First, I believe the most important job of your life is to learn how to love yourself unconditionally, adoringly, patiently, kindly.

Secondly, you will think differently about the word “heart” when you have finished reading this blog.

This part of my story began in 1988 at a relationship workshop held in San Francisco.  I remember exactly where I was sitting when the speaker said “when the lower heart is abused, the upper heart shuts down.”  It was an enlightning moment for me.  I had never heard anyone call my vulva a heart or lower heart; yet I knew it was true.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I had done all kinds of therapy to heal from what had happened to me.  I knew as soon as I heard that quote that I would use clay as yet another way to heal (I have been a ceramic artist most of my life).  I decided I would sculpt labia in clay.  It was an empowering, and yes, healing process for me.  It was also a joyful process, resulting in my feeling more connected with my body, and more positive about my vulva.

I have never stopped — sculpting labias in clay continues to be a joyful experience.  I lovingly sculpt each piece.  In doing this work, I realized that the True Origin of the Valentine is a woman’s lower heart, her labia.  Our upper hearts are shaped like a fist.  While no two labias are alike, and all are sacred and divine, many have the heart shape.

Over 40 years ago I helped found a rape crisis center and learn and taught self-defense classes.  With attention and services finally addressing sexual violence, we thought the incidents of rape, domestic violence, and incest would fade away.  They haven’t!** (It would take another blog to discuss the intense backlash against feminism we see today.)

[** It’s also clearer today than 40 years ago that boys are sexually abused at high percentages, and that trans people, and people with disabilities are abused at VERY high percentages.]

I often wonder what life would be like if people did not need to fear rape, abuse, and violence.  We would have so much more energy to dismantle patriarchal systems of domination. From this chain of thought, I coined the phrase “happy labias = world peace.”   Happy labias equal self-confident, self-loving, setting-boundaries, passionate people who are needed to keep the planet from imploding.

Our most urgent life task, then, is to love ourselves so deeply that we can love the whole world.  (Sorry, no exceptions.)  As Audre Lorde wrote years ago, self-care and self-love are revolutionary acts in themselves.  I encourage your own self-loving revolt.