As Valentine’s Day approaches, I always seem to feel a little insecure. I grew up with a single mom, and I remember Valentine’s Day as being a time we joked about the silliness of such a superficial holiday. I hoped I would never be tied up in its fanfare, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve certainly taken the cynical approach to experiencing it. It’s a day I love to hate. Truly. But I say I feel insecure, because even though this will be my third Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend, I can’t help but to look at so many couples around me and feel a sense of comparison and jealousy. I don’t even want a huge teddy bear, ok, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll be scrolling on Instagram and some girl is hugging a giant bear, and suddenly in my head I’m furious at my boyfriend for not “being as thoughtful” as her boyfriend. It’s nuts. And I know it's nuts, and believe me, I feel crazy, but that doesn't make the feelings go away. This made me start thinking about how much we let comparison steal our joy. I’m so guilty of it. It seems like any positive thoughts I have about myself are instantly extinguished when I look at someone else who has something "more" than me. I think my relationship is wonderful and full of love until I find an Instagram of some girl and her boyfriend traveling Indonesia together and suddenly my relationship is crap? It’s sad how little credit I give to the good parts of my life. But this is a work in progress for me. I’m learning to condition myself, little by little, into cherishing all the good I have.
When we started taking these photos, Michael and I felt so stiff and awkward and quickly determined PDA was not our thing. And in spite of Claire’s phenomenal photography skills, I don’t think being a famous Instagram couple is ever in our cards, because kissing on camera is WEIRD, folks. But something I noticed after all the pictures were taken was that the less I worried whether we would look as good as them or whoever in our photos, the closer Michael and I got, the more we started to breathe normally and explore the trail and find hidden little treasures in our foggy wonderland. After a while, the awkward staring into each others eyes for a photo actually had feeling behind it and it was really really good. Sounds lame, but I love forgetting that we have been together for so long and feeling giddy to get to be close to each other. I get so much comfort in knowing that through all of my doubting and invalidating of myself and of my life, what I’ve invested my heart into is still very much real and healthy.
So, no. I still don’t have it all together. I don’t have a perfect relationship or a perfect life or a perfect Valentine’s Day planned. But I’m so so lucky, because I’ve got a love that aches and sometimes cracks but always holds together, and I am beginning to understand the beauty in that.
A huge thanks to Claire Fagin for all the photos included in this blog post. You can find her website here.