• Hayley Hengst

You Don't Know Until You Know

I stayed in the marriage far too long.

Long after it was evident that there was no hope for saving it.

Long after everyone ELSE knew that there was no hope for saving it.

Long after everyone else knew I should stop TRYING to save it.

(Long after I knew, too, really.)

It's possible I stayed in it to the point where it was sad and pitiable, quite honestly.

If one of my friends was in my same position, I would have thought they were crazy, for sticking around so long.

Yes, had I witnessed the same scenario unfolding with anyone else I knew, I almost surely would have announced out loud "I'd be handling this so much differently, if I were her" (all smug-like).

The thing is though, you don't know until you know.

You don't know WHAT you'd do or HOW you'd handle it...until you're in it. Then you know. And you'd be surprised. Surprised at what you'd tolerate. Surprised at what you'd justify. Surprised at your own reactions (or lack thereof).

I'm thankful for the people in my life who innately understood this, and didn't judge. The people who weren't as open-minded, well...you couldn't help it. After all, you don't know until you know.

So then I became single...for the first time EVER.

And single life...it's weird.

It's particularly weird when it's sudden, unexpected, for the first time ever, and at age (almost) 40 (with 3 kids in the mix).

There's no rulebook, and if there is, I don't possess it.

I'm not diving much into the details here, but I can tell you this: my best girlfriends have now heard some things. Some tales that I wouldn't have expected to be telling.

I never would have predicted that I'd be single at this point of life, but had I predicted it, I think I would have pictured navigating it differently. Not necessarily better or worse. Just differently.

I'm thankful for the friends in my life that I can tell my tales to, and expect to receive plenty of hugs, laughs, reassurance and empathy, and exactly zero judgement, distain, or unsolicited advice from. The ones giving the unsolicited advice? I get it. I'd probably be dishing it out, too. If I hadn't learned this lesson the hard way, I, similar to them, wouldn't KNOW that I couldn't KNOW until I KNEW. Make sense?

Oh, and not "probably".

I most definitely HAVE given out unsolicited advice, and felt I was the leading expert on the Proper Handling of Things in all SORTS of arenas where in fact, I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, because I'd never walked in those particular shoes, and for that...I'm sorry. (Mom and dad, I admittedly do not know what it feels like to be the parent of an addict. Sister, I have no concept of how it feels to BE an addict. Friend, I've never struggled with depression, and so I am completely naive to the nuances of that).

Take heart, though....

Once life deals you the sort of blow...

Where you find yourself in a new kind of "know"...

A few new things will start to show...

Suddenly, you won't judge people as harshly as you once did.

Suddenly, you'll recognize that there could be more to the story.

Suddenly, you'll be able to extend a certain type of grace that you couldn't possibly have extended before, because you're forever grateful for those who extended it to you.

It's both eye-opening, as well as an ongoing opportunity for growth.

Even as I write this, I'm recalling (uncomfortably) multiple people in my life for whom I harbor resentment towards...who I judged harshly and still AM judging harshly..who I'm positive didn't handle certain situations nearly as well as I would have. I'm realizing (uncomfortably) that the truth of the matter is, I haven't been in their exact shoes, and so I actually cannot say with complete certainty what I would or would not have done.

So that friend making those choices you KNOW you'd never make...are you really certain about that?

The mom at the park parenting her child in a way that you just KNOW is all wrong?

The person who you only see glimpses of on social media, and really don't ACTUALLY know at all, and yet are sure you have them all figured out?

Are you really certain about that?

You shouldn't be. Speaking from experience.....

You Don't Know Until You Know!

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