Shuffling through the songs on his iPod, Aaron Gilmore smiles brightly, declaring, "You can pretty much tell what sort of day I'm having by the songs I've been listening to. Today's a good day."
But recently, the Dancing with the Stars winner admits there have been some pretty low moments - and the soundtrack to his life has been peppered with sad melodies and angst-ridden lyrics. The usually chirpy dad of two split from his wife of six years, Jaimee, in February and says the intervening months have been a steep learning curve for him, his son Ethan (7) and daughter Grace (5).
"It's been a crazy time," Aaron begins, shaking his head. "Some days I think to myself, 'Hey, I'm doing good!' and others I'll go, 'okay, not so good today.' But as a dancer, I think listening to music really helps. I'll choose songs that are quite personal to me and to my journey. This morning it was Florence and the Machine and Amy Winehouse - really upbeat.
"And so far, my methods seem to be quite effective! If I get to the stage where I have a huge pile of self-help books stacked next to the bed then I'll know my playlist idea didn't work!"
Aaron (31), who was sexually abused throughout his teens by Hendrika Margaret Shaskey - a woman 23 years his senior who was later convicted of crimes against him - has always credited social worker Jaimee with helping him to navigate some of the most difficult and painful years of his life.
But cracks began appearing in the marriage towards the end of 2009, and although he won't be drawn on the events that led to their eventual split, Aaron says it became evident they were headed down different roads. "We stopped making time for each other and our support of one another began to slip away," he says.
"What each of us wanted from life didn't marry up. In the long run, splitting up seemed to be the best thing for both of us." Still, with characteristic warmth, Aaron says he'll always be indebted to his ex-wife for her support.
"Our relationship dynamic has changed," he continues, "but I have huge respect for what she did for me, helping me get through some dark times and very big stuff. And I'm very proud that she's the mother of my children. I believe when you're in any kind of relationship, you have to love unconditionally. Sometimes, you're not together any more, but those feelings don't die."
Aaron says until his marriage ended, he'd never considered he'd ever be a bachelor again. "Being single is weird!" he laughs. "I look around and think, 'What do single people do?' I guess I'd been so focused on the family unit, work and being a good dad and a good husband that I'd forgotten about this whole other part of life."
But despite the new landscape he's traversing, some things haven't changed so much. The dancing continues, with Aaron teaching classes as well as providing private lessons for people of all abilities. He's still working with Rape Prevention Education and MCing events
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