I sit with a bag of frozen peas over my left shoulder and held in place as I write by a pillow against the back of my chair. To my right on the table sits a small bowl of Ben and Jerry’s Pistachio ice cream. The frozen peas are there because my dermatologist removed a small benign cyst an hour or so ago from my neck and the doctor wants to reduce possible swelling and pain. The ice cream is because I actually went to the lawyer and discussed how to get my marital house back on the market after four years of letting my ex-husband continue to live in it while basically running it into the ground. Seeing a doctor and a lawyer both in one day is pretty stressful. Good thing in a couple of hours I get to meet some friends for dinner to celebrate a birthday.
Today would have been my 35th wedding anniversary. Instead, shortly after my 30th wedding anniversary, I got brave enough to take myself to a lawyer, plunk down a few thousand dollar retainer, and initiate a “dissolution of marriage.” Otherwise known as divorce. If I’d had the faintest idea how many of my own inner demons I’d have to excise in the divorce process, I probably would have waited another few years. But by then I could have been dead.
Going back to a lawyer today was almost as difficult as that initial experience. I could feel myself flush from my hair root tips down to my chest. I hoped my makeup could disguise the color purple. I was sure the lawyer could see my mustache break out into a sweat. I felt like crying at one point just talking to the lawyer about what I wanted to do. In actuality there was nothing difficult about it at all. The problem was all in my head. The fear, that is. That’s the problem. I realized that on some level I am every bit as afraid of my ex-husband now as I was as a relatively new wife when he slammed his fist down on my ironing board and bent the leg of it to the floor because he didn’t like something I’d said.
Just as was the case with my actual divorce attorney, this lawyer and I went through the steps to calm that panicked inner child part of myself. “I’m here to help you,” he said. “The divorce decree says that the house is to be sold. I can take steps today to begin to make that happen.” I didn’t have to be manipulated or bullied into doing something I didn’t want to do. It would certainly be much less expensive if my ex-husband and I could actually discuss some of the details of this process ourselves, I was told, but I didn’t have to deal with him at all if it was too difficult.
Just hearing that calmed me a bit. The lawyer proposed a hypothetical situation. “Do you think you are physically in danger, now?” he asked. That was not my immediate concern. I was worried about how my ex might react once he receives the letter from the lawyer.
“If your ex-husband came to the door and he was really angry, would you let him in?” the lawyer asked.
“Absolutely not,” I said.
“If he continued to harass you, would you call the police?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said.
“Well it says right here in your divorce decree that each party will be civil in their dealings with the other,” he pointed out. “If he calls on the phone and is rude, hang up. If he calls back, hang up. If he calls again, call the police. That’s phone harassment.”
Oh. Once again I had to realize that legally this is all pretty cut and dried. I am not that little girl in my family of origin, the smallest and youngest having to deal with the crazy things my mother did to create chaos. I am not the wife who felt trapped and petrified of the much bigger and stronger bully disguised as a husband. I don’t even have to berate myself for staying so long in an impossible situation. I can just pay the lawyer to do his job and get the business taken care of.
Tonight I went out with my friends and had a great dinner to celebrate a couple of birthdays. We laughed and ate and drank and exchanged presents and caught up on each others’ lives. At the end I got to take home a huge, still warm, just cooked apple pie my friend made with apples from her own trees. She made the crust and the topping, too. I just ate a piece. It was magnificent. My actual life is so much better than it used to be. It makes me realize just how true that statement is for me right now; “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Oh yes. Nothing like a warm, heavenly scented apple pie to bring that thought home. Especially when it’s baked with love.