I saw this picture on the interweb and it struck a cord with me. It’s glaringly obvious that through your trials and tribulations the best and, of course, the worst in people will become evident.
What struck me though, is that the same was to become evident in me.
I was warned right in the beginning, just as the divorce wheels were set in motion, that people would pick sides. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come, both positive and negative. While the positive had me in awe, the negative stunned me to my core.
The greatest surprise was watching an eleven year friendship come to a sudden and abrupt end. All the laughter, tears, love and care that I had ploughed into this living, breathing entity, started to evaporate. Julia and Harry (not their real names) both of whom I had introduced to Gerald, decided to remain friends with him. I would never have expected them to suddenly cut him out of their lives, however this is exactly what they ended up doing but to me. I heard completely by accident of their attendance to parties and social gatherings at my ex’s house–which is categorically not what I was hurt by. I was hurt by the fact that Julia was not upfront with me. Because she did not volunteer this information, I immediately felt she was keeping it from me and all I felt at the time was betrayal. Something to note is that we stood up for each other at each other’s weddings. The chasm that opened up in me was massive and it quite simply, broke my heart.
On the converse, however, the two other friends I have, who I now consider my closest confidants and heroes, truly stepped up to the plate. I was afforded a safe place to unload, cry, make jokes about and mourn this loss. The strength, wisdom and candour of these women buoyed me to calmer waters where I was able to get perspective and differentiate the wood from the proverbial trees. Something I have battled with my whole life. This is one lesson that has stuck with me. Instead of getting embroiled in the details, there is much to be gained by taking some breathing space to assess the situation from a distance. Your perspective is much clearer and you are able to recognise your own role in what went wrong with any given situation. This may seem obvious to some but some things take others longer to learn.
It did help that I was distracted by a budding romance, pretty soon, in fact, after the divorce. Not to cheapen that relationship but for various reasons, it was not to be one that would last. We came from vastly different backgrounds, faith systems and race groups. Try as we did, the emotional weight of that relationship became too much for me to bear. At one point, I realised that relationships should not be 80% hard work and 20% smooth sailing. It lasted longer than it should have because I was determined to make a success of it. To prove–to whom I’m not sure–that I was not ‘the problem’. My expectations were probably unreasonably high. That’s a lie, they were too high.
I had just reached a plateau of my first real coming of age. I had learned so much about myself, pieced so many of my past experiences together, made peace with a vast amount of emotional baggage that I had been carrying around since childhood and was expecting him to be at the same level. He wasn’t. He also began to display some, shall we say, unpleasant character traits. In the end, he ended it, tried to reconcile but this time, I had the presence of mind to put myself first.
This is for me, the greatest lesson of them all. I am driven by intimacy, in relationships in particular. I will often self-sacrifice for a relationship, be it romantic or platonic, that is not symbiotic. I hold the relationship itself close to me and so wish for it to be meaningful, that I allow people too much liberty to take what they need. The end result is that eventually my reserves are so depleted that I end up depressed, wondering what is wrong with me and feeling altogether unfulfilled. The only person to blame for this is me. People take because of how much I give. It’s up to me to audit how much I allow people to take.
This learning curve and subsequent self awareness has allowed me to build new relationships that are far more nurturing and balanced, that allow me to lean back. I would like to say thank you to those people for showing me, truly, how colourful and beautiful life can be.
You don’t see it at the time, but what comes after the dark is the bright light of a new dawn, a new chapter of promise and hope.
Thank you for reading.