The first Valentines Day without my husband was torture. Everything that existed in the universe felt like a personal attack. The cheap-looking bears holding heart-shaped balloons on a stick at CVS, the conversation heart candies, the kissing and giggling couples around every corner. It all felt like one, giant personal attack on me and my loss.
The second Valentines Day was a little bit softer, but not much. I tried to busy myself and pretend the day wasn’t happening, but that didn’t work, because last year I had to work on that day, and I teach at a college. So it seemed as if everywhere I turned, guys were presenting their girlfriends with flowers and gifts and hugs and love; as the sad widow professor darkened the hallways with her every heavy step. I wanted to sit in my car and sob, which I did, after my last class finally ended.
This year, we are stuck in yet another major snowstorm in NY, so I didn’t have to work, and here I sit, alone in the cacoon of my apartment, safe from the world of other humans, hiding behind my keyboard. The comedian in me was planning on filming a funny Valentines Day – themed video for my You Tube channel today, in order to help combat depression with humor – but the stupid weather may stop that from happening. So here I am. Should I venture out into the land of people? I don’t know. Part of me wants to rebel against my own sadness, but the other part just doesn’t much feel like having other people’s love shoved in my face in the form of red velvet cupcakes and Whittmann’s chocolates.
Grief changes all the time. But the changes don’t always feel easier, especially when you are inside of them. Just because the pain gets different, doesn’t mean the pain gets better. It just gets different. And the longer you have been dealing with the loss of “your person”, the more familiar you become with all of the many changes. So instead of “what the hell is THIS that I’m feeling?”, it becomes “Oh, right. THIS again? I remember this. I know this. Let me sit inside of this for awhile, until it becomes something else.”
This year, Valentines Day carries a pain with it, but it’s a familiar pain. I know this dance. I’ve done these steps. My legs are tired and my feet burn from doing them, because nobody asked me if I liked this choreography or even if I wanted to dance at all. So I do the steps like a robot, phoning them in and getting them over with. I know how this one goes. I hate this song and dance, but I know it, and I know that I have no choice but to listen to it, until it stops. Is this the extended remix version? Why won’t it stop???
It won’t stop, because for us, it never stops. There is always something. Always. The emotions of grief lurk in every single corner. The extreme sadness of Valentines Day, isn’t even about Valentines Day. Not really. Not entirely. It matters not whether you celebrated the day with your person. What matters is that you had a person, and with that person, you had rhythms and music and steps. Days like Valentines Day are brutal mirrors into what is no longer there. The music has stopped, and now you hear new music. Or no music. Maybe you hear nothing at all. But none of that matters. Nobody cares what you hear or don’t hear. Nobody cares that you don’t like the steps and you hate this song and you don’t want to do this anymore. Nobody cares that you signed up for this dance class by mistake, or didn’t sign up for it at all. Nobody cares that you can’t walk and you need to sit down, as they walk on by with their love roses and candy hearts and comforting cards. They don’t care, or they don’t notice, because they are in love and therefore, in the midst of their own sweet dance.
People are dancing all around you, and love is in the air. But your person is gone, and they can no longer dance with you, yet you are forced to dance anyway, not knowing or wanting to know the steps to this horrible song. Keep dancing, they say. Let the pain in your heart and your feet and your eyelids, carry you forward into that next step – until the music finally changes, and that next step becomes something else.