The Last Love Letter (Joce)

Once upon a time, when I was young, the world seemed filled with love and possibility. I was a diligent college student, I had an okay job and a comfortable place to live, and the future seemed, if not bright, then sort of glowy and exciting. In January I met a boy, Nic, that made my heart float a little higher in my chest, and on Valentine's Day, despite the fact that we'd only been on a couple of dates, he sent me a dozen "fire and ice" roses and a handwritten note that quoted something dramatically romantic by Rilke. That was the first love letter that he ever wrote me and in the five years we were together, there were more. Beautiful sentiments, heartfelt greetings, sincere and kind things for and about me.

I was at a Valentine's making party the other night. I had already dropped in the mail the 60 Valentine's I mail out every year but I was handcrafting a couple more and feeling sentimental about "I love you's" of the past. My friend Arlie said, "Valentine's is your holiday," and I agreed with a sigh. Everybody knows me as this ridiculous Queen of the Bleeding Hearts, looking for love, falling in love, yet finding heartbreak and heartache at every turn. I am Atlas, pushing the boulder of my heart straight up a mountain, only to have it crush me on the way back down, for eternity. Valentine's is my holiday, but the last time I had a real, traditional, roses and fancy dinner out, with a love poem, was many, many years ago. More often than not I'm celebrating with friends, or spending the day with family, or working, as I will be this year. And, that's okay.

Flowers and a love letter may not always be in the cards but that doesn't stop me from reminding those I love, romantically or not, that I care. Too often we let things get complicated and we hold those words back, even if we feel them, and it doesn't do anybody any good, ourselves especially. And you may think that Valentine's is a day invented by Hallmark and the post office so, why bother? But, why not? Is it a bad thing, ever, to take the time to show and say how you feel? Sometimes we need a little reminder, an excuse, a silly reason to make a sincere and generous statement.

This week I would like to encourage you to give a Valentine, to give many Valentine's. Give one to your mom and your boss and that acquaintance that's feeling a little raw from her divorce. Give a Valentine to your neighbor and the kid that walks your dog when you're out of town. Spread them around, be generous, be thoughtful. Getting, or giving, a little more love, never hurt anybody.

And if you have a girlfriend, send her a dozen roses, or tulips, or make her dinner. Draw her a card or fold her laundry or clean the bathroom. If nothing else, write her a love letter. Say "I love you." Give her something to hold in her heart forever.