Love & Sonder


Yup. It’s that time again; tomorrow is Valentine’s Day!

I know, I know.

But don’t stress.

Ignore the mooning couples goofily grinning at each other across restaurant tables. Ignore the harried looking men rushing by with bouquets of flowers the size of refridgerators. Ignore the overabundance of retina-scorching red and pink that follows you from store to store. I know it’s difficult. I can’t untangle the precise reason why, but the annoyance just seems to come naturally; it’s one of life’s dependable irritants… but this year maybe just block out all that extra nonsense.

We both know that’s not what Valentine’s Day is about.

Yes, you can gripe that it’s a Hallmark holiday that’s been commercialised, and it puts couples on a pedestal, and part of you is disappointed that (get ready for a Choose Your Own Adventure…) 1. a Jamie Dornan doppelganger isn’t about to show up at your house with a box of Norman Love Chocolates and a pair of handcuffs – that he would only ever use on you with your full-throated consent – OR that 2. Margot Robbie’s adventurous and previously undiscovered twin won’t be sitting on the edge of your bed in lacy underwear and a smile when you get home from work. Those good old Valentine’s stereotypes are alive and well, after all.

If we take a step back though, it’s a lot less sleazy than it looks. I mean, not to get soft on you*, but first and foremost Valentine’s Day is a day about love. It’s a day for taking the time out to appreciate the people around you. Your friends and family, yes, but try to take it a step further. Take some time out to think about the strangers you interact with on a daily basis; the people who flicker through your life. That sour-faced receptionist in your office building, maybe. Or the barista who hands you your coffee every morning. The lady at the check-out till at your local shop. Or your neighbour from a few doors down who often nods hello despite the fact that you have never spoken.

Here’s an exercise that always makes me feel some kind of way.

Think about all the people that you come into contact with during the day, and try to think of three compliments you could give each one. It’s fair to say that with some people you might struggle to come up with three, but even one is a good start. They don’t need to be deep, meaningful compliments – after all, you barely know most of these people – they can be as inane as, ‘He always wears a matching pocket square and I appreciate that attention to detail‘ or, ‘She seems really hard-working‘ or, ‘He smiles when he hands people back their change and I think that’s lovely.’

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has the following definition for the word sonder:


n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness. An epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

I think Valentine’s Day is a good day for sondering.

I also think Valentine’s Day is just a good, solid, red-and-pink-booted, kick-to-the-face reminder to appreciate the people around you. I don’t think it’s just for coupled-up lovebirds. People are always saying you shouldn’t need a day to show the people you love how much you love them. I do think that’s true, but do you know what’s also true?

People are eejits sometimes.

We make mistakes. We take people for granted. We’re busy and stressed out and we have a lot of stuff on our plates. We have more to do than we have time to do it in, and things can slip through the cracks. We’re all fallible. So if there’s one day a year that gives us a gentle nudge to remember the people we love, sure, what harm?

Happy Valentine’s Day, you lovely person. I appreciate you.

*I got soft on you. Sorry. One time thing, I promise.

  1. don’t mind me if I just stay in bed…

    1. That also sounds like a legit way to spend it! I love my bed!

  2. I suppose that I’m simply jaded. To me, it’s like New Years Eve in the sense that we’re compelled to celebrate into oblivion. But, I realize that no everyone feels the same, so I participate in the day’s events.

    1. New Years’ Eve in a rented house in the middle of nowhere with your closest friends, some wine, and a roaring fire is one of life’s pleasures! Fight the jaded-ness!

      1. That sounds like a splendid idea!

  3. V day commercials are extremely sleazy and couples annoy me to no end.

    1. Ahhh, I don’t have a television so it’s possible I’m missing the worst of it!

      1. Yeah you likely are. No worries!

  4. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend. It makes me happy to know that I’m not the only one trying to spread happiness and love on a day that is hated by many. 🙂

    1. We’re Valentine ninjas! Let’s go lovebombing!

      1. Is that like hurling chocolate at people when they’re least expecting it, and sneaking away whispering, “Happy Valentine’s Day”…? I think I could get behind that ritual. 🙂

        1. I like that idea!

  5. Sticking a Valentine in your decorated paper bag 😀

    1. 🙂

  6. I think you have a great idea there! We should redo Valentine’s Day as Sondering Day. I’ve never liked the idea of having a holiday to celebrate a segment of the populace (which then makes everyone else just generally feel like crap). Yesterday, I read a post on Reddit about how flowers were used to mask the smell of a decaying corpse at a funeral (pretty much common knowledge), but one insightful comment added “and the smell of a decaying relationship.” Despite my dead relationship with my wife, I’ll still be getting her flowers, as I do every other month or so. For me, Valentine’s Day is a reminder of that dead, decaying relationship, but it is the sondering that has me getting her flowers; realizing that she is a deep, complex person with feelings and desires all her own, and the flowers make her happy. So, I’m all for your idea! It would make the day more meaningful for everyone, those that are single and those old married fogeys who’ve lost the spark, instead of those that have just recently fallen head over heels.

    1. I think I saw the same reddit post. I spend too much time on that site!

  7. Happy Valentine’s Day! I really appreciate this post and your interpretation of V-Day as a day where we just appreciate the others around us. This was a surprising, positive post, that’s a break from all the mooning and such (myself included – I wrote a post about wishing I had a Valentine this year.) But your post makes me feel peaceful. Thank you!

    1. I’m glad you liked it! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  8. These are wonderful suggestions Quinn for a very commercialized day of one month. Why not have about 280 days of spontaneous and thoughtful Valentine surprises, expensive and/or not!? I mean, when would the world EVER have too much love going everywhere? Hahaha! 😀

    1. Oh you can implement this at any time! 280? Why not 365?? Hahaha

      1. Agreed. I guess I was just attempting to keep it “realistic” for my Neanderthal gender ya know. 😉

  9. I love this, I’m not a fan of Valentines Day but sondering I love the idea of!!!

  10. Loved reading this (and recently discovering your blog!). After having somewhat of a breakthrough in personal growth last night, I have uncannily been thinking about a similar post to this one – but also on loving yourself!
    So here’s to love – love for us, love for others, going about our days through the lense of love and acceptance. Thanks for sharing x

    1. Yes! I forgot all about loving yourself but that’s always important! Thanks for the timely reminder!

  11. Tomorrow is also the birthday of George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., better known as the inventor of the Ferris Wheel. I think that’s worth high celebration.

    1. Definitely! 🙂

  12. Seems a shame to just be aware of “sonder” on just the one day.

    1. You can certainly sonder sporadically throughout the year!

  13. A reflective post and one that really hits home! As a girl from a small town, I’m always the one that smiles, nods and gives a cheery hello to neighbours, cashiers, barristers. It makes me sad when others don’t return my nice gesture! Come on people, open up and flash a cheeky grin next time you see me in the hallway!
    A x

    1. Exactly. Smiles are free, people! They don’t cost a thing!

  14. Left a home grown rose on a school friend’s doorstep this morning, with anonymous note. She will know immediately that it was me. She always supports me when I’m in need and as you said, it is a good day for everyone to appreciate those that they love. Great post! ❤

    1. That’s a lovely thing to do! I hope it makes her day!

      1. She was thrilled!

  15. I’m new here and it’s probably weird for me to get enthusiastic on my first comment, but based on what I just read, I’m going to love it here.

    The definition of Sonder is absolutely perfect! I’m going to find a way to incorporate it into my day. I’m gonna be sooo cool 😉

    1. Enthusiasm is always strongly encouraged!! You will be so cool. Like a cucumber.

  16. I learned something new today- sonder. Thanks for reminding me that everyone everyone has their own battle and we live to lift each other up. Followed your blog. I smiled when I read you’re from Ireland because I’m a huge fan of Westlife 💙❤

    1. Just walked into Boots and they were playing Westlife! I mentally dedicated it to you!

      1. You’re so sweet,Quinn 🙂

  17. I’m in a perpetual state of sonder. Didn’t know there was a word for it, do wish there were a holiday celebrating the feeling. Cheers!

  18. Never knew there was a word for it – sonder – I get this feeling a lot!

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