Remember what Valentine’s Day was like back in 2nd grade? I do. I gave everyone in my class a Valentine. I didn’t discriminate. The goal was to make everyone feel special. I loved those paper Valentine’s. Just buying the box from the local Caldor filled me with excitement. The joy of bringing a little piece of love to everyone. And feeling loved in return. It was so simple. And no one felt left out. At the age of 7, all love was distributed equally. Okay, maybe you gave that one extra big valentine, that came in every box, to your best girlfriend, or your boy crush. But it was still about acknowledging every person in your class.

It was expectation that got in the way. How come Annie got more big cards than I did? Why didn’t Joe sign mine? Did Beth get more sweetheart candies? Jealousy and envy started to rear its head. And why didn’t Deacon give me one at all? I thought I was his best girl friend? All the acknowledgment was gone and now it was about who got more love than I did. And there is the bane of Valentine’s Day. It’s rooted in acknowledgment, cut down by expectation. And I’m here to tell you to let it all go. Because , it’s true, Joe didn’t sign my card. But he didn’t sign half of them because he thought the whole Valentine thing was weird anyway, so he just stopped signing, stuffed them all into the little white envelope, took the class list and wrote each name neatly on the front. He made sure everyone got one. Because even though he might not “like” you, you were his friend. Even peripherally. And that counted.

And here I am. A grown up. And here’s what I still know. It’s not a about presents. It’s not about dinner reservations. It’s not about being part of couple. And it is not about being lonely. When Valentine’s Day is done right — it’s about acknowledgment of time and love well spent. It’s not filled with expectation about how you want to be appreciated. It’s so much simpler than that. It’s about giving from a place of real heart. It’s about receiving with grace. And it’s about remembering how the glue tasted on those sweet little white envelopes as you sealed each and every one with just love and acknowledgment for time well spent.

Okay, everyone. Calm down. It’s just Valentine’s Day. And by calm down I mean leave the expectation at the door and just settle in and remember what’s important. The desire to feel loved.

Sure there are lots of ways to do this according to Hallmark and DeBeers. But I’m here to remind you what Valentine’s Day is all about acknowledgement. You thought I was going to say appreciation, didn’t you? But appreciation, on this particular day, gets all wrapped up in candy and jewelry and really expensive dinners at overly crowded restaurants. Appreciation implies expectation on the part of the person hoping to receive it, e.g., I hope s/he appreciates this. But for just his one day, I’m asking you to leave appreciation, and expectation, at the door. Why? Because this is what appreciation looks like the day after Valentine’s Day.

“Oh, Betty Sue, you have to see the diamond tennis bracelet Dick gave me for Valentine’s Day. He took me out to Chez Overprix, we drank champagne and then this appeared under my napkin when I came back from the ladies room. I can’t believe how much he spent on me. I can’t believe how in love we still are after all these years.” Betty Sue panics, scrambling for some fabulous story she can conjure to replace the fact that she got flowers and thank you, albeit a lovely one, from her husband, Jock, for being his wife and loving him so completely followed by a very romantic evening in the boudoir. Flowers? Are you kidding me? Jock makes more money than Dick!

Betty Sue got acknowledged. But was undermined by Diamond Lil’s “appreciative” husband. Because she didn’t really understand what just happened. Let’s go deeper and see who comes on top in this little scenario courtesy of Mirriam Webster

Appreciation 1 a : judgement, evaluation; especially : a favorable critical estimate b : sensitive awareness; especially : recognition of aesthetic values c : an expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude 2 : increase in value
Acknowledgment 1 a : the act of acknowledging b : recognition or favorable notice of an act or achievement 2 : a thing done or given in recognition of something received 3 : a declaration or avowal of one’s act or of a fact to give it legal validity

And there we have it. Would you rather be judged for your aesthetic values or recognized for your achievement? Favorably critiqued, or validated through avowal? Appreciation may sound sexier but acknowledgement is sexier. These are important differences on this a confusing enough of all days. I’m just here to give you a little something to ponder before you drop a wad of cash. Just think before you spend. Look at actions rather than receipts. And make whoever that person next to you is feel like you can’t live without them by telling them rather than selling them.