“Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. To love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.” – Jonathan Franzen
There is always another holiday lurking around the corner. And almost every holiday represents this idea that showing love and appreciation to others signifies gift-giving. We have essentially programmed ourselves to give and receive gift when certain days roll along. Birthdays, Anniversaries, even Easter indicates we will be receiving special treats! We end the year rushing to stores, searching for the best deals on Black Friday. And then there comes the gift-giving holiday of the year – Christmas. The holiday season! We end the year giving material objects to friends, family, our spouse, our neighbors, the post-man, our teachers, the list goes on. We end the year. A clean state. Only to repeat that tradition of gift-giving on Valentines Day with a “here is this shiny, pretty thing I got you…..see? It’s a symbol of how much I love you.”
Valentines Day, to many, represents a day where you shower your loved one with chocolates, flowers, and gifts. This year, I was working one of my many day-jobs at a small boutique in town. Several men walked in the store that evening, explaining that it was “that time of the year again…” and they needed to pick up some new shoes for their significant others. It got me pondering. (Thus, this blog post.)
We encounter this, not only on holidays, but to let others know we thought of them.
“I thought of you on my recent trip, here is a bunch of trinkets that you most likely will never use again….See this Sombrero I got you in Mexico?…Have this giant plate from Morocco!… Here – I was missing you on my trip to Venice, so I splurged on this hand-painted mask for you to put in your home!” See where I’m gettin’ at?
We decide to get married and spend months, if not years, saving up for a diamond. Advertisements tell us “diamonds are forever”, so we must show how serious our forever love is with a diamond! But how are diamonds really proof of our everlasting devotion? Do these beautiful items of jewelry express loyalty? Trust? A lifetime of commitment?
Love As A Transaction
We’re told gift-giving is a “love language”? We have become consumers of love. We use any instance to fish out our wallets and exchange currency for things. Objects that don’t even express love. Because love is not transactional as gift-giving is. Love transcends stuff. Love is beyond a card swipe. It’s more than just material objects being stuffed in the back of a cabinet. Love can only be expressed through thought and action. It is expressed in the way we look at our partners. It’s expressed in the warm hug we give to a friend. It’s expressed in how we treat others, how we listen. It’s expressed in our kindness, our endless loyalty, our generosity of spirit. It’s expressed in the time we spend with them. It’s expressed through our intentions.
There is nothing wrong with giving gifts to others, friends. But it is foolish to believe that by giving people things, we are showing them we love them. Those trinkets and sparkly items that are packed away somewhere in the attic will never equal to the feeling we have for another person. Love simply does not work that way.
This Valentines Day, my partner and I are treating ourselves to dinner at our favorite French restaurant in town. But my gift to him is never expressed through things or even dates. It’s expressed in how I treat him, the love I give him on the boring days, the tight embraces after a hard day. It’s shown in the quickness and ease with which we forgive one another. The quiet support while one is suffering. It’s shown in my daily actions. By me showing up.
Every. single. day.