Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thinking about Rejection, Loss, and Love on Valentine's Day

I don't have happy memories of Valentine's Day. I remember longing for a secret admirer, someone who would reveal their tender feelings on a Valentine left in my mailbox; we spent the week before Valentine's Day making those mailboxes out of shoeboxes.

I went to elementary school in the 1970's, before we worried about children's self esteem. If you wanted to bring Valentines for only your favorite five fellow students, you were allowed to do that. So, some people wound up with a shoebox/mailbox full of greetings and treats, and some of us wound up with very little.

I was never the popular girl, but not the total outcast either. I was the Lisa Simpson of my classes: a little too smart, with interests outside of the standard ones. My teachers loved me but didn't quite know what to do with me. I usually had a few friends, who also loved me, but didn't know what to do with me.

Some things haven't really changed. But some have. I'm better at making people comfortable. I don't feel a need to show how different I am, how outside the norm, and how that somehow makes me better. I'm no longer so needy for love. That's because I have love. Every day is Valentine's Day in the Berkey-Abbott household.

O.K., I exaggerate a little. But still, when you have a beloved, when you have a family who loves you, when you have friends who still want to have lunch with you--well, then, most weeks do indeed feel like Valentine's Day.

Even if you're having a sluggish technology week, the same week when all sorts of things break, you still get Valentine's moments. This week, the handle inside the car that opens the door broke into several pieces, the toilet seat finally cracked, we had to buy a new car battery, my work computer finally died, and we had to buy two new car tires. I'm a poet, so it's hard not to read some sort of symbolism into all of this. But sometimes, I read too much into what is really a set of coincidences.

Today, I'm reading on various blog/web sites that Lucille Clifton died. Now that's a loss I could have done without. I have always loved her self-acceptance. I can't find a citation for what I'm about to relate, but I remember someone asking her why she didn't write longer works, and she mentioned that she had all these children, so she wrote what she had time to write. I've often thought of those words as I've struggled to balance my writing with the needs/demands of my job. If she could keep going and making such important art, even when she only had scraps of time, surely I can do it too.

Many of us love her poem "Homage to my Hips"; go here to hear her read it.

We are all here for such a short time. I hope that my poems some day inspire and comfort and support a wide circle of readers, as Clifton's poems have done.

So, one last Valentine's Day wish for us all: may you get what you desire this Valentine's Day. And may it live up to your expectations and hopes!

1 comment:

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kristin, I think we've led similar lives along the way. I too hated facing those elementary school Valentine's day boxes; I too had a handful of friends who loved me and didn't know what to do with me.

Thanks for this eloquent post.