This year we have known each other for 20 years. This year we can celebrate (or not), the fact that the same stop on the path of our careers created a forever for us that neither could have ever imagined.
As we approach Valentine’s Day in less than a week, and as I reflect on the place love has had in my life, I can only say two words to you.
No, I’m not being sarcastic. I’m not going to say thank you for hurting me because I learned I can emerge from any relationship adversity as a stronger woman. I am going to say thank you, because I learned a lot from you.
In our 20 years of knowing each other, you have given me a lot. Some things I enjoyed, some I could not stand. Some things made me laugh and some things made me post really aloof, yet catty things on social media about you. And while I may not have carried myself with the best amount of decorum in recent years, I still owe you a lot.
- Thank you for showing me the back roads. When we were married, I remember complaining because you did not like to drive on highways. As I was used to rushing from place to place and felt that the side streets would not get me anywhere on time, you simply said, “Sometimes the highways are shut down and you have to get to your destination in a different way than you planned.” One time, you even went on to tell me, “Is it the end that matters Toni, or is it the journey?” Of course, at the time I thought is was the end, but when I look back on the purpose of life I have come to realize everything we learn, everything we appreciate, and everything that makes us grow, happens in the journey, which is sometime different from what we thought it would be.
- Thank you for teaching me how to to investigate. If there’s anything that my girlfriends and I love, it’s the fact that I can investigate anything. You and I learned how to Google together. We used all of the knowledge you learned in police academy about background checks. You taught me how to access public records rather quickly. Honestly sir, I became the go-to person when my friends needed to create their own version of the TV show, Cheaters. I know it’s probably not the best attribute of my personality to be known for, however that thirst for investigation allowed me to teach our children how to question, how to fact-check, and how to pause before believing something that is too good to be true.
- Thank you for being patriotic. Some friends and I were talking one day about the people who have such an innate love for this country that all they are is about service to it. From your involvement with the military to your career in law enforcement, you love the United States of America. You believe in the inalienable rights, and need to protect others based on those rights. Thank you for teaching the kids and me that even though America is not perfect, it is ours.
- Thank you for your love of music. For the years we were together, you would often come home from work and zone out by listening to music. That frustrated me often because we had three kids under the age of 3 and the chaos was loud and messy. Not too long after we separated, though, I found myself cultivating my own iTunes account with pride and joy because I learned that I needed to appreciate every opportunity that I had to be still and listen. Music gives me the opportunity to bask in reflection, peace, and vulnerability like I never have before.
- Thank you for living your calling. When I was 16, I knew I wanted to become a writer. After I graduated from college, I followed a path that led to me doing a lot of different things related to my career. It took me until August of 2015 to meet my calling and accept it’s presence in my life. You knew you wanted to be a police officer when you were a little boy. You can now celebrate a career just shy of 25 years in law enforcement. Where the kids have seen my creative struggles and triumphs in jobs I’ve had that weren’t a part of my calling, they have seen your dedication to the police shield like none other.
- Thank you for trusting me. As we embarked on the process of ending our marriage, we never had an argument about the custody of our children. I can remember you saying, “It only makes sense for you take the kids, you know more about schools and homework and college preparation than I ever could.” Many marriages end up in vicious court battles because of egos and the desire to win. I am convinced that ours was as good as it could have been because you trusted me to make the best day to day decisions as it relates to the kids. I want you to know that I don’t take that trust for granted.
- Thank you for sharing, not hiding, your love language. A friend gave us Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages as a gift. To be perfectly honest, when I first read the book, I identified your love language, and decided that I hated it. While it sounds harsh, I am grateful for the opportunity to know and study your love language first hand — even if I didn’t like what it revealed. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, this whole dating thing over 40 is tricky, and often clothed with a lot of smoke and glass. In the seven years we’ve been a part, one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with is trying to figure out the truth and what lies at the core of someone I am dating. You never hid who you were and what was important to you in a relationship. Thank you for that.
When I sat down to write this letter, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say. The only lingering thought I had was to be honest. As with many who reflect on a previous marriage, feelings of anger and resentment crept and I just didn’t know how to combat that. While we’ve never had a contentious relationship, I think it’s safe to say we would not actively seek out the opportunity to spend time together.
As we travel through life and visit places we never thought we’d go, it’s fair to accept and understand that we don’t have to be in love with an experience to learn and grow from it. That lesson is probably the best lesson I could gain from the last 20 years. Thank you for who you are and thank you for just being you.
And as you and I both know, we came together in the name of total greatness three times, and those gifts are called CJ, Tyra, and Jada. Happy Valentine’s Day.