Monday, February 17, 2014

I Am A Businessman

Spending Valentine's Day sitting around a table with divorce lawyers is probably not the way to go, I don't recommend it. Our divorce will be heard in court on St. Patrick's day and many years ago, I came home from the hospital empty handed on the fourth of July. I don't know what the deal is with all the holidays, but no one I know better die near xmas or Thanksgiving because I'm running out of festive opportunities.

Opposing counsel is a greasy, little weasel. He's not actually small in size, just in spirit, heart, and intellect. I'd call him an epic sleaze bag, but this guy's not epic anything, he's just a smarmy little prick. He speaks like a telemarketer, reciting the script, over and over regardless of what anyone says to him. He speaks, he listens, but he does not hear. And he needs to wash his hair more often or use a different shampoo.

Because my husband refused repeated offers to go to mediation after my illness, because he chose to lawyer up and file for divorce six months after I finished my trip down the cancer hole, I had no choice but to do the same. Literally, you have to have a lawyer, so if someone files for divorce declining mediation, you have to hire a lawyer, you have to spend money you don't have, you have to be involved in a contentious process. We were about to conclude a mediated agreement just before I got diagnosed and so obviously, had to put things on hold. Certainties {not that such a thing really exists} had become uncertain, the facts had changed and so did my ability to think clearly or do anything other than go into fight or flight mode, in this case, fight. We have both just gone into terrible debt to get to an agreement almost identical to the one that we mediated. That is because after my illness, my ex decided to offer me a much smaller settlement, as opposed to larger, considering my new limitations. Nice. I had no choice but to accrue this debt, he had every choice, it's a terrible feeling of helplessness, but this is how the process works. Most divorce attorneys are not just grifters, but the luckiest grifters alive. Their marks walk right into their offices and hand them money and what they do after that is almost criminal. Some of it should be criminal because most of them are intentionally indirect and non results-oriented. They play games, rack up billable hours, talk in nonsensical circles, create intentional drams and trick you into padding their hours by asking about your kids and engaging in friendly chat at $300 an hour, but who doesn't answer when someone asks about your kids? And who doesn't then ask how their kids are? And you get to find out, yes you do, about their kids and their summer house and weekend plans for $300 an hour.

There's a special place in hell for divorce attorney's who find the whole thing a game, leaving a trail of devastation behind them and a fat bank account ahead of them. I'm not saying they're all like that, my current lawyer seems like a lovely human being, but the rest I've encountered, unconscionable, the havoc they wreak. The whole system is absurd, both parties hire someone to tell them what they want to hear, not what is realistic, or humane. The process or divorce when lawyers are involved dishonors every minute you might have cared for one another and dehumanizes the weaker party, which in this case, sadly is me, to a revolting, really sickening degree. I feel beaten up, hollowed out, like a seed pod you could crush in your hand and blow away.

Every lawyer  has told me that if I lived two miles away in Massachusettes, in my situation, 20+ years of marriage, putting my husband through law school, supporting him financially for years, jointly repaying his law school debt and his undergraduate debt, being a full-time parent while he built his career and earning power with long hours {or so I believed}, I'd be entitled to 30% of future earnings in perpetuity no questions asked. My health would be irrelevant. In Rhode Island, I'm entitled to a few years of what they condescendingly term "rehabilitative" alimony. I'm supposed to rehabilitate myself from financial dependency, but I'm also to remain the full-time caregiver, because being sans kids only Wed. evening and every other weekend, does not leave a ton of time for me to go to law school and acquire 15 years of experience and a big paycheck all within the next five years.

Hello divorce, goodbye self-worth. You get to actually sit in a room with a greasy weasel telling you you're lucky for getting what you're getting and that he would never have agreed to certain things. Well, I said, maybe you don't know the back story. You're a very lucky woman, he kept telling me.

Two miles, If I'd moved to Seekonk or Attleboro for the schools which I have considered, my life would be considered worthy, in my beloved little Rhody, I am disposable, in need of rehabilitation from my slothy ways.

I usually keep it together, but the sterility of divorce settlements, combined with the symbolism of the holiday, impending school vacation and vacation homework assignments looming and being fretted over, moody kids, some deadlines at work, I have to admit, I went to work on Saturday and went to pieces. I hate that. It's a hard feeling to have, that you spent your whole adult life with someone who you just didn't matter to, who didn't enjoy you, cherish you, that lied more than you could ever imagine, the extent of which you'll never know, leaves me feeling wobbly. The responsibilities of being a single parent, my fragile health and lingering physical issues are fraying my nerves. Again, all I can think about is just resting my head on someone's warm shoulder and closing my eyes, someone holding me, but not with sympathy.

After my breakdown at work, near the end of the day in my tiny, quiet shop I was standing at the counter with my studio-mate chatting. She was crocheting, we were talking about that, just rambling chit-chat which we often do. It's not uncommon for someone to come over with a question and still be there ten minutes later having joined in. It's a small, friendly little place, open during a farmer's market, it's somewhat intimate. Apparently, we'd not noticed a man browsing and leaving, apparently in a huff, until he chose to come back with a flourish. A small, rotund man, a self-important dope encapsulated. He was probably in his late 30s, early 40s, but looked older, likely because of his portliness and attitude. He marched right up to us with purpose and said "I have something to tell you both." I thought he was going to be a salesman who was going to try to sell me something ludicrous, as sometimes happens. Instead he slams his palm down on the counter and says "I AM A BUSINESSMAN... and I was just in here shopping and neither of you broke from your conversation once! you didn't break once to acknowledge I was here and I was going to buy something, so you just lost a sale and I will definitely not be coming back!" As he turned to leave I said "well okey-dokey then." I thought it was the funniest thing to happen to me all week. It was so absurd it broke the spell. My partner in crime, who is tough to rattle, on the other hand, was madder than I've ever seen her, she was epic mad, she was turning purple, she almost ran after him which just made it funnier. It was the first moment of levity I'd felt in a while. I usually care what people think, and god knows I'm desperate for sales, but I just could care less what this idiot thinks. I keep repeating in my head "I Am A Businessman!" and it makes me want to laugh instead of cry. I also have a large chunk of gratitude who were in the right place or the wrong place at the right or wrong time depending on your perspective, who did a beautiful job of lifting me up off the floor earlier in the day.

I wish I could say I feel fine, I feel all better, but I don't. I feel rather beaten and bruised and quite fearful of the future, financially, and health wise. I can feel my frayed edges, and my lack of patience with the kids, usually endless, dwindling as if my capacity is full. I feel like a car who's seen better days, my tires are low, I need an oil change, I'm out of wiper fluid and the window is all smudgy as I realize that with complete certainty, I will not have the nuclear family I always wanted, I won't have a partner in crime to egg me on and hold me up. I spent twenty years trying to do that for someone else, I got stiff-armed and here I am, more than a little worse for wear.


  1. one of the hardest, most demeaning things i've ever lived through...we actually went to absurb and such a waste of time, energy and money. oh, the money! the lawyers make money money money and parents and children suffer! bastards! sorry, i should be saying something to make you feel better but you won't until you do. it's like you need a year long shower to wash away the filth and grime!

  2. it is so absurd!

    I AM A BUSINESS MAN. i love that you laughed at him, made it into a joke.

    i can't believe you are not just absolutely SET for LIFE after the putting [the person] through law school. what is his point of view? vindictive? angry? just another business man?