Bigger than me

A sweet friend is going through divorce, feeling overwhelmed with the tasks of re-entering the workforce, household and auto maintenance, finances, grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, general parenting and dealing with the kids’ emotional fallout. Solo. I have a good idea of what life is like for her right now, because I was in the same situation not so long ago.

When we begin the process of divorce, we have no clue what we will go through. Divorce is a horribly arduous and painful process that tests us to the limit. It has been almost four years since I separated from my ex, and only recently do I feel like I have recovered from the havoc it wreaked.

Going through my divorce and struggling to build a whole new life, I had to admit that this was bigger than me; it was more than I could control or handle, that I needed to ask for- and accept all the help I could obtain. Though I have always been a caretaker, the one who does for others, I learned to let people help me however they could and would. They not only listened and offered sage advice, they also gave me furniture and flatware, brought trucks and helped me move, gave me grocery store gift cards, changed my flat tire and took me out to dinner.

The day that I became unemployed, a friend, with whom I’d been out of touch for a while, had invited me to meet for dinner. He wanted to catch up, and didn’t know what had happened. Over Mexican fare, I filled him in. In response, he posed a golden question, something I rarely heard: “How can I help?” Surprised, I asked what he meant. He said it meant whatever I wanted it to mean, so I told him about the thing that was most problematic for me. I needed to have my gutters cleaned. Given my situation, my answer seemed absurd. But it had weighed on me for weeks, and I felt I could not afford to pay someone. My friend said he would come over after work the next day and clean my gutters. He did not only that, but removed the old satellite dish and wires left by the prior owner, and even caulked the bolt holes the array had left in the roof. Then he went home to work on his taxes.

This couple of hours effort on my friend’s part meant a great deal to me, and his pure generosity helped me to let in and embrace further assistance.  I would greatly need this help in what would become more than a year of unemployment, with its attendant challenges and emotional impact–on top of a plumbing disaster that required a total home re-plumbing and replacement of half of my kitchen. Without allowing others to help, without clearly asking for help, I would not have made it through these difficult times.

The best divorce advice I received was from someone who was about four years ahead of me in the process. He reminded me to always strive to conduct myself in a manner that would allow me to look back and be proud of myself. There were times when that thought kept me from giving in to the urge to lash out at my then-husband, to do what some would say he deserved, but what would also make me into the kind of person I did not want to become. I pass along that idea to those I know who are going through divorce, and I add my own, which is: tell friends, acquaintances and strangers what you need, and let us give what we can.

© 2011 Shay Seaborne. All rights reserved.

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