Happy Valentine's day to you

 Hearts:  Happy Valentine's day

 Happy Valentine's Day! 

It is the day that we celebrate love in our lives and in our world. Today is the day that you make a little more effort to let your loved ones know that they are special an you don't take them for granted. To me, it is one of the best days in the year. 

I love LOVE!

Charlie Brown kissed by Snoopy for Valentine's day

Survivors live in a world where we're exalted for "winning the battle" against breast cancer. We're lifted up and told that we are so brave, we are so inspiring, we are so awesome to have faced a terrible illness and made it through. People admire us. People are enthralled with our stories about the pain, the surgeries, the struggles with nausea, etc. 

We usually take all of this admiration in stride and sometimes with a smile and a wave. I will admit that I also take the admiration with a tear and a wince. It feels like a lot of pressure some days to be a superhero. I don't often feel like Wonder Woman. Just Nicole. Or Nic Nac Paddywack to my friends on Facebook. 

I am simply a girl with a sensitive heart and a penchant for words... who had to fight really hard for her life for a couple of years. If anyone would have to trade places with me, I suspect that they would fight for their lives too. Is it admirable or inspiring? I guess. But so is love. And that is something that is available to all of us every day. Even if it doesn't come in the package that you expect it to. 

I have been falling head over heels in love with my boyfriend for the past year. Our anniversary is in two days but today is a very special milestone for us. Valentine's day means something wonderful to each of us. It did before we ever met. And it is one of the things that drew us to each other. Call it corny if you need to but it works for us. We love love.

But, we live in a world today that puts a lot of value and energy behind being negative, sarcastic, bitter and snarky. I will raise my hand and admit that sometimes I am all of these things too. I can find humor in snark and sarcasm. But I am not always that way and I am particularly not that way about Valentine's day. Here's why:  the gift of life is the gift of love. 

You are here... and you have a chance, one more chance, to be kind and loving and open to someone in your life. Instead of pining for the love that is lost to you (for whatever reason) why can't we look for ways to simply say or show the people who remain in our lives that they mean something to us? That our lives are enriched by them? 

Show someone that you love them and see what happens

I spent the past month writing a love letter to my boyfriend every day. I set up a private blog just for our eyes, and each day I thought of a new way to tell him that I love him. I shared poetry, pictures, music videos... I wrote long rambling letters and short quick notes. I made jokes and created graphics... I was honest about my feelings and my perceived shortcomings. I told him over and over how very grateful I am that he chose to share his heart with me. And I did that because I wanted him to know and to be certain that I am grateful for his love. In return, I have never felt more cherished and loved in my whole life. 

Five years ago, I loved a man while I was going through breast cancer treatment. And when I explained to him that I loved Valentine's day, he responded that he hated the day and he refused to acknowledge it. He told me that he would rather spend Valentine's day with his college friends, than with his girlfriend who had been through 4 months of chemotherapy, had lost her left breast to a mastectomy and was weak and tired from radiation therapy. He told that woman, who was fighting for her life, that her desire to spend quality time with her boyfriend mattered less than his desire to be at a party. 

A month later we broke up. 

It wasn't because I felt that I needed some huge gift from him. It was not because I expected him to show up with a large floral arrangement and some chocolates. All I wanted was to see his face and be reassured that despite my outward appearance, he still saw my heart. 

He did not. 

I cried and cried... my heart broke in a million more pieces.  Eventually, I picked up those pieces of my heart, I found my voice and the relationship ended. I was sad about it for a long, long time. Too long to be honest. (I'm talking years...too long) So when Marcus came along... well, I still loved Valentine's day but my spirit had been battered from hearing too many people say how useless Valentine's day was. 

African-American couple holding hands: Love

Worthy in October but not in February?

Let me tell you something... you take a woman who has lost her hair, her breast, her spirit... who has to undergo treatments that make her sick, make her gain weight and lose weight, that puffs her up so terribly that she can barely recognize herself in the mirror... You take that woman who questions the very essence of her femininity because of all that she's been through and you tell that woman that she is worthy of all the praise and worship in October but is worth none of that in February?! How dare you? 

Dismiss the commercial aspect of valentine gifts if you need to. But do not dismiss the value that a sincere expression of love means to someone in your life. 

I love love. I love Valentine's day. And I will not apologize for it. I love my boyfriend. Because he has had every reason to hate this day and the thought of love and yet he doesn't. He looks at me with love in his eyes, every time he sees me. He loves this battered and scarred body. He allows my bohemian spirit to fly free and he is tickled by it. He loves my corny nerdy nature and we mind-wrestle in heady conversations about life, economics, history, art... you name it and we discuss it. And he brings me joy.

So, to all of my pink ribbon sisters and the people who love them... and to all of you who admire us in October but want to ignore us in February... 

Happy Valentine's day! I love you. I see you. And I connect my heart to yours today and always. Your beauty and strength are a testament to the goodness that this world has. You are worthy of so much love and admiration, not just in October or even February. You are worthy of love every single day that you are here. 

You are the essence of femininity, grace and strength. And I salute you. Happy Valentine's day. 

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