This was the first Valentine's Day I've spent single in almost seven years. I went through a messy break up over the holidays, and I'm not going to be ready to start dating anytime soon. Although Valentine's Day wasn't a big deal in my relationship, I had a feeling it would be difficult to see the public celebration of coupledom just weeks after I'd gotten over the sting of spending New Year's Eve alone. I tried to prepare myself for the onslaught of cheap chocolates, heart shaped cookies, dinner-for-two Groupons, and Valentine's cards, but I had no idea what to really expect.
Remembering how I spent New Year's Eve in quiet tears while my friends kissed their partners, I devised a plan to turn February into a month of being my own boyfriend. I wanted to avoid the basic Bridget Jones style sadness of drinking and crooning off key love songs, so I spent some time thinking about what would actually make me feel loved, even if it was just coming from me.
So even though the day has passed, I wanted to share my self-care tips for everyone out there who could use a little solo love. I ended up having a great Valentine's Day cooking dinner for friends, and I'm still working through my ideas for rekindling the most important relationship in my life: the one I have with myself.
"How do I love thee, let me count the ways..."
I purchased a 2016 calendar back in January, but decided to repurpose it as a self-love calendar as of February 1st. Each day, I took five minutes and thought about something I'd accomplished, something nice I'd done, something funny I said, or something I was proud of that I'd done at the end of each day. I wrote a little note to myself and at the end of the year, I plan to look back on my ten months of good deeds and take a romantic stroll down memory lane with myself.
Some of the things I called attention to were pretty major achievements: "Finished article two weeks ahead of schedule," "Put extra $200 into savings," "Started spring cleaning," "Finally mastered changing my own oil." Some of the call outs were silly but meaningful to me, such as: "Only watched two episodes of iZombie," "No dishes in sink for days," "Used entire CSA box," "Hair came out perfectly." And others were nice moments I'd seen: "Petted neighbor's puppy!", "Made dinner for Sam/her baby," "Saw crow eating a hot dog." They don't have to be major milestones, they just had to make me feel good.
Try it for yourself. You'll be surprised at how quickly you're falling in love with a pretty rad person.
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Um, no."
I challenged myself to stop comparing my circumstances to my married and coupled up friends. I focused on being happy for them, and happy that I was making the right choices for myself. In order to really bring these thoughts into actions, I invited three of my married/coupled friends over for dinner. We did it potluck style, and although I was nervous about feeling like the odd woman out, I tried to concentrate on how important my platonic friendships were, even if I felt like the last single girl.
I asked my friends to tell me what made their relationships work, and I listened. Jerome and Kevin commented on how they kept up the old fashioned tradition of a date night, no matter how busy they were. Wilsa and Michael, who have been married twenty years, take separate vacations with their friends and love bringing new experiences into their lives to continue learning from (and about) one another. Lisha and Peter both travel extensively due to their jobs, but have a standing agreement that the month of December is off-limits for work trips. Although these techniques won't work for every couple, I took notes about how I could bring their successes into all of my relationships, not just future romantic ones.
Inspired, I set up a monthly game night for all of my girlfriends, open to whomever is available. I realized that among all of my friend's relationship success was a common thread: they prioritize one another, which is something I've decided to do in all of my relationships.
"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
Even though I am still mourning my breakup, I don't want to miss out on what life has to offer. While it's incredibly important to honor your feelings and care for yourself post-breakup in a way that feels right, it's equally important to focus on all the love in your life. Each week, I spent time writing cards, making phone calls, and sending emails to my loved ones. I set aside intentional time to focus on that communication, and to make it sincere--not just a quick "what's up" text, but real conversations. I chatted with my dad about his favorite books, which I'd never known before. I asked my girlfriends about their work, which we never really discuss. I sent cards to my aunts and cousins in Washington, who I talk with maybe three times a year.
As I did this, I began to realize how many incredible people I had in my life, and they responded in kind. It was an emotional reminder that love takes many forms, and the perfect way for me to find the strength to begin setting my former love aside and embrace the people who have always been there for me.