After my first high school heartbreak, I did lots of different things to try and deal with the foreign feelings of ache that my young heart had never experienced before.I went for long runs, I bought a book about yoga and tried it a couple times, I attempted ignoring it, I tried writing poetry, the typical processes of catharsis. At some point I realized I was mostly just suppressing, so I decided to dive into my emotions head first. I got full on symbolic on that shit. I ripped out the pages from my journal where I had written about he-who-must-not-be-named and burnt them by candlelight and cried. SO MUCH ANGST, I know, I know. I even knew at the time that I was being ridiculously emo and it felt a little silly, but it also felt kind of good.
It felt good to have a dedicated moment for what I was going through. It felt good to stop and be intentional and and put a bit of a 'landmark' on my experience. It gave me something to remember and then something to move forward from. My fresh-faced teenage heart had got its first bruise and I needed to commemorate it to be able to heal.
Now this was a good 10 years ago, and I haven't always created intentional significance out of my life events, but I love the idea of really diving into celebrations, whether it be as a recognition of grief or an observance of joy. Creating your own 'landmarks' amidst everyday life can allow for you to appreciate (even just a little bit) what you have gone through, ground you in the present, and help you draw closer to others should you choose to invite them into your celebration.
We do this to some degree already. Birthdays, New Years, other holidays...though for many of us, those things have lost their touch as we have gotten older. The occurrence of Valentines Day tomorrow got me thinking about this post, and wondering how we could reclaim these events to once again be significant to us as well as creating other 'events' in our lives.
For example, the notorious Valentines Day. I know some people hate it, some people love it, some people are vocal about its money grabbing purpose, some people don't give one single crap about it. I understand. But I personally like any excuse to party, so what if we had a Valentines Party's where anyone is invited whether they are in a relationship or not and we can eat lots of ice cream and sing karaoke and people can exchange valentines (just like elementary school) where they can speak important words of encouragement to each other like, "I love that you love cats more than people" or "Will you be my personal tattoo artist" or "We're so much alike, it's like we finish each other's sandwiches". Now, we have reclaimed that day for ourselves and maybe then we can go a bit deeper and figure out why being single bothers us or why we need valentines day to be romantic and deconstruct all the crap that pop culture gives us.
On the other side of the spectrum is giving memorial for something you have lost. No, this doesn't have the cheery fluffy valentines feel, it has a deeper and more significant weight. Too often we rush past our grief, bury it, avoid it, channel it into anger, but what could happen if we opened our grief up to others, (I would recommend safe others, those you trust and value) and held memorial for that which caused the grief. I don't want to say this lightly, "just throw a celebration and you'll feel all better!". That is not what I want to convey, it doesn't make it easier, but I do think that adding significance and intentional symbolism to Loss can be a hugely important part of our ability to process and accept.
This could be the burning of pages, the weekend trip you take with a best friend to talk and heal by the ocean, a quiet gathering of dear friends on a sunny day to hug and pray and cry.
This is why I think celebration adds a deep richness to our lives, and I hope we can look for more reasons to celebrate. Whether it be alone or with friends, with great happiness or deep pain, these are moments worthy of putting a flag down and looking around.