A friend of mine, who happens to be in the weeds of an ugly divorce, said to me the other day “…you’ve really been there for me while all this is happening, and I appreciate it.”
I thought about what it means “to be there” for someone. When I was going through my divorce I felt painfully alone. There wasn’t anyone that I could talk with about whatever daily drama was consuming all my energy.
Granted, my circumstances were a bit unique: as an only child, there were no siblings whose moral obligation was to provide a strong shoulder or blank check. My mother and father both passed away during the process, and my extended family consisted of a 90 year old aunt and a few distant cousins that I would have a hard time picking out of a lineup. Hardly the type of emotional resources you can call upon at times of distress. There were close friends with whom I regularly discussed my situation, but after awhile even I found myself boring and redundant, and I didn’t want to over burden them, so I kept a lot of things to myself. I certainly wasn’t going to hash things out with my children, and while my lawyer was always on call, the meter was always running. I soldiered on, alone and mostly quiet, dealing with and processing as best I could the complex feelings that arise during the dissolution of a long-term relationship.
I suppose this came naturally to me, having always been something of a loner, but tugging a bit tighter on my thought strand, I realized that the person on whom I most relied when I was strangled by the complexities of divorce was the person who most removed himself from my situation when the shit started to get real. For better or worse (pun intended) my solicitations for advice and support were frequently rebuffed or rebuked. There was an undercurrent of “this is your issue and I don’t want to get involved lest I have an impact on the outcome” (translate: I don’t want to be held accountable). While I can appreciate the sentiment, what I really wanted – or perhaps needed – wasn’t practical or legal advice, but a cheerleader who would be help to inspire me through the 4th quarter.
While I won’t claim to be equipped to offer legal or financial support, I can offer the wisdom of experience. I remember what it felt like to scream and have nobody hear you. I haven’t forgotten the emptiness of the blank stare when what you need is a welcoming smile. I still feel the residue of anxiety that pulsed through my arteries and made me think I was having a heart attack. I haven’t let go of the sensation of realizing that the nobody will answer the ring of a telephone that has long been disconnected.
Would my outcome have been different if I had a support system in place and hadn’t felt so alone? Who can say. A disciple of the church that everything happens for a reason and everything is as it should be, it’s hard for me to argue any other path. But I do know that if I can really show up empathetically and emotionally for someone who is traveling on a road I have already taken, it will help them, and even perhaps heal me.