Just when I was thinking of finally biting the bullet and asking my doc for a prescription for something that might give me a little more zing, add a little skip, put a smile on my face – good god – anything to give me a tiny, loving shove into the new year, I get an email from an angel named Helene – an attorney who had done some work on my divorce six months ago, but who I hadn’t spoken to since because I was supposed to get back to her with some completed paperwork.
The thing is, I’d dropped the ball because divorce plants you face first into a pile of details that you’d rather not look at – like your finances and how much you made last year, and what you grossed, and figuring out how much those kids cost, and hey, what is the value of everything in your house? Not to mention how you begin to untangle 26 years of a life with someone. Honestly, it was too much.
So I put it off, and he put it off, not because we questioned the divorce, but because we couldn’t deal, and so those legal papers grew legs and became like a puppy that followed me from room to room – a little pile that rotated from my desk, to the kitchen table, to the floor by my bed. I even took the pile on vacations with me, telling myself that I’d work on the numbers by the pool, as I climbed the mountain, at the airport, on the plane. But I never did.
Each week I’d put “divorce” on my to-do list along with the other things I’d been putting off for months; the health insurance papers, the dent in my car door that I’d been meaning to fix for the last two years, the mold in my bathroom that was getting suspiciously dark, re-surfacing the kitchen counters, getting the microwave fixed, working on the disorganized laundry room, getting the grill up and running, and dealing with the wasp nest in the yard – all projects that were easy to put off, but which also needed to be done eventually. Each week I’d take them off this weeks’ list and move them on to the next week.
But this isn’t a piece about all of those things as much as it’s about the energetic toll they were taking on me – something I realized when that nice woman Helene emailed me out of the blue and asked, “How’s your divorce coming?”
“Not so good,” I wrote back.
“I’d love to see you finish this,” she said. “Let’s talk this week.”
So we did. And when I got off the phone with her 15 minutes later I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time – energy.
The next thing I knew I was hand washing a sweater that had been sitting in a pile for three months. Then I did a load of laundry, started the dishwasher, opened the refrigerator and saw the makings for dinner, whereas before I had only seen a bunch of dilapidated leftovers. I wrote thank you notes, made my bed and told the kids that I’d watch any movie they wanted to see that night. The sleeping dragon had woken up and I was on fire.
The other thing I felt when I got off that call with Helene was happy – something I don’t think I’d noticed was missing from my life because I’d gotten used to a kind of lumbering endurance, that, while fairly productive, wasn’t actually joyous – in big part I believe – because of that list of things to do that I’d been avoiding and hauling around with me. It reminds me of how in the movie, Little Miss Sunshine, the family carts around their dead grandpa because he’s still part of the family, but they aren’t ready to deal with him. My list feels like a dead grandpa – no offense Walter and Harold – I would have carted you around if I had to – but shouldn’t some things be put to rest?
Prying the lid open on the divorce breathed fresh air into that stagnant, weighty list, and put some wind in my sails. Truthfully, most of those items are still on my to-do list, and may be for some time (anyone want to help me sand and re-paint my car door or tackle that wasp nest?). But what I’m left with is that by taking some action – THANK YOU HELENE TAYLOR – even just having a 15-minute phone call with someone who cared about me and wanted to move me forward, lifted my sails enough so they could catch a little wind, and that was enough to remind me that there’s wind out there!
As for the happy pills – well – they always sound good to me – I’m a pill popper from way back. But I think I can take it from here.