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Love & Sonder

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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:

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.

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