I like to think I’m an excellent multitasker. I play catchup with my husband while cooking and checking emails. But the dog needs to be fed, the brussel sprouts must be turned in five, I have a due date on Tuesday and Daniel has an early class tomorrow—which means I should pack lunch tonight. Three of my close friends recently went through a breakup, so I should give them a call to see how they’re doing.
My husband explains how his exam went, and I nod in agreement.
If I were to quiet my thinking and focus on him, I would notice the way his eyebrows furrow and how his shoulders turn inward. His voice is tired. I would realize that while my husband is talking about how challenging the test was, that he’s also unconsciously discrediting himself for not understanding the material as quickly as the others in his class.
I have fooled myself into thinking I’m good at juggling my thoughts, but I am realizing that this hurts others more than I mean to. I listen, but am not hearing. I have timers and reminders to keep me on top of everything, but I’m seeing how life is not the sum of what I do—it’s made in the relationships that flourish.
It’s February, also known as the ‘month of love’ for couples, and ‘single awareness’ for those who aren’t in a relationship. While I’m happily married, I’m in the camp that could care less about Valentine’s Day. I hate that if I don’t want to cook on February 14th, I might as well microwave instant noodles because every restaurant in town will be packed.
I don’t like foil balloons, or the pink and red cloud that overpowers my neighborhood grocery store. There is an overwhelming presence of crazed men with wide eyes and hectic feet who easily run me over in their quest for flowers. But, I need to give St. Valentine credit where credit is due, and that is, February is a month-long opportunity to remember those in your life whom you love—whether boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, family or your friends (Galentine’s or Palentine’s)— and tangibly show them your affection and appreciation.
My husband and I are on a medical students’ salary, which means no steak dinner date nights for us. But that’s okay because what suits us more are the quiet nights in—we might even light a candle if we’re feeling fancy. We can slow down and savor each other’s presence.
The sun is now set and I fill the pot with water and wait for it to boil. It takes all the effort in my hurried heart not to pull out my phone as I wait. Once it comes to a boil, I place the tea infuser into the pot and watch as the Blood Orange herbal tealeaves slowly paint the water a beautiful stain.
After steeping for two minutes, I spoon some honey to round out the citrus notes.
I bring the cups back to our spot on the couch and we take turns listening to each other about our day. Our phones are in the other room, and our to-do lists are folded in our back pockets. And all that matters is truly listening to one another as we unravel the day’s stories.
At the end of the day, with or without the gifts or the flowers or the lovely dates, remember it as an opportunity to be present for the ones you love and cherish.