Excerpts from “ My wish: That every day is Valentine Day”
I feel compelled to speak about love for two main reasons. First it is because of the controversy that Valentine Day increasingly causes globally: Only recently Saudi Arabia banned any Valentine celebrations in the Kingdom. I wonder if it is because of religious considerations or a deeper unwillingness to address its significance. I also know that nationally there are raging debates about observing Valentine less so because it has become a money spinning scheme and less so on account of its significance in our human relationships with those we are most intimate with. I ‘zoom’ on love because it is subject, or rather a condition that causes many of us much distress, heartache and heartbreak as soulfully stated by Tina Turner, and thus warrants serious exploration.
Love, this mysterious word, used sparingly after a relationship has been formalized, but abundantly when it is just sparkling and we are still in hot pursuit of that which makes the heart flicker. Love, a word that is used to explain a range of emotions and feelings but at the same time a word that is used to justify a range of actions and indiscretions. Love, a word so potent in effect that it can cure chronic problems and conditions- heath or otherwise- but prove equally fatal.
My philosophy, which I shared with him, was to love freely without expectation, condition or obligation (in the sense of compulsion or feeling the other owes you a debt). Love is not just about the butterflies and the giggly feeling we have when we remember the name and the face that makes us glow inside and sing off-key without a care; it is also about tolerating and even respecting the individual traits that make the other so attractive and ultimately delightful to us. Surely, love should not primarily be about changing another to your image: If you want an image of yourself, by all means go and clone yourself! But if it is another that you love, then you have to be willing to accept their imperfections and their differences- not just physical but also intellectual- as being integral to their identity just as it is integral to the soundness of the relationship. You love another for whom they are and for what they make you to be (which hopefully is empowering and happy) and achieve. Perhaps more of us need to appreciate that if love is about giving then it is also about receiving, not just taking.
Alas, many relationships remain that- shows for the benefit of others. You won’t leave an abusive partner for fear of what others may think or say. You won’t date someone who makes you feel so good and alive because of what others may think or say because it is not what would be expected of you. And, although you love and accept your partner as they are, you may feel compelled to pressure them into changing to fit the expectations of others e.g. your parents or friends or Lord forbid, your boss... We thus enter into relationships full of show and pretense of who we are, scared to show and be who we really are. Then you wonder why you wake up one day and ask yourself- who in the heck is this person sleeping next to me, whose face I am looking into but I can’t seem to see or feel?
Although I write for the romantics and the foolhardy in love, I think this philosophy of love applies to other types of relationships we have with others. My description of love in form, substance and feeling is captured in Chaka Khan’s timeless My funny Valentine. It is a song of few lyrics but with powerful effect. It captures love that is expressed selflessly, with surrender. Ultimately, love is about a freedom that allows one to bask from and in the radiance and energy of another. It is the freedom to find pleasure even in that which others may find amusing without a care in the world. It is appreciating that each one of us, as are our experiences, are unique, aspects that make us whole and endearing to one another. It is about finding oneself in the spirit of another and appreciating that what you reflect in terms of feeling towards the other is in most cases the feeling you have towards yourself.
I share of the priceless sonnets that delight me so much with the hope that those who own the copyright would indulge me in this rare act of chivalry to human kind motivated by a need to advocate for sensible and compassionate romanticism on this Valentine Day:
My funny Valentine, sweet comic Valentine,
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable, Unphotographable
Yet, you are my favourite work of art
Don’t baby, don’t change your hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little Valentine, baby stay (undoubtedly remain they way you are)
Each day is Valentine, each day is Valentine’s Day