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A Letter to Love

Things I didn't expect this Valentine's Day: finally asking for a divorce from a decade long partner.

Things I also didn't expect this Valentine's Day: to be deeply in love with someone new, feeling a happiness I never knew existed.

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Truthfully, I've never really cared for Valentine's Day, but I know how social media can impact how we feel and figure it's a perfect excuse to write about LOVE. Last year on Valentine's Day I was in the middle of moving out of an apartment I shared with my ex, and I published this podcast (literally on V-Day) which was listened to over 10 000 times in the first week. Oh how different life can be in one year.

This morning I woke up to tons of mushy posts about romantic love. Don't get me wrong, I love romantic love. And I've been fortunate to have been in a relationship for 9 out of the last 10 years. But just because you're in a relationship doesn't mean you're happy. Say that to yourself 10 times so you remember. Because if you're single (and wanting a relationship) it's easy to feel like a relationship would solve everything. Spoiler alert: it won't. And if you're in a relationship and feeling lonely, you're not alone.

Dating can be lonely. Being single can be lonely. Marriage can be lonely. Being cheated on is painfully lonely. Separation is lonely. And going through a divorce is proving to feel lonely sometimes. But each of these stages are also beautiful, and wonderful, and full of lessons and growth. And I know this because at the ripe age of 29 I've somehow experienced them all. And really, Valentine's Day is really just another day. We'll all wake up tomorrow and it will just be February 15th, back to regularly scheduled programming - but at least the chocolates will be on sale!

I don't want this post to seem negative, because if you know me at all you know I'm a lover. I love big. And I love quickly, and fiercely. But I also know that as big as my heart fills with love, it also can feel an equal and opposite sadness. That's what being a human is: complex feelings, layers, and love. This Valentine's Day I just want to encourage you to celebrate love, especially the kind where you love yourself. 

And if there is one thing I've learned in the last 18 months it's to give space for your feelings and to be gentle with yourself. I spent my formative twenties in an all encompassing co-dependent relationship which, when it ended with an affair, felt like my life was over. I didn't know who I was, and felt like my identity had been so wrapped in the relationship I didn't know what to do with all the love I had been reserving for that one person.

I started really giving the love back to my friends, especially since they had carried me through the darkest time in my life. I gave some love back to my family, who have always supported me. I tried to be actively kind to strangers: extra thank you's to baristas, smiles on the streetcar, chats with kids while waiting in lines. I even gave some love to myself. And somehow my broken heart was beginning to heal, but this time it felt even bigger and more full of love than before. A love that wasn't mixed with pain and stress, but joy, and light. I felt more compassion, empathy and grace than I knew possible.

I feel immensely grateful for the love I've felt this past 18 months as I rebuilt myself. It's been a wholehearted journey full of the most generous and loving people. My heart is full.

So, on this cheesy Hallmark holiday, I want to remind you to celebrate LOVE. Whether it's the love you have for a partner, a pet, your friends, your family, your community or just your LIFE. Just make sure you save some love for you, too. Because the more you learn to love yourself, the more love will start to show up in ways you didn't imagine. <3

Nicole Hudson