July 13, 2009, was a day I never expected to live. Here’s what happened.
I got up in the morning, got ready (I remember I wore a skirt), drove to a courthouse in Arapahoe County, Colorado, with my then-spouse, chatting and making small talk as we drove. And then we got divorced. An alien experience in the great expectations I’d always had for my life.
Getting divorced itself, in my opinion, was not like it’s depicted in the movies. I expected a huge, empty court room, with just a judge, myself, and my spouse, but that isn’t what I got. I got a tiny courtroom (seems like it was the size of a large master bedroom), 8-10 strangers observing my proceeding and hearing my private business, and a magistrate signing the paperwork. And where were the attorneys that were always present in divorce? Oh. That’s right. I didn’t have a dime and neither did my former spouse. We couldn’t afford attorneys. (I had paid a family lawyer for unbundled services and basically wrote my divorce myself, with her help, input from my friend Holly, and the aid of life experience from what I’d observed my divorcing friends go through. All 2 of my friends who’d divorced. Obviously, my experience with divorce was pretty limited!)
I had the opportunity to hear the private business of the parties who went before my turn came. If I could have been ANYWHERE else, I would have been. But since I had to be there, I tried to not hear what was going on. I tried not to think.
When my turn came, I stepped to the table and spoke into the microphone. While I had done everything required, my former spouse had not taken care of details he was supposed to have and the magistrate did not look kindly upon him. I was granted everything I asked for…and $1 more!
You see, due to the choices of my former spouse, there was no way I would get any financial support of any kind. I wouldn’t even have asked for any, but legally he has to pay something, so the court assigned him minimum wage (even though he was not employed and didn’t anticipate that he would be for quite some time) and stipulated he should pay me $563 each month to support our four children. (HA! Not that he’d be able to pay me, but my health insurance is $400/month! My daycare and preschool is close to $600/month! My car insurance, for a teenage driver, is $300! $563 doesn’t even cover our food! But whatever makes everyone else feel better about the situation…I’ve know I’ve gotten shafted financially, and every other possible way, but who’s complaining:)
Back to the divorce proceeding. The magistrate noted I had been a stay-at-home mom and homemaker for almost our entire 20 year marriage and asked if I was requesting maintenance from my former spouse. When I wasn’t, she added $1 to the amount of child support for MY maintenance, signed the papers, and I was divorced. As quickly as that.
Divorced and $1 more!
We walked to the car, got in, and drove “home.” I don’t know about him, but I was trying not to think about what had just happened and the reasons for it. I had other events to get through that day.
When we arrived home, we hauled my suitcases out and loaded them in my new (to me) 2005 Subaru Outback station wagon. We loaded our two dogs (Joe, a 100 pound yellow lab and Ella, a 25 pound cocker spaniel) into their crates and into the Subaru. I put my two youngest children, my 9 year old and my 3 year old in the car, ignored the staring neighbors, and drove off without a backward glance.
I wish I could say I drove off into the sunset. But that isn’t what happened. That isn’t where I was headed. Call me the Queen of Denial, but at that moment, I couldn’t look back on any part of my previous life or I’d never be able to move forward. I drove out of my Colorado neighborhood for the last time, heading to Utah, acting like I was going on a quick roadtrip–NOT starting an entirely new life in a new state as a single mother who works full time, the sole emotional/physical/financial support of 4 children!
I didn’t take one last walk through the home that had been mine for 16 years. I didn’t walk my yard, look at my flowers, or “say goodbye” to any part of my home, property or old life. I knew I would never be able to move on if I allowed myself to look back, even one little moment or at one tiny little thing.
Because I had never felt more inadequate for any task in my life. I knew I had an emotional marathon ahead of me of unimagineable proportions. Had I really been trained for it? Was I really prepared? It certainly wasn’t an exercise I’d ever planned on or expected. I hoped I was up to the race of my life. My childrens’ futures, and mine, hung in the balance.