I've heard that Valentine's Day is second only to New Years Eve for suicides, which says a lot about love. It doesn't always turn out well, or like you wanted it to, or like you thought it would.
And, some pay the highest price for it. Yet, we're all looking for it.
For all its hype, love is rarely a Cinderella tale. For me, the real story lies with the ugly stepsisters. No one ever asked them what they thought about love. They got left behind like so many ill-fitting shoes and rotten pumpkins. But they could tell you - love bites. For every girl who gets invited to the ball, there are at least 100 pressing their faces to the glass watching the dance.
And don't even get me started on the frog to Prince ratio.
So this is a salute to the ugly stepsisters, to those who struggle with love - to find it, to keep it, to let it go with grace, to redefine it, to live through it. You know...the rest of us.
The ones who find out quick that everyday life is the fingernail on the chalkboard of love.
These are the real heros of Valentine's Day...
They get out of bed everyday, go to a job they don't necessarily love, get little to no fanfare or praise and not enough money, but they do it anyway because they have families to raise. They come home to piles of laundry, dishes and bills. But, they still come home. No rich, handsome prince or princess riding in at their house to save the day.
They weather job losses, poverty, general disappointments, children with heartbreaking disabilities and illnesses. They get a big bang out of very little buck. They seek out, and feel enormous gratitude for, the simpler things in life. A barbeque with friends, cookies for everyone at work, a few christmas presents under the tree for every kid, enough food on the table, a trip to the grocery store with their daughter in her new wheelchair.
They leave unhealthy relationships. They find the courage to try it again. They stay together when they don't feel like it. They muddle through. Always hopeful, sometimes down, but never out. They take a 15 round beatdown from love and still stand.
And if that's not enough to make the most optimistic heart close up shop, then shit gets real.
They nurse spouses through surgeries, failing health and old age. They find themselves the one left behind. They care for dying parents and grandparents. They raise grandchildren who would otherwise fall through the cracks. They wring their hands in helplessness and prayer over a wayward daughter. With uncommon bravery they usher their terminally ill sons out of the world with even more love than when they brought them into it.
Yes, this is for all of you who recognize yourselves in these words. For those who've been shot in the heart with cupid's arrow only to find out it hurts like hell and leaves a scar. And Hallmark isn't writing cards with any of this inscribed on them. So, I'll write them. You are all like precious metals, thrown into the flames, to come out bent but never broken - shaped into something new - built to last.
I think Valentine's Day is a celebration of you and all you endure for love. And, this year, I'm reminded that love isn't in the air. It's in the trenches.