I’m Sorry for My Toxic Valentine’s Day Resentments
You deserve to celebrate love and happiness, and people like me need to see it
I confess. I resented your happiness and love today. It was not you. It was me.
I find nothing tastes as sour as resentment, and the acidic effect burns holes in the lining of my soul until I spit it out with a mouthwash of humble acceptance. Zen mastery remains elusive, but I try.
Engage in genuine conversation with anyone in long-term stable recovery, and soon resentment rises to the top of dangerous sobriety topics. They will always warn us to beware and excise them in short order as letting them boil unattended poisons our soup.
I have dined on bitterness often and know well the stomach-churning inner rot caused by resentment. By flipping the script, turning my critical gaze inward to explore my feelings, I foster growth in self-awareness and expose healthy alternative perspectives.
If I feel resentful, it is often about me.
Read through any recovery program, the Big Book of AA, SMART, and thousands of self-help articles and books, and we find copious amounts of ink dedicated to resentment. I don’t endorse any specific recovery program but recommend vigorous reading. Recovery requires constant effort, vigilance, and willingness to learn.
A piece I read will spark an unexpected moment of introspection, precipitating a well-earned slap of insight, stinging my self-centered cheek.
It happened today.
Full disclosure, I am lonely and do not share life with a special person. Save the tissue, I am most times quite comfortable, knowing my life and present focus offers little room for anything beyond my current state.
However, I am triggered by dates, times of year, and specific events. My most effective, though perhaps least healthy, strategy to survive these triggers is avoidance. I treat Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, or Valentine’s Day as simple, nondescript days of the week.
Valentine’s Day got me this year.
After years with little success, some light permeated my comfortable darkness. Not having someone to share it with, turned a blinding light on my aloneness and sent me for a loop. First anxiety, followed by deep depression.
Each social media reference to Valentine’s Day poured salt on a reopened wound, and I recoiled. Hunkered down in my avoidance foxhole, waiting for the relentless bombardment of little red and pink hearts to subside, I stewed.
This morning, February 14th, I perused Medium to catch up on stories from writers I follow. Elan Cassandra, a writer I enjoy, had posted a story Ohhh, I Think Differently About Valentine’s Day Than Other People Do and, because she delivers interesting takes, I followed my curiosity.
When finished, I sat back and thought. She had gifted me with some much needed perspective, taken me out of my head, and forced an inward gaze where I discovered a festering pile of resentment.
This past week was not just loneliness. I resented others for having what I needed to fill a momentary, but deep void in my life. I resented their love without regard for them or their individual origin stories.
In recounting her familial experiences with personalized gifting, she writes:
The point is, I saw Valentine’s Day, and most holidays, as something personal. You created a gift or an experience for someone, and you used your knowledge of the person to do so.
Her piece, which I recommend you read, opened my eyes to the idea of unique reasons for our individual feelings toward shared societal events or happenings and what is important. Who was I to resent someone else for expressing them?
I was short-sighted, equating a day with celebrating only intimate love, forgetting my own cherished memories of different love experiences.
A fresh coffee in hand, I spent some time in reflection, facing and accepting many unacknowledged resentments. One-by-one I admitted them and cut them loose.
I rooted every damned resentment in areas of emptiness within, not because my friend, or family member, or some stranger was celebrating life. Life is hard, and we should never feel guilty celebrating joy. We should celebrate, loud and proud, because the world needs it. I need it.
I can tell you, puking out that stinging bile of resentment feels better.
Taking it one step further, and flipping the script, could I see hope and possibility in the love and happiness of others?
Of course, because anything can happen. I have witnessed amazing happenings during my years of recovery, and some have happened to me.
Elan’s story is a testament to the unexpected consequences of writing and reading. Writers drop unintended thought nuggets between the lines for us curiosity explorers to mine, extract, and polish as private gemstones of personal insight.
The kicker? My pouting jealousy was only hurting me, as those I resented skipped along, oblivious and happy. Meanwhile, I sat choking in the selfish, toxic fog of my private pity party.
If you are in love, cherishing a beautiful aspect of the human experience today, I apologize for resenting your love and happiness. I see the selfish unfairness now.
Please keep showing us the joyous parts of your life. I need to believe good things can happen if I keep working to eliminate well-ingrained personal shortcomings.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I wish you nothing but love and happiness.