I was born on Valentine’s Day. As a young girl, my birthday parties would always have a heart-shaped theme. The precise theme would vary from year to year, ranging from bring your favorite doll or the more popular “glue-in”, where my friends would glue wood pieces together into sculptures. But one activity always remained the same. My mother would take a polaroid picture of each child (with the doll or wooden sculpture), glue them onto heart shaped doilies, and we would decorate and then frame our photos onto larger construction paper red hearts.
This theme of love has followed me throughout my adulthood. I doodle hearts during meetings and conference calls to keep me engaged. My favorite color is still red. And I am still married to my first love after 26 years.
Recently I have found that love can become mundane and lose its true meaning. I say “I love you” to express many different emotions. I wasn’t aware of this until I started listening to my son grunt “I love you” when he really meant, “Mom, you’re driving me crazy. Leave me alone!” His “I love you” sometimes conveys annoyance and irritation, rather than warmth and connection.
And so, during a 7-day Centering Challenge that I recently completed, I listened to an audio recording where Amanda Blake asked the listener to identify what they truly care about. And out of my subconscious, Love emerged once again, but not in the form of a red heart or verbal affirmation. This time, Love appeared as a deep-rooted belief about what matters most to me. And as directed by the exercise, I let it fill my physical self, from the center of gravity, down to my feet and to the top of my head.
I am committing today to put love first, by being present and connected to the people that matter most. And I recognize that it is not always easy to do so. One tool I use with my clients to build connection and empathy is to picture the other person (or yourself, if you need more self-love) as a young child. It is amazing how that can change your perspective in a positive and productive way. I encourage you to envision taking that childhood image and surrounding it in love with a matted red heart. Or if you have some doilies handy, uncap the glue stick and get to work!
Happy Valentine’s Day.