Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m not real big on Hallmark holidays. I think I understand the initial intention: that a placeholder is created to remind us of something, a celebratory space, set aside, for something important. Like Christmas. And look what happened with that. Great idea, wonderful underlying intention, but…

But the good news is, these dates do force our hands a bit. They give us an opportunity to pause, in whatever manner we choose, to consider where we are in relation to whatever the event is. Take Valentine’s Day as an example.

This February festival has its roots in a pagan love festival called the Feast of Lupercalia, a celebration of fertility and of the return of spring. The Roman Catholic church was very good at co-opting existing pagan holidays and making them their own, so, out with the old and in with the new, in 496 AD Pope Gelasius banned the Feast of Lupercalia and declared February 14 as St Valentine’s Day.

Named after the patron saint of lovers, there’s apparently a lot of question as to who the holiday is actually named after, since there were at least two and possibly three Saint Valentines in the third century Roman Catholic church.

What is known is that at least one of them was beaten and stoned and finally beheaded, which hopefully is not the foundation upon which a holiday celebrating lovers is built. But I digress.

So fast forward lots of hundreds of years to today, when we have pretty much lost track of the origins of our February celebration. Hallmark, like the early Roman Catholic church, is also very good at co-opting pagan holidays and making them their own, so, out with the old and in with the new, today it’s all about flowers, candy, and cards.

It’s unfortunate that some underlying, unspoken aspects of the holiday have also found their way in to the equation. These most-often-unspoken beliefs can create a lot of pressure, performance anxiety if you will, for a lot of folks. I’m talking about things like:

* Express your love by purchasing stuff, and the more stuff or the more expensive the stuff that you purchase, the better person or partner or whatever you are.  Better better better.
* Conversely, God help you if you are cheap. Don’t be cheap. It makes you a bad person.
* Perhaps the most insidious largely unspoken belief of all is that if this holiday happens to find you without a romantic partner – no one to buy stuff for, or to buy you stuff – you are worse than a bad person. You, my sad little Valentine-less friend, are a loser. No one will tell you that, not outright, but there it is. Better to skip today all together and try again tomorrow.

See, like Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter and so many other holidays, we have wandered off from the original intent. I’m not saying that the pagans had it exactly right, but the focus did seem to be a recognition and celebration of the return and fertility of spring.

Easter is another great example, but we’ll get to that in a month or two.

My point here is that each of us can redirect our own attention and use these holidays, these opportunities to pause and consider our relationship to whatever the event is, and we can do so not in a competitive or shameful way, but rather in an honest, self-assessing way that might serve us very well indeed. These celebrations were never meant to be a competition, or a time to feel pressured or self-deprecating. They are celebrations, points of demarcation in the rhythms and cycles of life that can remind us of what we might have lost sight of. They are opportunities to make some course corrections, if indicated, in the trajectory of our lives, to move us more and more into alignment with our own heart and soul desires that are our design and our purpose for living.

On this day, at this time of year when the vitality of life is making its presence known again in the northern hemisphere, it’s doing the same thing in you, and in me. It’s Life, with a capital L, as in God as Life. It’s a parenthesis in time and space that we set aside for that still, small voice within each of us to be heard. Longings and desire and ache aren’t bad, in and of themselves, if we understand the language properly. They, like the rest of our feelings and senses, inform us.

I ask myself, “What am I wanting to experience and to express more of?” And I’m learning to pay attention to the informing that happens when I ask, to move in the direction of my heart and soul desire, because I recognize that still, small voice now. I am starting to learn the language. It’s not a language of shame, or blame, or regret.  It’s a mind-blowingly intelligent and infinitely loving voice, inviting me to live, to be what I am here to be.

So, dear hearts, this Valentine’s Day, whether you find yourself with the perfect romantic partner, or instead longing to embody and to express the love and the desire that you embody in your perfect design, be very gentle with yourself, and with others. The message of love starts with how we see ourselves, how we feel inside. Remember that, far from being a bad person or a flawed person or anything of the sort, you are instead a perfect idea and desire in the mind and the heart of Creation Itself. You are a place, by design, for Love and for Life to exist.

Today, love, in any way that feels good and right and heartwarming to you. Maybe that is loving your lover, and being grateful that on this day you have an object upon which to lavish your love. Maybe it’s planting a bulb in the ground that you know will flower in a few short months time. And maybe it’s listening to the ache and desire within you, and having the courage to say to yourself yes, I AM that, and I am paying attention, and I choose, this and every day, to move in the direction of my heart and soul desire.