Valentine’s Day celebrates romantic love but has also come to signal all kinds of love. In addition to the flowers, chocolate and candlelit dinner for couples “in love” it is an occasion for good friends and family members to send cards expressing their love. And little kids love making cards for their classmates and eating the tiny “Be Mine” heart candies. All of these gestures express a willingness to “unlock” our hearts.
Again, according to ancient Earth tradition, St. Valentine was a harbinger of spring since it was he who brought the keys to unlock the roots of the plants and flowers so they could grow. Consequently he was the patron of beekeepers and all things spring! Here in this northern climate that’s a big stretch! But we can extrapolate that to a hope for fuller life, to a choice to unlock our hearts and open even wider to care for others as well as ourselves. In our Third Age time of life we may discover that we’ve not done that as well as we’d like. Considering that self-care is a matter of finding and affirming yourself in a number of ways, ask yourself:
Why and how do you care for yourself?
- How have you cared for yourself in the past?
- In what ways do you care for yourself now?
- To what extent do you prevent or neglect your own self-care by caring for others?
- How might addressing your own unresolved issues and unmet needs be a part of your self-care?
- How might your self-care lead to your giving to others and/or to make that easier?
Why and how do you care for others?
- What is important to you about giving of yourself? Why do it?
- How can you balance your care for yourself with your care for others and for the larger community?
- How do you express that care in ways that are satisfying for you?
The “second growth” and satisfaction available to us in Third Age stems in large part from how we manifest an increase in our caring – with greater compassion, altruism, and generosity. The challenge to achieving midlife renewal is twofold.
- First, we must rethink and clarify what we care about and what truly matters to us – including ourselves. This is a deeply rooted form of self-care.
- Second, we must develop the capacity to care in many different ways – for BOTH ourselves AND for other people, creatures, and the planet as a whole.
Building a more caring life, then, is about cultivating our “response-ability”, our ability to respond with a warm heart to the needs and desires of others as well as to our own. Caring on a deep level compels us to contribute with a spirit of compassion for the common good and to take action for the well-being of all.
Perhaps this is the truest meaning of Valentine’s Day! Have a great one!