I hate Valentine’s Day. I don’t mean “dislike” or even “like if I am in a relationship”. I hate it. In descending order, I hate tomatoes, cockroaches, lawyers, Congress, Valentine’s Day, and debilitating diseases. This means that I would rather be covered in cockroaches (or worse, members of Congress) than have to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This year, I decided to look back and try to figure out why I hate the day so much.
Children’s concentration camp a.k.a. people are evil 101 a.k.a. elementary school certainly did not increase my love for the holiday. In an episode of “The Simpsons”, Lisa saw that Ralph had not received any Valentines. She felt bad and made him one. He then followed her around quoting the Valentine until she snapped and broke his heart on live TV. I am sure every elementary school class had that one girl or boy that you just didn’t want to give a Valentine to. Maybe you were worried that you would have a Lisa/Ralph situation. More than likely, it was not a group plan to be mean, just an individual plan enacted over and over. All I know for sure is that Ralph got more Valentines than I got for three years.
I remember the first time I did not get any valentines on the day where everyone was supposed to give a valentine to every other person. If I had known the term then, I would have called it a Machiavellian scheme. I realized in less than a second that I could not say anything. I could not say, “Teacher, nobody gave me a valentine.” without exposing my shame to everyone. For the record, nothing shows someone how little you think of them as much as a mandatory valentine give away…minus one. I also could not go to my parents because it would just end in the same scenario. In one move, I got checkmated by a bunch of halfwits and a few smart people.
The next year was at a new school. This was not uncommon, as we moved frequently when I was a kid. This time, when the teacher told us we had to make a valentine for everyone in the class, I was prepared. It still stung a bit when I did not receive any cards, but it wasn’t a surprise.
It took me until 5th grade to find a solution. On Valentine’s Day, I “accidentally” crashed my bike and skinned my legs. It took four tries because I kept wussing out just before the crash. Finally, I skinned my legs enough to go to the Nurse (she gets capital letters because she was scary and ancient, almost 40). I told her that I didn’t want to call my mom and go home, I just wanted to put my leg up and read. There is a severe disadvantage to being good in school. If you are a good student, you can do things like this and no one questions it. “Well, he has a good attendance record and they aren’t taking a test, he can go to the library.” Looking back, it is funny to me how many times I did these types of things and no one did the math. There was never a “Hmm, that’s strange. It is Valentine’s Day and the socially awkward kid hurt himself but doesn’t want to go home”. That year, I got six valentine’s day cards. Ah, Gibson Elementary. I am pretty sure you were built on a Hellmouth. If we could bottle the childhood trauma that one location provided, we could get the prisoners at Guantanamo to talk in minutes. Of the six Valentines, five told me that I should severely injure or kill myself. The sixth read, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Christina”. Since Christina’s name was not on the cards I received, I gave her the last one.
Now, before we get to thoughts of vengeance on children from almost thirty years ago (some of whom are dead now) or before we get to moments of sympathy for me, I have to clarify something. I was (and still am on many days) a complete jerk. I knew I was smarter than most in my class. I made sure the other kids knew it too. I continually ran my mouth and insulted the other kids. I always mocked one of the kids for getting lower grades. While those events in my life were pretty horrible, they were not undeserved. I had foolishly thought that lording my intellect over people was the way to win friends. That year, 5th grade, was the year that I started playing games to lose. It was such a mental block that it became difficult (even today) to play a board game or sport to win. I did not do that with everything. I am naturally terrible at bowling, pool, baseball, and chess. Every other game, I would make it look like I was trying to win, when in reality I was trying to just barely lose. Again, I thought that if I let people beat me, they would start to like me. Looking back, I have never used my “California Government” class. Maybe a “Social Skills for the real world” class would have been better.
Those events are not why I hate Valentine’s day. I realized that I have been single for 90% of the Valentine’s Days in my life. Somehow, Single Awareness Day continues to occur. The times I was in a relationship, there was so much pressure to be “romantic” on Valentine’s Day, that we inevitably ended up fighting because everything wasn’t perfect.
I don’t hate Valentine’s Day because I was single for most of them. I don’t even hate Valentine’s Day because every store is full of pink decorations and every box looks like a bad artist’s attempt to draw someone mooning the world. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day because it is a “made up” holiday.
I hate Valentine’s Day because it is in the dreary part of winter, when work has always been the most stressful. I hate valentine’s day because I have the “winter blues”.
The disorder is usually called “Seasonal Affected Disorder” or S.A.D. This is proof that every profession has somebody who really really thinks they are funny and a bunch of other people that allow that thinking to continue. S.A.D. is sometimes associated with a drop in Vitamin D because of less time spent in sunlight. Some people have actually felt better from sitting in front of a UV light for a while. I personally don’t think it has much to with the amount of sunlight. I work in Colorado and while sometimes extremely cold (requiring extra underwear and who doesn’t love that), it is usually sunny.
I believe it is a simpler explanation. Winter begins right after the harvest. We have a harvest celebration that usually involves friends and family. Then the seasons change. The colors are great, everyone has pretty lights up. There are winter holidays with friends and family. Then the new year starts. People try to change bad habits or are looking forward to the new year. Suddenly, it is February. No more lights. No more holidays. Taxes are due and we usually get the W-2 that shows how much we worked and how much the government too in the first week of February. Trying to change lifestyles and bad habits turns out to be too difficult. Winter is no longer the “white wonderland” and has turned into the “muddy, frozen brown glop all over the roads and how hard is it to stay in your own lane”. People get depressed.
Personally I get depressed about every six months. In February, I am tired of winter. In August, I am tired of summer and want some air conditioned pants.
There are ways to beat the winter blues.
#1-Don’t eat the bad food- When the “blues” hits, simple sugars sound better. Pizza, cookies, breads, the like sell the most in winter. Eat complex carbohydrates. Go for broccoli instead of bread. Get a list of foods with complex carbohydrates and eat those.
#2-Get outside- If you work inside, try to take a short walk outside within two hours of waking and again at lunch. This rule does not apply during blizzards.
#3- As much as it pains me to say this (and do this)- Workout at least 45 minutes each day. Take a walk, lift weights, swim, do a trainer designed workout. Do something that involves moving more than a couple thumbs and/or a decreasing weight curl (usually with beer).
#4- This also pains me to say-Do more social activities in the winter. It is easy to be social in summer. Barbecue parties, hiking and riding a bike with friends. Do a social activity at least once a week and preferably more often. In addition to helping you get less focused on yourself, it also allows others to get involved in your life. That is good, even if you are like me and think that talking about your own life makes people wish for a personalized mute button.
#5- If the symptoms will not go away, talk to your doctor. Most suicides in the U.S. occur in spring. Most people who commit suicide do not seek treatment first. Now, I know this sounds like crazy talk coming thru someone in my family. My family has repeatedly demonstrated that one should wait until we are having to sew limbs back on before we go to the doctor. This may not be the best preventative health plan.
#6-Tell people in your life- Again, this comes from a stubborn gene. “Well, I talked to my doctor about being depressed or having the “winter blues”. Why would I tell friends and family? I don’t want to be a burden.” That is what the medical industry calls “stupid talk”. It is easy to withdraw, especially when things feel crappy. Don’t. You have already tried to be more social with acquaintances or strangers. Why would you hide things from people in your life? Now, now, you are reading this, you don’t get to mention that I do the same things. That would be cheating.
Lastly #7-Know that the “winter blues” can be beaten- It is not a giant monster. It is an emotion that can be changed, Think of it like changing the course of a giant ship (no I was NOT thinking of a carrier). You might turn the rudder hard, but it is going to take a while for the ship to change direction. It will change direction, if you keep the rudder turned and don’t swing it back and forth. Same with your emotions. It takes a long time to change emotional patterns. Don’t expect instant results. Just keep going. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Yes, I am a natural blue.