Love on display

Time passed, a lot of things happened, and yet, February has arrived again. And, as in any other February, love statements are being shown off everywhere. I mean, if not during the love month, then…when?

My subjective answer to this question is daily. Because, if you love, if you really love somebody, then you love them daily. And you prove your life to them daily, not only a few days a year. That is anything but love, at least in my book.

I write this piece as V-Day’s approaching. The thing is that now, unlike a normal year, it hits different. Like anything else, love and dating have been tested a lot. And, if anything happened, it was a shift in the way we’re looking at our romantic ties.

We feel the need to be loved, appreciated, and held, now maybe more than ever. We need contact with others, physical affection, and emotional support. We’ve seen couples breaking up after years and years, and couples that have only grown stronger from this.

And we see our single friends doing their best to deal with the lack of romance in their lives. This meant going back on dating apps, talking to other people, thinking about how to merge dating and staying safe, working on themselves, or talking with their friends about it.

This also means that all the public display of perfect relationships affects them more than it would on a normal year. It does so because, unlike other years, they’re now finding themselves to be severely limited. They can’t go to singles parties, they can’t go on random dates with people they’ve chatted with for a week, or so, they can only sit there and watch.

And seeing everyone else posting their perfect, sweet, incredible relationship all over Social Media is harming their mental health more than usual. It brings up old feelings of inadequacy, of being unworthy, of being bad. These are some hard to cope with things, especially after a year of pandemic, constraints, anxiety, uncertainty, loss, grief, and burn-out. Because no one has enough mental energy to deal with all these things at once.

What should you keep in mind for this V-Day if you’re one of the single and struggling friends in your group?

No one has it all

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: not everything we see on Social Media is real. Most of the time we see just cut-outs of the reality. The highlights of the day, if you want.

This means that all those pretty flowers and cheesy gifts can be an expression of love, but can be as well an expression of fear and anxiety. Keep in mind that a lot of people have turned to buy stuff online as a distraction from their pandemic anxiety. Maybe you’ve done this yourself. There are always two sides to a story, regardless of what the story’s about.

The perfect relationship doesn’t exist in real life

The only place where relationships are perfect, with cute words, gifts,  and appreciation is the Internet. In real life, a relationship has also ups and downs, bad days, heated arguments, and partners asking themselves What was I thinking when I’ve picked you?

And these are the happy, ordinary cases. I am not going to talk about all the abusive, toxic relationships that are living hell in real life and all sugar and pink sequins online. Keep in mind that the number of partners reporting abuses from their significant others has severely increased during the pandemic, so most probably what you see is not what you get.

But none of these things are worth posting online, are they?

You’re not alone in this

This is not the problem of an individual, but of a big part of the population. And it’s okay, this year has wrecked us all, without any kind of discrimination. Our social interactions are being severely diminished, and we play by different rules. Even like that, it’s temporary, and we have to try our best to be patient and, you know, just hang in there.

You are worth it

Having to say this makes my heart sad, but I will do it anyway. You are worth it. Even if you’re single for a long time, or maybe your significant other and you have just split up, you’re worth it. You deserve kindness, respect, attention, care. You deserve to be supported, feeling understood, loved, important. appreciated. You deserve to have around people careful when it comes to your emotional needs, people who won’t belittle you for having a bad period or feeling low. And no one should ever have enough power to make you think otherwise about yourself.

You can still celebrate

Even if you’re single, you can still celebrate love. I mean, self-love is love, after all. So go ahead and treat yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you choose to put on some make-up and nice clothes, take a loong bubble bath, cook something delicious, watch those cheesy movies you’ve always postponed, have a videogames night, or simply sleep in early. It’s your celebration, and you get to do it your way. What matters is reminding yourself that you can be single and still have a lovely time.

Stand your ground

In times like these it can be really tempting to go back to people we share memories with. Maybe our exes, maybe some close friends that proved themselves to be bad for us.Friendly advice: don’t. The reason is the fact that, usually, the mix between nostalgia and loneliness seems to erase the downsides of those relationships. You don’t need to bring back something harmful to your mental health and overall evolution. You know and deserve better. And you will get what you deserve when you’ll stop trying to open closed doors.

These are just a few things we could do to ease our passing through the month of love. Keep in mind that all the good love stories begin with people that have fallen in love with themselves in the first place, and find their way to it. It can be journaling, psychotherapy, Zoom calls with your best friends, whatever you feel might be helpful for you.

Don’t forget that some of the relationships you see might be actually tainted, despite all the pretty moments those involved choose to share. Or that everybody tries to do their best on days of celebration, like Valentine’s Day. And this implies buying pretty gifts, pretty clothes, setting up fancy dinners, and all the special things no one is making daily.

So take a deep breath, and look around. They are human, just like you are. So take advantage of this day and do more of what makes you happy. That will be more than good enough.

Confessions of a cat mom

I’ve been a cat lover for as long as I can remember, and I’ve discovered how amazing life with (at least) one cat could be since I was a child. I am and I will always be fascinated by the way they walk, their tiny paws, their ears, and their expressivity.

But living with cats has also taught me a lot of things, some of them pretty unexpected, and their companionship proved itself to be making a difference countless times already. So here it is, the list of the most important things I’ve learned from my cats so far.

  • You’re an individual.

The first thing I’ve ever learned about cats was that they’re not something, they are someone. Someone with clear preferences when it comes to sleep, food, play, and affection. Someone with affinities (or lack of) when it comes to other people or pets. Each cat I’ve ever met had her own individuality and did its best to show you that it won’t allow you to treat her inappropriately.

  • There’s no shame in having boundaries.

Every cat I know has limits, and some very clearly marked ones. She won’t accept your attention anytime you want to, just because you want to cuddle at that very moment. A cat needs her private space and time, and won’t let you cross those limits. This is how I’ve learned to stay aware of other’s limitations while trying my best to accept mine.

  • Stay honest.

Yes, a cat has a strong personality, enjoys a good life, and loves to be respected. But it does all these things naturally, without pretending. A cat won’t pretend to be anything that it’s not. They are only being themselves, regardless of our wishes or opinions.

  • Relaxation must be part of the daily routine.

As I was saying, a cat loves having a good life. And a good life means, from the feline point of view, a routine mixing playtime, sunbathing, walkarounds, and some good naps. Cats will live slowly, with grace and no hurry, finding something worth exploring even in the most ordinary places, and this is by far one of the most important things I have learned from them: that, no matter what, there has to be a little time for relaxing. That time goes by regardless if you’re worrying or choosing to take your mind off that thing that nags you and relax for a while.

  • Empathy is a shortcut that never gets old.

You can do a lot of things to a cat, but hiding your real feelings from it isn’t one of them. Cats simply know when something is going on with their human companion, even if you feel sick, have pains or you’re just having a bad day. They know and they act like it. A cat will come to you on your bad days and will just jump into your lap, stare at you until you cuddle them. And then, they purr, and things happen. It was in my darkest times when my feline friends have given me the most efficient help: they just stood with me until the pain faded away. Patiently, they have been there day after day, months in a row.

Because cats are, more than any other animals, capable of empathy. They understand the value of privacy, but they also understand that bad days are not meant to be transited by oneself. And only in times of mental struggle we, their humans, understand the value of the unconditional love that we’re constantly receiving from them.

I have long ago lost count of the moments when I’ve looked at my cats sitting peacefully by my side and asked myself What if I just take everything easier? before getting the courage needed to try again one more time.

These are some of the most important things my gracious friends taught me, and some of the things I will be the most grateful for. But for the rest of the little things that fill up the days and make them prettier, I will remain a cat mom, knowing that love can be unconditional, but never the trust.