A Valentine's Tale

COVID happened, and the problem got solved!

Pre-COVID, my husband and I used to get our feathers ruffled around the date-night concept. For me, date-night offered a tantalizing opportunity to connect, away from the brood, in a space with candle-lit ambiance, where someone else did the cooking and cleaning. For him, though, it was an unnecessary budgetary item and a lot of extra calories that didn’t even taste that good going down.

You can probably generate the list of whiny thoughts I had: He’s no fun. He’s cheap. He doesn’t want to connect. He wants to avoid connection. He…, he…, he... So much blame! Never an introspective moment there. An earnest dependent, with all my agency handed away.

Then COVID happened, and the problem got solved!

But it wasn’t really COVID that solved it. COVID just created a constraint that launched my creativity: I became a defiant toddler, eyebrows drawn toward the midline, standing akimbo, sticking out my tongue! No sir, COVID! I will not let you get in the way of the date-night I’ve been fighting for! After all, I reasoned, I’m an artist! I can bring beauty to my own damn living room and MAKE space, and MAKE food, and MAKE romance! Who says I can’t?

And so it was…

At first I just bought nice cheeses and baguettes, made a little hummus, lit all the candles. To be different, we sat at our coffee table and shooed everyone else away. We poured wine and toasted and talked. I got my opportunity to connect in a lovely homemade space, and he got his actually tasty calories without breaking the bank. To make up for my work in the kitchen, he offered to clean up. We enjoyed it so much, we said we’d do it again the following Friday.

And so it was…

Except for the harrowing month I spent in Mexico with my dad as he died, we haven’t missed a SINGLE date-night.

I started seeing the cooking as my time to be rapturously creative without interruption (who wants to work with mom in the kitchen, anyway?). It became my art-making. Sunday nights I’d start thinking of special, beautiful things I could create JUST for the two of us the following Friday. What would be a challenge? What would be so fun? What have we never tried before? I felt there were no limits! Items would be added to the Monday shopping list and, once procured, they’d be fiercely protected from the household vultures who might want to consume them during the week! My husband took over the task of tidying up the living room and lighting the candles and setting the table just-so. He developed his own ritual and vision for it. We started looking forward to Fridays after work, counting down the days. He started sharing more. I started feeling closer.

It’s a gorgeous story, isn’t it?

But it doesn’t end there. Here’s what happened last Friday:

While braising the pork shoulders and tenderly pinching the masa cakes into gorditas, (freed to enjoy this me-time reverie by my own Boss-Ass calendar), I indulged in a Self-Coaching Scholars podcast about 90-day love affairs. The content inspired me to imagine a 30-day love affair with my husband! Why not play a little?

Although the idea of it was exciting, I harbored some trepidation because I thought he might poo-poo it if I asked. Silliness, he might think. Not undaunted, but in the spirit of doing things despite fear, after we served each other and opened the beers, I asked him what we’d have to do to spend the next 30 days purposefully loving on each other so much that at the end of the month we’d both feel like we’d never been so in love in all our lives.

He was...stupefied, I think!

Encouraged by his receptive smile, I asked (seriously without knowing, even after 17 years of marriage), what I could do to be most attractive to him. I thought he’d say he especially loved it when I wore that brown sweater-dress or pulled my hair away from my face, but what he said instead was so very different that it genuinely surprised me. He said, after some thought:

You’re most attractive to me when you’re proud of your work and you're confident.

With that, we tumbled into our first week of pretending we were new. We stole time to kiss. He bought me a new orchid variety with saucer-sized white flowers. Unbidden, he brought me hot cups of tea in the middle of work days. I gave him a discrete foot massage during family movie night. We asked after each other more. Showed more concern. Were more thoughtful. More tender. At the end of the week, we left the kids in my mom’s charge and spent the night in a nearby hotel.

So there you have it: a Valentine’s tale, rooted in the value of taking responsibility for your outcomes, finding creative solutions, releasing judgment and blame, and cultivating self-confidence, courage, and --yes, love, sappy as it may be!

Maybe love, like every other seemingly elusive boon, is just that simple --it’s what you make it. Whether you’re open to a universe of solutions or closed to them, you get what you believe is possible.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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