19 Feb

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Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks. ― Samuel Johnson

Sometimes while looking at this period of my life, I realize how special and significant it truly is. Perhaps is it forming something of great value to me, and to others. I’m conscious enough to realize that this enormous amount of personal time has been given to me for a reason. And one day, I will see all the connections that have lead to whatever future is created. Before embarking on the 21 Days of Love I didn’t realize how many people really follow me, and try on my life for size in their imaginations. My intern at school revealed one teary morning how much she and her friends look up to me…that they want to be me. And in a mix of fear and compassion I told her two things: It scares me to be a walking example because I’m human. I make mistakes. Because I care…I want others to be their most genuine selves…not me. But then, I thought about my own view of this journey. As a witness, at times it isn’t from the end with all the abundance. First lesson in loving myself more. . . check.


Starting the love quest was easy. I had a list of activities and high hopes that each one might provide some insight on loving in a culture which seemingly only validates romantic love. Higher love, companionate love, self love or compassion seem to be considered second best in our society, what one is left to embrace when “real love” just doesn’t seem to work out. Embracing “Big Love” becomes a consolation prize which often evokes other’s empathy. This can be annoying to have to love them through. Seriously people, I’m not a nun just because most of my love at present is outside the eros box. So I set out to learn something, in spite of this prevailing assumption and to show others that an attitude of “making the best of the situation” shouldn’t be the spirit in which one should celebrate love at all. We need a bigger understanding in this culture. We need to be more open. We need more expansive hearts.

A social media post for each day of love was my primary focus and I decided early on to let whatever sign or activity which presented itself be the point of love for the day. That seemed to work well. But from there that’s when the plans slowly started to unravel and reform into some of the biggest lessons about love I’ve learned to date.

One of the first activities, attending the Latin Salsa Dance Party at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke, was a repeat performance from two years ago. A fabulous Cuban band, Tiempo Libre, preceded it, and early in the evening I began to reflect. That event two years ago was the beginning of the adventure portion of this journey and essentially, my first “assignment” for this blog. Two years later, dancing up at the stage and then, with one of the lead singers shows just how far I’ve traveled. At the salsa party, I noticed others dancing together, not just couples. Women moving with other women, proud Latino men in a line posturing, moving in rhythm with each other and affirming each other’s prowess and skill. What a difference from two years before. I now notice the power of sexuality as a human thing, something which can be expressed outside the cultural norm of “relationship”. For though the music was spicy, sensually freeing and passionately rich, there was no barrier or judgment in moving with it whether in couple, in group or alone. Our culture as a whole needs more touching, more passion, more kissing. It seems we only feel able to be in our bodies with one another under specific moral and social conditions. And to me, this has lead most into sexual expectation at any physical contact. We need to lose that. Most don’t realize how much they actually need touch and expression of physical love every day until they lose their “partner”. How many dysfunctional relationships of all sorts could end if we knew that others were there to literally hold our hands, stroke our cheeks, and rub our shoulders beyond the constructs society defines.


But this event also re-framed the next week in a peculiar way. Within days everything unraveled. The wine and chocolate tasting I’d planned was cancelled and trying to create one for my friends didn’t work. Quickly then, I knew I shouldn’t rely on re-envisioning the traditional Valentine.

I’ve always wanted to indulge myself by having my hands and feet hennaed like an Indian bride. Images of Krishna and Radha within swirls of lotus flowers trailing my arms and feet seemed the perfect way to externally proclaim the love I have for my highest self. But plans with all three artists I contacted fell through, one after the next, the last calling to say no henna was to be found in Lynchburg anywhere. To order it, would place arrival after Valentine’s Day.  Expectations at every turn were being shown to the door.

While I did attend Sonnets and Chocolates, another repeat performance of two years ago, it was only due to the grace of Endstation’s director Geoff Kerschner, who I taught many years ago. The fundraiser sold out three hours before I purchased a ticket. However, he was able to find me one seat at a table with some folks from the arts community where I teach. Many of them I already knew from teaching their children. And to be sure there were some lovely romantic touches to the evening, like when I was finally able to have my favorite Shakespearean actor recite Sonnet 29 to me. Sure, I bought the chocolate and the sonnet as a donation, and I asked for him specifically  to deliver it. But looking into another human’s eyes while he beautifully recited such profound words was beyond self-love. Knowing that I had done this, he relayed how much he appreciated being part of the moment and gave me a heartfelt hug. How simple and how beautiful it is to be human to one another on a holiday honoring love, yet one which ironically excludes a lot of people.

I think that night, it really started to hit me. First, love does not go according to plan. It takes its own path, like a stream in spring, the thaw takes the path of most allowing and then it wears it’s way into the landscape of life. Little by little it makes its mark.  At every rock in the way of my plans, love took a turn to show me its versatility, its expansiveness, its connection to others in a million different ways rather than solely self-directed. Sure, we all need to love ourselves first, to let that be the beginning path where we let love flow. But then, to grow the stream, others must be there to create the infinite complexities with which we come into union.

During the last week before Valentine’s Day, I found a moving TED talk by Hannah Brencher, founder of The World Needs More Love Letters


In teaching Romeo and Juliet, I wanted my students to think about more than just heady romantic love and its possible tragic ends. Loving other people as she once was loved delivered her into her destiny and out of depression and isolation. When she spoke of her beginning love letters, I knew EXACTLY what she meant. “In the days when they were necessary. . .”, she said. I think back to two years ago, how absolutely necessary it was for me to travel somewhere experience it, take photos…write. And now what rich experiences I have, deep wisdom, and more connection which enables me to follow my purpose.

I’m not going to lie, the last week was hard. I almost gave up. For about two hours on the Thursday before Valentine’s Day from 4 to 6a.m. I lay in bed and stared at that empty space beside me…and it hurt. I missed someone . . .down into my bones. And I cried, a lot. But then, I went to work and allowed. My students had written love letters to strangers and one of my struggling writers brought in his late assignment. He had chosen to write to one of my mentors who had recently lost her husband in a sudden heart attack. His note moved me to tears.


And I realized that we all have our days needing extra love…some more than others. But that’s what we are here for…to do that. To be that extra love for each other outside of the love we hold for ourselves. And when we start working toward that type of conscious loving and genuineness, the more we grow the heart of the Universe.

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