The first time I heard the song Come a Little Closer by Cage the Elephant (LOVE them!) it spoke to me—mostly because it reminded me of an experience I had many years ago. It was an incredibly painful experience, but one that also taught me an incredibly valuable lesson.
The chorus of the song speaks of how things aren’t always what they seem to be when you take a closer look. Snowflakes are a perfect example of this.
From a distance, it’s just a uniform sheet of white, but when you put one under a microscope you see its true intricate beauty. Life is the same way. From a distance it may seem to be one way, but upon closer inspection, you may find something completely different.
I had a friend in college. Yes, that’s saying something! I will be the first to admit that I was a really hard person to get along with back then, and I’ve often wondered if most of the people who called themselves my friends were just saying it. If I could go back in time and meet my past self, I probably wouldn’t be able to stand myself! There were, however, a couple of people who saw past the cocky, loudly opinionated person that I was and somehow liked me anyway.
This one particular friend and I stayed in touch even after college, and our friendship grew despite our lives going in different directions. I got married, had a baby and became a stay-at-home mom while she continued her education and had a career. It seemed as though she was always off on some grand adventure while I had my own mini-adventures close to home. The differences didn’t matter to me. She was my friend, someone I cared about and was happy for, someone I knew cared about me. So imagine my shock when one day she told me that she could no longer be my friend because seeing me with my perfect life as a wife and mother, with the perfect husband made her too jealous because it was the life she had always wanted and dreamed of since she was a young girl. And that was it. That was the end. She wouldn’t talk to me again.
Part of the reason this hurt me so much was because my life was so far from that perfect world she had so falsely dreamed up. My marriage was in shambles. It was so bad I knew I had three options—get a divorce, get some serious help to save my marriage or take my own life. Yes, that’s how bad it was. It was the worst hell I’d been through up to that point in my life. All I could see was darkness, and there were times I didn’t know if I could make it through. The ironic part is that I had actually been thinking of telling my friend about what was going on. I felt like I could trust her because I knew she cared about me and would be there for me no matter what—because that’s what friends do, right?
Besides my shattering marriage, I had also gone through severe postpartum depression after having my daughter and it never really went away. While I loved being a mom and was grateful I could be one, I had quickly learned that motherhood doesn’t equal a state of constant happiness and bliss like she apparently thought it did.
It hurt. I hurt. I thought about telling her what was going on, but I knew it wouldn’t get through. She was too closed off to anything other than what she wanted to believe, and I didn’t want to make her feel bad—because I valued her as a person and someone who had been one of my closest friends. Despite the hurt, as I looked at and analyzed what had happened, I learned a very important lesson which I’m still grateful for. It taught me never to make assumptions. It’s so easy to look at someone else and think they have it made, think they have the perfect spouse, the perfect kids, the perfect house, the perfect job. The perfect life. But it’s not true! Everyone has problems, everyone struggles, and when you make an assumption like that it takes away opportunities for you to serve. If you can just take the time to truly get to know someone and get a glimpse into their life, you often find that you’re more alike that you think and that perhaps you can help or strengthen them in their times of difficulty.
Now, it would have been nice if I had learned this lesson without the painful experience to go along with it. But pain and hurt are a part of life, and one of the greatest things I’ve found is the ability to look back and see what you have learned and can learn from those times—just like I did with this experience.
*As a side note, this experience was several years ago. My ex-husband and I did get help that did save our marriage. But life goes on, things change, people change, and we did end up divorced anyway. The fact that we didn’t go through a completely bitter and hate-filled divorce, the fact that we remain friends and still care about each other doesn’t mean it was some picture-perfect divorce. It was an incredibly difficult experience for both of us and the most alone I have ever felt in my life. I am grateful for the friends I had, who stuck with me through it and allowed me to cry and vent and shared in my pain with me. I’m also grateful for the friends and neighbors I have now who have shown so much love and support to both me and my ex-husband.