Someone going through a very tough time recently messaged me this question:
“How did you get past the rumors and people smearing your name during your divorce?”
And when I first read it, I sort of laughed. Because it was one of those moments when something is pointed out that you only knew to be half true. Like if someone were to say, “What’s it feel like to be fat?” and here you only thought you had a gained a few unnoticeable pounds.
So while I knew my divorce had been talked about and judged– and so had I– I was also convinced it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined. (Oh, sweet blissful ignorance, how I love thee)
And so I told her the truth.
I used to cry. A lot. At the unfairness of it all. At the injustice of it all and the envisioned misrepresentation. I used to cry because my feelings were hurt. To think people who didn’t even know me well– or at all– were judging me and my decisions. Or worse yet, people who DID know me well. To think they were judging my divorce and my story. They walked in on a chapter and read a negative review without reading the whole story, and it stung. Bitterly.
Regularly, I would call my mom or best friends who would offer comfort and encouraging words. Often I would text my sister who would respond with fiery fierce words to remind me of who I am and how far I’d come.
And of course, like it does with most things, time and space began to soften the blows and toughen up the bruised and tender skin, which grew a little thicker,in the best possible way.
But I had to let it go.
That’s the real answer.
I had to let go of everything people thought they knew about me and my life.
I had to accept that my truth was enough. It was enough for me, and for my family and my friends and the people who know me and love me. I could never control what other people would hear or think or believe; I could only live my own truth.
But there’s a second part to the answer.
I had to be brave enough to keep becoming the real me.
I was regularly shamed for “changing”. But I think maybe it’s not so much that we change. Maybe, instead, we just become who we were always meant to be.
And I am becoming who I was always meant to be.
The difficulties in my life and in my marriage didn’t create the new me; They helped carve out and uncover the Real Me. In such a hard-fought, ongoing and treacherous battle, I am digging out The Real Me. And I am proud of her.
There is no shame in evolving. The real shame is in fighting so desperately to stay the same when everything around you is beckoning for change. For growth. For expansion. For freedom. If you’re still the same exact person you were twenty years ago, with the same thoughts, the same habits, the same beliefs, have courage. Take heart. Have the guts to uncover the real you. If there were no fear, no expectations, no system to conform to, who would you actually become?
For most of my life I lived within a community that valued sameness. There was so much safety in all the ways we agreed with each other; In our speech, in our values, in our dress, in our lifestyles. And it’s not that I didn’t prescribe to it at the time, but I outgrew it. The outside of my life no longer reflected the inside- which has got to be the shortest path to unhappiness. A golden cage is still a cage.
I started to value my own thoughts and feelings and intellect.
I’d been conditioned to think so many of my thoughts and feelings were wrong, when it turns out, they were essential.
After my divorce, when I was free to dig deeper, to explore, to be authentic– come what may, expectations be damned– beneath all the layers of religion and dysfunction and heartache and loss, there was a weathered but solid and beautiful soul underneath. It’s as if I unearthed the foundation of my personality. And it has been the perfect space to rebuild myself and my life from the ground up. It is steadfast. It is strong. It is mine. It is the Real Me.
I want to tell the woman who messaged me that after I publish this post, I will get a hate message or two.
But I rarely cry anymore. Instead I get back to creating my life.
Loving and enjoying my kids so hard I think I’ll burst. Laughing every single day with them ’til we can’t breathe.
Loving God. Saying ‘Thank you’ and ‘Help’. Meditating, reading, journaling. Searching for Him and everything divine in the Universe.
Treasuring my family and my friends. Having a beer. Dancing in my kitchen.
I think of Elizabeth Gilbert, (Author of Eat, Pray, Love, and her newest masterpiece, Big Magic) who says, “If people absolutely hate what you’ve created? Just smile sweetly and suggest— as politely as you possibly can— that they go make their own f*cking art.”
That’s the real me. I am making art with my life. And in my soul. And it takes my breath away. It is the happiest and saddest I have ever been, but nothing could be lovelier because it’s real.