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That evening she simply walked up to her husband and said “can you get a bouquet of roses for me on your way back from work tomorrow?”
Does marriage count as a romantic relationship? Her husband was a perfectionist. An intellectual. That was her reasoning for the fact that she has never ever and probably will never ever get a birthday gift or an anniversary gift.
The first year of marriage he simply said he had no clue what she would like and that he was too worried he would end up getting her something she would hate. As for Valentine’s Day – they are not teens, are they? They have managed to raise two lovely kids who are now teens themselves. They always agree on the important things and have never really had ugly fights or arguments through all these 15 years. They may not go out on candlelight dinners or profess their love for each other every day or indulge in PDA. But they have been pretty good at weathering the ups and downs of life – that must account for something, right? Doing all this reasoning was the angel sitting inside her brain.
But, try as she might, she was simply not able to silence the devil’s voice in her head this year. It seemed to her that the devil’s voice was getting louder and louder with every passing minute – “when was the last time he even wished you on Valentine’s Day? Wait does he even know the date? Hold on a minute, does he even know your birthday? Perfectionist indeed! All he has to do is simply ask you what you’d like. Nah, he’s just worried you’d ask for something expensive like diamonds – which, come to think of it you are capable of asking. But he hates investing in jewelry doesn’t he?” the devil rambled on.
“Are you okay? Headache again?” her husband asked her forcing her to snap back into reality. She felt a little guilty about the devil in her brain and for a second was scared he might have heard it. “See you in the evening” he said grabbing his car keys and leaving for work. “He was reading news and would not have heard you even if you had spoken out those words, you moron!” the devil snickered, mocking at her.
She then went after her teens – “don’t forget to pack lunch”, “your homework is on the coffee table”, “you are not wearing your ID card”, “Aren’t you supposed to wear white shoes today?”, “Message me once you reach school” , “Look out for each other”. She wasn’t sure if they heard the last line as they cycled off to their school. Usually, after everybody was gone she would make herself a nice cup of tea and read news. Then she would water her plants, dust the house, a bit of television with lunch, then a quick evening snack for her children and dinner prepping. Her house functioned like a well -oiled machine. She prided herself for being an efficient home maker. Bills paid on time, meals served on time, report cards signed, PTAs attended. Nobody could complain.
Valentine’s Day would come and go year after year. She would just brush it off as a Western thing and find people celebrating it silly and wannabe. But this year felt different. She wasn’t happy. She felt morose and lonely and wasn’t able to put her finger on what made her feel this way. This probably has been in the making for a few years now. Not surprising as her eldest turned 14 and her second 12 last year. They managed their own affairs and didn’t need her anymore for anything – not for helping with studies, not for organizing play dates or parties.
“Is that it?” she tried to make sense of the confusing feelings clouding her brain or “Is it menopause? Nope, too early for that” she reasoned to herself.
Valentine’s Day was yesterday. Usually she would not give much thought to the Valentine’s Day pictures on Facebook. She would stamp her “like” and get on with her chores. But this year she felt envious of happy and carefree looking friends posting pictures of Valentine’s day celebrations – candle light dinners at posh restaurants, flowers and cakes, one posted a picture of her husband giving her a foot massage. She hated herself for feeling envious of her own sister’s Valentine’s Day pictures – day trip minus kids to a resort nearby.
She felt like a jealous loser. She went on about her chores, wondering what she could do. Going on living like this feeling bitter and envious is definitely something she did not want for herself. “You are educated and intelligent. You should be able to do something” the angel finally spoke. “Oh just be assertive and ask him for something this year. How does it matter if Valentine’s Day was yesterday” the devil had the final say in the matter. “Diamond ring?” “Nope, bad idea”, “A simple salwar?”, “Too boring”, “Eat out at a good restaurant”, “Will feel weird without the kids” – the angel and devil took turns to torment her. She finally decided to go with flowers.
That evening she simply walked up to her husband and said “can you get a bouquet of roses for me on your way back from work tomorrow?” He looked at her quizzically for a second. Then he simply said, “Sure”. Sure enough, the next day he walked in holding a huge bouquet of roses – they looked lovely. She felt light and happy. Her children looked at each other and giggled. She arranged the roses in a glass vase she had purchased earlier in the day just for this purpose. “It was this simple” she thought to herself. Happiness can be purchased after all.
“Wow, they look so pretty. How much was this”? She casually asked him. “5k ish” he said in reflex. He immediately seemed to realize he should not have revealed the price, for he quickly added “Not important. They look lovely”. She took pictures of the bouquet meaning to post them on FB. But somehow never got around to doing it the next day or the day after.
The roses went limp in 2 days and had to be thrown. So much for “5kish”, she thought to herself. Despite getting what she wanted, her mind was somehow still not at peace.
She was annoyed at the world for complicating people’s lives by making a big deal of Valentine’s Day. What is love? What is marriage? Who can define romance? What do people mean when they say they are in a romantic relationship? She kept in mind her husband’s likes and dislikes while planning meals. Doesn’t that count for romance? Her husband who is an early riser, would always be extra cautious while opening the door to their bedroom each morning. It would awaken her anyway – still she could sense that he was trying his best to be as noiseless as possible. Wasn’t that love? Wasn’t this everyday respect for each other more important than roses or expensive holidays?
With age was she just getting greedy for attention? They have always respected each other and with that taken care of – what remains is the “fluff” like roses. Nothing wrong with wanting “fluff”, she decided.
As she went about watering her plants, she remembered something that a gardener once told her about plants. Plants just need space. They will spread their roots and find the water and nutrition they need in the soil. They shine with little or no help from human beings. Do not over water or over fertilize for your over caring will destroy them he had said.
It then dawned her. What was she doing trying to put the pressure of keeping her “happy” on her husband? How was he to know, what would make her happy, if she herself didn’t? The roses wasn’t what she seems to have wanted. But wasn’t that what she asked for?
Why should she put the keys to her happiness in anyone’s hands? Shouldn’t she be responsible for her own happiness? Exercising, gardening, catching up with friends, volunteering or even working part time – there are a million ways to feel content and happy from within. As for “fluff” like roses and cakes, she now knows all she has to do is ask, and there is a good chance she will get it. Even if she doesn’t, she would not let it upset her. She wasn’t going let that dictate her mood. She was smarter than that.
She listed down the recent times when she felt “happy” from within.
The time when she finished her first 5km run. When she heard “hard to find such nicely behaved kids these days. You’ve brought her up well” from her daughter’s teacher. When she heard a heartfelt “thanks” from her in-laws at the end of an extremely stressful week when she had to pack and send them lunch and dinner as her mother in law was unwell.
All of them instances when she felt she had made a difference. When she felt accomplished. Of course, lengthy phone conversations with friends, the lovely and peaceful afternoon snooze last week – one of those really rare days when there was no disturbance in the form of calls or doorbells, the everyday blissful masala chai while admiring her garden, even the bouquet that her husband gave her – all these were happy moments too that she simply could not discount as “fluff” or “unimportant”.
She thought about her grown up years before her marriage. When she was single and working. She had never really had a romantic partner with whom to exchange Valentine’s Day gift. Some of her colleagues would decorate their workspace with teddy bears or little figurines the day after. Stuff they received from their partners she figured. She took pride in the certificates of achievement that adorned her own desk. Somewhere probably even then, a small part of her did wonder what it would be like to receive gifts on the day of love – a red rose popping from behind one of her certificates. Well, now she knew the feeling. “It felt alright” she thought.
Thinking about it, like her plants, she too glowed from within when she was in control of her own happiness. This should be no different for Valentine’s Day. Setting boundaries and learning to say “no” to kids when they want to tag along to that fancy restaurant, taking up that freelance job which her friend spoke about last month – after all her kids don’t need her constant attention anymore, entering that contest which her husband says she is sure to win as it is right up her alley – buying something from the money she wins therein – now that would be a true Valentine’s day gift – self-love is just as important or probably more important than love from a partner. Pushing herself out of her comfort zone and taking up challenges – so many things she could do. For, when you love yourself, nothing, not even your inner demon can spoil your happiness.
One could be married or unmarried, with or without a romantic partner, the best gift that anyone can receive on the day of love is respect and control over decisions involving his/her life. She already had that, didn’t she? She already had the key to her happiness. Just that she had not realized it. Just like how it is possible to feel lost and lonely in a room filled with friends and relatives, it is possible to feel happy and at ease while having lunch all by oneself in a restaurant. Self-love being the only difference.
She could plan out a typical Valentine’s Day and force her husband to play along. Click pictures of her special dinner. Buy herself flowers and clothes and post selfies on Instagram. Or she could just let her husband be and have a lovely “Sole”ntine’s Day – a full day to herself, doing things she would enjoy, simply saying “no” to things she doesn’t. Something told her that Feb 14 next year and the years after, would be “Solentine’s Day” for sure! She felt light after a long time and seemed to have silenced her inner devil. She could already feel herself glowing from within.
Editor’s Note: It’s the season of love, and especially romantic love. But what if you are not in a romantic relationship right now? We asked our readers to send in their #HappySolentine stories.
Image source: a still from Yeh Meri Family
I am a Japanese language trainer with over 10 years of experience in teaching and mentoring students. I have lived in Japan for many years and enjoy sharing insights from my experience in the areas read more...
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Most of my women clients are caregivers—as mothers, wives and daughters. And so, they tend to feel guilty about their ambitions. Belief in themselves is hard to come by.
* All names mentioned in the article have been changed to respect client confidentiality.
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