In so many different ways, February is considered heart month. The month opens with a burst of red on calendars and in stores as we celebrate the health of the human heart and that grand emotion of the human heart, love. We are encouraged to bestow flowers and candies upon our loved ones at the same time being admonished to take of one’s heart with a healthy diet and exercise. I sense the irony here. Heart health this month is especially focused on women’s hearts as denoted by the floating red dress symbol. It’s a month to see red.
If one is in the initial bloom of a love relationship, February and specifically Valentine’s Day is the day to show your lover what they mean to you. Typically this appears to be done by giving the aforementioned candy, cards and flowers but jewelry is a common gift as are marriage proposals, trips abroad and champagne dinners by candlelight. As the blush of first love wears off, especially if one is in a very long term relationship, that bloom of ardor has cooled and more often than not, in lieu of gifts is the complaint that the holiday has just been created by card companies and jewelry stores for the profit that it brings. Nothing cools passion faster than that particular sentiment.
It is usually then that the other heart of February is focused on. Heart health is a serious issue and for women it can mask as another illness sometimes until it is too late to get help. As a woman, I know that there are times when I think that a certain pain is just in my imagination or maybe it’s a pulled muscle or maybe even just gas. Women often think they are just too busy or it really isn’t serious or they have other people to care for. All of that mental negotiation can temporarily soothe one’s concern until the heart actually stops because it really wasn’t gas after all.
When you think of it, the heart is a pretty amazing organ. Not only does it pump about 100,000 times per day which keeps the human body up and running, it skips a beat when one meets that special someone, it can freeze when one is in shock or fear and it can break when sorrow hits it. From the heart come sonnets and songs and it can actually go out to someone when feeling compassionate. It can also grow hard with hate or anger or be soft in the person considered a push over. One famous song even claimed that the heart would go on even after the person had stopped! Yes that heart is a busy little thing.
Because of all of that I wonder that as humans we take this relatively tiny organ for granted. It does so much for us and to us and yet we can forget about it for months at a time, at least until February rolls around again. We use it and abuse it to the point where I am astounded that it can handle all that it does. When we consider how essential it is to life itself one would think we would be more careful with it. But no. We eat our decadent food and drink. We stay up late and party. We hurt other people’s hearts by playing with them when we are not being honest. It is said that some of us have no heart but of course that could not be true.
I also believe we all have different hearts in our one heart. I have a daughter’s heart, and a sister’s heart. I have a wife’s heart and a mother’s heart and a friend’s heart. My heart changes a bit with each role I step into. They often overlap. Sometimes my heart is bursting and sometimes it feels as though it has shriveled up and hidden behind a rib somewhere. I can usually coax it out with music, a beat that finds a rhythm with the beat of my heart. a song I can sing at the top of my lungs until that heart fills itself in again. Sometimes I just have to take the pain that has scarred that hearty heart and move away from it until it stops hurting.
We use the heart to describe so many things in our lives. We have heartbreak and heartthrobs. We have bleeding hearts and blackhearts and we can be faint of heart. Sometimes we need to get to the heart of the matter and sometimes two hearts are better than one. And so it seems fitting that this wonderful organ, this suppository of love and emotion vastly beyond its tiny size should have its own month of the year to wax poetic. There are definitely worse things we can glorify. Even for those cynics who refuse to buy flowers or cards, the heart will go on until it no longer can. The next step is just a heartbeat away.