Imagine a dull buzzing sound in the background of your life on a constant loop. Sometimes the sound would get louder, other times it would be softer, but it doesn’t really go away; it’s just incessantly there. Pretty annoying, right? Well, imagine that dull buzzing sound in the form of judgment, rumors, and unsolicited advice that everyone decided to dish out because they felt I just wasn’t “ready” for reality. More than annoying, it’s insulting.
This was the noise that surrounded me and the life I was choosing to live. It was the noise that fueled me to go against it and to trust my instincts even more than I normally would have. What hurt and offended me the most was that a lot of people in my life, whether I was close to them or not, had made a definite decision that I was on some sort of timeline–a very specific timeline–that wasn’t even my own. I was on everyone else’s because no one could possibly wrap their heads around the mere idea that I could actually be feeling ok. More than ok. In fact, I was feeling pretty good. The majority of them said that I needed to “give it a year” before changing my life around. To me, however, I didn’t have a year. I didn’t want to wait because I had a whole lot of life and fight left in me. Waiting would only delay anything good. I would feel restricted and confined. Besides, what magic happens at the one-year mark? Does it all go away? Is that when it’s supposed to suddenly feel better? Because I was already feeling better long before the one-year anniversary, did that mean that I was completely imagining my own happiness? It was easy for them to default to the excuse that I was in so much shock I had no idea what to do. It was expected that I make rash decisions. It felt like people were waiting with bated breath for the other shoe to drop and if it did, it would be completely understandable or even excusable. Why? Because death is traumatic, dramatic, and sad. There were a few people who I thought to be incredibly close confidants who turned their backs and critiqued the choices I was making:
“Why is she traveling so much? She’s escaping her problems.”
“Why is she going out all the time? She’s lonely.”
“Is she having another glass of wine? She’s drowning her sorrows.”
Why couldn’t they think that I was traveling because I had the opportunity to do so and explore new adventures? Why couldn’t they think that my going out all the time was because I wanted to integrate myself back into a social setting without having a dark cloud over my head? Why couldn’t I simply enjoy a glass of wine? I was “newly single” and was allowed to go meet someone and go on dates, but why did it feel so wrong? Why couldn’t they think that I was really pulling myself out of this and moving forward, not choosing to stay stuck? Where was that positive reinforcement? I had often wondered how others would have reacted if it were a man in my situation. Something tells me that all of that seemingly questionable behavior I had would have been completely and utterly excused, understood, supported and glorified. Alas, c’est la vie–it was my life that was under the microscope for everyone to dissect.
Then there were other kinds of noise–the kinds that made my skin crawl and feel worse simply because it just made no sense. Someone choosing to leave their spouse because of a wrongdoing is absolutely not the same thing as losing your spouse in an accident that resulted in death. So when someone said that it didn’t seem fair that I was “getting all the attention” when she was going through a messy divorce, I just couldn’t sit back and let people dictate how and when I was supposed to start feeling happy. Another instance had me enraged when someone said I was “reaping the benefits” of my dead husband. Or that all of my plans were “reckless, irresponsible, and selfish”. It’s one thing for acquaintances to cast their opinions based on no experience that was remotely similar to mine, and quite another for really close friends and/or family to do so. One would think that all they wanted was for me to finally be happy. But wait! I could only be happy when the timing was right for them. If it didn’t sit well with them, then I was doing it all wrong. People would use the excuse that they would “know what was best” for me when saying something that might have come off as offensive or hurtful. They would say that I just didn’t know any better, that I was distracted, not thinking straight, as it were. It made me want to scream at them and say, “YOU have no idea what is best for me! I do!” But I couldn’t. So I let time take its course and try to ignore the static. How could anyone possibly get it? Couldn’t they see that the happiness that I was reaching for wouldn’t just be for me, but for my daughter as well? Isn’t there truth in the fact that happy parents yield happy children? I wanted so much for my daughter to grow up knowing happiness over sadness, knowing that the brightest light is possible even in the darkest hours. I just didn’t understand how something so deeply personal to me was suddenly deeply personal to everyone else.
Anaïs Nin once said, “Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.” In so many ways, I feel like I had to create an entirely new world where my choices and the absence of noise could coexist in harmony. So when I got into the relationship I’m currently in, I had to tread lightly. While a part of me wanted to tell the world that I had met my match, I was really dreading the backlash that was bound to come. It was all just a matter of timing. I can’t please everyone. I won’t do it so they can feel better about my choices. I have to make my own happiness. And it looks like I’ve got quite the head start on that already.
This is the fourth piece in a series from Tanya Fujiki-Hastings, a new contributor to Momfilter, who writes a blog called T Spoon of Sunshine. Her first post is here, her second is here, and her third is here.