As a kid, it was a day to reaffirm that we all liked each other and to give each other the drug store Valentines that proved it. It was also a mini Halloween, with all the candy, cookies, cupcakes, and sugar-loaded punch that came with the annual class party, and what child doesn't love that?
Getting older, Valentines became much more exclusive. The sweetest of friends still bought the box of Valentines, themed with whatever was "hip and happening" at the time, and gave those out. But other than that, it was all boyfriend-girlfriend giving. For a girl that didn't have a boyfriend until after she turned 17, you can imagine that for years I was less than thrilled with all the mylar balloons, over sized stuffed animals, flowers, gift bags, chocolates, and other red, pink, and white paraphernalia that clogged the hallways every February 14th. When I was a sophomore, my mom found a riddle in a book that described my feelings on Valentine's Day perfectly:
What's a word for Valentine's Day that rhymes with Cupid?
Maybe I was a little bitter and disappointed and feeling left out. Maybe I was irked that it all felt so nonsensical to go all out on your affection just because someone made that day a holiday. Maybe it was because love looked commercialized, like you could put a price on how much you care about the person you're with by the number of gifts they had to carry with then throughout the day. Maybe I'll stop ranting now.
Onto the other half of my mixed feelings:
Let's talk about that boyfriend. His name is Ben. Ben was, and still is, my favorite. For one thing, he didn't feel the need to wait until Valentine's day to show me he loved me; he did that all the time, in big and small ways. Sure we still did the traditional gift giving and fancy dinners, but mostly, Valentine's Day was just an extra excuse to spend more time with each other. And for me to buy him pink things and him genuinely appreciate it. It was the one day a year I could get away with it, so I took full advantage of that ;)
|Our very first date/Valentine's Day, waaay back in the day|
Valentine's Days with Ben weren't ever a big affair, but that was OK with the the both of us. Spending that time with him, on the "day of love" definitely improved my opinion of it. Consistent gifts of chocolate can do that to a girl.
Now, how is this mission related? Well, it's only semi-related to my mission. It really has more to do with his mission.
April 3, 2013, at roughly eleven-thirty in the morning, I talked to Ben for the last time in two and a half years, because that was when he went into the MTC and officially began his mission where he would serve the people in the Texas Houston East Mission. This was also the moment I feel I officially became a Missionary Girlfriend (MG), because that's when he was really gone.
The thing is, I have mixed feelings about his mission too. I hate only seeing him in pictures. I hate not hearing his voice. I hate only being able to talk to him once a week, via email, when I'm lucky. I hate the lonely nights. I hate going through hard times without him. I hate going through happy times without him. I hate that celebrating holidays and anniversaries and birthdays means putting things in a box and sending them to him. I hate that I have to live without my best friend ever in the history of all my friends, because it really, really sucks.
But there are also things I love about his mission. I love that he is out there. I love that he his serving his fellow men, day after day, with no reservations. I love the pictures and videos he sends. I love thinking about him opening the packages and reading the letters and laughing over my quirks and stubborn sassy-ness and all my sticky notes that explain why I put each thing in there. I love that he is learning the gospel. I love that he loves the gospel like never before. I love that he is closer to our Father in Heaven and our Savior, and that he sees their love in his life everyday. He is becoming, without a doubt, the best kind of man, and I love that. And, most of all, I love that he still loves me, and that is really, really amazing.
Many times when I mention to people that I am waiting for a missionary, they're surprised, because it's not something I talk about a lot. Well, for one thing, talking about how much I miss him doesn't make it easier that he's gone, and it certainly won't bring him back any sooner. Another reason it that it still hurts. He's been gone for nearly a year, and I miss him like he left last week. I've gotten better with it, time's good at giving you experience to deal with trials, and most of the time I'm at peace with his absence and I'm content knowing that he's out serving, learning, and becoming a more Godly man, that's he's safe and happy and healthy.
But sometimes things get hard and I get selfish and I wish he was here instead of there.
More than anything.
That is the paradox of the MG life. Living day to day with missing and longing for your man, but at the same time being so terribly proud of him and not wanting him to be anywhere else.
I've learned many things in my time so far as an MG. I've learned that I am stronger than I seem and braver than I believe. I can do hard things. I am likable. I am loved by so many people. Being close to Heavenly Father really does make life happier and burdens lighter. Sometimes romance movies are the worst and sometimes action movies are the best. Between chocolate, Pilates, and the scriptures I can cope with pretty much anything. There is magic in a handwritten letter. I like teaching. Being generous is fun. Small details lead to big love. And absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Now, some of these things I most certainly can and will use on my mission. Others not so much. But I think the truly important part is that I'm still learning, that I will keep on learning, and that God will never let me face anything alone.
And come the end of 2015, I'll get to see Ben again.
That's another thing I've learned.
Good things come to those who wait.
This Valentines Day there will be no gifts of flowers or chocolates, and that's OK. I might sit myself down and drink a bottle of Martinelli's sparkling cider by myself or eat a carton of ice cream, using Chips Ahoy instead of a spoon. I might watch my favorite romance. I might watch my favorite action movie. Maybe I'll do a mind numbing workout, eat a ton of broccoli, and then sleep for 12 hours. Maybe I'll grab a sibling or two and spend the night quietly reading with them. Maybe I'll spend the night doing scripture study on the Atonement, the greatest act of love there ever has been and ever will be.
Whatever I do, I'll do it knowing that I am loved, by so many; by people near to me, by Ben, a thousand or so miles away, and by my Father in Heaven, who is always closer than I realize.
Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
Only 75 days left!!