I was planning on writing a humorous post on how if you wear a push-up bra with a lightweight sweater that is not low enough to reveal cleavage you will visibly show that you have partially constrained breasts and partially bouncing breasts, which is just not an attractive look, especially since it looks more like you’re wearing a small, ill-fitting bra than that you have perked-up breasts just eager to be subtly peeked at. But then I started thinking of three people I talked with yesterday, and the boisterous (vocabulary word) humor left me.
First was the twin sister of a student I had last year who started to explain to me that the doctors finally found out why her sister, her twin, had been having migraines and falling asleep during English class and other sundry maladies for the past year or so. And then, just as she told me the punch line, my sister needs brain surgery, her sister walked in to tell me the news herself. As my class walked in, I wanted to hug these two girls, but that is against the rules (and especially not good in front of an entire classroom of kids), whatever, and so I walked around the projector that had stood between us and just touched the arm of the girl who needs the surgery, who certainly needs more than an arm touch.
And then later that day, at my afterschool teaching job at the synagogue, I covered for another teacher who was running late because she was picking up her daughter from the airport to take her to the hospital to be with her husband, the girl’s father. It seems that he did the manly thing and ignored the irritation he had in his throat until it couldn’t be ignored any longer because he could barely breathe, only to find out that he has cancer there. Her comment to me was: my life changed in a minute.
After I absorbed their news, or as much as possible, I thought about how good it is to be connected with people. When I was with exman there was this understood rule of his not to tell people about what goes on in our house. This went beyond what we talked about, it also covered anything personal. I mean I had a cyst removed from my left breast when I was 25 and his suggestion was only to tell my parents after so that they wouldn’t worry. Why, why shouldn’t they worry, or at least know what’s going on with me? They’re my parents, after all, the people who raised me and cared for and about me for an entire life. I took his “advice,” obviously regretting it to this day. And look who still cares about me.
Why? Why hold yourself apart from others? Why not let people know what you are going through? Where is the benefit to holding in that your husband is ill and that you need support? It’s not that this woman poured her heart out to me, but she reached out for a hug, and a moment of relief.
For me, this transformation, of leaving behind the woman I had become with exman to the woman I am, is the most wonderful thing about having divorced him. Leaving behind a controlling man not only enables you to open up to the people in your life, but even more than that it enables you to feel yourself freed—and thankfully able to savor those connections. This, perhaps, is the strongest sense of before and after: before I held myself back from people and they, sensing that, held themselves from me; and after I am joyously out there to and for all.
What is life if it’s not shared? Obviously no one wants to get sick, but if you do, don’t you want to tell people? Have them pray for you or think of you? Don’t you want to look into someone’s pain-filled eyes knowing that she sees compassion in yours? I rejoice in colleagues and friends asking me how I am knowing that I can answer them truthfully (sometimes). And you know, no one goes running, not wanting to hear of my pain. What you get instead is their knowing that they can come to you when they need that compassionate look and touch. What more can a person’s life be about if not that?