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Today is a good day. Even if things go downhill from here after 1:23pmET, it is still a good day. Because today is my 3 year Happy No-ReLo Anniversary Day. As in, on this day three years ago, the court decided that Daniel was to stay here with me, and not allow him to move far away with his dad and step-mother.
A good day for me.
A very bittersweet day for others.
This is just another way divorce can really wallop you but good. By the time we arrived in court for the relocation case, we had been divorced four years. The first three of those four years were horrid. We were incredibly unkind to one another, and extremely litigious. Financial resources, time, energy…all of it down the drain as the bitterness played out in every way imaginable, each of us believing ourselves justified in our actions toward the other.
I was stricken with severe depression and PTSD, which manifested itself thru anorexia and copious amounts of wine, along with pondering suicide a little too seriously. When I was by myself, it took all my energy to get out of bed and go to work. When I wasn’t at work or in therapy, I was in bed with sheets over my head, wishing the earth would open up and swallow me whole.
Finally, after the third year, things seemed to ease off a bit. Our emails were fewer and farther between, no longer laced with enmity. Like someone taking their foot off the gas pedal, life slowed down enough to breathe and take in the world around us. The blinders of anger and fear fell off, and healing began.
When I received my notice of my ex’s impending move 600 miles away, along with his intention to take our son along for the ride (and stay), I lost every aspect of foundation I had managed to piece together. The emails ramped back up, paired with hostile letters from opposing counsel. And downhill I went yet again. I was fearful I wouldn’t make it.
I was extremely fortunate in having a very close network of support during this time, much stronger than the first time around. I could share openly my fears of losing Daniel, my concerns about whatever might be used against me in court, and my dashed hope realized by not being able to see or plan past our court date – as though my life would be over. And you know, I think had I not won, I would be six feet under. This is not hyperbole speaking. It is experience that comes with depression.
If I was strong, it was because of those who held me up in those 6 months that preceded my appearance in court. I had friends to turn to when it felt unsafe to be by myself. I had a mother to call when I didn’t want to cry alone, who simply sat quietly as I wept for minutes on end, and was kind enough to let me whisper a thank you and hang up without any other words spoken. I had a father who was able to sacrifice time and resources to come and stay with me for days at a time nearly every five weeks. I had a partner in my then-boyfriend-now-husband who believed in me. And I had a son who delighted me even as I saw our time together coming to a close.
I was lucky that I was brave enough to share my hopelessness about life and my desire to no longer participate in this world. I was lucky that my small band of lovely peoples were able to hear me and know that I was serious, and simply sit with me. I was taking care of myself with therapy and doctor visits, and while I had confidence that it would pass with time, the pain was immense.
There were two things that kept me alive in this period of deep overwhelm. One was the parable of the master and his gardener. One day, a master was walking in his garden, to find a tree that was barren. Beneath the tree, kneeled the gardener, tending to its needs. “Cut it down,” orders the master. “It has been three years, and still this tree has not born fruit. Cut it down.” “Master,” the gardener responds, “if you will allow, let me take care of it for one year more. I will water it and give it fertilizer, I will care for it with utmost attention. If a year from now it still does not bear fruit, I will cut it down. But give it one more year (Luke 13:6-9).”
“One more year” was my mantra. It was how I got thru my divorce and first round of depression – “one more year.” I had hope it would do the trick again.
The second aspect that kept me alive in this time was my son. This may seem obvious to you, but I have to tell you, it took me awhile to figure it out. This is not the same as saying I did not love my son. Not wanting to live is not to be equated with lack of love. Numerous encouragers told me to think about my son, and while I got what they were saying, it only amplified to me that they didn’t understand my pain. And this is why I can understand leaving those you love behind, because I was right there on the precipice.
It was different, why I chose not to leave him. I realized that I was too integral to his life, and that he needed my influence as he grew up. I realized that there was much I needed to teach him – about life and love and being loved – teachings that only I could impart because of my experiences.
Moreover, I didn’t want anyone else to tell him my stories. I wanted to be my own story-teller.
Maybe to you that sounds the same. Maybe that is what everyone around me meant. But it was a world of difference to me, and it made all the difference in my world.
And that is why I showed up in court.
And I know that is why we are together today.
Well, that and some wisdom on the court’s behalf.
So the tree was never cut down. That must have been one of the longest damn periods of being fallow that a gardener has ever seen, but the buds began to sprout.
I can’t really pinpoint when that was, either. All I know is, I’m in full bloom and it is glorious.
I owe my cheerleaders so much today. I had people flanking me on both sides when the decision was read, and I had people on their knees in other towns. I had a phenomenal lawyer.
The decision for Daniel to stay dramatically altered his father’s plans. I truly feel for him and his wife, the dreams of starting over dashed before their eyes. I am glad that they have managed to find a way to continue on right here where our son lives so we can all share in his life.
This day is not about my victory in court. This day is about my victory over the grave. I am Lazerus, with burial cloths at my feet. I am Jesus, whole and healed with an empty tomb behind me. I am Colleen, and I am glad to be here.