Misty Wagner

a blog, a podcast, a journey

We recently heard the history of St. Valentine and honestly, I feel like this is the ultimate romantic story. How has this not inspired a major motion picture? How is this NOT a story I had heard, ever, in the history of all Valentine’s days, school parties, etc???

I have never been much of a Valentine’s Day lover. I see it as one of those marks towards the top of the long list that represents all of the things we use to tell us we aren’t good enough, are not truly loved, and design completely unrealistic expectations around. This aspect of reality has grown so much with the rise of social media, the idealization of grand gestures, and the obsession with mimicking the entertainment industry.

This is sounding more soapbox than I am intending…

Here’s the thing though, my husband doesn’t believe that he is capable of romance. He is confined by the restrictions of finances, opportunity, and all of the other real life things that prove how attainable a movie life is. I look back at his childhood and cannot fathom where this shaping of “romance” originated, but for twenty-five years the majority of what I hear is that he’s sorry he isn’t more romantic, or sorry that he can’t do more. The truth is, I have never been that girl who longed for the big Hollywood style romance. There are certain fresh flowers I love, and I’ll take being surprised by them any day, (or let’s be real, I’ll buy them myself too!) Beyond that though, the traditional sense of “romantic gestures” isn’t one I identify with. Don’t bring me chocolates, or candy of any kind… BUT, an occasional fancy cupcake might be nice.

My poor husband has never been able to grasp the personalization of an authentic romantic gesture. He has done them countless times, but would never “hashtag” them as romantic. Instead he’s waiting for the hand in hand stroll beside the Eiffel tower at sunset to see himself as romantic, while I’m over here kind of like “Meh, Paris…” Ha!

I wanted to share a few things here, that make up some of the most REAL romantic things I’ve ever heard of- and they happen to be things this man has done for me… (It isn’t for bragging purposes as much as to illustrate the very idea of a “romantic gesture” is personal. What gets my heart melting isn’t likely what works for you.)

  • We were young and stupid. We got engaged, and then broke up. Even then, before Youtube and flash mob proposals, he felt far too much pressure about the importance of that moment. He tried too hard, cloaked in too much pessimism about his abilities, that though I said yes- (I helped pick out the ring, so it was pretty much a formality anyway) the proposal itself was not the basis of a great story. As I mentioned though, we broke up… And then we found ourselves sitting in a pew of the church that I had grown up knowing I would one day get married in, and he held my hand. Then, he let go of my hand to draw my ring on the back of a “connection” card, and wrote a simple “check yes or no” beneath it. MELT…
  • Not long after we were married, drowning in medical debt (yep, I was a big contributor to the awesome stuff like debt, hospital stays and a solid string of health issues, pretty much from the get go.) he irrationally enlisted in the Air Force. The recruiter painted it as the best solution, (it was not) and so he jumped. This was pre-9/11, when there were far too many people enlisted and so Chw got sent home along with lots of others. The first night he was back, he sang the lyrics to our song (We were so on trend… Always, by Bon Jovi) as we slow danced in the dark. He’d been gone several really hard weeks, and he had spent an insane amount of (pre-birth-of-google) time writing out the lyrics and memorizing them. MELT…
  • Fast forward awhile. He’s working at a glass factory. During his lunches he had cut a glass heart out, for me. He bevelled the edges and then frosted the words I Love You into its surface. I have never been a kitschy, knick knack lover but that heart seared itself into mine. (which is good because we no longer have it.) When he gave me this beautiful gift with an equal mix of pride over his creation, fear that I would hate it and doom that it wasn’t good enough. Heartbreaking! But honestly, the most precious thing about this glass heard was that there was so much of himself within it. Seriously, I LOVED it. Major MELT…
  • Sometime later, he was helping a group of kids make homemade playdough, at my parents. He then took a bit of it and carved an amazing rose for me. I kept it for years, until it was so dry it crumbled. I loved that eerie blue flower more than anything he’s ever given me- glass heart aside. MELT…
  • One Christmas, money was really tight and gifts in general were pretty much a negative. In our garage, in stolen moments I never knew about, he made me an ornately carved wooden business card holder. I had a photography business at the time, and it was such a gesture of support. I love it still and it sits on my desk… MELT.
  • I’d had surgery. There was a tumor the size of a nerf football in my uterus. The doctor had taken it, along with an ovary. Once I’d woken up, in recovery, I was miserable. The pain was huge, and my heart was broken. I wanted to be a mother so badly, and if I hadn’t been able to do it with two working ovaries and a non-compromised uterus, how would I possibly do it after this? Shattered, (which felt like a life theme at my twenty-two years of age) and feeling so alone, they wheeled me into my hospital room. The second I caught sight of him there, waiting for me, I felt grounded in gravity, so stable and most importantly: SAFE. This was the very first time in the history of my entire life that I remember distinctly feeling safe. He’d brought me a little figurine that said “You are my sunshine”, and though it was cute and STILL sits on my nightstand (twenty years later), never far from where I lay my head, it is valuable to me because it tethers me to the most amazing moment I have ever had, thanks to my husband… MELT…

The most romantic things that this man has ever done, (and there are others… these are just the ones that come to mind right now) were when he allowed himself to just authentically be, without the pressure or lofty projections of someone/something else. This is true for all of us, I suspect. When we are our most authentic selves, is when we are our most beautiful… St. Valentine was a man, and this was simply his name. He signed a letter, before his death, “your Valentine.” Over 1500 years later the anniversary of his death is recognized as the most romantic day of the year, by the majority of the world. Remember that when the pressure and expectations presented by film, tv, novels and Instagram tell you what things should look like…

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