I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day. It’s only a few days away from the President’s Holidays. I use to always have a day off for my birthday because of that. So it always felt like a special week to me. It was. It is. I enjoy a less demanding holiday this time of year, too – after Christmas in the middle of winter. It’s part of a tease knowing spring is soon here. I like a celebration about love. It doesn’t have to be romantic or even on one day for me.
This year I spent the day with my grandson. That’s a good day of loving and plenty of it. Sharing old experiences as a totally new experience with someone saying Happy Valentine’s Day for the first time. Heaven. Being married doesn’t necessarily give you the ingredients for a good valentine’s day, although I’m sure, for some, it’s great and couldn’t be better – exactly as it is. To each their own, I believe.
Someday I’ll write my complete story of hearts, but it’s still too unexplainable to me so I can’t write it and it has no sense of an ending yet. The short version I want to share right now is that after I separated back in 1989 I started seeing hearts everywhere I went. I mean, strange places I’d never noticed. I wasn’t looking. They appeared to me and literally came to my attention. Not sure of the cause. Hearts of stone. Real stone. Leaves. A Red Autumn Leaf. Puddles of water on the sidewalk. Snow. Yes, all in the shape of a heart! And much more. Rubber bands randomly laying on my desk. A paper clip with a heart on it. A corn flake. The slab of ground beef I tossed into a frying pan only to do a double take once I went to crumble it for cooking. A teeny, tiny piece of CLEAN toilet paper on the floor someone left behind in perfect shape. I wondered the meaning of this development in my life. I never had any particular interest in the heart symbol -ever- nor did I pay much attention but something happened with the divorce – and it was good.
After that marriage, I was on a quest to understand what went wrong and not make the same mistakes again. No, was only going to make those mistakes once. And I did that – completely and wholeheartedly. I learned from my mistakes. Eventually, after quite a few years, I found all my answers, comprehensively, that I was looking for – For me. And I knew what I didn’t know before. But I started out clueless as to what happened and how my life became what it was. I first began by asking my dad a question – my closest teacher of love – why did you get married? He said. “I don’t know. That’s a funny question. I didn’t think about it. It’s just what you did.”
So I thought that’s a part of the problem here for me. If you are going to do something that works, you can’t just not think about it or know not even know why you are doing something or what you are doing… and be on automaton. Not in this world. Why get married became the question for me. Why do people do what they do within their relationships? And looking into the world, I knew the inheritance wasn’t good by experience but I didn’t know by fact. I had to learn and I spent years doing it in many ways exploring socially, being nerdy, including graduating from two universities, with 2 degrees and 2 minors that you’d never believe have anything to my goal of understanding love – but did. The evidence of my exploration exists in my collection of books and my changed viewpoint on everything that surrounds love and creates it – our world.
But up until I was divorcing I had followed in my parent’s and society’s footsteps -unquestioned. I didn’t question. I didn’t see hearts. I thought marriage was only an individual choice or failure. I didn’t see marriage as the social institution it is that involves social agreements at a larger level that make it a social problem and that social problem actually had much to do with my individual choices. For one, the demands on how I was to be a mother and wife and what I was NOT suppose to do were changed from my mothers and fathers. Those social changes impact relationships and marriages in unseen ways. Still, I just did what everyone was doing and took for granted that normal living as I thought I was doing was just what you did which included having some fantasy, not concrete facts, that somehow it would all just work out and commitment and all those individual things you do would be the determining and most important factor. I’d be the exception. I’d love and do more than all those failures in marriage. Sound familiar? What other thing in our world do we do this with? I mean, it doesn’t work. Look around. Think. I thought I knew what I was doing all the while I didn’t know how to deal with the problems in my relationships and what I was doing wasn’t working. I thought two people who needed love badly could create love for each other. Instead, I learned hurting people hurt people. If someone is hurting, you better know solutions to end the hurt. I felt I was being destroyed and it was mystical. I didn’t understand what was happening. Not loved cropped up too and my ability to love was being attacked. And I was married to someone whose family’s drinking habits had brought me to a position I rarely get to which is ‘this is all I could stands and I can’t stands no more’. I wasn’t Popeye.
If someone gives you peas every day all the time and every where you go there are peas, you soon say enough. I don’t want to see peas ever again. That’s what happened. Well for me, it was beer and beer bottles. I had had enough. I didn’t want to be around anyone that drank alcohol for a long time after and I did that. Drunkeness is fun as a teenager and it is fun on occasion, but for me, it was no fun for a lifestyle. I also learned how to love people that had those particular problems and to not let their problems and lifestyles Hurt me – too late, of course -and not with the person who was the catalyst for that learning. I was hurting badly from that marriage.
I also learned that even if you stay with a person loving them in the ways I had learned to love, and you don’t actively address the harm and problems honestly, they don’t go away by love alone anymore than a flat tire and an oil leak in your car would go away. You eventually need sedation or escape or fantasy to cope. Love can bring you to solutions through people and how people act but life works if you maintain it properly. A car runs so much better if properly maintained with air in the tires and oil in the engine, not to mention gas in the gas tank. But we are taught so wrong, relationship conditions are like that – a car incapable of functioning with no maintenance. I now can see clearly, and in contrast to my past, the relationships that are like cars that aren’t going anywhere and haven’t in years. Some people just sit in them and pretend they are working like small children do with big cars they can’t drive and two kids like this can do much with imagination and pretending – AND for adults doing this that is their way of having love. Some people die only knowing love in a shell version of a love way learning how to have it working and functioning properly. And However much of a shell of love they lived against the vast, larger possibilities of love. There is absolute reason for this and it is social. If we as a society can figure out how to go to Mars we can expand and increase our lifestyles to bring forth love. We can move Valentine’s Day to a season. And most importantly – I learned and knew I couldn’t do the shell version of love. I live for expanding the possibilities of love in this world and I only see that as infinite.
So anyway, this is a piece of my heart story.
One day before I signed the final papers for ending a love, delivered to me beyond my control or my commitment to marriage, a friend and I were taking a leisurely walk and randomly sharing thoughts, and some of those thoughts were about my relationships. And we were walking on this dirt road, and as often happens, I came upon a beer bottle. Not a usual one, of course. This beer bottle WAS unusual. It had a heart cut out in the middle of it. I picked it up and was astounded. I found a heart in the middle of a beer bottle in the middle of a divorce from beer bottles. I took it home. Now isn’t that funny. I have ONE beer bottle in my house for a few decades now. What would you make of that event?
For years after that, I lived single and I was committed to love – single or married. I learned about love in all kinds of relationships and, like that beer bottle I wasn’t looking for, I’d find hearts on things, in things around things. The symbol of the heart became a symbol for me to seek, to be open, and to learn – a new way; a larger way of loving. And that was the love approach I took to the people around me – open to learn about them. It’s richness and importance grew. If I couldn’t do that and believe I can’t often – be open to learn who they are even if I didn’t like what I was learning – then maybe I should not be around that person because I wasn’t loving.
The Valentine’s Day stuff – the unexamined, shallow script of events and behaviors, externalized ‘do as others do’ which is highly influenced by decaying institutions or profitable expanding ones, about what ‘true love’ and relationships were suppose to be or are suppose to be; those stories that wind up with heartache, broken hearts and romance taking a nose dive, often fantasies of love, all those thoughts on that template for the ‘right’ kind of Valentine’s Days that I had had years earlier; all of this was a thing of the past. I no longer longed for love and those things. I lived it. I had it. I lived it not by advertisings and longing for rings, dinners and flowers; but in the creative expression of my being instead. In how I felt when I did things. The feelings I needed for life were not to be lived through another person’s being.
I created it. I created love and the feelings I wanted in me so I had it. So I had it to give. And I created a much broader meaning in my life for love and I lived it. It began with me and ended with me way before I brought someone into my dancing with life and love. The holiday and my life was mine to enjoy. It was as a child and it is now.
Don’t get me wrong. I had a lousy Valentine’s Day now and then. When I was married, it was mostly neglected because life was just busy with what had to be done and any expression was somewhat routine script and there was always the no money for luxuries issue. I had one devastating Valentine’s season about 10 years ago when a special man in my life had his own idea of what he wanted to do for Valentine’s Day. His idea was taking a trip to Florida with some girl with whom he was having that intense, new relationship energy. It touched on my own dreams to travel and I cried my heart out for a little while as I sat in Pa with the cold and snow and then I got angry. Not really exclusively with him. I believed love was letting others love freely and live as they choose. He wasn’t committed to me or obligated to me so he was free and he was loving – someone else. He was thoughtless and uncaring towards me during that time, though. I got angry mostly because I wasn’t having my special week. I let that kind of situation ruin my special week! My anger cut short when I told myself, No. NO. This is a special week for me. I’m turning this around quickly and I’m not letting this happen or continue now or in the future. I will celebrate love and Valentine’s season and if others can’t love me, or fulfill my needs and wants than I understand that as a lack or difference on their ability which doesn’t deserve my lashing of the tongue or purging of emotions. All of this is not what I was taught. It is not some kind of punishment or torturous life controllably wielding at me as a story of Romeo and Juliet subchapter of the loved and unloved situations and people that forces the grief into a stance of I don’t understand and then the rhetorical question asking Why me? Waiting for the next person to come change it for you. No. I know why and it’s not me nor does it involve waiting for anyone. The love I needed was only the beginning of the ideas of Valentine’s Day magnified and increased exponentially for every day of my life. Believe me. No one was going to come along and increase my love or do a give and take in it as I needed. It was on me to create and recreate from the past mistakes. And Believe me, it’s not just me. or You. Or all those other people too who have grief or hate or feel slighted on Valentine’s Day if they don’t have their life exactly according to the scripted plan or the mental arrangement in their heads of what life should be or what they want. It’s also okay with me if Valentine’s Day is forgotten. I’ve moved to let life be life and embrace it and that is where I found love incrementally in each breath and moment.
I had learned that love came from freedom and safety and nothing else was more important for creating an environment of love. Scripted plans were a problem for the safety and freedom needed for love’s existence. If one isn’t safe from harm and free to end harm, harm destroys love, and love enslaved by harm makes no sense. It’s killing. And killing love. But this is where I came from. Well, we all did given the history of marriage in this society. When one is enslaved, one can, of course, still love but that love is stifled, thwarted, distorted and manipulated and the potentials for love expanding is significantly blocked. Or in George Harrison’s accurate words….Love diverted, Perverted and inverted while the Guitar Gently Weeps. So Diverted, Blocked and Manipulated love in the midst of harm is not the best of love there is or is even possible for You. Our foreparents had enslavement in their duties of love and marriage….. and women intheir love in the mothering and roles of wives,(as husbands didn’t have that duty as much as financial provider), however gracious and huge, was also in conditions of the wars with emotions as the most often used weapons that are the result of enslavement but you can’t ACT. You can’t move with enslavement.
Worse yet, both women and men, weren’t allowed to acknowledge their enslavement and their children were never told or taught to see it. Many still romanticize and believe in that enslavement as the missing links for a lasting marriage. Some truth there – cause they couldn’t Leave. There was no choice to leave.
LIke Dad, he’d have believed it was his choice to enter even if he ‘never thought’ about it. Instead a reality being known of social conditions and choices, it is always ignored and talked about and taken as individual choices. And I’m not even talking about the Gay thing. I’m talking about heterosexual marital arrangements – that even the LGQT groups still believe in.
What I came to understand is those Emotions and words at times of conflict actually were flung at each other like bullets – and issues on marriage, like today, were not just private choices and private verbal conflicts. There was public debate. Public taboos. Public bullets. There were public humiliations to avoid that kept marriage in a state of secrecy and hiding of truth. There were social groups pushing of their version of how to define our bodies, our behaviors and specific rules and laws about marriage. There were religions trying to dominate and control the newest marriages. Sound familiar? There was advertising using marriage to sell products for one’s lifetime and lifestyle. And there were laws.
For example, Marital rape was legal until 1994 and duty of wives to husbands carved and defined that rape as a woman’s failure or lack of her fulfilling her obligations. It was all her fault. He wouldn’t rape if she just…..
Such Lack of sexual freedom and safety thwarts and mystifies the love ideas. The damage created in times of conflicts of our collective and individual pasts were often extensive and long lasting, not surprisingly used in the next battle and like the bullets and enslavements were denied – the damage was on the children and their ability to have an environment for love which was also extremely misunderstood and degraded. And the family harm established actually built more harm on top of harm and attempted solutions to bring about our public conflicts on marriage today.
The good news? I learned a family – a domestic global family, too – didn’t have to function that way. I’m talking about the only way that makes for good entertainment on television and in the movies and even on talk shows from Jerry Springer to Fox News. It’s not just media that degraded to manipulation with an agenda here. It’s media that is a reflection of our sorry state of our human relationships that are publicly acceptable and eroding – both in and outside the home – in marriages and our children’s friendships. So I learned I didn’t have to function in those ways in any of my relationships because it only destroyed love. Emotions and words could not be bullets I shot at others with the speed of an AK-57 or AK-47. I don’t know guns, but you get the point.
I learned I could have safety and freedom and the emotions I wanted as a sustainable lifestyle but I also had to be willing to give that to the people around me. That included safety and freedom from my emotional irresponsibility tied with my wants, needs, desires and my life’s plan as the framework for another person’s life. I instead opened up to taking responsibility for what I didn’t know and I became committed to increasing my ability to love. I’m still on the path. And it has no finite place of ending.
At first, I didn’t take pictures of hearts, but eventually I started collecting snapshots of those hearts I’d been seeing.
So I still find hearts and I still learn about loving. There are more stories about hearts and photographs and drawings of hearts to share like this one. I’ll be posting more of my found hearts shortly and over the long term sharing more of mine. Join me here or at karendee57.wordpress.com to see and read more.