressed, the go to action is to isolate yourself. But, sitting at home and letting the emotion overtake you is the worst thing to do. Validate it, yes. Let it overwhelm you, no. See if you can find a friend to go out with, or go out by yourself. Do something that would normally bring you happiness, even if it is a trip to the library or to get a meal on your own.
Plan a Short Trip Out of Town
Plan a trip out of town if you have the time and money. Between the planning, organizing and travel time, you will probably forget and/or won’t care what the date is. It will also give you something to look forward to so you’re not focussing on dreading the day when it arrives.
Exercise is proven to lift spirits by causing the brain to release mood-lifting endorphins, and at the end of it, you will have done something positive for yourself. Maybe plan to try something new that you haven’t done before to keep it adventurous instead of the same old, same old.
Binge-Watch Your Favourite TV Show
If you have a TV show that you really like, or even a couple of favourite movies, make a plan to watch it (or them!), but make it an event. Get some of your favourite foods, drinks or even take-out, and plan a fun evening. See if a friend wants to join you.
The key is be mindful about what you plan to do, and then actually carry it out. Don’t wait until the day and then wonder aimlessly how to kill the time (this will make you more depressed). Plan something with yourself in mind, and plan to enjoy it. Who knows, whatever you choose might even turn into a tradition.