I didn’t plan on this being a Valentine’s Day blog. Like most of us, I have a complicated relationship with love. Yes, love is wonderful, and it also inevitably includes love’s shadow—sorrow. This is not necessarily a sign that something is wrong. The flavor of love is bittersweet. My parent’s wedding anniversary is Valentine’s Day, and they are gone. Harold and Milly loved well, which is to say enough, and I am a grateful descendent of their love story and . . . mom will never again put leftovers of my raspberry, lemon, buttercream anniversary cake into the freezer and write a label with her careful penmanship, “David’s Yum Yum.” You can’t have sweet without the bitter –they are fused in magic kitchens that bow to their alchemy.
“It’s so easy to fall in love. It’s so easy to fa-all in love.” The music flew past me on a bicycle. Yes, that 70’s Linda Ronstadt version of the Buddy Holly anthem, full throated and testifying from a boom box duct taped to a bike. A man with a long gray ponytail hanging out the back of his bike helmet was riding down the sidewalk. His Birkenstocks pumped the pedals and his whole body swayed with Linda. He SHOULD have been riding in the street, Page Street, a “slow street,” designed during the pandemic for limited cars and neighborly speeds to create more room for people to move with their own locomotion. I didn’t say it, but I thought, Get off the sidewalk. Idiot! (OK, I probably thought a different word). And yet something else appeared alongside my clenched gut and sidewalk policing. There was a faint whiff of my 2022 intention—look for goodness. .
“It’s so easy to fall in love.”
Could the message have been any clearer? I broke into a smile. The couple walking towards me from the opposite direction were looking at each other with big grins. As we approached, our smiles found each other like lost friends. At the corner traffic light, a group of gangly teenagers from a nearby High School waited, danced, and laughed with our bike messenger. They recognized the music’s invitation and couldn’t help themselves.
When was the last time you fell in love with a moment? And did you pause and really taste it? Because I lingered, the memory of that wonderful and kooky encounter now lives in my body as a smile. It feels like a moment of grace because I didn’t create it, I just received it and blessed it like a welcomed breeze. I’m not always so receptive. Turns out, it’s not so easy to fall in love because normally I’m trying to make it last forever or I’m not even looking. I’m more likely to be looking for its absence. “It’s so easy to fall in fear.”
The challenge is that we have what Rick Hanson Ph.D., calls a negativity bias. Our neurology is hardwired to look for problems. The survival instinct kicks in when we perceive a threat, and our central nervous system readies our most powerful and primal defenses, fight, flight or freeze. This is great when a danger needs our immediate and automatic reaction. It’s less helpful when the danger is within our social-emotional world, and we need help from our more evolved brain where things like compassion, empathy, discernment, and perspective live. This is where my 2022 intention matters. Having the intention to pay attention to naturally occurring goodness, the sun on my face, the smile of a stranger, a bicycle singing a love song, or the delicious homemade ramen I made last night for a party of one—me, is a way of balancing my negativity bias. In psychological terms this is called savoring—lingering with a good experience for 15-20 seconds and then letting it go. It’s the way a good experience becomes a good memory.
A friend of mine calls these moments of goodness, “God surprises.” These surprises are up in clouds with a flock of noisy wild San Francisco bright green parakeets, and down in the dirt, munching with the earthworms so spring seedings will sprout. As Rumi says, “There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” What if falling down didn’t always have to hurt? What if it were a voluntary supplication, little by little, kindly bending my knees to wonder and goodness? What if even during a pandemic I could sometimes hear Linda’s voice with soft ears, “It’s so easy to fall in love?”
Daily Bites and Blessings
Welcome to "Daily Bites and Blessings." Pull up a chair. I’ve set a place for you at the table. These edibles are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and often they are both. This is a come as you are party. I invite you to bring your compassion, courage, and curiosity as we dine together on life's bounty. May our time together give us more light and more love.