Today is the 44th day of 2018. This morning I received a phone call that removed a weight from my mind I hadn’t even realized I was still carrying. In the first forty-four days of 2018 I have been tested for, and found not to have, three separate kinds of cancer. That’s what the call this morning was – lab results from a routine follow-up to a routine test that intellectually I knew was likely to be nothing…but there went that weight, from my mind and heart, when the “nothing” was confirmed.

It occurs to me, this evening before Valentine’s Day, that somewhere along the line I fell out of the habit of writing an annual post about this ridiculous yet still occasionally troublesome holiday. I wrote a post almost every year from 2008 until 2015. The one I wrote in 2015 is honestly still a personal favorite, something I consider to be among the best I’ve ever written.

What happened in 2016, you ask?

In 2016 I was in a relationship. I broke TWO STREAKS, yeah!

I can picture the wise nodded heads. “Yes, yes,” they seem to be saying, “as soon as you admitted all this baggage you had about love and loneliness, you found love!”

Sure, I mean…yes, and. That’s true, AND (a) that’s correlation, not causation and (b) there’s more to it than that.

My purpose today is not to describe, however, the way my thoughts and feelings have evolved since 2015. It’s not to describe how Valentine’s Day 2016 was spent happily in relationship (though with no celebrations to speak of other than goofy text messages). It’s not to describe how Valentine’s Day 2017 was spent in an airplane, literally, the entire day eaten up by jet fuel and the international date line to transfer me from Virginia to the Philippines, to spend time with the person I’d spent the day with the previous year. I love him ridiculously. I’m bummed I’m not with him now.

But it’s not about him either.

I could write loftily again. I have, since that last blog post on VD, finished my long-dormant bachelor’s degree, gotten a new job, left behind 20 years of professional life, and begun the lifelong work they first call discernment, then formation. I am studying for the ministry. I am working toward a Master of Divinity, a.k.a. The Coolest Sounding Degree Ever.

But it’s not exactly that.

Part of me wants to write about how this past nightmare of a year for this country has actually redefined “patriotism” for me. It’s true that I have an understanding now of what it means to love my country that eclipses any I may have had before. But this year of upheaval and change still stands so entwined with, and reminds me so deeply of, the loss of my dear friend who took her own life on the morning of November 9, 2016, that it would feel more like writing from a wound, not a scar. Although I am healing, perhaps that is an essay for another day.

Not that either, then.

And there is a story I want to tell, a love letter I want to write, to a woman whose name I don’t know, one on a bus full of strangers with four of us seminarians, just trying to make everyone’s ride okay, trying to keep a difficult situation from turning into one actively painful, actively violent, actively destructive. That story, that both is and is not fully my own to tell, will definitely see the light of day.

But not today’s light.

Not just because I’m writing this at night, either. Smartass. I see what you did there.

My purpose today is the exercise you have just read. It is to list that I have more kinds of love in my life than I can easily name, categorize, crack wise about, or cry over. It’s the fact that more kinds of love, and ways of living in and demonstrating that love, exist than I ever could possibly have imagined. It’s that love humbles me, surprises me, harms me and heals me over and over again. It’s that my prayers keep on being answered. That it’s just possible that my heart will be broken enough to stay open.

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