I've spent the past several months hunkered down in my cave. Filled with shock and pain and sadness, it's the only place I've felt safe and protected. I've let few people in, and when I've had to go out, I've scrambled back home. Back inside, safe again.
But I've now started to dip my pinky toe into the outside world again. I'm meeting other divorced moms. They're setups, of course. A mutual friend connects us to commiserate, compare stories, find strength. And while it's unfair to box and label someone like last night's leftover dinner, I do see two paths women going through divorce tend to take: the hunker-down, soul-searching, I-must-find-meaning-in-all-of-this route; or the drown-my-sorrows, party-all-night, hop-into-the-first-relationship-I-can route.
I've taken the former path. And I find myself questioning those taking the other one. How can she "find her way" through a bottle of wine? Doesn't she desire to rediscover who she is before jumping into a new relationship? Is she too weak to peel back the layers and truly examine herself?
Those questions sound so harsh, and I don't like hearing them rattle through my head. They sound judgmental. But I've come to understand that they're stemming from my need to validate my experience. As I struggle to regain my footing, it's as though I need people to say: "Yes, you're doing everything just right. You are on the right path."
But there is no right path. Deep inside, I do know this. So why do I need validation? I'm learning it goes back to my childhood. I didn't grow up in a nurturning home. My feelings weren't validated; in fact, they were ignored. I didn't have a parent who acknowledged my feelings and assured me that they were okay and made sense. If I had learned early on how to understand my feelings and needs, it would have given me confidence in my experiences...back as a child and today as an adult.
So while I've needed my cave to get me through these past several months, the next woman needed those crazy nights out. And when I find myself questioning her choices, it's a red flag that I need to be okay with my own.