I like to imagine friends and family transitioning from Groundhog Day rituals (someone must have some) to Valentine’s Day anticipation right around now. Hopefully, many become a little more excited at the mailperson’s arrival wondering, “Is this the day Marcy’s annual card arrives?” It seems time to confess that you may have a thirteen-month wait.
For the first time in eighteen years, I produced no Valentine’s Cards. There is no woeful explanation. I am fine. I am behind. Truth be told I am still working on Christmas gifts for some.
I brought out my art supplies in early January, made a design and then, at a certain point of being overwhelmed with all the deadlines I was missing, shook my head, packed up the supplies and crossed off “make Valentines” from my to do list.
Making such an abrupt departure from my traditions felt quite neutral. I have a certain sense that I will make Valentines in 2015 even if that confidence does not extend to 2016 or beyond. And if I never get to make cards again, well, I will have bigger sorrows to contend with. I leave you instead with this summary of how I started the tradition of making valentines. Maybe, after 18 years, this will be the year that I just make one very special valentine for my life partner, Mike, who reminds me of the power of love every day.
And now the embarrassing story behind my annual ritual! First shared on 2/12/12 I started a tradition 16 years ago now. Sometimes I explained it by saying, ‘well, I never got my Christmas Cards out so Valentine’s Day became my time’, which is true but not entirely.
The real truth is that 16 years ago there was a human dignity activist that I had worked with for a few years, always enjoying my every interaction with him. He was a volunteer organizer in the small towns of Forest Grove, Banks, and West Plains where he had lived for the prior 2 decades, building his own cabin in the woods with a family to fill it. He was passionate about on the ground organizing and had a keen, strategic mind. He was also terribly cute and kind. We had fun working together.
Then one day he separated from his wife. We started finding reasons to have one on one meetings to plan a series of economic workshops – we stayed on task but we also never managed to wrap up the project. After many dinner meetings, Valentine’s Day approached. Since neither one of us showed tremendous nerve in managing our own desires I came up with a safe way to put my heart out there. It was subtle.
I designed a Valentine’s Day card for all my friends. I made a linoleum print, carving out the negative space then moving on to the next step of hand printing 200 postcard fronts with a huge heart. After the days it took for the ink to dry, I then hand addressed all 200 cards. All these weeks of work so that I could send the one to my crush without looking a fool. I still remember mailing them with a little kiss. Two days later, Mike and I had our first official date – a winter hike in the coast range that continued past dark. And, as they say, the rest is history.
After 16 years, you would think I would have a database and process but each January I re-invent who to mail to after I complete the printing. This year, I never managed a second run and so only 100 cards went out. I know how many dear friends are not getting them this year and for no good reason beyond I ran out of steam. But you are in good company, as after that first year Mike never got another card of his own.
Every year I wonder if I will manage to get the cards out. It takes so much time. This year the design eluded me. It has to be simple because of the method. My design drafts were nice, but the state of my life didn’t match the cuteness factor. January 18th I got my ct scan results that closed with the dreaded words ‘subtle disease progression noted.’ That night I drew my design, carving it the day after.
“The heart is an organ of fire.” (A statement I always liked from Michael Ondaatje.) Barbed wire is all about ominous limitation. Paper, rock, scissors is a children’s game positing which tool is the strongest in the end.
My love and appreciation to so many as I plod forwards on this journey. I am still on chemo but drug shifts are around the corner because my body needs a break from ‘the big gun’ of carboplatinum. This entire cycle has been about delay after delay as my blood counts stay too low for treatment. It’s a roller coaster. A time without chemo is not yet imagined – if the disease gets stable I will stay on some maintenance infusion probably of avistan.
Happy Valentine’s Day because what is the option.
with love, marcy