Alone on Valentine’s day?

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Love is in the air this month. If you don’t believe me, just turn on the TV or radio and prepare yourself for a deluge of commercials from jewelry stores and flower shops reminding you that you’re not really loved unless he/she says it with a tiny box filled with diamonds.
If you are already “coupled up” then you may view these endless advertisements as wallpaper and ignore them completely but if you are “perpetually single” February can feel like a dagger to the heart. You know, the heart that isn’t fulfilled until you can wake up in the morning, see another face on the pillow next to you, you’re snoring away and smelling of last night’s bag of Doritos; now that’s love baby! It’s also at that moment you think, “I wonder if they’d catch me if I smother him, then get rid of the body down by the river? Oh, and if they do CSI the crap out of his sudden disappearance and convict me, how lenient might the judge be when I show the court his $6,000 collection of baseball caps he’s wasted our money on?” I’m teasing, of course; please don’t smother him in his sleep.
On the off chance your love life hasn’t been a Michael Bublé song and you find yourself single this month, I thought I’d offer some insight. Now, I myself am recently married so we haven’t reached the point yet where she’s plotting my death but in my 54 years traipsing about this big blue planet I have spent many years where I was blue and alone and hated those sappy Valentine’s commercials you keep seeing. I’m not here to tell you there’s hope because (a) that may not be the case at this juncture and (b) that’s exactly what you don’t need— some preachy TV dude going all Dr. Phil on you. So if you have a worse dating life than somebody in purple spandex wearing a “Ted Cruz in 2016” t-shirt, I’m not offering you hope; however, I will share some advice. When it comes to love—to heck with it!
I’m a firm believer that God has a plan for each of us and we don’t always get to see the strings the puppeteer is pulling or understand the reasons why things happen as they do but if you are alone right now in the romance department, view it as an opportunity, not a curse.
Years ago, I went through a divorce and was as friendly as a rattlesnake who missed his nap so I skulked around with the stereotypical “poor me” attitude. Then one day, I was at a barbecue in someone’s house when I started chatting with a woman. No, we didn’t fall in love. Stop! I told you this isn’t a love story.
Turns out she was a psychologist and after telling her in no uncertain terms “I don’t want you shrinking me,” she very stealthily shrunk me (analyzed me, minus the couch and $75 an hour fee) anyway. She just asked me a simple question: Is there nothing positive about you being suddenly single? Is there a book you always wanted to read? A gym you never had time to join? What about you just enjoying being alone? Is there nothing appealing in that?
I finished my cheeseburger and left without thanking her but she gave me gifts that day. In the weeks that followed, her questions nagged me like slivers I couldn’t wiggle out from under my skin. Then one day, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and unwrapped those gifts she gave. I took an honest inventory of my life and set out to restock the emotional shelves that were painfully bare.
I did join a gym and took trips to places and did things I’d always wanted to do but never had the time for. It may sound silly but I finally got around to reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Great book, by the way. Was being single so much better than being a couple? That’s kind of a trick question because there are elements to both that are appealing. I think the secret is finding the good stuff wherever you find yourself at this moment in life because, believe me, it’s there if you look.
I’ll tell you one last thing about the actual day we call Valentine’s Day. When it comes to true love, it’s for amateurs. You don’t want a life partner who only does nice things for you once a year on February 14th and only because Hallmark tells them to. Hold out for the person who does the little things right all year round. Folding laundry, starting your car on a cold morning, surprising you at work with a cup of coffee—those are priceless. And if you are single right now, find the virtue in that. What is it they say? A warm bath, a glass of wine and the remote beats a bad date any day. Truer words were never spoken.
John Gray is weekly columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at johngray@fox23news.com.

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