The summer of 2012 was hell. I was six months into my new life as a single mother of two, with a part-time job, a California mortgage, and a million pieces of my past to string together. Every day presented epic decisions that I had to make to keep the kids and me going. Selling my wedding ring was one of them.
A girl never imagines selling her wedding ring. In her young romantic mind, the story just doesn’t end that way. But there I was, moving through a circuit of cash for gold shops that day, wiping back tears, adulting hard, intent on getting what I needed to pay the mortgage.
It was a scorching hot day and I began to lose steam after hearing one insulting offer after another. But I kept going until I arrived at the final nondescript gold shop that lined Ventura Blvd. An older man walked up to the counter and casually asked how he could help. He was bald, very round and straight-shooting. He could feel my uneasiness as I handed over my wedding ring for its very last appraisal.
He unmounted the diamond from the setting while dragging me into a tailspin of small talk starting with his plans for what he was going to do with diamond. “I’ll probably make earrings for my daughter,” he said, “she’s about your age.” My heart sank. And then came the question: “Why are you selling your wedding ring? What happened?”
Three hours later, Steve and I were still unpacking this question. By now the store had closed and no one knew I was there. The whole experience reeked of something out of a movie. Who does that? Who sells their wedding ring to a strange gold vendor, then ventures down memory lane with him?
If you’ve ever experienced a divorce, you know that your skin is so taut with pain that it cracks at the slightest touch. Same thing goes for emotions. They sit lodged at the back of your throat in full projectile range of anyone daring to ask: “How are you really doing?”
Steve was a stranger, but he was one of the few people willing to sit with me in the deep hot mess of it. And so I threw it all up. We took turns. He’d tell me about his medical complications and hopes to win his wife back, and I’d tell him about my strained marriage and how I was about to lose my house.
I should mention something about Steve. He was no ordinary man. He was a successful, well-connected, smart businessman. So when he began conducting a profit and loss assessment on my life, I shut up and listened. He asked me detailed questions about how much money I had, what exactly I needed, and what resources were available to me. It felt crazy telling him all of this.
He inquired about my family, my mom, my dad. I told him about my father, how I met him for the first time in my 20s and how he lives in a big shiny house by the ocean. He felt very strongly that I should reach out to my father for help.
“It’s complicated,” I told him.
Steve grew very upset by the limited support I had from my family. If he wasn’t Jewish, I’d have guessed he was Italian. His motto was you live and die for your family. Don Vito style.
I guess in the few hours I had gotten to know Steve, we had become like family, a bond that was ratified by the words that came out of his mouth next:
“F**k that…I’m going to help you.”
“I’m sorry, what?” I said.
“I’m going to help you,” he said again.
In addition to a generous payout for my ring, Steve the man I just met, gave me $7,000 to help the kids and me settle into a new home. No strings attached. Just pure, empathetic love. I cried the ugly cry and thanked him endlessly.
Steve taught me an important lesson that day. As painful as it can be, sometimes we have to let go of the things we once loved. I lost my marriage, my house, and even friendships that I loved. And I let go of my ring and the imperfect love that it represented, but I walked away with hope and confidence that everything was going to be okay.
When relationships dissolve, we tend to fixate on all of the time wasted. Duration has no bearing on impact. I learned more from my conversation with Steve in that tiny nondescript coin shop than I did in six years of marriage. I learned the power of vulnerability, the importance of getting painfully honest with yourself and those around you, and the payoffs that come with surrendering old broken beliefs that keep you stuck.
What’s one thing that you need to surrender today? How could letting go of that one thing forever change your life?
The last time I saw Steve I had invited him to dinner to see the new place and meet the kids. Our lives got busy, and we have since lost touch.
Steve, if you’re out there I just wanted you to know the kids and I are doing well. I still think of you and share our story often. You saved my life that day and continue to inspire the hearts of many people who could only wish for a guardian angel like you.
Tamika Lewis, MSW, LCSW is a speaker, writer, and therapist who practices in Sherman Oaks, California. While trained in many modalities such as CBT, the Grief Recovery Method, and EMDR, she has found the healing art of storytelling to be most transformative for her clients. Tamika focuses on issues relating women and teens in her practice and has created a helpful guide with daily practices for finding more confidence and clarity that can be found at www.tamikalewis.com.
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