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The Scarlet D (or was it an A?)

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Being left out still hurts this grown ass woman She is going through a divorce. Her husband is an alcoholic and everyone knew it. They all saw it. While they saw a kind man who would give you the shirt off his back, they saw his damage and they saw what it was doing to her and her son. When he got let go from his job and walked out on them, not to be heard from for days, people expressed concern and worry. They offered hugs and offered help when she needed it…allowing her son to hang at their house when she was working late. If she was running late, neighbors jumped in to let out her dogs. She felt supported.

As time went on though, she sensed neighbors didn’t want to ask how she was. If she mentioned her husband, the separation, or the impending divorce, she got silence, no follow up questions and a quick change of subject. She is now convinced that when neighbors see her, they stay in their cars, pretend they’re on the phone or run inside. This could all be a fictional story she’s telling herself, and she’s pretty perceptive. At the very least, they’ve established a nonverbal boundary that they don’t wish to speak about her husband. She’s at least accurately clocked this much. She feels hurt.

She’s aware that she’s an over sharer. And sometimes she just wants to talk to someone. Maybe the neighbors are not that someone. In fact, one neighbor that drank with her husband often, hasn’t spoken to her in the entire year they’ve been separated. He’s not responded to her texts. She’s seen him help other neighbors with yard work, and never offered to help her maintain her overgrown yard that was known to be her husband’s domain. That feels intentional.

She’s tried to reach out and ask how things are in their world. She hates to be the person who only reaches out when she needs something. She is genuinely interested in how they are. She gets little information. Short replies with emojis. Is she telling herself stories again, or is she being perceptive? Do they not want to tell her about what’s going on in their lives because “she’s dealing with enough”? Are they thinking for her, or just uninterested in connection? She feels invisible.

Back when she and her husband still lived together, they would do porch sits with the neighbors. A few days ago, she reached out to ask how they were and got a perfunctory “hey we should do a porch sit” text. Her response was that she would love that. She was looking forward to it. Imagine her hurt when she heard them on their porch a few nights later laughing and talking with other neighbors. She was home. Her car was visible. It only takes a text to say “come on out.” But the text never came. It feels like rejection.

This goes deeper than neighbors. Divorce is uncomfortable to discuss. Co-workers feel uneasy to open Pandora's box, so they go on like nothing happened…like she didn’t get left by an alcoholic, isn’t single momming, isn’t utterly overwhelmed by the house, doesn’t stress out about money all the time, isn’t explaining to her child that daddy loves him and is sick, isn’t giving every penny to a lawyer she can’t afford, isn’t terrified that the courts will force her into a shared custody arrangement that doesn’t work. People offer to help and when she asks, they are unavailable. They don’t know how hard it is for her to ask for help. How vulnerable she feels to do it. Even her family avoids the topic. The say they love her and offer prayers. No one asks the questions. No one says, “Tell me your story. I want to know how you are.” It feels lonely.

So, in her reflective nature, in an effort to own her stuff, she has landed here. She can hijack a room. Hoo boy she’s a talker. Anyone who knows her, knows that she is also generous and giving. She’s noticed that since the separation, people don’t want to allow her to help. They don’t want her to share back. They don’t want to accept her help. So is that her stuff, or theirs? She feels like a taker.

She’s trying to figure out what the scarlet D, for Divorce, on her chest brings up for people. Or is it that her husband is an alcoholic? Do they assume that she’ll see them too, just as she eventually came to see her husband? Is her scarlet D soaked in bourbon or something… the middle crossbar dropped to floor like someone who drank too much tequila, bloating and then tipping over in blackout drunkenness? Did it actually start as an A for Alcohol? Alcohol pervades our every day. It’s our coping mechanism. It’s how we celebrate. It’s how we relax. It’s imbued into how we connect socially. So while neighbors and family did the right thing in the first moments of the crisis, is it fear that made them remove themselves from her story? Did they see themselves in her husband? She’s not a doctor or a therapist. She just asks questions and tries to come up with possible answers. She feels like she can finally see.

Thank the gods for her chosen sisters and tribe. They help her and accept her help in return. They saw her husband and loved him, yet completely support her and her son. She hates to seem ungrateful for all of the lovely things her neighbors, friends and family have done for her. Yet, it’s ok to be grateful and disappointed. That can coexist, because that’s how she feels in this moment. It’s causing a sort of reassessment. She always feels a little weird when she’s not authentically herself (the talker and over sharer), and she’s emotionally intelligent enough to just be a listener and an observer too. She can do both genuinely. What she won’t do is take on other people’s stuff. She can’t own their discomfort. She won’t force herself on people who don’t want her in their sphere. That’s a hard thing for her to realize she’s not wanted. And that is her only way forward from now. She will continue to be grateful for what they’ve done for her and her son. She will continue to be good and offer herself to them in service. This grown ass woman will rise above the rejection. This feels like growth.

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