All You Need is Love

February 14, 2024
February 14, 2024 Betsy Voreacos

All You Need is Love

Despite a life bursting with love, I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day.

I love chocolate, I love flowers, I love being loved. But because my birthday falls five days prior to this heart-filled holiday, come February 14th my bouquet is still blooming and the feels are still feeling and I don’t really need anything more. Though I would always accept more chocolate, as long as it’s not defiled with nuts or fruit or unidentifiable fillings.

I have a spouse who, no matter what I do, will always love me and will never leave me. He may not understand the way I load the dishwasher, but has learned to simply rearrange the plates and bowls rather than battling it out. I don’t take too much offense; after all, he’s the one who does the unloading.

I have three children who adore me now that they now longer live with me. I have the friends of those three children who still send me Happy Mother’s Day texts filled with love and thanks for all that baked ziti (not to mention those bottles of Hennessy). I have friendships I’ve maintained since I was four years old, high school pals, college cronies, Hearts friends, Mahjong friends, TV Guide and CNBC friends, Teaneck friends, bleacher buddies, mermaid friends, church, cruise and book club allies and even Facebook friends of friends I’ve never met. I have unconditional love from a dog whom I try to hate, but as his hips get sorer and his anxiety heightens, I realize he’s not so unlike myself and my heart softens.

I have a kind and loving 98 year-old mother, a perfect niece and nephew, a crew of cousins (once, twice or never removed) and three sisters with whom I’m very close. Sure, we’ve had our moments, like when I physically accosted one of the older sisters in an adolescent fit of rage or tortured the younger about the dancing dress that lived in her childhood closet. But I’ve always known they’ve loved me in spite of myself. There was never a time in our lives when anyone in our family didn’t speak, nor did we ever cringe at the thought of being together. Well, at least I didn’t. Who knows what was going on in their heads.

Of all my many shortcomings, I certainly do not lack for love.

So why can’t I embrace this lovingest of holidays?

My deep-seated disdain stems from way back when – the years between the all-inclusive Snoopy valentines of elementary school until the day when I finally had a valentine to call my own. Those were long and lonely years despite the ever-present love in my life. My first and only true valentine was delivered when I was 28 years old and I’ve held him close ever since.

The bar for love was set pretty high in my house. My father proposed to my mother on the night they met. She scoffed him off, yet they were married three months later. They produced four daughters in rapid succession and loved each other madly until the day my father died. An occasional slam of a kitchen cabinet was the extent of the parental discord we witnessed while growing up. Through the years as we each asked that age-old question,“How did you know he was the one?” my mother’s eyes would fill with tears and she’d say, “Oh, honey, when you know, you know.”

 I never got anywhere near knowing. Until of course, I knew.

But until I knew, there were a lot of long, hard years to navigate.

I belted out Janis Ian lyrics in those Valentine’s Days of lore, knowing for sure I’d never know love. But I had hope. I wrote entries in my journal stating why I would be a perfect girlfriend, I chose names for my unborn children and picked the song to which I would dance at my future wedding. Every one of my friends, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. (which was far from the truth) had a significant other. Meanwhile I was just praying that the guy on the bar stool next to me would at least ask my name.

 “I learned the truth at seventeen

That love was meant for beauty queens

And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles

Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew

The Friday night charades of youth

Were spent on one more beautiful…”

But miraculously, every year Valentine’s Day turned to St. Patrick’s Day and being unlucky in love is somehow a whole lot easier when you’re dressed in green.

All I ever wanted out of life was a happy marriage filled with children, to become a famous author and to have as much fun as humanly possible. I didn’t think it was asking for much, but age and wisdom has taught me otherwise. Having fulfilled two of those three dreams actually makes for a pretty perfect life.

Today as I woke to scores of loving wishes from family and friends, I recoiled. But then I reconsidered. I have been so very lucky in my life that I decided to come at Valentine’s Day from a place of love and to bestow loving wishes of my own.

To all my friends who are alone, whether by choice or circumstance, my wish is that you always love your life, no matter who is or isn’t by your side. That you don’t pile all your hopes and dreams into finding that perfect partner, because a partner ain’t nothing if you don’t have yourself.

To all those who are in a relationship with someone you shouldn’t be with, I hope that you find the strength to leave, and to take time to recreate your happiness. You may not believe it, but being alone is better than being with someone who makes you lonely.

Most importantly to my children, each of whom are in different chapters in the book of love, I hope that we as parents have done enough. That we have taught you how important it is to wait for the right one. That you have learned that the wrong one will never be right no matter how hard you wish it to be so. Don’t waste a single moment on someone who doesn’t recognize your value.

And if your life doesn’t give you the he she or they of your dreams, know that you will never be alone. You will always be loved. By your family, your siblings, your abundance of friends. And if you also love yourself, that will always be enough.

Life is long. Life is fun. Life is love.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the loves of my life!

Especially to those who, like me, love to hate this highest of holy love days.