The Secret to Happy Life is….
…low expectations. Maybe that doesn’t sound very romantic for Valentine’s Day, though there is wisdom in this sarcastic analogy. But before I can talk about what that wisdom is, I want to talk about this word “love.”
Love is a confusing word. We use it to describe a variety of seemingly unrelated things, like; I love my dogs, I love vegetables, and I also love my husband. Clearly, there is an emotional difference between my love of vegetables and the love I have for my husband — one would hope so anyway. So what do we mean when we say the word love?
Love is a unique emotion, in that it is hard to describe how it feels. I could describe to you what I feel when I am angry, or when I am scared. There is a very palpable engagement with those emotions. But love, if I am going to describe love, it ends up being a story. Love is a description of “How did you meet?” It is not easy to describe it as a sensation, and this among many other things is what differentiates it from passion.
Thus, before I can explain my opening sentence — that low expectation is not such a bad thing when it comes to love and Valentine’s Day — let’s talk about the story of love.
We all structure and understand our lives as part of a larger cultural myth.
One of the quintessential love myths of our time is Romeo and Juliet. The exercise I give to my students during my mindfulness classes is to finish the story of Romeo and Juliet with a different ending. What if these two 14-year-old lovebirds would have had the chance to run away and start a new life in a new city? Just think of it: Romeo and Juliet attempt to get a job to pay for a one-bedroom apartment. Juliet gets pregnant… Are you smiling yet? Shakespeare’s play is about how two people passionately met. The story of love would have started months later after developing this relationship.
And this is it. This is our culprit, our sticky wicket, when we ache for a beautiful Valentine’s Day, when we reflect what our relationship should, would and could be, our mind is often confused by the many myths of Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet out there in society. Not to talk about the everlasting happy couple on our Facebook feeds. Even if you know that these don’t reflect real-life stories, somewhere unconsciously we ache for the intensity of passion.
But, life is full of adversity. Our day to day is filled with crying babies, lost jobs, health issues and we are asking the question: How do we celebrate this real love in a romantic setting on Valentine’s Day? How do we bring back the passion that we crave so much in our very different love story?
Here is where mindfulness can help in recognizing that our story should not be compared and set against our cultural myths. Cultural love stories are as different from real life relationships as my love for my husband and my love of vegetables. Once we recognize that we are forcing an apple to taste like an orange, we can let go of the myth. Once we let go of the high expectation of passionate love, and “settle” for “low” expectations, or more correctly put “right” expectations; you will find joy in the journey.
Real-life love stories are a celebration of life’s ups and downs. Passion may spring from a moment, but love is built while overcoming obstacles. Love deepens while holding space through difficult and sad moments. So this Valentine’s Day celebrate your journey of love through ups and downs, find the romantic in the imperfect.
If you are having trouble celebrating the downs, then check in with my column next month when I will talk about how our sorrows are precisely proportional to our joys, and therefore they are both necessary and meaningful parts of our lives.
Dora teaches yoga and mindfulness classes. She owns Spira Power Yoga in Issaquah and West Seattle. Her company M3Bmethod also lectures on resiliency and stress management to health professionals.