Valentine’s Day is upon us again. Steven and I have had a variety of Valentine’s Day experiences, beginning with surprise Jim Brickman tickets and me “taking off” a day of student teaching to go buy a dress for the occasion. After that, there was a mixture of romantic gestures, complete failures, and we’re-too-broke-to-go-out-so-we’ll-cook-a-fancy-dinner-and-pretend-it’s-nice dates. There was actually one Valentine’s Day that Steven made the mistake of telling me, “It’s just another day.” (Note the “complete failure” reference above.) But there were other times he got me roses or sent me a Vermont teddy bear.
Lately (i.e., since having kids), Valentine’s Day has been low-key. We get each other cards; we go out to dinner. That’s about it. I’ve come to place that I agree with my husband: it really is just another day. Another day of loving each other. Another day of being committed to this marriage. Another day of re-making our promises to each other. Another day of uniting (and occasionally fighting) over how to raise the kids.
Sometimes marriage gets contrasted with the monkhood in the Orthodox Church. On the surface, entering the monkhood seems much harder than entering a marriage. You give up the chance of love for a life a celibacy. You give up a life of entertainment for prayer and service. But you get quiet. (Whew! That’s something I miss.) You get to go to liturgy without having to take a kid out for being too loud or to go to the bathroom. You get steady work, a routine that doesn’t get altered by sick children and leaking toilets and first grade homework and a sticky kitchen floor.
Marriage has it’s own character-building qualities, though. It’s extremely hard to put someone else first and love them unconditionally. It’s easy to defend and offend, but hard to listen and empathize. It’s a challenge to try to make decisions when you are two people with different ideas and backgrounds and opinions. Marriage can sometimes seem like a piece of sandpaper: it can chafe, but it makes me a better person.
Most of the time, though, my marriage and family are sources of joy. My Valentine’s Day desire is to love in the little ways. To love in the dusting and the picking up and the laundry. To love in the cooking and the dishwashing and the silly games we play in the car. To love in the chore I do when it’s not my turn, in the play doh creation I make when I don’t really feel like it, in the silent prayers that some days are more accidental than intentional.
To you and yours, Happy Valentine’s Day.