Loss comes in multiple forms. Naively we can believe that life should be just a progression of happy-endings with success coming after success, but this is not reality. Even the most successful among us realizes that happiness in life comes not from a life without hardship, but from learning to deal well with our losses. Only when we learn to deal with our losses well, when we no longer fear, can we live and success seems easy, especially to those outside of that experience. However this is a skill that takes time and patience. Loss is a continual thorn in the side of reality, a pain to be dealt with. Empathy and compassion, not pity, are the only balms that can help easy the transition of such souls.
However loss is not the same as despair. We can lose, we can mourn, we can feel sadness, but despair is another animal entirely. Valentine’s Day can for some be simply mundane, for some it is the height of elation, and for others it can be nothing more then a reopened knife wound reminding them of what they have lost. Random acts of kindness get super-sized on such days, not just between lovers, but among complete strangers, especially hurting strangers.
This book became an embodiment of an important lesson I learned years ago about random acts of kindness and loss. Namely that the only thing I have found that fills the void of loss is doing something truly selfless for someone else. It fills your soul with purpose and eases the pain.
Years ago I was feeling such a loss. It was New Years Eve and I, while not quite self-loathing, certainly was feeling less of myself then the year before. The next day I decided that this was a horrible way to be living my life. Winter in Maine can be tough as it is without yearning constantly for another person by your side. I had been reading a lot of Hafiz (among other sufi poets), and that morning I was struck by what one can only call, inspiration. I ferverishly starting writing, within 24 hours, I had written the rough drafts of all the poems here, within three weeks I had selected which ramblings bore some merit to live on and I had a few of my much more talented friends graciously edit and pare down my crude thoughts. A week later I was done the accompanying drawings.
By Valentine’s Day I had a 100 copies of this book that I laid out, printed (on my home printer, crude but effective) hand bound and cut all by myself. On Valentine’s Day I hit the street giving this book to everyone I met. Coworkers, strangers, bar patrons, everyone in Portland was fair game. I felt like an incarnation of a Valentine’s Day tooth fairy. It didn’t matter if anyone took the book or not, just making the book and giving it away was one of the most cathartic acts I’ve ever done. A piece of my loss left with every book I gave away. For me, it was a down-right euphroic act.
I was expecting people to reject my offer of my book, and some did. What I wasn’t prepared for was, not just how many people didn’t reject my offer, but how many broke down in tears being offered one, let alone getting one. People poured their hearts out to me on the street because they believed that on that particular day they weren’t loved, and just my simple act of offering them a book had changed their minds. That blew me away and I realized that the book wasn’t important, it was this act of selflessly giving without expecting anything in return, even if it was just this silly little book that was telling everyone, “You are worthy of being loved,” and that’s what everyone, every day needs to hear.
So now I try to make an effort to always make something to give away every Valentine’s Day. I have learned it is way more fun and life changing to give away hundreds of flowers then to receive a bunch myself. The giving will literally change your world. And it’s always awesome to act like a Valentine’s Day fairy.