February is the second month of the year, being that it would be written numerically as the number 2; it is not surprising that it seems to be the month about being part of a two. It is the month of Valentines Day, snow days by the fire, and wine in the moonlight. Hallmark calls it the month of love.
Growing up, I remember Valentines Day as a time to give chocolate and make handmade cards out of pink and red construction paper. I can still smell the sweet glue and see the silver of glitter, as I would lap it up with my finger preparing to over-frost a card. As a teenager, it became more significant but less inclusive. I didn’t give everyone cards anymore and of course I was too old for construction paper. Cards, chocolates, and flowers became a sign of romantic interest.
In anatomy class, they chose Valentines Day to introduce the heart. The heart has 4 chambers. These rooms of the heart interact, pumping oxygen-deprived blood in and oxygen enriched blood out. The biochemical coordinates of love are more accurately happening with the hormones in the brain, the release of oxytocin and serotonin. Yet the transformative nature of love is most exemplified by the heart.
The first time I chose to love I didn’t believe it was a choice. I felt like my heart would burst out of my chest, I did not believe I was capable of experiencing anger or loneliness anymore. I believed I was in the enlightened state of union and was incapable of falling from my cloud.
My first heartbreak was equally memorable. My heart fell into my stomach and I thought I would shatter. It felt like I was leaking pebbles with each sob that came from me. No one ever taught me that once you fall to pieces you simply pick up your pieces and carry them around, like a jar of pebbles rattling behind your sunglasses. Sunglasses instead of shading me from the sun became a tool to hide behind, I nicknamed them my “grief gear.”
Love lessons have taught me to appreciate the ecstasy and shattering impact of relationships, love has carved out pieces of me I thought I needed, leaving a hollow space in the once crowded chamber of my hart. But once the debris has cleared I find there is more space to love than there was before.
My niece has taught me that love is a house and that you must open all rooms. When you try to hold someone in your house, they wiggle away. It is accepting and makes space for anger and loneliness to be house guests, warning them that they cannot stay too long. New age movements remind us to open our hearts. I tell me clients that heartbreak simply allows us to love more the next time around.
Love is about expansion and although this expansion is necessary for our survival, it is also about contraction. In order to breath in we must too breathe out. This dynamic of expansion and contraction is simply part of the process.
When I open the four chambers of my heart to love another. I remember that there will be moments when my being withdraws, when I tell myself “I can not love this.” When my niece pulls my favorite plant out by the roots or screams at me because she doesn’t like the meal I prepared. These moments are as inevitable as breath and as sacred. The expansion of love requires contraction. This contraction is simply an invitation to return to self; to direct the flow of love inward and gather the strength to love courageously.

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