Only the Lonely: Celebrating Valentine’s Day without a Valentine

By Phil La Borie

Here’s to Valentine’s Day – a great opportunity to show that certain someone that you care and to spread a little warmth, cheer and caring during some of the coldest days of the year.

That said, we really don’t know very much about St. Valentine, the supposed founder of the day named in his honor. In fact, according to some historical reports, there may have been as many as three men named Valentine. One story suggests that Valentine was a Christian priest who was imprisoned by the Romans and beheaded in 269 AD.* According to the story, he cured his jailer Asterius’ daughter of her blindness and then shortly before his death, he wrote a letter to someone who may have been the daughter and signed it “From your Valentine.” Sound familiar? It’s a phrase that’s still in use by some folks today. I’ve always preferred the phrase “Be my Valentine.” How about you? Got any favorites?

A little more history: Valentine’s Day greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages. But in those days, they were just delivered verbally. Written valentines first appeared around 1400, and Americans started exchanging valentines in the early 1700s. In the mid-1800s, mass-produced valentines first appeared, and today about one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent every year. That’s second only to the number of Christmas cards (about five billion) that are exchanged annually!**

That’s all fine and dandy, but what to do when you don’t have anyone to send a Valentine’s Day card to? In the days leading up to the big day, it seems that everyone around me is either exchanging cards, sending candy and/or flowers or making dinner reservations at some romantic rendezvous. All this flurry of activity and I’m just sitting on my hands and thinking “Now what?” I’ve found myself in that unhappy situation on several memorable occasions. So, to combat any potential blues, I’ve come up with a number of ideas that help me avoid feeling left-out and lonely.First of all, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I try to get out of my skin and do something meaningful for someone else. Mind you, it isn’t always on Valentine’s Day, but I do try to do it somewhere around that date. One year I volunteered to help out with a day camp for disadvantaged, intercity kids during their school break. Another time, I delivered food to housebound folks. I’ve never served food in a “soup kitchen,” but there certainly are plenty of opportunities to do so, and not only on Valentine’s Day. In any case, there’s almost always someone out there who’s really in need of a little kindness and much-needed help. And by extending a helping hand, it helps me to feel connected with humanity and get out of the “woe is me” camp.

Further, now that I’m living on the Grand Strand, another idea I employ is to take advantage of our marvelous beach. Walking along it in mid-winter is a wonderful way to enjoy Mother Nature at her best. We are truly blessed to have such a spectacular setting, and I’ve found it to be a very effective method to chase away the blues and celebrate life, love and liberty.

On a lighter note, on the day in question, I try to avoid listening to sad music, especially Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” and even Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” Mind you, I think they’re great tunes, but brother, can they ever be downers.

And speaking of music, another thing I’ve thought about on Valentine’s Day is follow the advice in the old tune “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” a song made popular by Fats Waller in the mid-1930s. You know the one that goes:

I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter,And make believe it came from you.I’m gonna write words oh so sweet,They’re gonna knock me off my feet.A lotta kisses on the bottom,I’ll be glad I’ve got ‘em!

To be honest, I’ve never really sat down and written a letter to myself (but I have composed several in my head). Bottom line: over the years, I’ve found that Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to take stock of yourself and your life. When I look back on mine, I have to admit while there have been some real lows, there have also been a considerable number of “highs.” In fact, I sometimes leaf through one of my scrapbooks and look at the Valentine’s Day cards my kids have sent me over the years. What a joy they are to look at and what a terrific reminder of great times gone by.

The cards also serve as a inspirational reminder for me to make the most of every day, set some goals for the future and perhaps most important of all, to enjoy the questions. I must admit that more often than not, I don’t know all or even any of the answers. But, so what? The important point, at least for me, is not to just reminisce about times gone by, but to use those thoughts as a base for taking meaningful and rewarding action moving forward. Having just celebrated my 78th trip around the sun (What a great way to talk about your natal anniversary!), there just may not be that many more round trips ahead, so it’s time to dig in and make the most of them.

Finally, I try to follow the advice given out by Dr. Wayne Dyer. “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”What a nice idea and something to really take to heart, especially on Valentine’s Day. This year, I may just write that letter to myself after all.

* CBN News

** Greeting Card Association

About this writer

  • Phil La Borie

    Phil La Borie

    Phil La Borie is an award-winning writer/artist based in Garden City, South Carolina. His work has been published in AdWeek, The Kaiser-Permanente Journal, Westworld Magazine and online at Phil is the 2015 winner of the Alice Conger Patterson Award offered through the Emrys Foundation. He can be reached at

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2 Responses to “Only the Lonely: Celebrating Valentine’s Day without a Valentine”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Great story teller and late Wayne Dyer follower, too? No wonder I am attracted to your writing, which is a gift.

  2. Erika Hoffman says:

    Enjoyed reading your story. I think the special holidays when we are supposed to feel special can have the opposite effect. Since the time I was a kid wishing to find a pony nibbling the backyard lawn and never did, I’ve taught myself to lower my expectations! So, I don’t feel sad if the kids don’t call or my husband forgets it’s Valentines Day or whatever. Disappointment can rob you of the joy of waking up and discovering what will unfold each day.

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