Posted by: Banta | February 12, 2016

Plan B for Valentine’s Day

Wholehearted living

Every Valentine’s Day when my daughter was little, I cut out hundreds of red and pink and white hearts in all different sizes, stuffed them into an envelope and wrote on the outside flap, “Open with care and shake out the contents over your head.” We called it Valentine rain. The tradition caught on and lasted for years.

At five, she giggled and squealed with delight. By fourteen, she thought it lame. As a college student in western Massachusetts, where February is the bleakest month, she welcomed the Valentine rain as a reminder of home and her parents’ love.

Valentine rain

Like it or not, February 14th rains down hearts on all of us, regardless of our relationship status. The single, the lonely, the broken-hearted, the grieving—all stand in the path of the Hallmark storm. The pervasive emphasis on romance—candlelight and flowers and dinners for two—excludes those who by choice or circumstance are not part of a couple.

Whether you are partnered or single, I offer this Plan B. For every paper heart you see, remember to open your own. Take a moment to touch in with the soft spots there, honor your vulnerability and remember your innate worthiness.

In her popular book Daring Greatly, change agent Brene՛ Brown describes what it looks like to live a whole-hearted life:

“Whole-hearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.’”

Loving myself and others with my whole heart requires the courage to be vulnerable. When I allow you to see me as I really am, warts and all, I drop the protective shell around me that has prevented us from connecting with one another in a genuine way.

On the other hand, as long as I hide my real self, I remain stuck in a place of shame and fear. The stuck place tells me that I am unworthy, not enough. Fill in the blanks for yourself: Not smart enough, thin enough, lovable enough, successful enough. The not enough feeling cloaks me in shame, and fills me with fear that you will see my unworthiness—that all my imperfections and flaws will be exposed.

To ward off the shame-fear-unworthiness narrative, we often deflect blame onto others. We get all puffed up with righteous indignation, so certain we are of being right. If I am uncomfortable, surely someone else is to blame.

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron puts it this way: “Blaming is a way to protect our hearts, to try to protect what is soft and open and tender in ourselves. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.” (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

Chodron says that having compassion for others begins with compassion toward oneself. We must touch the soft places in our hearts—all the unwanted parts of ourselves, the myriad imperfections we would rather hide. With an open heart, we must sit in that discomfort and not run away.

Whole-hearted living begins here. Touch the soft places in your heart and your protective armor starts to fall away. You open to deeper connections with others. And it is those connections that give meaning and purpose to our lives, that teach us gratitude and joy and resilience.

Plan B. Open your heart. Let go of the need to be right or certain. Have the courage to be uncomfortable as long as it takes. Allow for vulnerability. You are worthy of love and belonging.

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