Are you a good Valentine?

I’ve always been irritating.

When I was in first grade, my side of the room won the spelling bee. In my excitement, I turned to the boy next to me, grabbed his shirt and all the buttons popped off. Embarrassed, I ran home and hid in my garage.

Which proved that not only was I irritating to the boy in my class, and my teacher, but also to my poor mother who had no idea where I was all afternoon.

I haven’t ripped any clothing lately, but my impulse control is still a problem. Almost any thought that enters my head, comes right out of my mouth, and it’s not as if I haven’t tried to work on this. Every time I enter my classroom or restaurants, attend a meeting, meet my friends for lunch or join any kind of gathering, my pre-entry mantra is, “Keep your mouth zipped and be appropriate Amy. Try to think for a second before you speak.” And sometimes saying this over and over again actually works. Another strategy I have tried is to keep a piece of paper in front of me and write what I am thinking just to give my brain an opportunity to process the appropriateness of the thought. That too works, but I’ve been in the field long enough to have a nice long list of people who flinch when they hear my name on the roster of any event.

But here’s the clincher, my partner Tom, actually likes, actually loves this about me. I know, I have a hard time believing it too, but I’m sure it’s true because often says, “You’re just honest. When people ask me what Amy thinks I tell them to go stand near her.”

That is what I call a True Valentine.

There are many theories regarding the history of Valentine’s Day. Most involve the Roman Emperor Claudius II who lived around 270. He thought unmarried men made better soldiers, and banned marriage. Now St. Valentine was a priest/bishop of Rome at the time, and he would secretly marry lovers until he was caught, stoned and beheaded. Before he died, he sent a note to his lover and signed it “Your Valentine.” Ever since lovers have celebrated Valentine’s Day around February 14.

For about eight hundred years before the celebration we know today as Valentine’s Day, the Romans practiced a pagan tradition called Lupercalia. To honor the god Lupercus, young men participated in a right of passage whereby they drew the name of an adolescent girl from a lottery box, and this lucky winner would become the man’s lover for the remaining year.

I have about a thousand things to say about this practice, but that is for another time. The point I want to make today is that a true Valentine is someone who will love you in spite of, or maybe even because of, the things that other people find irritating.

If you are having a hard time believing that the person who is currently driving you off the wall is someone you once admired, have faith. A good marriage therapist will have a trunk full of training to assist your memory. Call one. Do it for yourself and your Valentine.

Victor Hugo knew what he was talking about when he said,
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.”

Amy Pothong, MS, LPC, NCC

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