I picked this leaf up off the ground the other day. Uncannily heart-shaped. Fallen. And though it’s clearly seen some damage in its time, and has even worn through in some places, it has a beauty and a fragility all of its own. Something that no verdant (‘perfect’) green leaf could emulate…

It’s an interesting thing to reflect on in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day; a time when so many big glossy red hearts burst boldly from card shops and florists. When the spotlight’s on rich romantic love and the hearts in the throes of it. When there might seem to be less space for those hearts that feel a bit worn through; a bit damaged…

So what condition is your heart in at the moment?
And what does a day like Valentine’s Day evoke for you?

Maybe it’s a celebration.
Maybe it’s a sorrow.
Maybe there’s cynicism there.

And if you don’t happen to feel the stuff that’s generally connected to Valentine’s Day (all those cupids and arrows), where does that leave you?

Does it feel harder to live with what you’ve got if a day like this highlights what you don’t have right now…?

Does Valentine’s Day set up a painful comparison between the life you lead versus the (rather mythical) ‘perfect’ life of idealised love?

If so, perhaps it’s worth thinking about expanding the meaning of this day for yourself… to reclaim it in a way.

Interestingly, the name ‘Valentine’ apparently stems from ‘valens’, meaning strong, powerful, worthy.

So maybe it’s possible to invite some of that stuff into the day, too – to recognize your own strength and worthiness for having lived through the things you’ve faced. For being strong enough to live with the pain that life and love inevitably serve up sometimes. And for being worthy of love, no matter what shape you’re in.

For, as the leaf in the photograph reminds us, all hearts are worthy. Even the damaged ones…


Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.