Events will take their course, it is no good our being angry at them; he is happiest who wisely turns them to the best account. Euripides
I tell my friends my high conflict millennium spanning divorce has been a gift. Sometimes I say it to make myself believe it to be true. Sometimes I say it because I need to find life lessons in this experience. But during the divorce I said it to keep from going crazy.
Often I would wake up, shaking, mind racing, burdened with sorrow, sadness and rage at how the divorce was taking on a destructive, cruel life of its own. I felt as if it had found its way into my DNA, replicating with vigor at every new tactic and maneuver. . Cut me and no, I did not bleed, but declarations, objections, orders to show cause, interrogatories, responsive declarations, more interrogatories, settlement conference statements, and pre trial briefs poured forth. I thought a nervous breakdown was only a heartbeat away. I would lie in bed and talk to my neurons, “Fire, engage, kick in for god’s sake.” I’d wonder if I could talk myself into not going insane. Could I hard wire my brain back to normal? Could I live through this waking nightmare?
I could and I did, though someone watching me crush my vitamins between my teeth instead of swallowing them might detect a woman with enormous stress overload. I made it through. Or I think I did. According to the American Heart Association the rate of heart attacks in divorced women is 30% higher than average. I certainly understand that. When the stress first hit I ended up in the emergency room with crushing chest pain. After a year and a half of dealing with my husband’s attorney who slept through Ethics and How to Negotiate, I sometimes have pain in my chest and the statistics from the Heart Association stick in my mind.
Divorce as a gift? I’d rather have cash or a shopping spree at Nordstrom’s. But then again, maybe not. I like the person who arrived on the other side of this divorce. The cash and clothes are used and gone But the transformation remains. In his book, Waking the Tiger, Peter Wren says: “Every trauma provides an opportunity for authentic transformation. Trauma amplifies and evokes the expansion and contraction of psyche, body and soul….If we let it, trauma has the power to rob our lives of vitality and destroy it. However we can also use it for powerful self-renewal and transformation. Trauma, resolved, is a blessing from a greater power.”
I don’t know if I will ever resolve all of the trauma, but I try. My doctor, who has seen the physical results of the verbal abuse and harassment, told me, “Leave town, change your name, get away, this person, this divorce is toxic to you.” She’s trying to lessen the burden of stress I deal with, but leaving town is not the answer.
Learn to find the gift in every situation. It will help you through. If the divorce makes you more compassionate, stronger and less afraid of life, that is a gift. If it makes you bitter, evil and you hate the world and everyone in it, you have to find a way to change the perception. It won’t happen all at once, and don’t berate yourself for being angry when you want to be calm. If you’ve been battered, harassed, ignored, lied about, stolen from and thrown to the wolves, and then your spouse BLAMES YOU for all that is wrong in his life, it is only natural to feel anger. The goal is victim to survivor. It may be a bumpy road. I know the bumps well, but as time goes by I learn to feel anger less and less and learn to laugh again.
“The first act of freedom is to choose it.” William James.
Why does the legal culture create such abuses and how can we avoid them?