I had the joy and passion in spades. I had a misaligned marriage which generated two wonderful kids. Today I have reset myself towards a creatively fulfilling life.
Each time I let myself reenter the sad times, the sad places, and let my soul feel the wear and tear of the hard and long journey, I begin to heal those old times.
I do think my ex-wife and I could've agreed to 50/50 parenting and gotten a judge to sign off on our agreement. But she would never have given up her legal/strategic advantage. Perhaps she was doing what she thought was best for the children. Perhaps. But I think she was more self-centered than that, she was doing what she wanted, regardless of the impact on the kids.
Don't let any of your shit fester and darken your experience of life. Life is too short to be compromising with someone you don't love 100%. Oh, and it's your responsibility to love them at 100%. It is your intention and actions, for the rest of your life, that will determine the success of your next relationship.
I walked away from that coffee with a new understanding of myself, online dating, and what I was interested in. From then on, if the person didn't have something extraordinary going on, some really amazing trait, or some smashingly witty banter in her messaging, I wasn't interested.
What is an evening with your kids worth? Is there an amount of money or time spent elsewhere that I wouldn't give to have more time with my kids?
You can't replace or redo the lost time. But you can grow back into your full self, into a whole parent, and be even better when they are with you.
Your kids are learning about life from how you behave, not how you tell them to behave. So behave honorably. Be respectful of your former partner. And love them with all of your heart when they are with you.