Valentine’s Day often offered choices and called up anxiety as well as affection. Was it presumptuous – or misleading- to send a card to x? Would y feel hurt if I neglected her? What kind of card could best, most honestly and lovingly convey feelings that were sometimes complex or even mixed. It was always easiest with little children I loved. I smiled and printed carefully and drew hearts, feeling happily like a child myself.
Today I find I’m doing something different. I begin the morning with thoughts of the children I love, my own and others’. I look at the photos I carry with me, see, in my mind’s eye each one playing, silently thank God or Nature or more often both, for their existence. And then as my day unfolds, on the way to the train back to Washington, their mothers come to my mind, and their fathers too, and I respond with unwritten valentines of gratitude. “Thank you for your children whom I love.” And my heart keeps opening, on the phone to friends and colleagues, on the screen of emails. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I write to people I don’t know that well but like; “send your children Valentines. “ I find love coloring my glances at the train’s conductors with the day’s red roses pinned to their lapels. I sense sweetness in the suited men and women on their way to meetings.
The anxiety of choice or appropriateness evaporates. You are all my valentines.
Dr. James S. Gordon, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder and Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC. He is also Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.