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Redefining Valentine's Day

Each year, I try to find new ways to redefine Valentine's Day, both for myself and my students. While I feel grateful to be in love (and enjoy the excuse to celebrate), it feels important to dig beyond the superficiality of Valentine's Day to the deeper role that love plays in our lives.

Regardless of the form, love has a transformative power in our lives. We can use this time of the year, after the holiday hustle has settled down to regroup for The Year Ahead, and to align with the ways love (re)defines our lives as we evolve.

When I feel stuck or question life's twists and turns, love is my guide. Love is my why. Taking the time to connect with what areas are calling for more love can change how we navigate the year.

There are so many types of love. Attention, kindness, appreciation, adoration, admiration are all forms of love. Exploring these different facets of love can create potent in-roads to the tangled web of human emotions and motivate meaningful learning.

This week, I've been helping my students write kindness notes to share with their peers. For some, it's been a fun, easy opening to learning about empathy and many of the themes above. For some it was challenging and confronted them with new areas for for growth.

Regardless of their experience, it created valuable opportunities to tie in greater understanding in dimensions like acceptance, self-awareness, comparison, change, and connection.

As we tackled important language arts skills, we also practiced the art of reframing challenges. Love has the power to motivate us through struggle and to help us emerge on the other side with new insights. By asking them to try a simple exercise in sharing kindness through words and pictures, we uncovered a universal dialect for connection and learning.

Love is at the core of our human experience. It is linked to our universal need for meaning. The people who embody love in our lives feed moments, big and small, that shape us profoundly. Make no mistake, when all is said and done, it's the relationships that will have mattered most. We all need reminders of this sometimes: we must prioritize people above all things.

The other day, after teaching on zoom, I was missing my family out of state. (This is the longest I've ever gone without seeing them.) I took a walk around the lake near my house, as I often do, and stopped to enjoy the sunshine.

It was a beautiful day and many people were out enjoying it, socially distanced of course, in their masks and pods. I found myself taken by just watching them. Countless vignettes like the mother buckling her toddler into a stroller or the young twenty somethings gathered playing guitar, singing and laughing as they found their tune, left me feeling overcome with love.

Watching random strangers evoked an unexpected wave of love. It was beautiful. It still hurt to miss my family and yet I felt connected to the fabric of human experience in a profound way. We must welcome and intentionally seek these moments of interconnection.

Our romantic partners deserve a day of formal recognition and affection, absolutely, but I find Valentine's Day or at least the timing of it, to be more powerful when it becomes a celebration of love in all forms. Love for humanity. Love for self. Love for life. Love as a profound game of chutes and ladders, inextricably linked with gratitude and the inescapable joy (and pain) of being alive. It also ties to our responsibility to educate ourselves in becoming an allies for social justice, not just for Black History month, but for a life in service to love.

Love must become a verb to fill true meaning in our lives.

For me, making art is an expression of the love I feel inside, in all of its nuanced forms. The art of conscious transformation is the driving force behind my life and work. Love is the fuel.

I hope you use this time of year to pause and reflect on the ways love shows up (or could show up more) in your life. Notice it's power to heal and guide you. Celebrate its transformative effects in your life and watch that power grow.

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