Valentine’s Day sells us love as a thing outside ourselves, a commodity without which we are incomplete. Confused, we think of love as the whirlpool Romeo and Juliet fell into, conveniently forgetting that it killed them. I think love is what keeps us from jumping off the bridge when we feel fear or despair; and to be a lover is to tell a stranger on that bridge, “I have been there too, and I did not jump, so that I could save you.”

To be a lover we must be alive. To be alive we must love ourselves—commit heroic everyday acts, like taking our meds, demanding respect, quietly reflecting on life, getting enough sleep and giving, so that when we are most needed we are ready to be the lover. Because we’ve been on that bridge, and we know.