It’s February 15, 2015.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and Prospective Students’ Weekend, and Graduate Student Day at the Farmer’s Market. Oregon turned 156, and it was almost 80 degrees in central Texas. Before riding my bike to a friend’s house, I put on shorts and a tank top and marveled that this is my life.
But that was yesterday. It’s the day after Valentine’s Day, so let’s talk.
I’ve spent 27 Valentine’s Days without you, and the last few writing you letters. Some have been sappy, some have been powerful, and others have been kind of apathetic. This Valentine’s Day, I’m in all of those places and yet none of them.
Plus, I’m surrounded by people in different stages of love.
I have a dear friend who is deeply in love, the kind of soul-stirring, life-ending, life-beginning love that we all pray for and fear in equal measure. This friend’s life is set in motion by this love: life moves and breathes in response to this other human, beautiful and painful all at once. Together they are making plans, sharing hopes, crafting dreams that involve two instead of one with this sense of almost-but-not-yet. I watch it with jealousy, and confusion, and wistfulness. It is a brave love.
I have another friend who is madly (and maddeningly) in love with a tiny human, a stubborn, spunky little girl who just had her first Valentine’s Day. She has changed the shape of my friend’s life; she has altered its very schedule, dictating how life ebbs and flows in accordance to her needs (and increasingly) her wishes. I see my friend love fiercely this little girl who can’t crawl or walk or talk but who can feel deeply and truly, and this girl is loved even when her parents are irritated or fearful. It is a brave love.
Another friend is grieving the loss of love, a ridiculous phrase because love is never suddenly lost, even when love with a particular person is no longer being pursued. The timing is wrong, but the decision was right. So, instead of a romantic dinner and walks hand-in-hand along rainwashed streets, my dear friend had dinner in a group even while feeling very alone and singular. Single, one could say. And this love is brave too, for it dares to think two people could eventually be better off without each other and maybe with others instead.
Other friends are purely and truly single, though that looks different for each. Some are saddened, some are free. But all, at times, feel the weight of being alone, of not being someone else’s priority, of not being allowed to make someone else their only purpose. It’s a burden, to be single. It’s a joy, it’s a freedom, but it’s also a burden. And so they seek out those others who are like them, in hopes that company brings light, and it does. It is a brave life they live, a brave love they seek, a brave hope they kindle.
So this letter isn’t really to you, dear sir, is it? You specter, you unshaped desire, you unknown entity. I am writing to the air, to a future version of you who may hear these words as echoes from the past.
Instead, it’s a letter to those in love, those in fear, those in pain, and those in uncertainty. Mostly, it’s a letter to me.
And all I can say is it’s going to be okay.
It might not be right now. Your heart might be en-route to another coast, checked in the baggage of the one you love. Your heart might be shattered into a million pieces, until you are able to melt them down and recast a new one. Your heart might be so tired that its angry and afraid and then she smiles and you’re filled with joy for a split second. Or your heart might be heavy with all of the hope it’s carried that you’ve tried to jettison but somehow it still begs to be held.
I don’t know how on God’s green earth it’ll be okay for you, you lovers and loners. But I’ve got to believe it will be.
Today at church, the priest spoke about the Transfiguration as recorded in Matthew. He said that God spoke amidst the confusion, the cacophony of voices and shining prophets, and he said the word beloved amidst the chaos. Within the chaos, God spoke the word beloved to the one he loved.
I think that’s the only way we’ll get through this, all of us: by grasping for those whispered beloveds that are barely audible above the din of life. Maybe we whisper it to each other, maybe the divine presence whispers it in our ear, maybe it’s just a feeling that we have for a moment before it’s gone. Maybe it’s in a love note or a baby’s laugh or a memory or a dream. A way of knowing our belovedness.
So if you’re in love, you are beloved.
If you’re out of love, you are beloved.
If you’re praying your love sleeps through the night, you—and she—is beloved.
And if you’re waiting with no good reason to hope other than you can’t help it, you are beloved.
(Lastly, hey you. I am talking to you too. You’re beloved as well. Be safe, be strong, be gentle, be kind, be soft, be true. Love deeply and wisely; learn well and carefully. Love with a brave love. Talk next year, or see you soon.)