We've all heard the gripes. Valentine's Day is a capitalist enterprise. It's Singles Awareness Day. It's just a heteronormative Wednesday like any other. Carried in bouquets. Across tables at restaurants. Reminded through apps.
It's my fifth year alone on the "holiday" and it's fine. It should be fine. Use the date to love yourself. So I did. I had a passionfruit whiskey ginger. Salmon three ways. A molten chocolate cake - my favorite dessert. Saw a movie by myself - literally by myself in the theatre, with no one around. It should be enough.
I once told my best friend that I don't think I ever loved myself. That I hated the sound of my own voice. Never good enough for anyone, had to be perfect for everyone else, and if I wasn't perfect, I was begging someone to fix me. Hold me. Of course, the dilemma was and always is that no one can ever fix you. Or hold you - not as completely as yourself. And when you hate yourself, it's the sort of loneliness that renders you invisible to the world. The kind that makes you no one.
The "holiday" often reminds me of more of the same - the feeling that I am alone and incapable of love, whether loving or to be loved. And my mind knows it's a fallacy. These feelings pass. You have friends. Your family hasn't completely abandoned you. One needs to b grateful for these feelings. Yet still, the hole lingers. The loneliness.
I am so terrified of being lonely.
For many Valentine's Days, I opted to stay home alone. Binge Netflix. Order in. Do work. Today, I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone, because I didn't want to feel victim to my anxiety and depression; I wanted to make something positive of it. I wanted to enjoy it for once. I wanted to take space in this world of couples and hookups and declare that I, too, could love myself. Shit, I deserve it.
I got to enjoy a magnificent movie (A Fantastic Woman, which I highly recommend you to see - this is the queer film we've been needing, the one that demands our existence in the world as queer people despite society's personal and systematic insistences that we disappear to pave way for "normalcy" - seriously, watch the damn film). In reality, it was the perfect film I needed for the evening. You don't wait for someone else to validate your fantasies and your existence in a coupling; you validate it for yourself, by whatever means necessary.
But I come home to a bed that can't hold me, with arms that can't hold myself as tightly or as warmly as I'd like. I come home to another artistic rejection - fourth one this week, four consecutive days of nopes from various theatrical opportunities. I come home crying, worried I may never sing the songs I used to sing, despite my vocal exercises. I come home reeling from compliments that I want to feel as genuine rather than placating placeholders for meaningful attachments that'll never be. I come home still master of the unrequited, being reminded of exes through spectre-songs or text messages, or even pining for loves I can never have because they've said so, you know so, so there you go, Ryan. (Doesn't take away the genuine want of them, the shadowy wish-I-would in the corner, serenading like a Robyn song, pleading to be seen.)
I know it's a process. My therapist is always prodding me to be kinder to myself, to slow down, manage my expectations for myself. It's all re-learning not to seek validation elsewhere. The good news is I'm more aware of my destructive behaviors in seeking validation; the mixed news is navigating actions to counter said behaviors varies in efficacy. Sometimes, I write a song. Other times, I watch a movie. And then there are times where, despite my actions, I still feel like dating myself or creating myself is pointless. Tonight, sadly, is one of those evenings.
Valentine's Day is another day, sure. But it's a day that puts that self-love to a very public test. It foregrounds my insecurities on human bonding. It reminds me there's more work to be done on myself. Awareness is key. Practice is an essential slog.
My hope is that voicing this out alleviates some of the emotional tetany. Maybe I can sleep it off. Learn to love myself another day.