Sunday, January 12, 2014

Finding a New Community: Where Do I Fit In?


When I first decided to rekindle my blog and replace my military spouse slant with my new experiences as a divorced woman (sorry, I still haven’t warmed to the title “divorcee”), I wondered how I would weather the transition from one blogging community to another that was so drastically different.  

That concern was partly a curiosity about my readership, about whether or not any military audience I still had left would stick around to follow my adventures that no longer revolved around military life and whether or not I could gain a following from divorcees (there, I said it!).

But that concern was actually just a thumbnail of a bigger picture, a smaller version of one of the nagging questions that’s been pounding at the back of my head since I publicly shared the news of my divorce:

Where do I fit in now?

The ubiquitous “they” say you learn who your real friends are when you go through a life-changing event. The true friends hang on and help you through, while the posers fall off and find a new pal who doesn’t force them to exert too much emotional energy.

I’m proud to say that my divorce announcement proved I have pretty amazing friends. I might even be so bold as to say I have more friends offering me love and support now than I ever have. But despite these bolstering friendships, I still find myself needing something else.

Most of my friends are married. Although some had ringside seats for the disintegration of my marriage, they weren’t fighting in the ring with me. They cannot know exactly what I’m going through. Just as many military spouses say about their civilian counterparts who complain about their husbands going on 3-day business trips or ask why servicemembers don’t get “normal” jobs, there’s just no possible way anyone can understand unless they’ve lived it themselves.

I’m reading post-divorce self-help books, and I’m starting to follow divorce-related blogs. Everything I’ve read so far only confirms that nothing can replace a community of real-life people who know what it feels like to pack up the kids every weekend to ship them off to dad’s house and how to deal with the prospect of both parties dating. Like a military spouse seeking solace from other military spouses as she struggles through a first deployment, I’m feeling a pull to be a part of a community of divorced women  (yeah, I just can't say divorcee) if for no other reason than to hear them say, “Hey, I totally get it.”

As much as I adore the military spouse community, I realize I no longer belong there. I’m truly happy for my friends whose husbands return from long deployments, and I can empathize with other friends who are awaiting new orders and prepping for PCS moves. But deployments and PCS's have a completely different meaning for me now. I still have to deal with military-induced transitions, but only for the sake of my children as I try to figure out how their military father’s career is going to affect the time they’re allotted with him. I’m no longer celebrating homecomings. I’m no longer PCS’ing.
And that’s where the gaping difference hits me:

They all have husbands. I don’t.

I’m slowly but surely meeting other divorced women who are able to offer me the solace I once sought as that new military spouse trying to wrap her head around the military lifestyle. I’m still not quite accustomed to girls’ night out conversations that now revolve around the quality of available men on Match.com rather than the pitfalls of deployments, but it’s all part of finding a community that fits where I am in my life right now.

I’m certainly not abandoning my military community, especially after they’ve stepped up and rallied around me in the past couple of months, because they didn't abandon me. But I’m looking forward to joining another community that, at this point in my life, is a better fit for me.

Thinking back on my beginning days of blogging four years ago, I remember feeling hopeful and excited to find other military spouses to guide me and to provide positive examples through their journeys. But one day, maybe it was a year later, maybe it was two, I discovered something huge.  Somewhere during that journey to find guidance, I had become a guide for others.

I thought of that yesterday as a woman I recognized from my apartment building pulled up next to me in the parking lot minutes after I loaded my children and their suitcase in my ex-husband’s car and watched them drive away for the weekend.

“You just made my day,” she told me. “My son was watching your kids, and he said, ‘Look Mom, those kids live in two different houses too.’”

“That’s right,” I answered, smiling at the little boy in the backseat. “My kids DO live at two different houses.”

“It’s hard,” the woman practically whispered. “Sometimes it’s really hard.”

Yes, sometimes it’s really hard. But as I watched this woman drive away, I knew I had just added another person to my new community, another person to whom, in one simple and unknowing way, I was able to offer a little bit of solace. And I have a feeling that one day, after getting to know each other and trading divorce stories, she’ll return the favor.

I’m still figuring out where I fit in. I don’t imagine I’ll have the answer anytime soon. But one day maybe I will. Until that time comes, I’ll just consider myself extremely lucky to have those amazing friends, whatever community they may reside in.
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