I’ve known a work colleague and his wife, David and Sally, for thirty years. I’d always considered them both to be boring. Recently, I became aware that, for all these years, I’d been silently criticizing David as not doing his job very well.  If only he’d do X or Y, he’d do so much better, I’d think. I liked Sally, quiet and seemingly shy, but I put her in the same category as her spouse.

After Covid, we both retired and happened to join a community orchestra that occasionally performed. I enjoyed seeing them there. One day, I greatly admired Sally’s blouse, printed in an alluring and complex Asian design that almost appeared calligraphic. I complimented her. The next few times I saw her, I again noticed her unusual and beautiful clothing. How had I ever dismissed her as boring? Although quiet, she had sophisticated aesthetics.

Now that we weren’t working, my inner criticisms of my colleague greatly lessened. I could hear David’s cello and Sally’s violin as they made wonderful contributions to our amateur orchestra. However, I took little notice of my inner evolution until yesterday. 

Before a performance, I sat alone, calm and mentally rehearsing my flute part. I saw David and Sally approach out of the corner of my eye. Without thought, all at once, I felt intense affection for them. This feeling surprised me and I allowed it to engulf me, to relish the positive, as I greeted them with heartfelt warmth. Sally, again, wore a fascinating dress and we discussed it as I praised her taste. I felt fondness for David, who, I now realized, had done his best at his job with devotion and intelligence.

Why had my interior denunciations about them finally ceased? While I’d like to think I attained enlightenment, I’ll settle for simple openness. Perhaps it was the lack of stress at work, but something within me felt more open toward feeling the truth of my affection for David and Sally. I had, somehow, let go of the need to criticize them. For me, this constituted great progress.

In how many other relationships do I persist with subliminal negative thinking? Now that I’ve found more positivity with David and Sally, I’ll explore other relationships, rooting out any invalid judgments I might find.

Cate Burns is the author of Libido Tsunami: Awash with the Droll in Life, in which she unearths the ludicrous in the emotional live traps surrounding us — in families, friends and disastrous romances. Get it on Amazon today.