I've never been a big Valentine's Day celebrator. My first boyfriend, John, always did it up right and sent me a ridiculously expensive bouquet of roses and maybe a stuffed animal and chocolate too. Still, I was the girl saying, "It's silly to spend so much money on a made-up holiday!" Sure, I enjoy flowers and candy and trinkets, but don't they mean so much more when they're random, just because, for no reason at all? My ex husband used to come home with bouquets of flowers that he found on sale at the Kroger...no reason, no holiday, just because. Jimi, he comes home with shoes. It's sort of a bummer, I guess, to not get flowers and such on Valentine's day, but not really...I certainly wouldn't trade a fancy arrangement for those awesome rain boots he brought me a few months back. Besides, I am a bad gift-giver and I've not gotten him anything and I don't even come home randomly with shoes for him.
I'm sitting here thinking back on the last 4 years I've spent with this man who loves me...
On February 14, 2007, he told me he loved me for the first time. I'd said those three little words to him months before, in the dark of his bedroom, my heart pounding in my chest and tears in my eyes because I knew he wasn't going to say them back, and he didn't. He held me close to him, and told me that he wasn't there yet, that he had love for me, but he couldn't make that commitment yet. "I know," I whispered, "but I needed you to know." "I knew, Natalie. I see it every time you look at me," was his reply, and then I cried some more.
On that long-ago (well, four-years-ago) St. Valentine's Day, home for me was the upstairs of Kim's house. I didn't have a full-time job, but I'd recently gotten hired on at the liquor store up the road and so I was home during the day when Jimi was at work. It had become our habit to email each other periodically throughout the day, talking about nothing important, but we were shiny and new and so we needed to spend every possible moment together. (Not altogether different from the way things are today, actually. I guess we're lucky in that way.) He emailed me a picture of a white stuffed teddy bear, holding a red and silver banner across its chest that read "I Love You". I responded with "oh how sweet" or something along those lines, but inside, I was a little pissed off and hurt that he'd be so insensitive. After all, it'd been months since I'd walked out on that limb alone and confessed my love for him - he'd said nary a peep hinting that he was ready to hear it again or return the volley should I be so brave to attempt it twice. I decided I'd not make a big deal of it, but I would stand up for myself and my heart enough to tell him how his innocent gesture had stung.
And so I did, that night, when he'd come over after work, as we were relaxing after dinner, playing kissy face and googoo gaga or whatever in the hell it was that we used to do back when we were all that made up the entire world. I said something like, "I appreciated the Valentine you emailed earlier, but I'll admit, the verbiage caught me off-guard. I wish you would've picked something that didn't remind me that we're on different pages here." He asked for clarification. "It said 'I Love You'. It just reminded me that you don't love me yet, and it was sort of a tease."
He pulled me close. "Natalie, I do love you. I thought you knew!"
There was a loud thudding sound as my heart frantically tried to escape my chest. "How would I know?! You haven't said it! How would I know?" Did he really just say he loves me?!
"I didn't think I'd have to say it, I thought you knew! I thought you could feel it with the way I treat you. Have I not shown you?" Did he just say he didn't think he had to say it? Men are from Mars is fucking right.
The best four years of my life, to date, have been spent with this man. He and I, we're the ones they wrote the love songs for. I see old people holding hands and I think "how sweet...I hope their love is as amazing as ours". Jimi has shown me what love is, how it feels, what it's like to live your life enveloped in it. His love for me gives me strength to love myself, to not be ashamed of my imperfections but to celebrate them, for they are what makes me uniquely me, and he loves me so hard I can't comprehend it sometimes. And the love I have for him is so much, so big, so entire...if I think about it too much my heart gets too full and I can't help but cry tears of happiness because I get to experience something so beautiful.
It grows, too; love does. Every day, I love him more than the one before. But also, my love for others grows daily - this much happiness and light is meant to be shared. I want my friends to love and be loved; I want to share a piece of my happiness with every person I meet, and leave their day a little brighter than it was before. Pay it forward, if you will.
I love love. I love Jimi. I love that this is my life. Happy Valentine's Day!