While shopping for groceries and passing by the card section, a Valentine’s Day card caught my eye. It was perfect for my husband, so I bought it. When the cashier was scanning my groceries and saw the card he said, “I think that Valentine’s Day is a commercial gimmick to make certain people feel like dirt.”
“You mean because they don’t have anyone?” I asked.
Looking dejected, he just nodded and continued scanning. His comment caused me to think: what about those who are alone on Valentine’s Day. What’s it like for them when many are remembering those they love with flowers, candy, and cards?
I have a friend who has spent the past 17 Valentine’s Days alone. Debbie’s husband left when their son was just five months old. And though she’s an incredible person, she’s not yet remarried. I asked her what it’s like to have no romantic ties on this holiday.
“It’s been many years,” she said. “But I still get that twinge inside when I see the cards. And there’s wishful thinking that I could have someone to buy a particular card for.”
Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day she’s lonely. Debbie’s job sometimes takes her around the world to many romantic places. Watching a sunset or strolling a beach alone just isn’t the same as having someone to share it with. And when she’s back home to real life, it hasn’t been easy raising a son alone—no husband at the family table; no dad on Christmas morning; no family of three sitting together at church.
“How do you do it?” I asked.
“I don’t dwell on it,” she answered. “I choose to enjoy what I do have. You get what you focus on—and I choose happiness. You can look at life in two different ways, you know: what you have and what you don’t have. Dwelling on what I have makes me happy. Dwelling on what I don’t have drains me and causes me to feel empty.
“In life in general, there are basically three types of negative thinking people: the ‘don’t haves,’ the ‘can’t haves,’ and the ‘won’t haves.’ You get in life what you’re looking for. And even being single, there’s happiness to be found. But if I don’t look for happiness, I’m not even aware that it’s there.”
Debbie has done several things in past years that have gotten her through Valentine’s Day. She’s made homemade cards and sent them to friends. She’s baked and shared cookies. She’s helped with her son’s school Valentine’s parties. And she’s even bought herself flowers!
“If you’re sad,” she told me, “it will lift you up to reach out to someone else—to make another’s day happy.” And that’s just what she did today. My computer inbox said I had one new message. It was an online Valentine card, from Debbie, thanking me for my friendship.
— Written by Nancy Canwell
Photo by Olivier GR