Death and Loving, Ten Years On

Reposting my Valentine’s Day post from ten years ago. It is interesting for me to read. Three days after writing this, I met Isabel’s dad. What a different human I was then. The Valentine’s Day stuff is very interesting, though (although it doesn’t mention the self-flagellation with the skin of goats, which I am positive I have written about at some point on some Valentine’s day). And my unwillingness to be the Martha Stewart of mothers is completely entrenched.  Neither child is the worse for wear for it, so no angst there. Also, happy birthday, Oregon! I love you!

Death and Loving

Ah, Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day.  This is the first year I can ever remember when I haven’t either wanted a romantic Valentine’s Day or the not wanting it isn’t sour grapes.  There have been a few of those years, ones where I pretended to myself that I didn’t care but deep down it hurt that there wasn’t someone special to remember the day for me or I had someone who was careless about such things.  Right now, I am honestly happy just being who I am and love having my little girl as my Valentine.  As a result, this is a really nice Valentine’s Day, at least thus far.

Milla is so sweet.  Last night the two of us took heart cookie cutters and cut beeswax hearts for her classmates.  We then wrapped them in tissue paper and tied them off with yarn. As is often the case in these sorts of projects, I had the assembly line going.  There have been moments in the past where I go off half-cocked trying to be Martha Stewart mom and decided to make 28 Valentines from scratch.  16 Valentines in and 4 hours later I’m ready to slice my wrists with the scissors and poke the glue sticks in my eyes.  One year we hand-cut hearts from construction painting paper, then watercolored hearts on each one, then I helped Milla sign her name to each one.  It was fun for the first 8 or so, then Milla was getting mad because she was sick of signing her name and I was getting mad because there was paint on the ceiling and walls and we were both ready to kill each other so I’ve learned my lesson.  I’m not the Martha Stewart of mothers.  Now I know when it comes to large crafty projects making multiples of anything, go for the assembly line approach.  These kids won’t know the difference and ninety-percent of them will likely end up in the trash anyway.

So last night Milla and I lined up the wax and started cutting the hearts.  Then we piled them up in twos.  Then we cut the yarn for the tissue paper.  Then we cut the tissue paper into squares.  Then we wrapped them and she tied.  At one point she tried tying bows but that deteriorated after about 3 sets because it was a huge pain in the ass.  The yarn kept getting caught on her fingernails and she’d pull the whole lump out of my hand and we both got irritated so we quit that.  We managed to complete the entire project in under an hour, so that was all good.  Of course, we got to school this morning and it turns out her teacher doesn’t do a Valentine’s Day exchange, but with my luck if we’d skipped it there would have been an exchange and I would again look like the mother that couldn’t.  I’m good at that.

Valentine’s Day is kind of a weird holiday.  In some regards it seems almost like Mother’s Day; designed entirely by the greeting card industry to make people spend money.  But it has a really cool history and dark side that appeals to me.  There are all these legends about who St. Valentine may have been, but in all of them, he’s rescuing someone and doing all these good deeds and as a result, he gets killed off.  I suppose that’s the nature of Sainthood, but I find it somewhat ironic that his life is held up as the namesake for a holiday about romantic love.  Isn’t the murder of St. Valentine for all his good and loving deeds kind of a perfect analogy on some level for the way we lose ourselves in romantic love?  It’s all good if both sides are party to the celebration, but more often than not I think it all ends in despair.  And even when both sides are happy about things and ultimately stay together, the romantic part inevitably ends.  And most sane people I know are glad that it does.  It’s almost like death in some ways to be in that place where you’re so in love you can’t eat or sleep or think or do a damn thing and you might as well be dead.  It’s a good thing that part ends or we’d never get anywhere.

Another interesting consideration in the history of St. Valentine is when it’s celebrated.  Some say the mid-February date is to commemorate St. Valentine’s death.  However others argue it was an active choice on the part of the Christian church to obliterate a pagan festival called Lupercalia.  It was one of those native festivals where people prepared their homes for spring and celebrated fertility through a festival to the Roman God of Agriculture.  Well, we certainly couldn’t have people worshipping any Agriculture gods, now could we?  That would be idolatry.  So the Christians murdered off the local religion with a nice little holiday of their own.  How special!  I do find it quite fascinating that in all the history surrounding Valentine’s Day there is quite a lot of death.  And loneliness too.  As I understand it, St. Valentine spent his last days in prison before being put to death.  There he was trapped in his lonely heart and then he was killed.  Wow.

On that special note, I think I’ll sign off.  Someone I know told me he likes my blogs because I just go on my rant without making a point.  Yep.  That’s me.  Pointless.  Ha!  Well, I have a point today, and that’s to enjoy the beautiful girl I made while in the throes of romantic love that ended with a sputter.  Her father and I may have our differences, but if I could go back and choose whether or not to toss that condom across the room (Yes, mom.  That’s what happened.  It didn’t break like I told you.), I would do it again in a heartbeat because the love I have for her is better than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced.  I suppose that’s the point, though, isn’t it?  To fall in romantic love so you breed, have children, and ensure the continuation of the species.  Who cares if the species grows up, falls in love, and ends up killed over it.  As long as the breeding took place and the children were born first, it’s all good, right?  Kind of senseless and weird, but it must work or we wouldn’t have a population explosion.

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Four Years

Four years ago I wrote a post on this blog on Valentine’s Day, and I was happy, at least happyish (if you’re interested, view it here).  I was sitting at the desk in my own house, the one I remodeled by myself into a cozy home for myself, my darling girl, and my animals.  Three of those animals lay beside me on the floor as I wrote. Milla played in the next room, and I wrote my strange post about the history of Valentine’s Day, examining it from an angle I think few have.

In any case, here I am four years later, and I barely recognize that person. Three days after that Valentine’s Day in 2008 I met the man who would become Isabel’s father.  During the months that followed I lost all of my animals.  A year later I was living in New York and barely pregnant.  A year after that I was back in Oregon, changed, somewhat obliterated. Since then it has been a rebuilding of the self, but as if with sand, one grain at a time. I barely even registered Valentine’s Day this year. Oh yeah, I thought the night before. Go to the store and buy the girls something small, and so I did. No rumination. No examination.  Nothing, really, except that I did remember the post four years ago and went back and read it, surprised at myself. I’d forgotten that I made Valentine’s Day presents with Milla, not only that year, but at all.

So much of the time then I was working to force myself to live in the moment. So much of the time now I am, but I feel like most of me is missing. I learned some hard lessons, with the result that I will never choose wrong again–I know that unequivocally. But I have to wonder at what price? Is there something to being in the cave and not knowing? Does not knowing really kill you? I can’t answer that. I must not forget that I was painfully, achingly, desperately lonely a lot of the time then, in a way I’m simply not now. Is it because I’ve stopped being lonely, or simply accepted that aloneness is a function of the human condition? Really accepted it? I don’t know.

I feel like a person who saw a river and jumped in to swim across to climb the mountain on the other side, but had no idea the dangers inherent in the enterprise. I thought I was prepared. I did what I thought would make the journey safe and doable. Yet during the crossing I was sucked into an undertow, and I nearly drowned. I bashed my head and body on rocks. I lost all the possessions I had tried to take with me. Finally, the river spit me out and cast me unconscious on the opposite shore, lying on the beach naked with grains of sand in my hair and my eyes, my body bloodied and scraped; beaten, but not broken. Gradually I dragged myself to my knees and crawled further inland. I waited, then stood. I walked ahead. I killed animals and ate them, making clothing from their hides, something I never would have done on the other side of the river. I kept going. I did not look back until a long time later, and when I did, I was up the side of the mountain, and there in the valley below was the river, appearing so serene, winding off toward the horizon. I was there, I think, and now I am here.

I know this metaphor is cliche’, but it fits. I feel like I’m still climbing the mountain, but I don’t even know what it was I’m trying to get to, except the pinnacle, and I wonder whether any of it was worth it. If I ever had to cross a river again, the journey would be very different. I wouldn’t even start at the same bank. I would take different tools. I might even choose a different river. I learned, but now I don’t know why.

I’ve spoken to my counselor about this, whether it is better to just stay in the cave. She reminds me that staying in the cave would result in making the same ill-fated choices, and of the reasons why making different choices will be better. Perhaps she is right. But sometimes I miss feeling the contentment I felt that Valentine’s Day, even if it was often countered with hideous, pitiable lows. Maybe there isn’t any better, there just is. That was how it was. This is how it is. Each has positives and negatives. In any case, I can’t change what has gone before so I might as well settle into how things are, which means that instead of a quippy, interesting post like the one I wrote 4 years ago, I write this.

Death and Loving

Ah, Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day.  This is the first year I can ever remember when I haven’t either wanted a romantic Valentine’s Day or the not wanting it isn’t sour grapes.  There have been a few of those years, ones where I pretended to myself that I didn’t care but deep down it hurt that there wasn’t someone special to remember the day for me or I had someone who was careless about such things.  Right now, I am honestly happy just being who I am and love having my little girl as my Valentine.  As a result, this is a really nice Valentine’s Day, at least thus far.

Milla is so sweet.  Last night the two of us took heart cookie cutters and cut beeswax hearts for her classmates.  We then wrapped them in tissue paper and tied them off with yarn. As is often the case in these sorts of projects, I had the assembly line going.  There have been moments in the past where I go off half-cocked trying to be Martha Stewart mom and decided to make 28 Valentines from scratch.  16 Valentines in and 4 hours later I’m ready to slice my wrists with the scissors and poke the glue sticks in my eyes.  One year we hand-cut hearts from construction painting paper, then watercolored hearts on each one, then I helped Milla sign her name to each one.  It was fun for the first 8 or so, then Milla was getting mad because she was sick of signing her name and I was getting mad because there was paint on the ceiling and walls and we were both ready to kill each other so I’ve learned my lesson.  I’m not the Martha Stewart of mothers.  Now I know when it comes to large crafty projects making multiples of anything, go for the assembly line approach.  These kids won’t know the difference and ninety-percent of them will likely end up in the trash anyway.

So last night Milla and I lined up the wax and started cutting the hearts.  Then we piled them up in twos.  Then we cut the yarn for the tissue paper.  Then we cut the tissue paper into squares.  Then we wrapped them and she tied.  At one point she tried tying bows but that deteriorated after about 3 sets because it was a huge pain in the ass.  The yarn kept getting caught on her fingernails and she’d pull the whole lump out of my hand and we both got irritated so we quit that.  We managed to complete the entire project in under an hour, so that was all good.  Of course, we got to school this morning and it turns out her teacher doesn’t do a Valentine’s Day exchange, but with my luck if we’d skipped it there would have been an exchange and I would again look like the mother that couldn’t.  I’m good at that.

Valentine’s Day is kind of a weird holiday.  In some regards it seems almost like Mother’s Day; designed entirely by the greeting card industry to make people spend money.  But it has a really cool history and dark side that appeals to me.  There are all these legends about who St. Valentine may have been, but in all of them, he’s rescuing someone and doing all these good deeds and as a result, he gets killed off.  I suppose that’s the nature of Sainthood, but I find it somewhat ironic that his life is held up as the namesake for a holiday about romantic love.  Isn’t the murder of St. Valentine for all his good and loving deeds kind of a perfect analogy on some level for the way we lose ourselves in romantic love?  It’s all good if both sides are party to the celebration, but more often than not I think it all ends in despair.  And even when both sides are happy about things and ultimately stay together, the romantic part inevitably ends.  And most sane people I know are glad that it does.  It’s almost like death in some ways to be in that place where you’re so in love you can’t eat or sleep or think or do a damn thing and you might as well be dead.  It’s a good thing that part ends or we’d never get anywhere.

Another interesting consideration in the history of St. Valentine is when it’s celebrated.  Some say the mid-February date is to commemorate St. Valentine’s death.  However others argue it was an active choice on the part of the Christian church to obliterate a pagan festival called Lupercalia.  It was one of those native festivals where people prepared their homes for spring and celebrated fertility through a festival to the Roman God of Agriculture.  Well, we certainly couldn’t have people worshipping any Agriculture gods, now could we?  That would be idolatry.  So the Christians murdered off the local religion with a nice little holiday of their own.  How special!  I do find it quite fascinating that in all the history surrounding Valentine’s Day there is quite a lot of death.  And loneliness too.  As I understand it, St. Valentine spent his last days in prison before being put to death.  There he was trapped in his lonely heart and then he was killed.  Wow.

On that special note, I think I’ll sign off.  Someone I know told me he likes my blogs because I just go on my rant without making a point.  Yep.  That’s me.  Pointless.  Ha!  Well, I have a point today, and that’s to enjoy the beautiful girl I made while in the throes of romantic love that ended with a sputter.  Her father and I may have our differences, but if I could go back and choose whether or not to toss that condom across the room (Yes, mom.  That’s what happened.  It didn’t break like I told you.), I would do it again in a heartbeat because the love I have for her is better than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced.  I suppose that’s the point, though, isn’t it?  To fall in romantic love so you breed, have children, and ensure the continuation of the species.  Who cares if the species grows up, falls in love, and ends up killed over it.  As long as the breeding took place and the children were born first, it’s all good, right?  Kind of senseless and weird, but it must work or we wouldn’t have a population explosion.