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Fear

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he isAs a noun, fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”  As a verb, to “be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.”  Fear can be a huge motivator to either do, or NOT do, a particular thing.  Sometimes fear is based in reality; sometimes, just in the perception of reality.  Fear can be crippling, can prevent one from taking necessary, reasonable action, or can motivate one to take actions that are unreasonable, dangerous, or out of proportion to the circumstances.

So what does that have to do with the law?

Family law actions are emotional things.  While the divvying up of assets, assignment of debts, allocation of custody and parent time, and awards of child support and alimony are black and white things, underlying the entire process is a mess of emotions, largely unpleasant ones.  Anger, pain, rage, desperation, panic, despair, sadness, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness….Swirling in with that horrible mix is Fear.

Fear is a huge part of any major life change….fear of the unknown–what happens with my budget when I’m limited to x amount of dollars a month?  What happens to my retirement goals when I have to pay out x dollars a month?  Why should I have to pay money to this person who is hurting me?  When will I get to see my kids?  What if my ex makes my kids hate me?  How will I pay all the expenses I need to for my kids?  What if I can’t pay the rent on this child support/alimony amount?  How am I supposed to get a job and take care of my kids at the same time? Who’s gonna hire me???  Is anyone ever gonna want to be with me again????

I would suggest that much of the reason people behave irrationally, do dumb things, say dumb things, try to avoid legal action, or any of the thousands of different ways people end up hurting themselves in family cases is out of fear:  “If I avoid the process server, they can’t serve me, and this will all go away.”  “He said there’s a warrant out for my arrest if I try and show up to court….I can’t get arrested!”

Mark Twain CourageWhile legal proceedings can be scary, the best way to deal with them is through Knowledge.  Be proactive–don’t wait until the last minute to seek legal advice.  If you’re scared about a threat made by the Other, ASK someone who knows or can find out about whether there’s any truth to the threat.  If you married a bully, be ready to deal with a bully.  Is it scary?  Hell YES it is.  But avoiding it, hiding, pretending it’s not happening, remaining willfully ignorant will do more to hurt you in the long AND short run than squaring your shoulders and addressing the situation.

Case in point:

I got divorced in 2005.  At the time, I’d been a stay at home mom, had 4 kids, the oldest of which were 8 year old twins, and had no money to my own name other than what my husband brought in.  My marriage had come apart, and my mental health was deteriorating.  I couldn’t stay married and live.  And No, I’m not being dramatic when I say that.  I was scared to death.

So how did I handle it?

I rolled over and died, in a manner of speaking.  My husband hired a lawyer, who drafted an agreement taking everything away from me except for some really minimal bits of Stuff.  I didn’t fight to get custody of the kids I’d been primary caretaker of for their entire lives.  I didn’t even attempt to stay in my house, or get alimony, or ask for half of the rest of our marital, not-insignificant assets.  I signed my husband’s agreement.  That became the terms of my divorce, and gave him custody of my kids.

I flat out gave up.  Out of paralyzing, crippling Fear.  Everything my husband said about how miserable he’d make me if I tried to get even statutory minimums under the law for ANYTHING, I believed.  All the little demeaning, demoralizing comments he threw out at me, I believed.  I was terrified–terrified of a legal fight, terrified of my kids getting hurt any worse than they already were, terrified of losing my mind before it was all said and done…Terrified.  Scared.  Panicked.

And so, out of blind, crippling, numbing, paralyzing fear, I gave up.  Everything–my kids, my home, any portion of 10 years of marriage…all of it.  Without a fight.

Ask me how much I regret that.  And when you do, bring tissues, because I’m going to cry my eyes out on you, even though it’s been nearly 13 years since all that happened.fear-is-the-mindkiller

DON’T YOU BE LIKE ME.  You be BRAVE.  Find your support people.  Face your fears, even if you have to face them quietly, by seeking out help online, or at a victim’s crisis center.  Get real information.  Do a little research.  DON’T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!  For the love of all that is good and holy, I am begging you, do not let fear take your life from you.  You can do it.  I swear, it’s hard as hell, but you CAN.  And you Must.

A final Scene from the story of fear in my life:  I am at my Aunt Nancy’s house, curled up on the floor in her bathroom, sobbing out of fear and the misery that came from letting my fear cripple me when it counted most.  She is sitting next to me, on the floor, knees pulled up to her chest, her arm around my shoulders.  She is saying, “I wish I could poor courage into your spine so you can stand.”

I say to you–Imagine me pouring courage into your spine.  Stand up. You may be afraid, but don’t let it control you.  You are not alone.

Be Brave.

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…and Time Waits for No Man…

Tomorrow is the first day of school for my kids.  I have a freshman and a senior in high school, starting Tomorrow.  The first day of school is always a little bittersweet.  It’s exciting to see my kids getting older, growing, all those great things that parents so enjoy, that we are lucky to be able to witness.  But it’s also just another marker of time, and my children growing up, and not being Children anymore.

First day of School 2010

First day of school 2010…they’re not little anymore…

I have been there for the first day of school every year since my divorce was final, 12 1/2 years ago.  Whether I lived 2 minutes away or 7 hours away.  There were a lot of years that I’d hug my kids, see them off on the bus, then drive away and cry for hours.  I don’t have to drive away and cry anymore–tomorrow, for the first time EVER, school is starting during MY parent time week.  Not that it really matters much anymore…I’ve lived within 3 blocks of my ex-husband for going on 3 years now, so even if he has the kids for the week, I’m just a minute away.

The hard part for me is the Looking Back that we tend to do at the beginning of a new school year.  And I’m not over all the loss from the past years enough yet to do that without becoming an emotional mess.  You know what they say–Time and mercy heal all wounds.  Still waiting on time and mercy….

Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

I spent last Friday in a divorce mediation.  The marriage spanned two decades; the parties have 5 kids.  By my client’s account, it was not a happy marriage, and the miracle was that it had not ended sooner.  broken heart

The agreement we mediated was about as good as it gets in terms of being a statutorily equitable split.  My client WANTS to get divorced, but she’s still very upset about the whole thing.  It’s just not really fair, even if it’s equitable. And Why?

Because it will never BE “fair.” Because she did not get married to get divorced.  Because she has 5 kids who are heartbroken and disillusioned and upset about the situation their parents are in.  Because she had planned on a Future, that didn’t include getting divorced, that may have included kids’ graduations from high school and weddings and grandkids, with all the traditions you see in an intact family.  Because at one time, she had a Dream of what life as a married person would look like.

And that Dream is dead, not to be resuscitated. No divorce settlement will ever be able to make all the pain ok or right or fix it.  Getting divorced Hurts.  Bad.  Even when it really NEEDS to happen.  Getting divorced is like running head-on into a wall.  Boom.  Turn around.  Start over.  Somehow.  And a lot of times that “starting over” is from less than Scratch.  Like, no retirement left, no job experience, kids and expenses but not enough income to pay for everything AND maintain any kind of actual life.

You’ve gotta take some time to grieve after a divorce…Maybe a long time.  Because getting divorced is the ULTIMATE break up. And we all know breaking up is hard to do.

They say time and mercy heal all wounds.  The challenge is surviving the passage of time, ya’ll.  So be gentle with your divorcing and newly divorced friends.  It’s a pretty horrific thing they’re going through.

Things I Care About: Do Unto Others

Golden Rule Plus

If you’ve read very many of my blog posts, you kind of start to get a feeling for things that I’m passionate about. Like

Fathers’ Rights.  I deeply believe that the best way to keep our kids whole through the divorce process is for them to have BOTH parents in their lives.  In this world of family law, where custody seems to default to moms, we should not forget that there are a lot of really great dads out there who are heartbroken at losing time to just Be around their kids on a daily basis.  While that may not be practical in a divorce,  that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to keep Dad there as often as possible.  And intentionally keeping a loving father from his kids IS child abuse.  We need the courts to take it more seriously, and we need a general shift in societal thinking that defaults away from thinking that single moms are always saints.

and

Domestic Abuse.  By this I mean ALL forms of abuse.  We tend to think only in terms of physical violence as being abusive, but psychological abuse may be far more pervasive, and can take a helluva lot longer to get over.  Victims of abuse tend to be less likely to have custody of their kids, because they tend also to have less access to resources with which to hire a lawyer in a divorce.  Moms who don’t have their kids could well have been victims of domestic abuse in their marriages, and every day of their lives without their kids is just another stab in the heart by the abuser.  We as a community (especially a community like I live in here in Utah) need to lay off judging moms who did not get custody as though they’re some sort of addict or loser.  Heaping misery on the wounded is cruel; we are better than that.

and

Kids.  It seems like in any divorce action, kids always end up being the Big Losers.  They don’t get any choice in their whole worlds getting thrown into chaos; in Utah, they have no choice, really, who they get to live with.  And even if they DID have the option, how do you choose between two parents you love dearly?  I remember being a freshman in college and having a nightmare that my parents were divorcing, and that I was begging them not to, and they wouldn’t listen.  I woke up sobbing, and had to call my mom to make sure that it was just a really bad dream.  The biggest pain in my life is knowing the MY kids never got to wake up from that Really Bad Dream.  I’ve been divorced nearly 12 years, and I still feel horrible every time I think about it (like now, writing this post, and blowing my nose and wiping my eyes.)

and

Fairness.  and Decency.  and Human Kindness. and Equity.  I mean, seriously….whatever happened to these values?  I see them evidenced in some divorce cases, but way more often it’s as though the parties feel a need to feed the fight, and take whatever they possibly can, and hurt the other person, no matter what the cost.  I know I’m way too sensitive (part of why I can’t do this family law thing full time anymore), but I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to apply a little Golden Rule into their lives, even if their lives include ex spouses.  Do unto others as you would have them do to you, ya’ll.  Or better yet, don’t do things to them that you wouldn’t want them to do to you.Even Better

And if we would all live by just that one little rule, what a wonderful world it would be.

….and it’s the holidays. Again.

christmas-over

My mom, dad, sisters, and I have an ongoing conversation via text message that my brother in law dubbed the “Tatter.”  Back just after Halloween I was bemoaning on the Tatter how Walmart already had Christmas stuff up and how much I hated it.  The response was quick– “I love it!”  “I can’t wait to get on with Christmas!”  And then there was me, Queen Grinch herself, grinching about how Christmas is depressing, wears me out, and that I generally can’t stand it.  Bah Humbug.

My mom commented that I just need to focus on the Reason for the Season, the birth of Christ.  And that part I’m totally ok with…It’s just all the Pressure.  The stress, the expectations I cannot and never do meet, the crowds and traffic and noise and PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.  The Reason gets drowned out in all the madness.

Then there’s the inevitable Dealing With The Other Parent.  As I’ve said, my situation with that is generally no problem at all, it’s the Other one that we have to deal with.  There’s always Trauma Drama in that department, and the anxiety in thinking about it just puts me into a panic.

I have generalized anxiety disorder.  And panic disorder.  And major depressive disorder, and dysthmia (having symptoms of depression for 2 years or longer).  I’m on medication to address the more pronounced symptoms of all this Crazy, because I still have to function.  Some days are worse; some days are better.  But Christmas….UGH.

Maybe in another post I’ll go into what it means to have a brain that wants to kill me, but for today, I’m tired, I’ve been on the verge of tears all day for no reason, I have the shakes, and I’ve had pain in my chest now since Monday with Christmas looming and an empty bank account.  So please do forgive the Bah Humbug.  I’m working on it.

From the FB Archives: November 17, 2010

*I love this one.  From a very long time ago.  My brother continues to struggle, but this is what’s inside him…even if he can’t see it right now.  And I believe he can come back to this; but then, I’m biased, because I love the guy to death.

17 November 2010

Bit of a Rant 🙂

I was going through one of my saved emails folders tonight and came across this gem.  It was a response from my brother to an “I Voted Democrat because…(fill in the blank)” type email that I’d forwarded to him.  To give you some background:  My brother barely graduated from high school, and is a felon in Idaho because they have a “3 DUI’s equals a felony law”, and his “first” DUI was a prosecutor’s Good Idea for a plea bargain when he was a teenager (I’m thinkin’ 15 years old, but I could be wrong on the exact age), instead of a minor possession charge. (Incidentally, I’d like to find the prosecutor and punch him in the throat for THAT bit of grossly horrible legal advice).

My brother’s thoughts on the Economy, American Ingenuity, Etc.:

“I believe this is the way it is suppose to be. Our freedom to think is being stripped away by seat belt warning chimes, metaphorically speaking. The opportunity to surrender our minds is readily available and most people will. I believe this will lead to the downfall of society, but lets not think of it as an end but a new beginning, for when society falls natural selection can once again cleanse the gene pool of those who would blow dry their hair in the shower if the tag didn’t tell them not to. I don’t think I’ve heard of a single great thing this nation has accomplished by playing it safe (Franklin, key, kite, lightning… I rest). Necessity is the mother of invention and if our greatest necessity is how we can change the DVD without leaving the couch, then by God we will find a way. By adopting this safety first mentality we are allowing trillions of tax payer dollars to be sent into the private sector to save businesses that should have gone the way of the dinosaur due to their failure to adapt, and why? To save jobs? Stabilize the economy? It looks to me like the economy was stabilizing itself. Natural selection. And to those who would lose their jobs, why would they be too incompetent to survive? The field they specialized in would have new openings for business owners who could provide jobs for others. These monster companies started that way: Americans with a dream and the balls to do something about it. Well, I have balls and I’m not afraid to let ’em hang out from time to time, and I believe there are still others out there that have balls; I’ve seen them from time to time. The state of our country is wonderful for those who are still able to say, “Hey, lightnin’ storm comin’. Better get my key and kite.”  These are exciting times we live in. Everyone doesn’t have to believe the same thing. Some things are true whether you believe them or not. Just a little rant…”

I’m gonna add a Hear, Hear to this, even though I may be coming Damned close to being “de-selected”.  But then I’m a raging Libertarian :).

ingenuity

 

From the FB Archives: April 2, 2013

*Things got better for a minute, so I could take a deep breath…and then they tanked again after this.  Such is life.  And I AM in a much better place now.

2 April 2013

The Miracle of the Passage of Time

I signed a new client today, with the accompanying retainer payment, and got payments from a couple of other existing clients on their monthly bills.  And as I was getting in my car to go to the bank to deposit them, I could not help but reflect back.  Not too long ago, every new client with new retainer money, every payment from a client on work I’d done for them, was a miracle–a sudden, miraculous gift from heaven, that swooped in at the last second and saved me from imminent financial ruin.  There were a lot of financial miracles back not too long ago.  The man I did not know who paid for my gas when my credit card (unbeknownst to me) was expired and declined after I’d put $20 worth in my car.  The large Christmas present from my grandma that paid my child support and a couple of bills.  The money stuffed in my purse from my aunt that bought gas money to get home to see my kids.  The rent paid from across the waters by my big brother, coincidentally on HIS birthday.  And every time a check came in from a client, it was like some of the weight that threatened to crush me continually was lifted, if just for a little tiny bit of time.

 

I marveled today that I am not in that place anymore–that place of wrath and tears, beyond which looms but the horror of the shade, to quote William Earnest Henley, in that poem I love, Invictus.  There is still significant struggle, but it’s no longer for the basic necessities of life.  I have enough to keep consistently afloat every month, without the cellphone company calling and threatening to disconnect if I don’t pay immediately.  And today I am grateful, and marvel at the miracle of the passage of time.  I used to really like that quote, “It will all be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end,” but I had a hard time feeling it.  I’m starting to feel it.  Thank God for that.

take-a-deep-breath

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