This is my 25th Valentine’s Day with Mike. This week, our passion reads something like this:
Him: Maybe tonight I’ll actually get some sleep.
Me: Try to make it on your side of the bed, if you do.
Him: You kicked me twice last night
(and then I start giggling. Because, yes, I did).
Me: I had to get you to shove over so I didn’t fall out of bed.
Him: Well, I’m sleeping with one arm not even on the bed, so I don’t know how I can be on your side.
Me: Our bed must shrink during the night then.
During the year, the people we love most see us at our worst. They get the snarly overtired bits before we can put on our Everything’s OK mask that we wear for strangers. They see the parts scraped raw by life’s complications, and they’re the balm for life’s burns. Around Valentine’s day, I think that I should be better at growing into something I’m happy to share everyday. Alas, there’s always a passive-aggressive argument waiting in the wings (depending on the amount of sleep that actually happened) about who actually sleeps on the bed and who hovers pitifully partially off the bed all night. Woe is us.
So yeah, my Plan B to brain him with the cast iron and his is to smother me with a pillow are just bluster. Sleep deprivation does unfortunate things to you (*I’m not trivializing insomnia. Mike really does have difficulty, and until he”s squeezing me off the bed so he can sleep like a starfish, I do have deep empathy for him. If I slept as little as he does, I’d weep all day long)
When you’ve been together as long as we have, it’s easy to get blasé about the romance. So periodically, over the year, every year, I ask Mike for a love letter. I get a card. Lovely cards, but not the same thing. I know that until I explained it to him, he didn’t understand why it’s important to me. I think perhaps lots of card-buyers don’t get why. So here it is.
When Mike and I got married, he told me to write the vows because I was the one with the big bucket of words. He read them and approved the draft. Then, when he had to say them aloud, he made a face at the word “beloved”. Maybe nobody else noticed, but I did, and I know he did. He would have chosen differently. Not a lesser word, but a different word. His own word.
Reading someone else’s words isn’t the same as coming up with your own, whatever they are because, they don’t fit in your mouth the way your own words do. There’s a reason why the Pink-and-Red Romance of Valentines Day has cards contain poetic snippets of love clipped and printed on pearly cardstock. You have this feeling in your heart, or your throat, or wherever you hold your emotions, and you can’t quantify what it is, so you employ some stranger to create a simile for you.
“Love does not alter when love alteration finds” sounds more polished than “I’ll love you even when you change and get old”.
“I once had a thousand desires. But in my one desire to know you all else melted away” sounds much more passionate than “You’re all I want”.
Will Shakers has poetic chops to be sure, and Rumi has love spilling out over the edges of his poetic self. Yep, they do. And maybe they nail what someone else feels. But Rumi and Shakespeare and whomever else aren’t trying to describe anyone’s feelings but their own. While lovely quotes about how someone else’s relationship is like ours is reassuring that someone else “gets it”, it’s never the same. And it never fits in anyone’s mouth as comfortably as it fit the author’s.
Everyone has a talent. One of mine is being a Wordnerd, so I can certainly write a love letter that speaks to the things I like about Mike, how I like having him around, and my favourite little gestures that he does, and the way he make me feel. I can both qualify and quantify how I feel. The point of a love letter is to find the words, however simply, to tell someone that you love them, in words that fit comfortably in your mouth.
My guess is that Mike’s intimidated by the fact that I review and edit the newspaper and emails and blogs and flyers for electoral candidates. He knows that I firmly believe that people, usually unconsciously, choose words for specific purpose. And if you’re limited in the lexicon you have to express something, then the choice maybe becomes something less than your intention. I see what’s said, and also what’s not. I see what’s purposefully and strategically missing, and maybe what a non-Wordnerd provides doesn’t feel like enough.
So here’s the thing. It’s enough. Wordnerds find All The Words reassuring, and we also struggle with the concept of Enough. While we know the value of finding the right words for the right occasions, we also crave the words that someone else finds to wrap around their feelings for us.
So, WordNerds and Non-WordNerds alike, may we all find the words to tell our Valentine (or anyone else who really should hear it) the things we have to say. Don’t wait. Just do it. May the gooey lovey parts of Valentine’s day be a springboard to celebrate all loving relationships, and may my affection be generous across the board.
Candy hearts for all my friends!