Winter is the rainy season in California and as a child I remember February as cold and wet. I still associate Valentine’s Day with rain and the holiday evokes memories of bringing home soggy, construction paper hearts. It also evokes the scent of paste and crayons, and chalky-tasting conversation hearts. Did it mean anything when someone gave you a heart that stated, "BE MINE" (in all caps)?
Every year I looked forward to that thick, criminal, red icing that topped heart-shaped sugar cookies, so sweet that it set your teeth on edge. My sisters and I tried, but could never replicate that icing that seemed to be the secret recipe of every home room mother.
My mother, though always willing to help when asked, was never a home room mother. Perhaps it was her lack of confidence in speaking English (though that's all we spoke at home). Still, Mama embraced American holidays and we celebrated all of them, decorating the house with the appropriate hearts, pumpkins, even shamrocks (there’s a wee bit of Irish on my father’s side).
Many people claim Valentine’s Day to be their least favorite holiday, feeling pressured to overspend on candy, flowers, and gifts. I’ve even heard people say they hate the holiday for all its phony emphasis on romance, especially if they’re single. I still unashamedly send out valentines to family and friends even though I consider Valentine’s Day a children's holiday. But then, I also consider romantic love a childish notion. While I believe initial infatuation is what attracts us to lovers, it is another kind of love that sustains us.
And yet, so many hold on to the idea that romantic love is the end all. That somewhere there is a special someone that will fulfill them. They go from lover to lover or even through a series of partners, seeking an elusive soul mate. It’s often difficult to let go of such notions. Sometimes we hold on to things, be it ideas, objects, or people, even when we know we should let go.
Sometimes, we feel it serves us to hold on to even that which causes us pain. We may continue to eat when we know we should stop. We may hold on to the belief that certain types of people can be hateful, thus justifying our resentment. We may miss out on the fun if we don’t dance, but no one can make fun of us.
Still, often the things that are most difficult to let go of are those that we love. We may ask ourselves, “Why should I get rid of my favorite sweatshirt just because it’s full of holes, stained, and doesn’t fit me anymore?” We keep alive memories of our first love, save our child’s drawings, and even hold onto friendships when that friend is not much of a friend anymore.
Two years ago this month, my sisters and I lost our mother. The first few months after she died, I sobbed through 108 sun salutations, dedicating the asanas to her memory. A part of me didn’t want to let go of my grief, as if it would be disrespectful of me not to be in pain. Yet over time, the pain lessened and the release of grief made room for love to come in and heal the hurt of loss. I still feel sad that my mother is gone, but I’m no longer in pain.
Many spiritual beliefs and philosophies speak of “attachment as bondage.” If we are so attached that we dread losing something or someone, we are chained to our fear, anger, hurt. It is only when we release our attachment that we are free.
On this silly, mushy, commercialized holiday, I send you a valentine…
I wish the February rains to wash away the cliché of romance, releasing hearts everywhere! Love, Margaret
Come and let go at 14 Black Poppies next workshop, "Releasing I" on Saturday, February 18th at The Happiness Insitute, from 10am to 12:30pm.
Tears cleanse the soul as well as the I