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It’s just about Valentine’s Day, and like most special occasions, we’ve kind of gone overboard on the commercialism.  I won’t get on that soapbox.  That’s not where I want to go, nor will it change a thing.

No, what I want to talk about, remember, celebrate is love itself.  So many different kinds of love I have experienced in my lifetime, and I’m not done yet.  From others I look up to, I know there are still depths I haven’t experienced.  My heart is open.  Too guarded at times, too timid at times, too frightened.  But open at least a crack, and that’s all it takes for the light to get in.

Depending on which source you choose, there are 4, 7, 8, 12 kinds of love.  I like 7.  It’s a good number, a lucky number, and I’m one of 7 siblings.  I’ll go with 7.

Valentine’s Day has morphed into (1) EROS love for the most part.  At least that’s how they sell it because, after all, sex sells.  That’s the roses, chocolate, jewelry, romantic getaways love.  But the card makers know there are other kinds of love.  There are approximately 1 billion with a B Valentine cards sent every year.  Women buy about 85% of them.  That’s just an interesting fact.  I put no meaning on it.  You can if you want to.

I did my part.  I bought and sent five, none of them to my EROS man.  They’re on their way to my (2) STORGE loves – my grandchildren, my mother-in-law, a dear “sister” because I just happened to see one with an elephant theme and it reminded me of her because she’s crazy about elephants, and my sister-in-law who just lost her husband of 35 years.  I hesitated to send that one because I think the day might be painful, and should I remind her?  What?  My card is going to remind her that she’s lost him?  As if she’s forgotten?  No.  She’s going to be reminded all day in every way, and maybe, just maybe, a reminder that someone is thinking of her on this day and celebrating the 35 years they had together might be nice.

There’s EROS, the romantic love, and there’s STORGE, the familial love.

And then there’s (3) PHILIA, friendship.  Where would I be without my dearest friends?  Nowhere, that’s where.  Wherever I’ve been, whatever life stage I’ve been in, I have been lucky to find someone or ones to share my fears, my desires, my hopes, my beliefs, and my flaws with.  As I’ve grown, moved to different locations, lost touch with some, gained others, I am grateful for all of them.  There is nothing greater than to be accepted fully.  Loved unconditionally.  Challenged gently.  I am who I am because, at one time or another, you loved me.

I’m a big fan of (4) LUDAS love, that playful, uncommitted, no strings attached but I think you’re kind of cute love.  That flirty complement that tells me I am fun to be around, appreciated, or even, dare I say it, desirable.  No follow through.  None needed or wanted.  Just an admiring glance, a shared joke, a playful moment that warms me through and through because you’ve kissed my heart and I’ve kissed yours.

(5) PRAGMA is an enduring love.  It’s the love based on time and commitment, the love between two people who practice tolerance, patience and compromise because they’ve learned that’s what it takes to make relationships work.  I wouldn’t call it pragmatic, although I guess they come from the same root word.  PRAGMA is more than just making a relationship work because it would be too costly or messy or too much trouble to split.  That’s pragmatic.  We’ve all known a relationship like that.  PRAGMA is more than that.  While it includes tolerance, patience and compromise, it also includes respect, affection, and a big mountain of appreciation gained over time.

(6) PHILAUTIA is self-love in its healthiest form.  Maybe I should have started with it because before we can care for others, we must know how to care for ourselves.  More than that.  We must know how and DO it.  But what about all those self-sacrificing people who put everyone else first?  And isn’t self-love another way to say selfish?  What are the differences among selfish, self-centered, self-care, and even self-actualization?  Books have been written, my friends.  Many books.

Here’s what I believe.  We all come into this world with potential and with gifts to share.  It might be writing or painting or organizing or diplomacy or scientific discovery or making people laugh or baking the best cheesecake in town.  It could be caring for other people.  My biggest gift is to take whatever I’m passionate about, practice, learn, give my heart and soul to it and then give it freely, profusely, abundantly and unselfishly to the world.  I can only do that if I take care of myself, love myself, and respect myself and my boundaries and limits.  If I can do that, I can share the best part of me with you.  Namaste.

And finally, we come to (7) AGAPE, the type of love many, starting with the Greeks, believe to be the highest form of love.  AGAPE is selfless love, the deepest concern for all of humanity, not just my lover, my family, my nation, my socio-economic group.  ALL of humanity.  It’s charity.  It’s altruism.  It’s empathy, compassion.  It’s believing in the goodness of people underneath all the fears and yuckiness. It’s knowing that I am no more worthy than the homeless man under the bridge. I am an accident of my birth, which makes it all the more important to develop and give away whatever gifts I may have.

The original picture for the love mandala was a small, red cactus.  I chose it deliberately because of its tiny spines, its little needles that can cause pain.  Love is like that.  We cannot care deeply and not, at times, hurt deeply.  Khalil Gibran said it better than any words I can write:  “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

I’d like to leave you with a few parting thoughts.

In the middle ages, young, single men would draw the name of eligible young women from a bowl.  They wore that name on their sleeve for a week (or a year depending on which source you believe.)  That’s where we get the expression “wearing his heart on his sleeve.”

There are enough candy hearts made each year to stretch from Valentine, Arizona though Loveland, Colorado, and all the way to Rome, Italy and back.  I hope you enjoy one of them.

It was in 1537 that King Henry the Eighth chose February 14th as Valentine’s Day and declared it a holiday.  You remember King Henry, don’t you?  He’s the one who loved several of his wives to death.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Loveland, Colorado, where thousands of people send their valentines each year so they will be postmarked from LOVELAND, the SWEETHEART CITY!