Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Stars in the Darkness

The stars had fallen, but some of them so slowly that nobody realized they were falling until it was too dark to see anymore.  The dark, gem-black of the sky had once been pierced by the bright lights of stars.  Or so the passerby who saw it years ago have told me.  Lately the sky felt dark and stormy.  The few stars left were so lonely they almost felt out of place.  I had been staring into the blackness so long that the missing stars didn't strike me as unusual.

Photo via Flickr by Kristin Jona 

So many years ago that it felt like a dream, I had watched the first star fall and mourned it's precipitous descent.  I held it in my hands, cradling that dying dream.  And then I laid it to rest beneath the protective limbs of a tree; on a hill where it could still see the sky.  I didn't want it to feel as alone as I felt.

As I lived through some dark times the stars kept falling.  I stopped noticing their fall.  It somehow felt natural now that the light would slowly be extinguished and the dreams would fade.  The blackness felt inevitable.  The time when the sky was full of stars and the world still had a hopeful light was so far away it felt like I'd imagined it in dreams of a better time that never was.  A time that could never be again.

Photo via Flickr by Stephen Rahn 

How long have I occupied this lonely hill with my fallen dreams alone?  Who can say?  I sit here in the dark, keeping my sorrowful, personal vigil.  I no longer mourn the stars sprinkled around my feet.  I thought it was only a matter of time til they fell.  I was so wrapped up in the emotion of the darkness that I didn't stop to ask why they were falling; all I knew was that I couldn't stop it.  My despair was as large as the sky, crushing and endless.

Then, suddenly, the night was different.  I realized in a moment that I wasn't as alone as I thought.  The warmth of friendship can be as shocking and illuminating as summer lightning.  A figure in the darkness, a friend, stopped and sat with me to share my dark inner vigil.  I was not surprised by their presence but I hadn't expected them to stop and sit with me in the dark.

Without so much as a word they glanced at the sky and then down at the piles of fallen stars.  I felt their sadness at the state of my night sky.  Seeing it through their eyes I could now see how empty and dark the sky felt with its bright dreams lacking.  I had no words to offer back to them about the state of things.  I had only silence and pain to offer.

Photo via Flickr by Martin Fisch

My silence didn't scare them.  We sat in quiet stillness surveying the darkness for some time.  Then gently they started collecting up my fallen stars, gathering up my darkened dreams, stacking my broken hopes up gingerly.  I asked what they were doing.  "We are going to put your dreams back up in the sky where they belong" they said.
"But, they are dark, they have lost their fire" I said.
"So, we will light them again."
"How will we do that?" I asked with a doubtful hope beginning to flicker in my chest.
"With love" they said and they reached out.
I held out an upturned hand to them.  Gently, into my palm, they placed a single dark star.

I looked down at one lonely broken dream and it felt heavier and heavier in my hand.  I cradled it with  both hands crying.  Gently they added their hands to mine to help still their shaking.  When I finished mourning the brokenness of my dream they closed my fingers around the star and added their hands around mine.  With four hands supporting my dream they said with the firmest gentleness "With love" and together with hearts open we re-lit my dream.

Original photo via Flickr by Leland Francisco

Tears now sparkled with light as they helped me release my rekindled dream into the sky.  It floated higher and higher until it joined it's few remaining star brethren and made them just a little bit brighter again.  And with the joy that followed, the love, friendship and hope flowed out of my heart and re-lit all the stars at my feet.

Photo via Flickr by Nic Redhead

As suddenly as my first star had fallen I was relighting my dreams and we were throwing them back up into the sky.  Lanterns lit with love and hope they floated upwards.  Being surrounded by brightly lit dreams is beautiful and magical.

Photo via Flickr by Jirka Matousek

With stars streaming upwards around us, I looked at my friend.  They smiled, "You deserve it," they said.

I smiled, my heart as bright as the stars.

We painted the night with dreams and light.

Photo via Flickr by Judy Schmidt


Photo via Flickr by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
With love to all the friends who have helped me stumble through the darkness and have with the gentlest most insistent love helped me rekindle my dreams.

Words rarely express the depths of emotion we want them to.  This is my attempt to express some of my gratefulness to those who have walked beside me through the dark.

I wouldn't be here without you.  You have helped light my darkness.

I hope that I can be even a small source of light for you in return.

My dreams are as vast as the sky, bright and limitless.

Photo via Flickr by Alessandro Caproni

Thursday, 21 February 2019

A Girl and her Cats

This is the story of a girl who was rescued by a cat.  Or, I should say more than one cat, as saving me has involved the lifework of more than one cat. 

Drowning in life's tough luck is a difficult way to live every day.  And that is where the cat comes in.  Smudge came to me with a different name and a year of life lived elsewhere.  A year is a long time for a cat and it is hard to say what she had been through in that time.  But then I was 27 and that is a long time for a human and I had been through many things in that time.  Many recent events weighed heavily on me when I met Smudge.  Our lives may not have been perfect or perfectly happy, but in each other we were to find safety.

The first time I saw Smudge she was trying to observe as much of her world as possible and, if she could, to escape her small walled prison in the pet store.  I was drawn to her curiosity and she didn't seem to mind that I'd interrupted her great escape with a few strokes of her fur. 

Some people will tell you, from the facts as they see them, that I rescued Smudge.  The truth is that she rescued me.  When I met Smudge I had lost a life that I'd painstakingly built for myself.  Starting over from rock bottom is hard.  This time it felt like the hole I was in was the hopeless sort of deep.  But Smudge was full of life and energy and as she learned how to be an indoor/outdoor cat she brought me back to life as well.

Every night around dusk she demanded that I come outside and play with her.  Roughly 6pm was Smudge time.  We played hide and seek.  She would bound over to a particularly tall weed and "hide" behind it waiting for me to "stalk" her.  I would walk exaggeratedly slowly towards her and she would wait until I ambushed her with an exaggerated jump.  Then she would bound off to another location to "hide" and I would stalk her again.  We would play until it was too dark for me to see her anymore.

Smudge was not your typically distant and aloof cat.  She followed me around in a manner more reminiscent of a dog.  In Smudge I found a place to pour all of my darkest fears.  She would give me a sandpaper kiss in reassurance.  When the life I had built crumbled, I felt that all the dreams, and love and hopes I had for the world had no outlet anymore.  I gave them all to Smudge and she kept them safe for me while I clawed my way back to the surface.

I have no doubt that without the love and attention of this little rescued cat I wouldn't be much of a person.  I would have stayed rather stuck in that dark place.  The kind of dark place that turns one into an empty husk person.  During part of the time that she was with me I started a new job and met people that also helped bring me back to life and back into the world. 

I lost Smudge a year and a half ago.  I was entirely lost without her.  I felt as if all the hopes and dreams and love I poured into her for safe keeping had vanished with her.  And this is not to say that my friend's haven't been there for me.  They have been my rock.  In fact two of them, with my own well being in mind, practically forced me to go searching for a new cat in January.  And that is how I ended up with Joe.  He has many names.  He is Jojen, Cat, the SuRB, Shredder, Tinysaur.  And many others.  Mostly I call him Cat with a particular inflection and affection.

Cat came to me due to an error in using Craigslist.  I was looking for a cat in the area, and either improperly used the feature to limit the search radius or Craigslist didn't work as it should have.  Either way, it led me to a posting about Joe the Cat.  He was up in the LA vicinity while I am down in the San Diego area, but whatever the cause I think I was meant to find him.  He needed a new home because he had at the age of six started fighting with his sister cat.  They'd had a traumatic experience with a cat-sitter and they no longer got along.

So, Cat needed a new home and his parents were devastated to have to give him up but hopeful he would do well and be loved in his new home with me.  And he is.  He eats my books, and important papers when unguarded, has chewed some of my photos and random things I could never have imagined a cat to be interested in.  But he sits with me while I work on projects and he likes to follow me through the yard like he's just another one of the dogs.  All three of them come with me and then plop down in the dirt to hang out when I stop to work or contemplate.  I couldn't love him more.

He is a little more independent than Smudge, and he is teaching me to live in the moment.  When it is time for napping or cuddling you just stay present there.  When it is time to be outside you stay present there.  When I go I know he's ok doing his own thing; but when I return I stay present with him where I am.  Smudge and I were more dependent on each other. 

Cat is teaching me to be more reliant on my human friends.  He is teaching me that it is safe to be myself out in the world again.  I don't have to hide all my hopes and dreams and love with him.  I can take them out in the world and find my way.  For love will always be waiting for me when I return.  It is for the best.  A person cannot rely solely on the love of a cat and hide from the world forever.  Much as she may want to.  But his love is still vital to my sanity these days.

He is a character, though not in the same way Smudge was.  Smudge liked to, well, Smudge around on things.  She loved to lay on your legs draped over them like a panther.  Sometimes her attitude to draping and trees made her look a bit like a little bear.  She played hide and seek, used me as a ladder or totem pole on occasion and would give me rough little kisses. 

Cat, the Shredder is twenty pounds and loves to eat things I had no idea cats would be interested in.  He has eaten, portions of photographs, newspapers, hardcover books, cheap paperbacks, newspapers, a voter's guide, and anything with bits of tape on it.  He loves lying upside down with one leg in the air so that you can check out his belly and his bits.  He is very definitely a man.  He has judged me for staying out, sleeping in, and using lotion.  And if you don't think you can tell when a cat is truly judging you, I doubt you've spent much time with cats.  Let me assure you I was being judged. 

However different these cats have been in personality, they have been important to my long recovery from darkness.  Life, circumstances, bad luck, loss, and betrayal have been heavy burdens in my recent years and have cast a weighted darkness across my soul.  Without the tireless efforts of both cats I would still be very lost. 

Since it is February, and it is the month when people often reflect upon love and occasionally the loss and lack of it, I thought it appropriate to muse on the way that sometimes the love I needed most came from the cats that taught me how to live again.  I do also love my friends and family but I would be a worse person, and a worse friend, and less capable of love if I had not had the privilege of meeting both Smudge and Joe the Cat.

So, this year I'm thankful for the love I've been shown by such fierce tiny creatures.  I'm going to honour the memory of one and the encouragement of the other by continuing to brave the world and fend off the darkness with hope and love.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Sleepless nights: racing thoughts and looming questions?

I hate those long sleepless nights; those dark nights where your thoughts prey on you.  Every time that your head hits the pillow your heart races and those dark thoughts crawl out.  Those dark thoughts that hide in the dark corners of your mind, lying in wait til you turn off the lights, then they come slinking out.

I've been dwelling with them so often lately that I've come to categorize these dark thoughts into two distinct types.  Of late I've had two different types of sleepless nights.  Perhaps the best way to explain them is to describe all these dark thoughts as insects.

The first type of sleepless nights is what I'll call chaotic ant style.   These are the nights where you turn off the lights and a million tiny questions that have been hiding in the corners of your mind run out and race around.  Your heart races and thousands of questions run across your mind, hurrying in and scurrying out.  Barely giving you time to even answer the question for yourself, you are just subject to the barrage of thousands of questions running around you now that the lights are out.  It's overwhelming, your heart races at the sheer number of things you've been pushing back into the corners to deal with later.  You can't sleep.  The questions are not friendly, but they are not weighty.  They run around your mind the way that a mass of ants runs around after it's line has been disturbed.  A nice little train of thought in the daylight, the second the light goes off you've wiped your hand across the ant line and chaos ensues.  All the little questions you were ignoring or putting off til later run around frantically and confused, not sure where they belong or how to get back to normal.  By themselves each question is harmless but in such numbers, the situation is overwhelming. You panic.  The questions run around your mind panicked.  You don't sleep.  It could end there or the tiny questions could get nastier and start to bite you. Who knows what is in store for you on chaotic ant style sleepless nights.

The second type of sleepless night is very different and I'll call it looming spider style.  This type of night is usually dominated by one looming question.  It has hidden deep in a web in the corner of your mind.  You know it has to be in there somewhere but you haven't seen it.  It doesn't just get frantic when the lights go out the way that ant style thoughts do.  No, no.  This is much more sinister.  This question is the big ugly kind.  It hides in the day because you're actually afraid to ask it.  You don't want to know the answer because of the three possible options for answers.  You've tried not to think about it because you know the answer to this dark question is either bad or worse.  Despite your attempts to not think about it you've come up with roughly three possible Tenille answers to this looming question.  But at night, you discover it has more legs.  More ugly ways this question could be answered.  This questions fears discovery.  It preys on your mind in the darkness.  Slowly.  Methodically.  This is less of the heart-pounding overwhelming problem and more of the lie awake, cry, or be forced to get up and beat back that question with light and activity.  I have a few of these looming spiders I'm afraid to say.  One of them is named How.  He creeps out whenever there is a tricky situation that I don't know how to deal with.  How lurks around when I'm trying to figure out how to mend a relationship or how to get out of a jam.  He is often accompanied by his buddy What.  He lurks around with "What just happened?" and "what should I do about this?" situations.  Sometimes How and What creep around together, sometimes one comes out and then trades places with the other. 

But the looming spider I'm most afraid of is bigger and uglier than that.  He likes to wait til it's extra late and I'm extra tired and he looms over my bed.  His name is Why.  I fear him and he knows it.  He is the biggest, the ugliest and the as yet undefeated monster of my sleepless nights. For those of you who like Lord of the Rings, think of Shelob the spider.  The only respite from the looming Why is on nights where it has already fed before I try to sleep.

Don't get me wrong there are some facts that keep me up at night.  Not everything that makes me bleary-eyed and cross in the morning is a question.  But it seems that facts and darker realities can be met with some amount of peace and acceptance.  It is the questions that truly haunt me when the lights go out and the questions that rob me of my rest.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Therapy might just be therapeutic... who knew?

Today I went to my first ever therapy session with a psychologist.  Don't worry, I'm not going to air my dirty laundry here.  I just want to muse over the idea of visiting a therapist.  I found it an interesting experience and I would like to consider it as a thing unto itself.

I have to admit that I was nervous to go there and share my story, or rather all the stories that add up to my story.  I mean, I know it's a psychologist's job to be supportive and non-judgemental, but my experience with people is that they aren't always what they are meant to be.  So, how can you trust them with some of your darkest thoughts and closest guarded feelings?

Well, I mean, it helps that you can tell that this person was genuinely listening.  You can tell when people are distracted or don't really care.  Or perhaps worse is when you are going through something and someone points out to you that it could be worse.  They invalidate your pain, your struggle, your suffering.  It's not about how it could have been worse or how somebody else has gone through worse.  Your pain is real and it's your pain to deal with.

Perhaps that was the most surprising part of this for me.  I sort of expected the therapist to be professional but more distant.  I expected them to calmly and matter of factly tell me that what I was dealing with wasn't that bad and could be dealt with.  What I did not expect was for the psychologist to close their eyes like they were suffering on my behalf.  What I expected less was for them to explain to me that layers and layers of trauma were informing some of my outlook on the world.


That sounds like a harsh word.  But honestly using the word trauma was freeing.  It made me feel like I was allowed to be as crushed and upset as I am by what I've been through.  I don't have to compare or stand next to a measurement and be found wanting on a scale of who has dealt with the worst things in life.  It is irrelevant how many worse things could have been done to me.  The only thing that is relevant is how the trauma, my particular trauma, has left scars and what to do with it now.

In a way, acknowledging that my pain is real, was the kindest thing anyone could do.  And letting me know that it really is hard to sort through these things is in a strange way a reassurance too.  It means that if you struggle to fix it on your own it's not because you're broken.  It's because some things are too big to be dealt with alone.  And that's not some failing on your part.  If it was as simple as do x, y, and z, you would have done it already.

So, I very stereotypically cried through a majority of this, the very first session.  But it was cathartic in a way.  It felt more productive than the times I've cried over these traumas with friends.  Maybe because I was allowed to be completely and unabashedly traumatised by them instead of trying to keep it together and present a strong side so as not to worry anyone. 

So, I hope that seeing this professional will help me deal with my trauma going forward and help me reclaim my life a little bit.  I refuse to let past trauma and fear rule who I am today and in the future.  I don't know if this resonates with anyone but that has been my experience today.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Hello, Handbasket!

Today I find myself concerned because I have stopped for a second, looked around and realized I'm sitting in a handbasket.  Yes, this is a metaphor.  And when you are sitting in a metaphorical handbasket you know what your ultimate destination is going to be.  If you don't, I applaud you and I would appreciate life advice.

Now, in the moment of inevitable re-evaluation that this sort of handbasket sitting causes, I thought about how I had arrived in the center of this particular handbasket.  Life has a strange way of wending around like a lazy river.  It takes its own time, bending here and swirling there.  Moving in a muddled way that can take a distracted traveler by surprise.  One moment you've put into the river in a canoe, knowing exactly what direction you are headed.  The next while you take a moment to admire the scenery, you realize that you are suddenly in the eddy of an oxbow facing entirely the opposite direction from the one you expected and your canoe has magically turned itself into a handbasket.

At moments like this, I like to assess my life and try to figure out which bend in the river has put me in this precise handbasket.  So, I looked around at a few of my fellow travelers.  A few of them looked shocked as though they'd been newly apprised of our destination.  A couple of them looked grim as though they'd known about our dire situation for a long time but seen no way out of the inevitable.  Not a one of us was entirely sure how the river of life had turned us around and spit us out into this handbasket on the highway to... well, you know.

Hindsight has proven the few souls that bailed earlier to be the wiser travelers on this path.  Alas, I was not so wise as they.  I have only now seen the handwriting on the road signs.  So here we are, a sad group of somewhat more or less shocked travelers in a handbasket speeding down the highway.  I gape as we roar past another group of people along the side of the road feverishly bent over their wickerwork; weaving a new handbasket for their own impending journey.  That's when I realized that not a single fellow traveler was arguing about whether we were, in fact, on our way to H*ll with impressive speed, we were merely quibbling about the ETA.

The way things have gone today, I think it might be wise to invest in wicker.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

On Talking to Dogs and Dads

After years of living with dogs, I have observed that they are very similar to my Dad in a few too many ways.  One of the most notable ways is how it's best to communicate with them.

First, you must address them by their name.  Dad, Boys, Rocky, etc.  This is so that they know that you are talking to them and not the wall.  So that they know you aren't talking aloud in an effort to amuse yourself by composing poetry to the void.

Second, you must use short, simple, single-word verbal commands.  Nothing too complicated or the words might lose potency and begin to sound like more poetry to the void.

For instance, you say, "Boys, stay" so the dogs know that whatever happens next they aren't supposed to move.  Or you say, "Dad, look" so he knows the paper you are waving in his direction is meant for his inspection.

Now, over the years, I've taught my Dad and dogs some unusual commands.  I've taught my dogs the command "Boys, smell," which means that they are allowed to smell but not eat any item I am about to present to them.  And my Dad I have taught "Dad, volume," so that he knows to turn the volume down or up on the TV if it's not correct.

But it's important to remember that all dogs and Dads have limitations.  There will be some tricks that you simply cannot train your dogs or Dad to do.  My Dad cannot be trained to put a twist tie around the garbage bag if he takes it out.  My dogs cannot be trained to not chase the cat when she runs.

There is always the chance that they will forget old commands when they are too excited to focus.  Intense sports may make Dad forget what volume even means for a second or two and the presence of a leash will make my dogs forget what sit means.

But a well-trained dog is not perfect, just one that tries hard to please.  A good and well-trained dog sometimes remembers the right commands, but always remembers that love comes first and the rest is simply not that important.  The same goes for Dads.  Nobody is perfect but love makes all the difference.

With Love to my Dad and all my dogs.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Ghost of Valentine's Past

Every year the populace at large seems to gear up with excessive cheer for the holiday of Valentine's Day.  Hearts spring up everywhere.  Paper ones festoon the ceilings and windows of shops and homes.  Holiday cheer is found on every corner.  Pink blossoms in the most unlikely places and everyone bustles around talking of love and making dinner reservations for their loved ones.

And I, well, I am the Valentine Scrooge.  I mutter "bah humbug" at the sudden red tide sweeping through clothing departments.  I curse "rubbish" under my breath at the hearts on everything from cups, to teddy bears.  Cards of every variety are covered in red, pink and glittery horror declaring love, lust and a few other sentiments deemed appropriate for the holiday.  NO store or place is safe.  Red and pink flowers can be found at the garden nursery entrance.  Romance novels accost you at the entrance of the bookstore.  But worst of all is Home Depot.  HOME DEPOT!  Even the bastion of practical, get things done, down to earth type of active sensibilities is not safe from the dreaded holiday.

So, after grumbling my way past all of this blush coloured fervor I made it home.  And then as I fell asleep exhausted from the overwhelming assault of pink and red on my senses I wondered if maybe I was too harsh on the holiday.  Is Valentine's Day really so bad?  Maybe I'm just as bitter as they say.

The clock strikes midnight and I find myself unaccountably awakened by a presence.  Somehow I know it is St. Valentine.  It is probably the birds and roses that surround him that gave him away.

"St. Valentine," I begin "Am I hopelessly bitter like they all say?  And why do you have a rooster with you?"  I'm eminently practical even in my dreams you see.

"Ah, well, that's just one of my attributes." He says helpfully.  "But I've come to warn you about this holiday of mine."

"But why are you trying to help me?  Aren't you supposed to be busy taking care of couples in love?  You do know I'm single right?"

"I am the patron Saint of affianced couples, true.  But I am also the patron Saint of beekeepers, fainting, greetings, travellers, and plague.  You don't happen to keep bees, do you?"

"Um, no, I don't have any bees.  Wait, did you say plague?"

"I am here to warn you that you will be visited by the Ghost of Valentine's Past and urge you to listen to his warnings."

"Hold on, is this a Christmas Carol joke?  I don't want to appear ungrateful but I think you might be a bit early, you know, have the wrong holiday or some such thing."

"Listen to the warnings of the Ghost of Valentine's Past,"  He says eerily while he fades out of sight.
"Right that was odd," I say aloud to remind myself I am sane and dreaming.  I breathe deeply to calm my nerves, friendly or no, seeing apparitions is an unsettling business.  I notice the hint of rose fragrance growing stronger again and see St. Valentine beginning to reappear.

"Oh dear," he says confusedly "I always forget that part.  I am the Ghost of Valentine's Past.  How awkward.  Terribly sorry about all that fading in and out business.  Let's start, shall we?"

Without waiting for my brain to even process the whole turn of events St. Valentine grabs my hand and we fall upward it would seem into a mist that feels familiar and heavy and very far away all at once.  I'm a reader and I have realized that we are going to view my past Valentine's Day.  My only guess is as to the lesson that will follow.

We stop outside my old home in Phoenix where I am making Valentine cards with my mother and brother.  Happy hours spent in the company of people I love dearly, laughing and creating beauty out of little bits of this and that.  Eating chocolate that my father brought me and admiring the flowers he brought for mother I have an overwhelming sense of peace watching this scene from my memories.

St. Valentine sighs. "That is what it is all about.  Love."

Then we are flying through the fog again and we reach another time.  This time I am in a dark paneled room studying quietly for exams.  A few college friends bound in and find me caught up in my studies.  I cringe in anticipation of what is coming.  I had forgotten it was Valentine's Day and I was about to be mocked for wearing black.

"This is the first time they mocked you for being bitter about love," says St. Valentine.  "Ironically, this is not loving and may be the start of your real bitterness."

"I had just forgotten what day it was." I try to explain but the fog is closing in as the laughter fades away.

Then we whiz forward to a time I'd rather never visit again.  Except, I knew it was coming.  It starts well enough as St. Valentine and I stand in the balcony at the opera house where a friend and I are watching Madame Butterfly, both of us dressed up and having a fantastic time.  However, St. Valentine and I already know where this evening ends.  I smile ruefully with the knowledge of things to come.  Back at home, my drunk housemate arrives.  He tries to corner me in the stairs and I shudder in memory as I watch myself get away and flee up the stairs with a pounding heart.  The lock on the door did nothing to reassure me, then or now.  So many nervous moments and sleepless nights after that.

"I just had no idea they'd ever use my name to get drunk like this," says St. Valentine with as much horror as I felt.  "To think that my holiday is causing so much depression and drinking that it leads to THIS."  We both shudder and then move forward to the most recent Valentine's Day.

The fog is lightest of all here, for this is the current day.

"Aren't you supposed to let another ghost take over now?" I question mildly.

"Oh, well, there really aren't any others for this sort of thing.  And if you consider that this day really is over, well... I think as a past Valentine it can reasonably be said to fall within my purview."  He smiles clearly feeling triumphant.  "It is my holiday, after all."

So we watch the last portions of this Valentine's Day unfold.  Leaving the office rather late, I find a car too close to my car on the nearly deserted street.  Two men paying too much attention to my car for comfort are outside of the vehicle.  I recall, with visceral force, the fear that suddenly entered my body at this point.  St. Valentine and I watch as I pretend more calm than I feel and I return at a sedate pace to the office where I waited for them to leave.  My imagination is still running rampant from this latest episode.

"What were they doing anyway?" I feel the need to know.  Hoping to find out that they were security guards concerned about my safety rather than two large men planning terrible things for me.

"Oh, that.  I'm not sure honestly.  I'm just supposed to show you the past Valentine's so you can learn from them."

"Ok, ok.  I understand what you are saying.  There is no denying I'm bitter about this holiday.  But, you've seen my reasons why.  I don't hate love.  I'm not bitter about my relationship status.  I just want to feel safe and be allowed to hate pink like I do every other day of the year.  What am I supposed to do to overcome this bitterness, Valentine?  Wear pink?  Make Valentine cards for everyone?"

"NO.  You've missed the point entirely.  Love is what is missing from all these recent Valentine's days.  Tell your parents you love them.  Hug your cat..."

"And love everybody right?  And I'll just stop being bitter about the past?"

"No.  You're not bitter about love.  It's just been lacking from these scenes.  Next year when Valentine's Day comes around I'm truly concerned about your safety.  Stay in.  Lock the door and only answer it from behind the dogs."

"Is that all?"  I ask bewildered by this sudden turn of events.

"OH, and above all," St. Valentine adds, "Next year... wear black.  And you're a mad hatter.  Do me proud and throw in a hat."

As he fades away for the final time I smile knowing that I'll sleep really well for the first time in days.  I might even dream of the demise of Barbie pink hues everywhere.

"Let me know if you ever need any help with bees," St. Valentine shouts from the distance of the ages.

"I will!" I shout back.

Tomorrow I'm going to get an early start and wear all black in honour of my little adventure.  And I'm going to do so while enjoying discounted Valentine's Day chocolates and smiling about my newfound guiltlessness at hating this holiday, not love.