February 14, 2001 was my first REAL Valentine's Day. I was 22 years old in my first year of teaching in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico. No computer, no cell-phone, no car. Just a young blond Gringa living abroad. I moved there to be closer to the love of my young life, yet we were still 13 hours away. Every long weekend I had, I hopped on a night bus with nothing but my backpack, some spare Pesos and the excitement in my heart. Every Mexico City weekend was so exhilarating, that I didn't care. Whatever it took to be there and to be with him. I had just gotten back a week earlier from another long weekend, and even though something felt different, I still just knew he was the one. He was more distant, quiet, closed and impatient. I confronted him that he wasn't putting in equal effort, and that I wanted him to try harder. I told him that I wanted him to call me more. Come visit me. Make an effort for me. I wanted him to love me more.
And...I heard nothing. I ran to the school library during my lunch break. I went to the Internet Cafe after school. No reply. Silence.
My mind wondered if he was ok, and my heart filled with worry. I wanted him to love me. I needed him to love me. I had to make him remember how amazing it was to love me.
4th day. Still nothing. I pretended to be fine out for a taco dinner with my friends.
5th day. Monday morning, February 12. I couldn't wait for lunch recess, and the library computers were down, so in my 20 minute morning recess break, I sprinted to the Internet Cafe four minutes away to just check. JUST in case. Inside I had a knowing that this time his name would be there, and in those 30 seconds of dial up and logging on, my heart pounded faster than it had when I was sprinting. OMG! His name was right at the top of my inbox, with the subject "I'm sorry."
Instantly my heart melted as I already knew what the email would say. "I'm sorry for not calling, not coming to visit you more often, not emailing you all week. I love you. I'm coming up this weekend to have an amazing Valentine's weekend with you."
Only that's not what it said. When my eyes read the words, yet my mind and heart denied every one, I sat there paralyzed.
"Lynn, I'm not in love with you anymore." Everything beyond that was a total blur. WHAT? NO!
I logged off, ran back with tears flooding down my face feeling completely nauseous. And numb. My students were coming back in 6 minutes. I entered my still empty classroom, sat down in my chair, looked up and saw him hugging me in a pink heart frame. With total impulse, I grabbed it and threw it on the floor, where the glass shattered beneath my feet. "Not love me anymore? How? Why?
I ran next door and told my co-teacher that I felt really sick and had to go home. I picked up the glass shards and ran to an empty Mexican apartment feeling emptier than I had in my entire life.
What had I done? Every possible emotion overtook me in the first hour alone, and then started again over and over. Anger. Denial. Helplessness. Hopefulness. Begging. Acceptance. Fear. I had given my life away and I had nothing left. The sobbing into my pillow went on for nearly 48 hours until I woke up on Wednesday morning, February 14 when, not even a lightbulb, a powerful sun ignited in my heart. Even if it was short lived, that day I was going to love myself. I dressed in a shiny red shirt, a big red bow and went to school and did heart activities all day with my Mexican 1st graders. That day, for the first day, I saw them differently. I really loved them. I loved my roommates. I loved my mommy. I loved myself in a way that I hadn't before.
It took losing my identity in someone and then losing him. It took getting my heart broken to open up, and I know now that it was so much more than my heart. It was my lack of self worth. My dependance on him loving me for my validation; a role he could never fulfill, which is why I drove him away. It took shattering my protective ego of playing weak and needy to realize that if I didn't love myself, nobody powerful and confident ever would. Though the healing went on for months, for the first time ever, my first real Valentine's Day, I actually loved myself without needing anyone else to love me first.