Thursday, June 17, 2010

Divine Guidance

Years ago, my sister taught me the technique of asking for divine guidance in choosing books at the library. She said, "Simply pray as you are walking in for God to lead you to the books you need." Since then I have practiced this with surprising results. Once I was led to a book called Farm Sanctuary. Though I couldn't imagine why I would need to read a book about factory farming, trusting my intuition, I picked it up and read it. It spurred my decision to become a vegan, which has made me much more compassionate--not to mention healthier.

So a few weeks ago when I was drawn to the book Falling Apart in One Piece, one woman's memoir of her struggle through divorce, again I questioned, "Why?" And on that trip to the library, I picked it up and put it back down, thinking, "My marriage is good; why do I want to read about someone's divorce?"

However, on my next trip to the library, again I was drawn to this book. Trusting intuition instead of logic, I got the book and read it. It's not too often that I feel "Aha!" moments, but literally halfway through the book, I did. The author says that when she began telling people about her husband's leaving her, they peppered her with questions, "Is he having an affair?" "Did you see this coming?" "Were there any signs?" Eventually, she wrote, she realized that these questions were not related to her crumbling marriage, but to people's desire to protect their own marriages from a similar fate. Instinctively, people withdrew from her, she says, as if divorce were a contagious disease.

In reading that passage I realized that I was doing just that to a dear friend, who was experiencing marital problems. She had confided her issues to me, and I had listened, advised, shared my own issues with her, and finally withdrawn feeling complicit in the knowledge I had and afraid to be a partner in her crumbling marriage. For days, I avoided her because I felt guilty. However, in reading this book, I realized that her marriage is not my responsibility. My role in her life is as a friend--to listen to non-judgementally and to offer unconditional compassion and love.

While no one's marriage is perfect, and yes, divorce is hard not only on the couple, but also on everyone around them, it is not contagious. Their marital issues are not ours, and by showing her sympathy, I am not jeopardizing my own happiness. Although it is always my initial reaction to withdraw from conflict into the safety of my own family, I realized in doing so I was withdrawing a potential lifeline from a friend adrift in the sea. And that...well, that just is not who I want to be.

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