I'm not usually a big Valentine's Day person. In reality, I'm not a big holiday person in any way. However, my students are currently learning about relationships and the holiday, so I showed them Hannah Brencher's Ted Talk about Love Letters to Strangers. I read her book a few years ago and was deeply moved by it. Brencher's talk argues that the handwritten letter is in fact an "art form" and will no longer need to argue its own survival. I'm not sure I agree 100%, since so few people use letters any more. Nonetheless, I do agree that there is power in the handwritten word.
Actual snail mail notes and letters have always held a special place in my heart. I still have the last letter my grandmother sent me before she passed, tucked safely away in the pages of one of her favorite Psalms. When my late husband and I were deployed, we took to tucking love notes in each other's flight bags as we transitioned through the crew room on our opposite schedules. Cards - the Hallmark kind - are still something I love to gift for birthdays, special occasions, or even for no reason at all.
The beauty and presence required to write an actual letter has always been a form of meditation for me. Perhaps that's part of why I love journaling via pen and paper so much. The first year after my husband passed, my journal was a series of letters to him. They weren't always the most loving in tone, many were heartbroken or angry embodiments of the stages of grief. But having the ability to write freely, and to watch how my emotions changed the timbre of my handwriting across the page enabled me to work through my grief in a manner I couldn't access anywhere else.
Journaling has also been at times a series of letters to myself. Sometimes it's a series of questions and answers sparked by an emotionally charged encounter. Other times it's an admonishment to do better or be better when I struggle to find my way. Sometimes the words take on the voice of a tough-love big sister, or a whiny little one, both included in my ser, my being, surfacing to egg me on, or to tell me to get over myself and move. Less frequently, my journal becomes a self-love letter: a time when I allow myself to celebrate who I am in all my complicated glory, sometimes sweet, sometimes exasperating, but hopefully always real.
We fill our minds so often with negative self-talk, my challenge for myself and for you this Valentine's day, is to take the time to write yourself a love letter changing that paradigm. Instead of talking yourself down as we're all so wont to do, build yourself up!
Write it the way you wrote to a crush or a first lover years ago. Let yourself exquisitely detail all the little -isms and ticks you adore about yourself. If you don't know where to start, start with writing to yourself as if you were your best friend or a secret admirer. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and take that time to guide yourself in an entrance meditation walking through your life as if you were an observer. Note those characteristics that make you shine your best self. Appreciating your better nature, even if it feels fleeting and often subordinate to the nature that tears us down, will start to retrain new pathways in your brain. It will sow seeds of goodness, and raise up a pathway of joy in place of pain. Start small if needed. Even a list of things you love about yourself - or that others have complimented you on - will get you going.
I know this isn't easy, it's safer and more usual to see all the areas where we fall short. I ask you to choose to commit to yourself this valentine's day. Choose to shower your own heart with the love you shower on others. I'll be "write" there with you. :) Comment and let me know how it goes! I'll give you a few prompts to get you started below the picture.
Happy celebrating you!
Write for 5 minutes from one or more of these springboards each day this week. When next week comes, see if it gets a bit easier to greet yourself at the door laughing and invite yourself in for tea.
- On my best days, I am....
- People often surprise me by saying I.... (positive things only please!)
- I feel most alive when I....
- When I was a child, I knew myself to be....
- I always believed I could....
- My best assets are my...
- My superpower is....
And, as my mother often says, "Please be patient with me, God isn't finished with me yet."
Sending grace and love to you all.