A Blip on the Radar

I was making decisions. It felt good to be out of numb paralysis in the first few months. I had secured an attorney and started the hard work on the divorce journey. I had started searching for my own apartment. I had applied, interviewed, and was accepted for a new role back in my familiar world of improving patient safety, one that I very much loved. The opportunity to start work again was a welcome distraction, as hard as it was to get back into the routine of early mornings, long meetings, and late evenings. Different than others, this work re-entry forced me to simultaneously single-mother my little guy, an unfamiliar and scary prospect at the time.

I didn’t start my new professional role with a “full cup” so-to-speak. I often felt lack-luster, fatigued, and stress-ridden. There were many days that I wondered if I could manage a tumultuous custody process and fulfill a demanding role while learn how to harmonize solo parenting. It was a lot.

The work was full-on, but I had a supportive team that could be counted on. I had peers around me in which I could confide, and took a load off when I was saturated. It meant the world to me that I had a boss I professionally and personally trusted. Even within in the brevity of the interview process, I immediately looked up to and admired her. She had such presence. She demonstrated the utmost professionalism as well as enviable poise. She was accomplished in both her clinical and leadership careers, and I felt fortunate to have her as a someone I directly reported to.

It wasn’t long that I felt compelled to share aspects of my divorce and custody journey. In part, it was to help explain any absences, or on some days, if I was absent-minded. While my boss didn’t pry, she often gave me welcome perspective on anything I shared. She never forced any advice, rather offered a balanced opinion and a relaxed sense of guidance.

On a particularly difficult week, I was teary in her office. Everything was falling apart at the seams. She listened intently, and after a quiet moment she softly smiled and stated, “you know what, Catherine? It won’t be long until this all becomes a blip on your radar.”

I recall being somewhat shocked and understandably a bit offended. Here I was going through what I thought was such a disastrous “end.” I was living zero semblance of the reality I so badly wanted or previously predicted in my life. I was painfully hurt and felt so broken. With my world crashing down, it certainly didn’t feel like just a “blip.” It felt like a gigantic bomb.

Yet, here I am almost three years out, and as I reflect, I have insight into her prediction. What once was an incoming atomic attack destroying my life [forever], is now losing speed and scattering.

My world didn’t end. It certainly blew up into a million pieces, but it didn’t end. What happened doesn’t quite yet feel like only a small blip, but with the passing of time, I can now appreciate truth in what she said. For from that awful, tragic experience has come tremendous new beginnings. I’ve leaned in, failed forward, drifted sideways, and sometimes downright pummeled myself into forward momentum because I had no other choice. I believed the darkest days have passed and lighter ones are now ever on the horizon; I can finally--and with certainty--hold hope in that.

A blip on the radar is one way to describe it, but I think she meant that life is BIG. It’s bigger than infidelity and betrayal. It’s bigger than divorce. It’s bigger than co-parenting and custody issues. It’s bigger than addictions. It’s bigger than poor choices and imperfection. It’s undoubtedly full of hard, hurtful experiences, but the lasting and most meaningful parts are those that brilliantly shine through those fractures.

Life’s bigger and better moments were my family showing up in force. They were about my friends always being at-the-ready. It was about strangers showering care and compassion when I least expected it. It was definitely about the innocence of my sweet boy who deserves nothing but pure love from those around him. Those relationships repair my broken heart. Those connections are my force-field.

If I had to choose the most important learning out of my journey to-date, it’s this: show up for others. I’m learning to show up for others in ways I never did in the past, and never knew mattered as much as any other lifeline. Show up for your loved one to help deflect and lessen the blow of that “blip” when they can’t do it themselves—even if it’s messy and you can only ricochet some small shrapnel for them. It will mean the world, and it proves that love and kindness always repair the fractures, no matter what life throws across our radar screen.