Sometimes when people behave extremely well or extremely poorly it can be a glossy 3D example presented on a gorgeous silver platter of how to be or to never be.
Here are a few samples of my favourite reactions and behaviors from my people. I hope to always remember these – to somehow be all of this to others in those big life moments.
The vault My favourite neighbour across the street noticed my husband’s car had been gone for over a month asked me where he was. I whispered painfully that we were having troubles and that for now it was private. Many weeks later it was clear to me that she had never even confided in her own husband. That level of confidence was a gift- a silly indulgence now in retrospect – but a safe, warm place at the time.
The simple beauty of silence One evening at dinner with my best friend, I took the moment of silence between funny anecdotes to throw my sadness her way. I told her quietly and simply,- and for a storyteller, simply is rare- “we are separated”. She, who would have been entitled to all kinds of details as the BFF is, asked nothing. She cried softly for me and said she was sorry.
The funny girl Another very close friend told me I should get some new underwear, presumably because I was going to start dating momentarily. This was her injection of humour in dangerous times and I loved her for it .
The person beside you at the dinner party flattery At a large dinner party, I was seated beside a woman I had just met and loved immediately- wise, funny, tender and human. We started talking about dogs and I told her I had separated within the last year and that I felt we needed a dog now. She said don’t get a male dog- and I said “don’t worry the next male who comes into my home will not be on all fours” She said to me -‘ you are beautiful. Nobody leaves you, you must have done the leaving’. Beautiful people are left and beautiful people leave but the way she said this made me soar. Sometimes the kindness of strangers has power.
The dramatic delayed response A childhood friend was so stunned that she did not fully react until the next day when she called me crying hysterically. As I was out- her 4 minutes as a wounded animal was left on my answering machine. It was touching, heartbreaking and, I am a bit wicked,but a little funny too. I could not make out a single word from the english language above her wailing. It was exaggerated and extreme but it was her way and heartfelt and therefore the right way.
Obscene generosity I remember my friend who had thyroid cancer said she could handle anything but the sight of casseroles at the front door. For her, that represented a weakness, a neediness and a sign of pity. For me, a reluctant cook of three squares, nothing spells love like a casserole at the door. My very dear friend brought me a casserole every week for a year. Never asked permission. Would not accept payment. This is the same friend who dropped off a fat envelope of crisp twenties- for emergency treats in tough times (not to be used for heat and light).
More obscene giving The day I refer to as The Day the Piano Fell on My Head (you’ve seen it in the cartoons and you know those moments- when no amount of fooling yourself will protect you from the obvious), I emailed my younger brother, a man truly busier than God (although you would not know it from him- never complains, is steady, right on target with what matters) “please help me”. He was at my side in two hours and refused to leave until I did not need him. He gave his time unselfishly, his energy, his understanding and remarkably, as we yield from an extremely opinionated Scottish clan, never his judgement. My love and admiration for him grew exponentially as I saw of what he was truly made.
The provoker and the absent minded My mom over and over said in those early days”you are going to be just fine” and I kept protesting “I don’t want to be just fine”. She knew how to pull the feisty-ness out of me. My father, who is in the mid to late stages of dementia ( a gift here only as he never saw my suffering and could not grasp the loss) has nonetheless had so many clear comments he seems almost angel like.
The wise My sister in law is one of the steadiest, kindest people I have ever met. She is also incredibly wise. She said “People often confuse sentimentality with love. ” She went on to say that without respect there is no love. This made everything clear to me. We can be attached to an idea of family and love and forget that we are not living the way we should be. Or deserve to be.
Devils My older brother, with a long history of soothing women in their hour of need-if perhaps for his own devilish interests- spoke to me over the phone for hours at a time, telling me to stay up late, remember I was beautiful and alive, laugh and drink too much with close friends, tried to force trips on me that he could not afford and showed me the clearest sense of what life is, that I felt I was meeting him for the first time.
Angels My children have been my greatest source of inspiration. Their belief in me, in faeries and magic, in goodness and hope , prevented me from falling down. I needed to hold myself up and them as well and the cycle fed constantly off of itself.
In all the difficulty of the early days, there was pervasive giddiness- as though I was free at last and that the worst was over. The way good people reacted and saw me in this time helped me to stay straight and do my best.
thanks for the giggle and the tears …. you are great and have hit this ‘thing’ bang on…. I am also separated (not yet divorced) and can relate to all of this.
I am a believer in ‘something good always comes out of something bad’ – number one – our children – aren’t we blessed – but also – ourselves….. I am back – and it sounds like you are too.
Congrats and keep on writing.
Debbie (friend of your BFF)
debbie- so wonderful to hear from you- you sound so well. keep up the good work. Nancy
I love your writing! I am going thru a difficult time right now, and you are a beacon of light. You literally make me laugh and cry, and everything you say is so true and beautiful, whether you’re talking about the tiniest detail or the BIG PICTURE. I especially love reading your blog at night before bed, when I need it most. Thank you for doing everything you do! (Your studio looks fabulous, too!)
thank you for saying so and for reading and letting me into your life at this hard time.Keep going and best to you. xn
You said it well god bless you keep up the good work.
thank you so much Lena- you are a very insightful woman. Thank you for the interview-it was wonderful.
I have read through all your writing on this site and loved every moment; the sadness, the humor, the hope, the respect and the strength.
Next week will be three years that I too embarked on this path. There have been sad times, loneliness, self recrimination but there has also been great highs, silly fun, new adventures, strength and lots of love from family, old friends and lovely new friends. I feel I have come out the other end a stronger and better person for it all and am amzed by all the love and support I have encountered.
Thanks to you for doing this and putting a voice and a respect to all that one goes through in this strange journey with such cleaver clarity and a tender heart.
sheila- thank you for taking the time to read all of this and for your show of support. I remember sharing with you in the early days and it was a huge lift. best to you-n
Remember when I said your soul was beautiful that book night at Mables Fables?! Well, it’s even more beautiful in “My Family is not Broken.” Glad to see the whole of you. Congratulations on this wonderful blog.
lisa- thank- you for taking a look and subscribing- I will try to be clever like you when I post. best to you-xn
I happened to find your blog 3 days ago. I just got on the separation/divorce journey about 3 months ago. Reading your blog made me cry uncontrollably in a good way. I have been doing well walking my anger and sadness out. But a girl needs a good once in a while.
Hey SL- welcome to my blog-it is great to have you. I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad I could help you cry in your early days as it will help you heal I think. Stay in touch and tell me how you are doing-best-Nancy
This was a trip down memory lane…long ago vaulted memories of these days that I lived myself. Looking back I wonder sometimes how I got through those days…but I did! We all do!
We chose to drudge along or we chose to catapult into the next phase of life! That is what I did and am very grateful I did…as I sit writing this my beautiful tender loving fiancée is sitting across the room from me typing….
Hi Nancy – It was so great to chat w/ you the other night. I found your site and so glad I did. You have a lot to give – and there is a reason you are surrounded by such wonderful people. The other day i read a poster in my son’s school that makes so much sense: “Who you are is based on what you do”. Congratulations on launching this and I’ve signed up for more. I also have a friend that started a business helping women through divorce. Send me an email if u want to chat about it [ nancy at homestars.com ]. Best, Nancy
thanks nancy-for both commenting and taking the time to read and subscribe. If you could forward me your friend’s link I could look at it and she could look at mine and perhaps think about structuring a reciprocal link on each other’s site if appropriate. My other blog is on the urbanmoms.ca site (flying solo) and that site receives 100,000 hits per month so that may be very interesting for you at homestars as well. best, n