…by Prill Boyle
Many women love Valentine\’s Day. Not me. I\’m not inspired by Hallmark
cards. Nor do I care for forced romantic gestures. (If you want to make
my heart go pitter-patter, surprise with me flowers when it\’s not a
special day.) But having just finished Doris Kearns Goodwin\’s
monumental biography of Lincoln, I am newly inspired by our 16th
President, whose birthday is February 12th. Anyone in the throes of a
life change would do well to follow his example. Here\’s why.

During the most turbulent times this nation has yet encountered, the
Civil War, Lincoln kept a cool head and a warm heart. Throughout it
all, he never lost faith in our country\’s potential for greatness.
Understanding the importance of timing, he was patient yet persistent
in pursuing his visionary agenda. When others took credit for his
achievements, or jockeyed to rise to power in his stead, he didn\’t seek
revenge. He believed not only in himself but in what he called “the
better angels of our nature.” In doing so, he strengthened the wings of
American democracy, and his words and deeds still reverberate in our
collective hearts.

When times get tough, we baby boomers can also elevate ourselves and
others by following our “better angels.” Take my neighbor Kathy. (I\’ve
changed her name to protect her privacy.) Two summers ago, her husband
Dave announced out of the blue that he was leaving her after 20 years
of marriage. Until that day, Kathy had no idea her relationship was in
trouble. She\’d always assumed that she and Dave would grow old
together. In a flash, her entire future was up in the air. She had
never needed to work outside the home, but suddenly even her financial
outlook was uncertain. On top of it all, her youngest child would soon
be leaving for college. For the first time in her adult life, Kathy
would be living on her own.

“Initially, I was in shock, almost too numb to cry,” Kathy told
me. But when she finally understood that Dave wasn\’t going to change
his mind, she didn\’t lash out in anger, dissolve into hysterics, or try
to guilt him into staying against his wishes. She gave him her
blessing. Although she was deeply wounded and still can\’t fathom what
hardened his feelings towards her (there wasn\’t another woman), she
looked in his eyes and knew he was hurting, too. She had no desire to
add to his pain. Instead, she began letting go of the past and, with
arms outstretched, started dancing towards the unknown.

Don\’t get me wrong. Kathy is no saint. She\’s flesh and blood and far
from perfect. She didn\’t take the high road because that\’s what she
thought she should do. She took it because, after spending years
learning to see and believe in her innate magnificence, she didn\’t want
to drag her glorious self through the dirt. Plus, as one of the
characters in Loraine Despres\’ novel The Scandalous Summer of Sissy
LeBlanc says, “Letting go is the best revenge. It frees your heart for
much more satisfying pursuits.”

And then a wonderful and unexpected thing happened. The vacuum that
Dave\’s departure left in Karen\’s life began to fill. Friends came out
of the woodwork to provide emotional support. Invitations started
pouring in from around the country. Everyone wanted to be with her!
That first fall Kathy hardly spent any time alone. Eventually, she and
Dave sold the house and negotiated a settlement. Like Lincoln, Kathy
kept a cool head and warm heart throughout the process. In other words,
she was patient yet persistent in making sure she got what she needed
to rebuild her life. With the money she received, she bought a cottage
by the beach. Now she\’s dating an old friend and is once again
experiencing the giddy rush of new love. This February they\’ll be
celebrating their first Valentine\’s Day together.