In 2004, pausing in the shade of an old oak tree while taking my daily walk, I peered through the chain-linked fence of the Los Altos Country Club to witness what I considered perfection: A relationship that stood the test of time.
“How precious,” I thought, viewing two aging souls enjoying a round of golf together. Once upon a childhood dream, this was supposed to be my future; growing old with the man I married, appreciating life as a couple after the kids were gone. But God had other plans that year.
Enthralled by their gentleness, I continued to watch.
Struggling to find the ball in the silky tufts of emerald green grass, her aging body crippled at every joint, her husband called, “Honey, don’t worry. It’s just a ball.” Then, taking his wife lovingly by the hand, she climbed onto the cart and off they drove to the next hole.
So endearing was their connection, I found myself wanting to spy on their every move.
Reaching the 4th hole, I smiled when she jumped up and down as he sank his putt. Obviously delighted, she threw her arms around his shriveled frame.
Nearing the 6th tee, I heard, “Atta girl!” as her ball dribbled away. With each stroke, no matter how big or small, the moment was christened with a kiss and tight embrace.
Before long, their cart picked up speed and off they flew. How I envied this flawless union. Despite the world’s harshness, they somehow managed to stand like an olive tree in the desert; still flourishing despite years of intense heat and drought we often call “life.”
When they were finishing the 9th hole, I finally caught up. Hearing the gentle whisper of the late afternoon breeze tickling the leaves overhead, I prepared to witness their devotion one last time before they headed for the back nine, but the winds of change took an unexpected turn.
“Take me back to the clubhouse, now!” she hissed, throwing her club in his direction.
“Oh for God’s sake Thelma. Shut up and hit the ball,” her husband bellowed.
“No, you’re being mean to me.”
“Why can’t you ever make it past this hole?” he sighed.
“Because after eight, you’re insufferable.”
With my ears stinging, I stepped back horrified. What happened to all the sweetness and light? Where did those years of beautiful togetherness dissipate too? Was this the same couple I viewed several holes ago?
Sensing the need for personal safety, I thought it best to be on my way before a 9-iron or ball came flying in my direction. Quickly walking past, pretending to mind my own business, I couldn’t help but feel sad – their marriage wasn’t perfect either.
Then, just as I was dealing with my disillusionment, I started to giggle hysterically. Hearing that old familiar voice that speaks when I’m off course, it shouted, “Wake-up silly! Nothing’s ever perfect.”
In my youth, I prayed for the textbook happily-ever-after. Years later, I now understand that many of my broken dreams were a gift, for when I paid attention, a multitude of unseen blessings were unearthed. One in particular – writing.
It was through journaling in those post-divorce days that I discovered my constant quest for perfection was flawed. I was making life more difficult by putting such extreme expectations on so many uncontrollable factors.
Today, it’s different. My quest for perfection is found not in the end result, but how I travel the road to obtaining it. Gladly I learned the art of letting go and that when I treat myself with love and kindness, that is where true perfection lies.