By Sandra Beck.
I pushed my stroller into the law office dragging a grape juice-stained three year old boy as his little brother pounded on the tray complete with all those little plastic jangling things that were supposed to keep him busy. Clearly they irritated him as he let out a wail and now they also irritated me. An impossibly groomed receptionist looked alarmed at the rag tag crew that just rolled into her fancy office.
This was a law firm specializing in divorce. This can’t be the first time someone flung cheerios under the fancy leather couches. They should be glad my older son left his “my first black Sharpie” at home. The cream colored walls with the shiny elegantly striped wallpaper just begged for the wobbly sliding-to-the-left letter “M” he was practicing in pre-school.
I hadn’t planned on filing for divorce with my kids in tow, but since my ex had been AWOL for the last month and my parents were 2500 miles away dealing with my mother’s breast cancer treatments this was it. You want my business, you want my retainer… then you get my sticky kids. Oh! And don’t touch the baby, he bites.
I will tell you I was terrified. My fingers were stiff and cold as I dug in my purse for anything that would keep my 3 year old from eating the magazines on the table. They called my name I don’t know how many times and when it finally registered I looked around the empty lobby as if to say, “Who me?” Other than my kids, I was the only one there.
I told my story to the attorney who asked me why I married the jerk in the first place. I stumbled and stammered. I didn’t know any better. He changed? I made a mistake. I’m stupid? I grew up? He didn’t? My kids deserved a faithful dad? I was so ashamed to be there. I had no answers. I was completely lost. I wasn’t empowered and I wasn’t comforted. I crawled out of there dragging my ornery and decibel busting kids out of there and I never went back.
It was months later when I finally got up the nerve to go file again. This time I was still scared to death, but I was calm. The old rude attorney had forced me to look at some unpleasant aspects. He didn’t sugar coat anything. He told me what I was in for. He told me what opposing counsel would throw at me. I went home the first time with my tail between my legs. The second time I was ready.
Armed with tax returns, copies of emails, hotel receipts, phone bills I was ready for battle. California is a no-fault state and I really didn’t need any of those things. I was the breadwinner so I wasn’t seeking support. But what that obnoxious attorney did was kick me in the pants to show me that I was taking a risk with my life and my children’s lives without being prepared. This time I was taking charge.
I had to the option of serving my ex at his office, in front of his oafish “horsey” and not in a “young colt-like manner” girlfriend/secretary, at her house where they now lived thinking of a million ways that could humiliate him as he had humiliated me. But I didn’t. I didn’t need to. I was in charge now. I was no longer sitting on pins and needles waiting to see if my husband would come home after his latest breakup with yet another dis-empowered, dis-enfranchised and dis-honorable woman. In the end, I called him and gave him the address of the law office and told him he could pick up the papers.
See when you take risks based solely on emotion, you don’t know the outcome. It’s scary. It’s intimidating. It’s very overwhelming. The first law office I visited when I was completely unprepared was taking a risk – I wasn’t prepared. I was just doing anything I could to escape the pain of betrayal and dragging my babies along for the ride.
The second law office I visited was when I got real with myself, examined the situation, prepared myself and my family financially, and ultimately took charge of my life. There are times in life when we have to take a risk – and those are not to be denied.
But most of the time if we slow down, get real, get prepared we have fewer risks to take and a better experience – the outcome is what the outcome is. But, we know we did our best. One of the big secrets to Bouncing with Style is turning taking risk into taking charge.
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Sandra, It’s been years since we have seen each other but I found your article so interesting and inspiring to so many that are out there wondering should I or shouldn’t I. It sounds like you continue to bounce back and empower others to take charge of their future as you have yours.