When my husband left me I lost more than just a partner. I lost half my family. I spent years getting to know all of my in-laws, building relationships and friendships, but after he left, I never heard from any of them again.
Initially I was surprised and I was hurt. I don’t know how he explained it all to them because he didn’t ever explain anything to me. Was I the villain in his story? Did I get what I deserved? Were they rallying to his side in his time of need?
I will never know.
What I do know is that I was pregnant, on bed rest, with two small children at home and I had never felt more alone in the world. One kind word would have made all the difference, but nothing came.
Eventually I realized what was happening. Everyone was taking sides. And if everyone was taking sides, well then, me too. I put up my own walls, and Facebook blocks, and email filters. Fine. So there. Good riddance.
It just kept festering, demanding attention. Why did it bother me so much that I was so quickly dismissed by my former in-laws? It took a lot of praying, a lot of writing, some discussion, and a lot of time before I figured it out.
I thought perhaps I needed to heal the hurt of losing people that I cared about, people I had grown to love. I imagined what it would be like to continue having a relationship with my former in-laws, to be able to converse freely despite the separation. Did I really want to be friends? My honest answer was No. It was a relief to be free from that connection to the past. I could truly wish them well in life and feel good about going our separate ways.
So if I wasn’t missing their friendship, then were my motives more menacing? Perhaps I wanted vindication. No one ever heard my side of the story. No one knew what I knew. But then I stopped to consider their side of the story. He was their brother and son after all, and it wasn’t unreasonable to give him one hundred percent of their support. After all, my family offered me their full support and loyalty. I didn’t really need vindication. What they did made sense.
What didn’t make sense, even after all my soul searching, was why it still felt so awful to be on my side of the great divide.
And then it hit me.
It wasn’t them. It was me.
I made up the sides. When I didn’t hear from them, I shoved them to one side and put myself on the other. And this wasn’t the first or the last time I had created a great divide in my life. I have made sides for people with political views that clash with mine. I have made sides for people who view God and religion differently than me. I have made sides for people that dress differently, parent differently, and even eat differently.
Them vs. Me. Sometimes I paint myself the victim, sometimes the victor, but it is all in my head.
We all do it. We all make sides and take sides.
What if we didn’t?
What if we could be ourselves and let everyone else do the same?
What if we cast our votes for the reasons that resonate truest in our own hearts and let everyone else do the same?
What if we took our path to God and let everyone else walk their own?
What if we could forgive ourselves, and everyone else?
What if we could love ourselves, and everyone else?
What if we could accept and see our own worth, and everyone else’s?
With my former in-laws, I realized that it doesn’t really matter that I have never heard from them again. It helps to try to see it from their point of view. It helps to forgive myself, and them, for what has passed.
Most of all, it helps to be on the same side, the human side.