I had just stepped through the doors of my church when I began to hear the whispered voices; voices that were clearly attempting to hush themselves, but so stern and opinionated that it was impossible for them not to carry across the room to where I was standing.
"There she is," the first woman hushed. "It's the girl whose husband left her!" Turning her head just enough to try and inconspicuously look at me out of the corner of her eye, the woman's friend hushed back at her, "I can't believe she is here. I'm not sure that I'd even be able to pull myself out of bed if my husband ran off like that, especially not if he left me with two kids!"
When they caught my stunned face looking directly at them, they both turned beet red and high-tailed it off in the other direction, hopefully finding somewhere that they might repent for their sins. Because as any Christian woman standing in a church should know, "thou shall not judge."
And yet they do, as do many people (Christian or not), that I've encountered throughout my divorce process.
My situation was strange in the fact that after eight years of marriage, my husband told me that he was going to the store, and he simply never returned. Weeks after his disappearance and with confirmation that he was alive, I filed for divorce. I was 28 years old, a stay-at-home mom of two special needs children ages 3 years and 7 months, and I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't one of the most frightening times of my life.
My husband was gone, the kid's father was gone, our only source of income was gone, our house was falling into foreclosure, and the only person left to fix all of these issues, was me.
That is a lot of pressure!
I had two people depending on me to keep them alive and meet all of their needs, and in the brief moments when I looked up from the two children in front of me, I would be reminded that everyone I knew -- and everyone they had talked to -- was watching me and every move I made.
I was no longer just a woman going through a bad divorce, I was the topic of my neighbor's dinner table discussions and the gossip during girl's night out. My life was on display during a time when what I really needed the most, was privacy.
But I didn't get that. The scandalous nature of my husband's choices seemed to make people think that they had a right to poke their noses into my life; a life that everyone was very clear, was a life that they never would have led.
"How could she not have known he was planning this?" I'd hear people whisper behind my back, along with "she must have done something to drive him away." Then, because piecing together bits and pieces of a story that seemed to change every time it was retold over a cup of coffee to an engaged audience, no one could really understand what had gone on, so people began to feel more than equipped to help hand out advice, because as you know, they were all so much smarter than I obviously was.
Suddenly, I couldn't have a conversation without hearing about how someone's aunt's, husband's brother, thought I should short sale my house, or my neighbor's mom thought that I should pull my daughter out of preschool so she didn't develop an attachment disorder. Or my personal favorite, "you shouldn't have filed for divorce so quickly, you really need to wait a while. He will realize that he misses the kids and come back. You shouldn't try to legally separate two kids from their dad. It's time to set your feelings aside and do what is best for your family."
And here I was; betrayed, hurt, lost, and being pulled in a million different directions by people who all assumed that they knew better than me; because they felt self-righteous enough to feel that they would never have allowed themselves to become me.
But all this "help," was not what I needed. It was distracting and when I was constantly hearing about what everyone thought I was doing wrong, it was killing any chances that I had in working up the self-esteem to try and do anything right. What I needed was for everyone to just back the heck up, and give me a little space. My world had just imploded and the only thing that I needed outside of my attorney, my counselor, and a close group of friends, was to be able to hear my own heart beating and remember that I was still alive.
It's really hard to feel alive when your heart has been ripped out of your chest and you become suffocated out by all the people who are trying to cram themselves into your life.
Divorce changes people, it does. It wears us down a little bit, and makes us feel vulnerable. And yet at the same time, we are finding our footing, and we are finding ourselves. We grieve the life we thought that we were going to have, and we spend our time looking forward to the life we want to build. We cry, but our tears water our growth, and there is growth, because we become stronger, and we survive it.
Four years later, I'm on a good path. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don't. People still watch me and people still talk, but that's fine with me, because what anyone else thinks of me is really none of my business. I'm busy here, building the life that I want to have, and I really wish that people would busy themselves living their own lives.
So if you happen to know me, you are welcome to watch, but I'm sorry, I don't have time to chat. I'm going places and you'll see, because I know that you are watching.