I think that the worst thing I *ever* did for 'love' on Valentine's Day was in the 8th grade.... we were living in Alabama at the time and the 'fancy' department store there was Parisians - I think that's what it was called. Anyhow.... in the perfume department, they had these biggish stuffed teddy bears with a ribbon around the neck and like *every* girl in 8th grade was getting one and I REALLY REALLY wanted one.
Fuck, I really wanted one of those bears.
And there was this super nice kid in my typing class (totally worth it because I still type waaaaay fast with few errors.. lol) - his name was Josh and I knew he liked me. I liked him - but did I *like* like him??? May be... but may be not.... but I *really* wanted one of those damn bears.
So Josh asked me to 'go-steady' and I said yes and sure enough on Valentine's - *I* was lucky enough to get one of those bears and it seemed like our entire hallway was full of this ribbon-necked stuffed bears... and mine sat proudly outside my locker.
I felt soooo loved.
I felt so excited that a boy bought me that bear - as though it were some kind of seal of approval stamped over my heart saying, "You are worth being loved... .and here's a fluffy bear to prove it."
I was stoked.... but deep down I felt guilty.
The more that time went by I knew that Josh was waaaaay more into me than I was into him... also, I knew we were moving before 9th grade, so after a while things just kind of fizzled out and we "broke up". Towards the end of the school year I remember seeing Josh's Mom somewhere at school and I said something to her about how nice Josh was and she commented back something along the lines that he was a nice kid and he 'sure had a hard time getting over [me].'
In that moment I felt myself get very... very small. I felt horrible about that.
I *did* like him... and we held hands and passed notes and kissed and all the usual things you do in 8th grade.... and that was genuine - but deep down, I knew that really really really.... I always knew he liked me more than I liked him and I probably SHOULD have not said yes initially - but I just wanted that damn bear.
And I got my bear and poor Josh got his first 'proper' broken heart.
Fast forward nearly two decades and a extra's pounds... I thought I knew what "love" was.
I thought that I had my 'forever' Valentine and that my life was.... pretty much set.
I had a wedding ring and ten years of 'blissful' marriage under my belt: the OFFICIAL stamp on my heart that said I was worth being loved.
And then..... well... it turns out that neither El Capitan or I actually KNEW what love was.
Love isn't fucking some 22 year old and racing home with cookies and a diet coke for your wife... still dripping in sweat and cum.
Nope... it's not that for sure.
Love isn't insisting on your cell phone and the Saturn car keys as you move out - don't insist on the kids or visitation or pictures.... or any piece of them... just the phone and the car.
That sure as shit isn't love.
So.... LAST year was hard because I spent *every day* thinking about what 'love' really was and what being 'in love' and what 'loving someone' really means..... and *most importantly* trying to find ways to put my *own* stamps on my heart.... stamps I wouldn't later feel guilty about... stamps that wouldn't later turn into tramps.
Here's what I learned:
Miss Chloe bringing me dinners hugging me, tear soaked on my front porch: that is LOVE.
Jenny B holding my hand while I cried a river on the dining room table: that is LOVE.
Veronica for always answering her phone to make out small words between sobs: that is LOVE.
My SIL who came over to pack boxes, mourning her own personal loss: that is LOVE.
Miss Megan who opened her home more than once: that is LOVE.
Miss Katie & Tim who brought me an "ugly cry kit" full of chocolate, tissue's and eye cream: that is LOVE.
Lashla... who lives a million miles away, but is always part of my heart and spirit: that is love.
and everyone else who walked with me... and sometimes had to drag me through the dark times... Carrie, Erin, Sara O, Miss Bridgette, Miss Tiare, Miss Courtney, Janda..... that is LOVE.
and then I came out......
Fabs who changed my life and helped me see myself through new eyes: that is love.
Anny who's strength and sheer will raises the bar of the things I can accomplish: that is love.
Marta who is always driving me to be a better me: that is love.
Miss K who taught me how to dance and the kids, too: that is love.
Welen who became one of my besties in no short order: that is love.
Nats who offered me a place to live and would jump over oceans to help us: that is love.
J... to whom I can tell my deepest darkest secrets, who is there for me anytime all the time: that is love.
Scarlet who sent me the most lovely Christmas present ever: that is love.
Pauline & Joyce who paved the way for me to find myself: that is love.
K&K who gave me the chance to play softball and bask in the togetherness of lesbian softball: that is love.
Emilio and his Latino lover who have embraced me with hugs and smiles and support: that is love.
A whole community of wonderful people who accept me: that is love.
Hail Mary who has seen me at my very, very worst.
... at my most broken.
... with swollen eyes and a hurt heart from things she didn't cause and can't 'fix'.
... yelling at my kids in a moment of lost patience and utter frustration.
... with the flu.... for almost two entire weeks.
.... and most recently.... with head lice. yes. head lice. (more on that adventure later lol).
A Bubbie and a Papa, who opened their home and their hearts to the three of us.
... who took up parenting on days when just keeping my eyes open seemed too hard a task. (early days)
.... who helped with bills and presents for the kids.
.... who love me and found a way to accept me... even lesbian me.
Two kids who have seen me fall totally a part, fight to get back up, and still have the capacity to forgive and love El Capitan and me.... THAT is LOVE.
So.... what I've *really* learned is that 'unconditional love' is actually all around me.
It might not come with a cute ribbon wrapped around it's neck (No, Hail Mary... that's not a hint lol).
It might not always come in the form of a "life partner"....
Sometimes.... it comes in the form of thousands of Blog readers who are STILL coming back and reading about scorned me and divorced me and angry me and hurt me.... and even dyke me.
That's kind of awesome. Thanks for that. You don't know how much I appreciate the figurative you - and how much this Blog has helped me get through the last two years.....
THAT is love.
So.... I've learned to define love differently - I like to think I can define it more honestly now.
I've stopped "looking" for it because now I can sit back and rest in it like a giant comfy chair because truthfully, it's all around me.
It's in the faces and hearts and words and actions of the people who fill my life with their friendship..... and I'm fucking lucky for it.
So I hope the real 'valentines' of your life are everywhere you look.