I love most holidays, but Valentine's Day has never been one of them. When I was single, it always seemed a sad reminder of my inadequacy at finding a partner. When I had a partner, they were never romantic enough to satisfy the commercial cravings for diamonds, chocolates, flowers and fancy dinners that the media has been drumming up ever since the big Christmas holiday sales ended.
For many years though, V-days have felt different for me. I haven't worried so much about what happens on this day, because it is the culmination of all of the days of the year that leave me feeling loved.
Today, for instance, my husband did some laundry and paid bills, and that feels plenty romantic to me. He claims to have big plans for later, but honestly, I am satisfied with the love and sacrifices he makes every day.
My son tells me that he is glad that he's a child and isn't expected to get anyone anything for Valentine's Day. I tell him that he is never obligated to get anyone anything on Valentine's Day. He replies that if he had a wife she would be furious if he didn't. I wonder where he gets this idea.
When I was his age I once spent an afternoon in a park with a handful of friends. Someone had a boom box, and we played "The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston over and over again while we lip-synced and danced around.
It took me many years and many failed relationships to truly understand the meaning of that song. It wasn't until I reached the same conclusion as Whitney, that "learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all", that Valentine's Day changed for me.
I was no longer willing to stay in a relationship for fear of being alone, and being alone no longer seemed like such a terrible thing. I stopped waiting to be rescued, and instead I rescued myself.
Learning to love myself wasn't easy. Growing up I was mercilessly teased for being a skinny white girl on an Indian reservation. I internalized so much of this as a reflection on my self-worth. I desperately wanted someone to love me despite myself, and was continually disappointed that all of my relationships came up short.
It wasn't until I found myself in a terribly abusive relationship in my mid-twenties that I was forced to realize that what I was doing wasn't working. I became determined that I would find my way out of this unhealthy cycle.
There is one line in that old eighties song that isn't quite right. Learning to love yourself is not "easy to achieve". After many years of therapy, self-help books, mediation and self-reflection my journey led me to a place where I finally had learned to love myself. And that is when I met the man who I would be in my first truly healthy relationship with.
We were married by a lake in California three years ago in June.
My friends often tell me that I am so lucky to have found Max. I agree with them, but I also know that it was not just luck, it was hard work. Our relationship works because I love myself enough to know that I could walk away at any time. I stay because I don't have to. And that's a good feeling.
Wherever you are this Valentines Day, whether you are single, in a co-dependent, unhealthy relationship, or even if you are happily involved with the love of your life, I invite you to listen to this cheesy old eighties song and remember, learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all...
Since becoming a mom to a little boy with Trisomy 21 I have written a lot about Down syndrome and disabilities. I am a storyteller, wife and mom to a teen and a toddler. Life is busy!