How To Always Be Happy On Valentine’s Day
Picture this, I’ve appropriated a good 2 stone, discovered how to conceal pregnancy acne with dashings of Giorgio Armani foundation and I’m dreamily waiting in my swivel pew at ELLE HQ. It’s 14th February 2012, 10.00am, no card yet. 11.00am, still no card. 17.00pm, what card.
My Basque boyfriend, undoubtedly some of the most unromantic men in the world, is currently residing in Spain, me in London and he hasn’t thought to send me a Valentine’s Day card, and I’m carrying his baby. Ouch. Tears into porridge, panic attacks over imagined affairs and break-up scenarios start playing-out in my mind. How was I going to bring up his child on my own? Because of course, he couldn’t love or be serious about me if he hadn’t even sent me a card, right? Turns out I was thankfully, very wrong.
We now live together in Spain, our daughter is three and we like arguing over bathroom furniture on weekends. It’s not full of lust, confusion or clinging and you won’t find us serenading on any balconies anytime soon (although Romeo & Juliet will always have a special place in my heart). Instead we’ll most likely be found in pyjamas covered in a spot of sick and toast crumbs, trying to ride many waves of crisis together, create lots of happy memories and build a stable, loving home for our daughter to flourish in. I think we are trying at what they call ‘Real Love’.
You see, from a scientific point of view our body only produces the 'being in-love’ style hormones for around two years, and after that honeymoon period a love that embraces all the difficulties and complexities of life must kick-in or it’s time to move on to the next romantic liaison. Some people go crazy in love, they become so consumed that they find themselves wanting to control their partner, experiencing rage, jealously, constant craving and truly believing that this madness is love, when all it really is is an attachment to the dramas and excitement of the mind. I have been there a thousand times, have you? It’s destructive, dangerous and not much fun.
'Real Love’ according to the Buddha is freedom, unconditional and bountiful. There are no boundaries to real love, it doesn’t stop because you grey, start to sag, loose your job, feel depressed, get sick with cancer, loose your hair or have momentary moments of insanity (my guilty pleasure). Once the flame of real love is ignited it can never fade. Isn’t that just an absolutely beautiful thought? Real love is for mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, children, pets, friends, wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, sick people, criminals, all people.
When you don’t call you mum for a month, and when you finally do it’s to ask for money but she embraces your call with love, when you hear that something wonderful has happened to your best friend even when you’re having the worse month of your life and you feel genuinely happy for them, that’s real love. When you give something to your sister and you don’t expect anything in return (not even a thank you), when you take your pet to the vets at 4am, when you haven’t seen your old friend for five years and it feels like only yesterday when you reunite, when you buy your granddad his favourite sweets, pick your nana up some snug slippers in Marks & Sparks or arrive on her doorstep at midnight, drunk and she still makes you that plate of chips. That’s real love.
My wonderful and wise teacher, Ajahn Brahm teaches that we should try and treat our loved ones like we would care for a little bird: leave the door of the birdcage open so the little bird can fly about, here, there and everywhere and be free and happy, but make sure the cage is so warm and cosy so that when the bird flies away he will always come home. If you give freedom, true love will never stray away.
Here are my top 3 Buddhist inspired tips for cultivating real love in your life:
1. Honesty. The moment you lie to anyone, no matter how white the lie is you’ve brought an element of negativity and distrust into your relationship. I know it’s easier to say that the bag cost £20 pounds and not £200 and that you can’t make your friend’s birthday because you’ve twisted your ankle when all really want to do is relax at home but when the person at the end of your little lie gets a whiff of your dishonesty it will chip away at your precious trust piece by piece. And if you’re still not convinced just think about this; honesty feeds honesty, lies grow lies, so if you want to stop the big lies slipping into your relationship stop the little ones.
Still not convinced? Try just one day of being totally honest and see how liberating it feels, I am sure you will want to repeat.
2. It’s not all about you, it’s not all about them, it’s about 'us’. If you find yourself in a relationship thinking, oh will she like this dress, should I book this table at her number one restaurant, what will she think if I wear this shirt, then please, just stop. Focusing all your energy on one person (especially if that person is yourself) is depleting and unhealthy. Instead think how the situation would benefit all of you. You’re a little team, the A team.
3. Be yourself. In a world where you can be anything, just be yourself. Don’t pretend to like art if you prefer EastEnders and comics, don’t say you like sushi if you prefer hamburgers and please don’t say you don’t care about football when you blatantly do (that’s one of my personal but loving digs there). Be absolutely confident and proud of exactly who you are today, tomorrow and in the future.
And of course, if a certain Basque boy out there with curly hair and no fingernails wants to buy me a card this year, you won’t 'find me complaining.
Happy Valentine’s Day xx
Find out how my fav model, Lily Aldridge is going to be spending VD
See what is said about Real Love in my number one romantic film here