I could tell you a love story. But this is a divorce blog. However, for context and fun, I will write you some of the good bits (with his permission, of course).
I noticed his arrival across the outdoor pavilion that mid-August evening where my future fellow law school classmates were mingling and meeting for the first time before our classes started the following Monday. He approached with his big smile outlined by deep dimples. I was instantaneously smitten. If love at first sight exists, this is the closest I have ever been.
He was a year ahead of me in law school and a few more years ahead of me in age. He was well-known and well-liked. He volunteered his time with the social aspects of law school and was an American Bar Association representative for our law college. He was first to volunteer for any community service projects. He served in the Army Reserves for a weekend every month. He clerked in the Public Defender’s office with low pay and a full heart. He was gregarious, outgoing, likeable, service-minded, and so, so very kind.
We were officially dating inside of 30 days from that first jolt hitting me. We dated for the next year and a half before he broke my heart right in half on December 24th of my second year in law school. Despite our untimely ending, it never clouded my memories of his kindness.
Fast forward twenty-three years and with the flash of a Facebook messenger notification, we soon found ourselves catching up. In those 23 years, he had served in the United States Air Force JAG Corps retiring as a Colonel after a combined 30 years of service to our country. He is now the owner of an Assisted Living Service to support seniors receiving the care they need.
He has led with his kind-hearted spirit his whole life, and yet when I reflected with him on the impact his kindness had on me, he teared up. He was genuinely surprised. He doubted his kindness. (Even after he had already sent me the recent photo above of him repairing an elderly woman’s toilet.) To see himself through that lens was foggy and foreign to him.
How many times have we been astonished by someone not seeing themselves the way they are clearly seen by others? How is it that we so often shy away from any positive reflection we may spy in the mirror? Why is it difficult to accept our own positive traits and attributes for which we, no doubt, work so hard?
We are particularly susceptible to the dim views of ourselves when going through something we experience as shameful – like divorce. Just the other day I was telling a story of some grand gesture I made for my daughters when they were little. I got quiet at the end of the tale and said smally “Oh, I was a good mom.” I felt slightly confused because during the time of the memory I was a divorced, single mom – thereby in my skewed view not a good mom to my daughters because I had put them through a divorce.
We beat ourselves up. We are afraid to see the good parts of us that shine so obviously to the those around us. We actively turn away when our goodness is held up for us to face. We refuse to tell our sweet love stories after the relationship is over. We let our mistakes disproportionately outweigh in our minds our good deeds. We do this to our own detriment and when there is nothing at all for us to gain from doing so.
I am grateful to this former love of mine that he helped me see that which should really be seen – the goodness in us.
Photo: Circa the Christmas he did not break up with me.