I attended a dinner party one evening, which went from lovely to awkward in 30 minutes flat. The hostess, who was a very gracious entertainer, chitchatted with me for a bit before introducing me to the one other single woman at this dinner party. This woman was going through an acrimonious divorce. I had been divorced several years prior.
That’s about all we had in common.
She went on and on about how she was going to take her husband—a surgeon—to the cleaners. She wanted his money, his house, etc. It seems he was cheating on her with a younger version of herself—blonde, socially ambitious.
She was looking for advice on how to handle some things. Also, a sympathetic ear. And pats on the back for what she was doing in fighting “the good fight.”
I could provide none of it.
We approached not only divorce—but it appeared life in general—from vantage points that couldn’t have been more different. And my intuition was clanging like a five-alarm fire for me to politely extricate myself from our conversation and find someone else to talk to.
The hostess had good intentions. She was planning a trip—mainly for couples—to an exotic location. She had invited me to join the group—and she thought this woman and I could be traveling companions. Because—in her mind—no divorced woman would want to travel with couples. Again, very thoughtful.
But pairing this woman and I up on the basis of divorce is like me pairing two of my gay male friends simply because they’re gay. Divorced women, like gay men and just about anyone else, are individuals. We don’t simply bond because we’ve been in the trenches.
The hostess’ expectations were what made me uncomfortable. Despite the fact that she didn’t press the issue, I felt somehow like I was letting her down by not responding the way she wanted me too. But, at the same time, I felt a bit ambushed as we sat at the dinner table discussing the potential trip. I did not go on it.
In similar fashion, I’ve listened to my intuition when people “in need” have reached out in very needy fashion. Whether it’s a woman going through a divorce or someone at a party who corners me, I listen to my gut. It’s not that I flee from people in need—it’s that I listen to my inner voice. When I am drawn to a person or situation, I sit with that. And when I’m not, my feet—usually very quickly—take me elsewhere. I think life shows us where we belong and where we do not. And if we feel strongly that we don’t belong in a situation, likely it means there is someone else better equipped to be in it. I am sympathetic, but sometimes that sympathy needs to be from a distance.
The older I get, the easier it is to weather the resentment that comes from not meeting others’ expectations for my participation of lack thereof. You know what I’m talking about—from the fellow mother at school, to an unrelenting boss, to a breakup that you intitiate—we all have people who expect things from us that have nothing to do with our agenda. And life is short. If we’re very wise, then our agenda is what we’re here to accomplish–and our intuition keeps us true to it.
I am finding that if you can weather the resentment that sometimes comes from not making their agenda yours, life is a far happier venture.
In the meantime, bring an umbrella. Sometimes, it rains cats and dogs, compadre.