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Single Out a Different Kind of Love

5 ways for the unattached to celebrate Feb. 14

I have a wise friend who says, "Whatever is in the way is the way." Now this may be a bit too cryptic for some of you, but I take it as meaning that instead of avoiding something that bothers us, we're better off addressing it. Try and understand what feels so uncomfortable, and, in that way, you might conquer your fears.

OK, so I think that if you are single, Valentine's Day is probably getting in the way. In this case, I probably know why it's stalling you: Everyone is mooning over where to go and what to get their date or spouse. Trapped amid the flurry, many singles feel left out or annoyed at everyone (and all the commercial interests) for making such a big a deal out of this "jour de l'amour."

Even if you are a singleton who feels this chocolate-and-flower fest is grossly over-emphasized, all the buzz about romance can still make you feel lonely. You can long for someone to be with — if only to have a compatriot who also considers V-Day a crass, commercial holiday.

So to help the unattached avoid feeling down on Feb. 14, I propose we broaden the way we celebrate this holiday. There are lots of ways to feel and give love on Valentine's Day, and several have nothing to do with coupledom.

Here are my favorite, effective ways single people can reclaim mid-February and warm their hearts.

Have the people you love over for dinner. Invite your book club, brother and sister, or best buddies over for a potluck. Make the evening a reminder of how lucky you feel to have these wonderful people in your life. Remind yourself that all kinds of love exist in the world — and aren't you the one for having friends who care about you?

If you want to make your dinner party extra special, do a white elephant present-swap, or invite everyone to bring extravagant desserts. Make it a chocolate affair if you'd like to max yourself out on pure decadence for awhile. The sugary, creamy, rich indulgence will be fun —  and you really will make Valentine's Day yours!

Experience something new, and invite a friend. Make it a day for the experiences and things you really love, and have a friend come along. Do you love dessert soufflés? Have one for dinner.  Do you adore going to the lion house at the zoo? Don't miss it. Do the slopes beckon? Put yourself on one.

If you have been dying to buy something important that takes a lot of research and testing (a watch, a kayak, a new TV) make this the day you accomplish your goal. It's hard to feel bad about going solo when you are able to do things that make you happy — and remind you that you love life.

Do a random act of kindness. Express your love by doing an unexpected kindness for someone else. One day I was in line at the airport buying some breakfast, and a tall young man behind me was trying to figure out what he could afford. He was so shy and gentle with the guy behind the counter that he touched my heart. I turned to him (all 6 feet 2 inches of him) and said, "Order what you want; I'll pay for it."

The moment was short, but I felt ridiculously good afterward. Imagine a whole day of such small, heartfelt moments.

Adopt a pet. If you have the emotional capacity to love and care for an animal (and a lifestyle that permits it), adoption would give you a great way to celebrate attachment. Granted, you can't repeat this every year, unless you want to turn into an eccentric public health threat with a cat colony. However, a new pet could work wonders for you this Feb. 14.

And if animals touch your heart but you can't have one, maybe this would be the week to register as a foster home for a dog or cat. You could also help rehabilitate an abused or neglected shelter animal.

Give thanks and pay it forward. Give love that continues beyond one 24-hour period. There are many people who are especially needy around Valentine's, and you could make this the first of many days in which you give them support.

Adopt a soldier and be his buddy; send a care package, or write a note about your appreciation and awe of his service. Or if that is not where your heart needs to go, think about signing up as a volunteer at an assisted living facility (you could bring your new puppy!). You could also go out and make this the first time you do environmental cleanup on the weekend. You'd meet other people like you, who give back to their communities and to the world.

Bottom line: Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate your heart's capabilities. Romance is fine, but it isn't the only way to make your heart expand or to create joy and contentment.

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