Today is Valentines day, a holiday that I don’t usually observe.
Like many of us, I get jaded by the sickly sweet commercialization of human emotion.
Yet behind the candy coating (and in Malawi, the Valentines Day sarongs that are being sold everywhere), this year I am wondering if there may be something that I can learn from this holiday?
When I was young, my Parents would always have presents waiting for us when we woke up on February 14 – pink clothing, chocolate, a recycled card.
They were doing that which we, as humans do to function. Codifying something that we feel inside and sharing it in a way that hopefully someone else will understand.
My parents have so much love for their children and they completely spoiled (and continue to spoil) us. Those Valentines Days past, I always felt special and enjoyed the treats.
Today, I am feeling a bit raw.
I said goodbye to my roommate who moved out today. Tyler has created a safe and fun space in our home this past 3 months. It has become a place that I look forward to coming home to - somewhere I feel like I belong. My home has been my lifeline during my time here thus far.
I hugged him goodbye, mumbled something and walked away quickly as to avoid the waterworks - I didn’t want to cry and make him uncomfortable. Tears or not, I will miss him.
Goodbyes have become a regular part of my life - a constant in the whirlwind adventure that I am currently living. It feels odd to find stability in departures.
In December it was the first batch of friends, a group of 4 women that we jokingly dubbed ‘the North American Sensations’. At the end of this month, it will be my dear friends Holly and Elsa with whom I travelled. Soon after, a few other friends will leave.
This myriad of goodbyes has almost replaced my calendar as a measure of time. ‘2 months ago? That was when Niamh and Loida left… Last month? It was Heather… Next week? That is when Uttara goes…’
All of these goodbyes have left me feeling opened. I feel simultaneously surrounded by love and alone.
(A quick apology to any frequent blog readers, but I have recently decided that I won’t hold back in my writing if I feel that I need to express something. Regardless of where I am, if I feel words coming, I put pen to paper. This means that you may get some sappy, half-baked poetry. At least today I have Saint Valentine as an excuse.)
This morning before yet another particularly difficult goodbye, I sat down on the floor and wrote:
Something that Africa has not yet taught me
Despite all her trying
Is how to say goodbye
People whir by and each connection is fleeting -
Transiting is a way of life but I can’t not feel
If I was divided before, I live fragmented now
I will go to the earth as dust
This Valentines Day, instead of rejecting the commercial aspects of the holiday, I am ripping apart the red foil and sparkly cellophane and diving in to embrace the real stuff. Despite being undone by the transient nature of my relationships in Malawi, I appreciate what each has offered and the love that each person has brought to my life.
Love exists and we all need it – it is essential, especially when surrounded by so much suffering.
Instead of being hardened, I’m choosing to be soft. I know that if I risk being a bit uncomfortable, I will be opened to the potential of nurturing human connection, the possibility of being a bit of light and hope in a place that oftentimes feels dim.
They say its better to light a candle than to curse the dark.
Today I choose to be love.