Each year we are inundated with red hearts in stores, on television and across society. For some, it is a welcomed sign that love is in the air. For others, it may be a reminder of a love lost or a love desired. No matter how you’ve felt about Valentine’s Day in the past, might I suggest a new way of approaching this holiday—as a way of spreading love to yourself and others.
The hyper commercialization of holidays in this country has made the commodification of a holiday—from Christmas to Halloween to St. Patrick’s Day—almost impossible to escape. The expectation that one will purchase cards, decorations, gifts and more, creates pressure that far too many feel compelled to oblige. Valentine’s Day spending starts early in life. I distinctly remember buying chocolates and cards for each of my classmates growing up. And I remember even more clearly the expectation that cards and chocolates would be purchased.
Therefore, this year might I suggest spending a day with reflection. I have spoken to several friends about their most memorable Valentine’s Days and the common theme seems to be the recognition of the necessity to spend time with oneself. Hence, a day (or at least a few hours) spent by oneself may be called for. When was the last time you spent time reflecting on all of the things in your life that make you happy? When did you reflect on the things in your life that you need to change, alter or delete altogether? As we love ourselves truly and deeply, we prepare to love others and be loved in return.
In this current political moment, so many people seem to be on edge (and rightfully so). However, so much of the maddening news out of Washington, D.C. is eroding away at our capacity for love and patience toward others and sadly that energy is affecting how many people treat themselves. It is a dangerous cycle that can and must be curtailed. Love is a strange and diverse concept, but we must continue to keep it in the forefront of our being so that we can move forward as individuals, as a community and as a nation.
So, as you buy cards and chocolates and prepare to spend time with a significant other or those you love in different ways, do remember that your primary Valentine this year is you. Be patient. Treat yourself kindly. And remember that the external troubles of the world have had tremendous effects on our spirits these last few years especially. And, lastly, if you are looking for something special to do on Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that your favorite album and a good meal can make this holiday special just for you.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the new podcast FAQ-NYC, and the host of The Aftermath and The Counter on Ozy.com.