Don’t Let Me Be a Burden

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Right after I turned 40 and lost my youth (by Millennial standards), I got separated and divorced.  Anyone who is in the divorce club will tell you that it doesn’t matter if it’s amicable or if it’s the best thing in the long run.  IT’S THE HARDEST FUCKING THING. Not to compare hard things but suffice to say, it sucks.

Photo Credit: MAHKEO X KHAMKEO
Photo Credit: MAHKEO X KHAMKEO

My whole world was disrupted – emotionally, financially, friends group, living situation, pets, possessions, and my identity as both a couple and a married person.  I no longer had that one person who was the collector of my details, the reflector of my daily life. Even when it’s bad, it’s there. The thing that makes divorce so difficult is that it undermines the bedrock stability of just about every single thing in a person’s life.  It takes an awfully long time for a new sense of normal to be established.

“The thing that makes divorce

so difficult is that it undermines

the bedrock stability of just about

every single thing in a person’s life. “

In the meantime, I was somewhat of a nut while I figured out who the new me was going to be.  That called for quite a bit of experimentation. I do not think of this as a fun time, rather….necessary.  I tell people that after divorce, I’ve seen people go one of two ways – suppressing or processing. Suppressing is the path to moving on the quickest and dirtiest.   It means pushing down the pain, usually finding someone new and permanently settling down (i.e. rebound denial), and pretending it’s all ok. Processing is awful and painful.  You’re a raw, open wound, roaming the earth on fire, hyper aware of both disconnection and connection. In this state, you’re working through it. Slowly but surely, bits of skin grow back over you.  You’re no longer hobbling and occasionally find yourself humming a tune. Eventually, you rejoin the rest of the humans.

“You’re a raw, open wound,

roaming the earth on fire,

hyper aware of both disconnection

and connection.”

Many factors go into which direction you take but I don’t think it’s entirely up to you.  My mother always said I had to do things the hard way so naturally, I processed. With my old support system crashing like Windows 98, I found myself at yet another loss.  Strangely, new people emerged and entered my life during this time creating a web around me. Me, channeling the independent, paranoid and bull headed little girl inside me, struggled to put my full weight on these untested resources.  Slowly, the need accumulated and I was forced to sink or swim. As the garbage heap that had become my life overflowed, I pictured myself ‘trust falling’ into the web. I was surprised when I didn’t fall through what I had thought was surely tenuous.

That worked for a bit.  I began to ask for time with my trusted inner circle without worrying too much about what they had going on.  Even though I was conscious for each of them, I reassured myself that I was ‘spreading the love around’ by not asking too much from any one person.  Then, of course, I got into my own head, kicking up one of those voices. It said, “You’re being a burden. They feel bad for you so they’re not going to tell you.”  

This was a plausible statement.  I’ve had the proverbial rug pulled out from under me and it’s awful.  I could not risk being leveled yet again by the pillars that were holding my jacked up house.  I started shutting it all down. I still hung out with my peeps but I just didn’t talk about heavy stuff.  I didn’t trust them. All this for no reasons of their own. They didn’t give me signs or innuendo. I took it upon myself to pull back.  You can probably predict what came next.

I started to crash again.  I ended up a crying mess in my best friend’s kitchen, confessing about how I’d let myself become a burden to him.  Luckily, one the best qualities about me is that I cannot not talk about my shit.  He said some of the kindest words that I wrapped around me like a frayed childhood blanket.  

“You have never been and will never be a burden to me.  You are my family, my sister. There is nothing you could do that would make me not want to know you.  We’re going to be in each other’s lives until we die.”

I chose to believe his words over any conspiracy theory I’d concocted in my head.  I think sometimes we need an emotional, dramatic and declarative set of statements such as these.  It clears the fog of doubt. I realized that by making the decision to pull back, I was effectively determining his own capacity to love me.  I knew it was a protective thing I was doing – fear of pain was the driver – but until I gave it words, it rattled around in my head and called itself Truth.  

I still struggle with not wanting to burden others with my problems but these lessons stick.  I inevitably feel better after I lance the pain. I am better able recognize the forces that act within me.  Because of this, it is with gratitude instead of fear that imperfectly allows me to take in all the love that’s available.

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