You’re not special.
That realization was the hardest pill for me to swallow post-divorce.
I would read or listen about the depths of pain others experienced through divorce and silently believe that my pain had to be different.
And I had plenty of evidence to back up my belief. After all, how many 16 year relationships end with a text, fraud and bigamy?
It was a great excuse to delay the real work of healing for a time; by focusing on the sordid details, I gave myself a reason to ignore the collective wisdom from the universal experience of love and loss. On the surface, I would graciously accept guidance and advice while tacitly believing that it didn’t apply to me.
Because I thought that my situation, my experience, my pain was special.
I focused on what set me apart rather than what bound me to the common.
I thought I was special. And that belief was both affirming and alienating, giving blessing to the pain and isolating me from others. It’s a lonely place, sorted into a group of one by the particulars of your story. The blessings of excuses soon wear out their welcome and the focus on the details begins to feel like an un-welcomed quarantine.
My unexpected guide out of the isolation chamber of my perceived specialness came in the form of books. Fiction, mostly, and in many cases, not even particularly good fiction. As has always been my habit, I made a weekly library trip and loaded up on whatever was available – mystery, thriller, historical and even some that could be classified as chic lit.
And I read.
And, as is to be expected, my own recent experiences altered the lens I used to view these fictitious worlds; I related to characters who were facing some unimaginable trauma and were suddenly tasked with the seemingly impossible assignment of rebuilding their lives.
And I learned that when it comes to pain, the details don’t matter.
I empathized with characters facing illness, losing loved ones in myriad ways, dealing with natural and manmade disasters and even with those experiencing what would be classified by most as a minor loss. I related to the antagonists and protagonists, men and women, children and elderly and even the occasional non-human. In almost every story, I found elements shared with my own.
My focus blurred, editing out the details and seeing instead the ever-present themes of love and loss, of fear and shame and of hope and persistence.
I wasn’t special.
And I welcomed that realization.
It meant I wasn’t alone. That others had faced similar and thrived. That even though this was a new path to me, it was well-worn and well-marked.
Pain isn’t a solitary experience and healing is not a solo journey.
And even though you are unique and awesome in your own way, when it comes to suffering, you’re not special.
Rather than focus on what sets your pain and experience apart, find comfort in what binds you to others.
You’re not special. And you’re also not alone.