It's 11:00 am on the morning of Valentine's Day 2013. Thus far I have suffered a nocturnal bite to the nose from my partner JC (an odd manifestation of some interesting dream) and have had bloodwork done to verify the proper function of my kidneys. Hardly the stuff of traditional romance, yet I've never felt happier or more loved than I do this Thursday.
The story of my life so far has taken some unbelievable and heartbreaking turns, yet this is the year I finally feel as though I'm coming into my own. No longer a confused stranger struggling to integrate my consciousness with the maps and scripts presented in girlhood, I reflect a confidence and security that I long believed impossible. Some of this evolution can be attributed to hard, painful personal and professional choices that brought me to the brink of what I thought I could survive. Other parts are owing to years of intensive psychotherapy with a trusted professional. The rest is self-reflection and the clarity of perspective that comes from silencing old, destructive voices. The dependable love of a man who really sees me and still likes the view certainly doesn't hurt.
St. Valentine's Day, from the traditional perspective of American consumerism, is a manufactured event with a definite marketing message: to love means to spend. It is only by lavishing trinkets, candies and expensive dinners in crowded restaurants upon our nearest and dearest that we can show the appreciation we are too busy or lazy to express the other 364 days of the year. But this year feels different and it's not just internally. Friends, colleagues and unknowns alike appear to be, for lack of a batter word, more grateful. Are the root causes grand and general, a sort of collective relief that we're all still here despite the lingering effects of the Great Recession, the paralyzed toxicity of the nation's governing processes and a post-9/11 awareness that our lives are no longer insulated from what happens "over there?" In an era of so many big, complex challenges that start from the moment we open our eyes each morning, is it that much easier to notice and appreciate the small things?
Whatever the dynamics, I've experienced no small amount of satisfaction today reading open expressions of love from corners often regarded as cynical and jaded. It's like an unwritten resolution was passed that, at least for today dammit, we're going to experience joy in the connections, labor and hobbies that make struggling tolerable. There's something poetic in that.
My contribution is to suspend examining the titular U.S. Navel of this blog and keep it simple. I love my life as it is today. I love my career and the direction in which it's traveling. I love my partner, the one who nourishes my body, mind and soul. I adore the friendships I have built and the reciprocal delights of those strong bonds. I cherish my family, diverse, untraditional and thus, completely perfect. There will be plenty of time for overthinking and strategizing tomorrow and the days to come. Today is about gratitude for where I am and what I experience - in this moment.