March to the beat of your chunky inner Cupid

The preach

Choose love, even at 5:22am

The practice

It’s Valentine’s Day today. A day earmarked for love and romance and kindness and chocolate and roses and wishful thinking. A week or so ago, I was featured in a Hartford Magazine piece called “Valentine’s Day Survival Guide” and my words about self-care and self-love now are eternalized in print for all to see. Great, and not great. It was a proud moment, don’t get me wrong. A little validation never hurt nobody. And, it was solid advice—I stand by it. You absolutely do need to take care of yourself first and love yourself before being in a truly healthy relationship, but… I don’t live it always. Especially not today.

My tiny human alarm goes off at 5:22am and I’m cursing the day already. I’ve been asleep for maybe 3 hours at most. Bronchitis and the flu don’t go together quite as lovely as champagne and strawberries do, and while I love my sweet little cherub more than anything, I can barely move without coughing up an organ. I bear crawl into his room—half upright, half hunched suppressing another coughing fit. I beg him to sleep, but he declares “wake up” time. I surrender.

I’ve been sick for days and my husband is a firefighter. Shift work. It’s grueling for the one working it and it’s grueling for the families on the flip side. My husband worked the weekend and it’s his last night on. Most likely he’ll come home in rough shape and be a puddle right next to me, both of us arguing our cases to be the last one sitting on the couch before contending with whatever the toddler needs this morning. He finishes work just when my day shift starts, but if I’m going to be honest, I feel like I work all the shifts. My shift seems never ending.

When daddy is home, Hudson wants me. When daddy’s not home, Hudson wants me. When we have a mommy’s helper, he wants me. When we don’t have a mommy’s helper, he wants me. When he’s sick, he wants me. When he’s not sick, he wants me. When I’m sick, he wants me. When I’m not sick he wants me. And I love him and I don’t ever want him to not want me, so this is super great. Until it’s not. Until I’m toast and I’ve got nothing left to give anyone, including me.

My husband and I both work full-time and we are 41 years old trying to manage an energetic little boy who doesn’t understand the words “later” or “tired.” He lives in the now and while that’s so hard at times, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So we fight our fights and ultimately buck up for him. But it’s damaging.

Shift work and an “ambitious” baby could be enough to strain and snuff out almost any marriage. But, in our case, there are already 10 other things that beat that to the chase. I try to remember that when the guilt creeps up on me like a summer weed through the walkway stones…but more often that not, it’s not nearly enough consolation as our family remains headed down a path that gets ever more steep and precarious.

Yet, I’m driven by love. I’m guided by love. I’m having faith that love ultimately will be our resurrection and our light even though it may be overshadowed by anger and resentment and disappointment and sadness right now. That’s our truth even though there are so many days where I want to pretend—even believe—it’s not.

So yes, there is good reason to be sad, but I can’t—I won’t—let that overtake me or us. It’s a battle though. Still, I’m not going down that easy. I will fight and dig and hustle and grind to not let the negative bury us. We have so much going for us, too, if we can only remember that there is love to be lived and cherished and valued today and every day. That is my goal. That will be my march.

So for the sake of St. Valentine and all that chunky little Cupid represents, let’s put our yucky, icky, messy stuff to the side and focus on even the smallest things that we want to honor and create more of. Dig in, feel deeply and choose love. Even at 5:22am.

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