Why Valentine's Day?
Today, on Valentine's Day, I sent messages to friends, wishing them a 'Happy Valentine's Day,' telling them I love them. It made me happy, and judging by the replies, it made them happy, too.
I decided to research the origin of Valentine's Day, expecting (hoping) to discover a beautiful story of true love. Not so. There are several possible roots of the day devoted to Valentin, or St. Valentine, or the idea of sending love, not all beautiful, nor having to do with true love. Some, but not all.
I came away rather disappointed, having believed that the holiday we celebrate today, honoring love, was borne of the same sentiment. Then I came across this, by Lisa Bitel, Professor of History and Religion, USC, referring to the Valentine's Day history she uncovered:
"It seems that the erstwhile saint behind the holiday of love remains as elusive as love itself. Still, as St. Augustine, the great fifth-century theologian and philosopher argued in his treatise on “Faith in Invisible Things,” someone does not have to be standing before our eyes for us to love them.
And much like love itself, St. Valentine and his reputation as the patron saint of love are not matters of verifiable history, but of faith."
Love is not a matter of history, but of faith in something invisible--past, present, and future. It requires only that we feel it.
Go forward, feeling and sharing love, today and every day, no matter the origin of Valentine's Day.
"Who's the fairest of them all?" is never the question I ask my mirror . . . I couldn't bear the response.
The truth is I don't look into the mirror frequently, unless I'm applying mascara and the like. However, today I find myself staring into the proverbial mirror of self-reflection. And I find myself not asking, "Who's the fairest of them all?" Again, because I know the answer.
Sadly, I find myself feeling the weight of my inadequacy as a fellow human being, as I reflect upon my failure to be the good person I want to be - as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, co-worker, neighbor, citizen. We actually have a word for this: guilt.
Guilt is weighty. Guilt brings one down. Guilt imprisons one in the past. Guilt has the power to prevent one from seeing things as they are. Guilt restrains one from living freely. Guilt is the antithesis of joy.
The interesting thing about guilt is that it's a two-way street. Generally, guilt is thrust upon us by the person we've harmed. Guilt forces to see our actions (or inactions) for the harm they have done, and it doesn't generally feel good. Yet, it is important for us to be reminded of the "wrongs" we have committed, in order that we might feel remorse, offer an apology and/or retribution, and learn. These things help us to grow and be better.
In order to grow and be better, it is important to let go of guilt once it has served its purpose. When a heart-felt apology has been offered, and one has had time to reflect on his/her actions and learn from them to be better going forward, guilt should be released by the offender.
As important is the letting go of guilt by the person who was hurt by the actions (or inaction) of the offender. Not only for the offender's sake, but also for the sake of the person harmed. Forgiveness frees the offender and the harmed equally to move forward in a meaningful relationship.
Imparting lasting guilt, and holding onto guilt, both interfere with our hearts' ability to experience joy and meaningful relationships. Mirror, Mirror on the wall . . . reflect guilt when it's appropriate, and replace it with joy when its purpose has been fulfilled.
"Auld Lang Syne?"
"Auld Lang Syne?" Indeed.
My family has had the great pleasure of spending Christmas break in Scotland. We have visited Edinburgh Castle, a towering structure dating back 3000 years. We have walked through an underground village that was quite literally built upon by newer buildings beginning a few hundred years ago. We have wandered about small fishing villages that exist as they did two hundred years ago. We discovered the grave of the infamous Tom Riddle of Harry Potter among headstones dating back centuries. And so much more. One of the highlights was carrying a flaming torch in the Hogmanay procession of tens of thousands of people, a centuries old tradition of bringing light into the New Year. Given all of this tradition, particularly around the New Year celebration, I was quite intrigued to learn that the song we sing at the New Year, "Auld Lang Syne," was written by a Scottish poet, Robert Burns.
"For Auld Lang Syne," as the tune begins, translates to "for (the sake) of old times." It is a tribute to that which has passed, a call to remember it well, to cherish what it was. We have experienced this love of tradition and that which was during our time in Scotland. It has made me reflect on my own history, and I do cherish my past--the good and the not-so-good--for it has all brought me to where I am today. Looking back, I see my life story unfold, my dots connect, and I am filled with gratitude and joy. I wish the same for you.
"Auld Lang Syne?" Indeed. Happy New Year!!
What Do I Wish For Christmas?
What do I wish for Christmas?
My Christmas wish is simply that Joy will be present in the hearts of all, and that all will feel it, and that the feeling will ignite kindness, and that kindness will bring more joy, and that all of the joy will result in peace and wellbeing for all.
That is what I wish for Christmas.
What's Going On In There?
'What's going on in there?' is what I wondered as I watched the students of our piano teacher's studio perform in the Holiday Recital. Their focus was intense-- eyes fixed on the sheet of music, or on the piano keys, or alternating between them, depending on whether more trust was placed in their memory of the notes on the page or the position of their hands over the keys. Despite the concentration, no brows were furrowed, no torsos were tense, no jaws were clenched. (A few tongues did show themselves, likely without knowledge of their owners.) Without exception, as the final note of each piece was played, the performer managed a show of relief and satisfaction--a small smile, a glance at a parent, a long exhale--well-deserved, for certain.
I'm not sure why I was so taken by the intense focus shown by these musicians. Perhaps it was because some were so young. Perhaps it was because some were teenagers. Perhaps it was because there were so many distractions in the room (latecomers arriving, a man coughing, a baby cooing). Perhaps it was because it seems to me that people don't seem that invested in anything today. And yet the focus was intense.
As I watched and listened, I found my own interest intense. The music was lovely, even with some errant notes and uneven counting. Yet it was still magical and brilliant, certainly because the passion put into it was so obvious. The passion of the musicians was felt not only in the music they made, but also in their focus, in their ability to allow themselves to be completely in the moment until the last note sounded. It was a gift for me to also be completely in the moment, to focus on the beauty of the music, while letting go of the distractions--those in the room and those awaiting me outside of the room when it ended.
May we allow our focus to be on the present moment--enjoying it for what it is, despite its imperfections, letting go of distraction--and to feel the joy for the life we have been given.
May your heart be filled with joy and gratitude today and every day.
author of "JOY"