Sunday, June 17, 2012

Living a Life in Limbo

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
~ Dr. Seuss
One afternoon a couple years ago, my son, who was five, was watching a DVD about the Spanish Amada or maybe Sir Francis Drake.  He proceeded to tell my mom all about the history of Queen Elizabeth I and the war between England and Spain, then went back to watching his DVD.  My mom amazed at his knowledge said “One day, E is going to be teacher.”  I responded, “I’m hoping he’ll be a lawyer or a professor.”  At this point E realized we were talking about him and decides to contribute in his five year old worldly wisdom, “I think I will just be myself.” 
With a clarity and simplicity about the world that only children possess, he decisively reminded us silly adults that his choice of profession is ultimately insignificant as long as he remains true to himself.  Adults insist on labeling, classifying, judging, deciding and affirming everything and everyone.  Adults must shove, push and squash everyone into a nice, clean, concise category when we really need to Let Go.

I was reminded of this recently while visiting the orthopedic doctor’s office for pain in my left hip.  I was asked to fill out the New Patient Forms as is the case when visiting a new doctor.  I sat down with the clipboard and pen and dutifully filled in my name, gender, date of birth, and address.  I came to “Marital Status.” I stopped.  My choices were “Single, Married, Divorced, Widowed.”  Hmmmmm.  Where’s the “Separated for Over a Year, but Ex is an Asshole and Will Not Sign the Settlement Papers” choice?  I was unable to find it.
I never gave this question much thought in my married days.  But now being neither married nor divorced, what should I answer?  How about Nothing?  Why do they care?  What the hell does my marital status have to do with treating my hip anyway?!  Will the doc give me different medication if I am widowed as opposed to divorced?  Will I have different physical therapy if I am single opposed to married?  Hell, I gave my emergency contact as my mom, can’t you figure it out?

And so I left it blank.
I am living my life in limbo in "The Waiting Place."  I am no longer married, but I cannot yet call myself divorced or single.

So what am I?  For the most part I live my day to day life as if I’m divorced.  I call my son’s dad, my “ex” rather than my “soon-to-be ex”.  “Soon-to-be-ex” is much too complicated to explain to my co-workers and acquaintances.  However, the law would say I am “legally separated.”  I would say I am none of the above.  
I am myself.

My not being divorced is not for lack of trying.  My ex and I physically separated 18 months ago and legally separated 14 months ago.  But I still don’t have those stupid signed separation settlement papers in my little fist.  I have no documentation on file with the court to dictate custody, child support, visitation, etc.  We do have an unsigned set of papers that we loosely adhere to.  However, according to the papers, my ex has visitation every other weekend.  He doesn’t visit.  My ex has my son every other holiday.  He doesn’t take him. 
What he does do is pay child support late every month.  He visits roughly every two months on some random schedule only known to him.  He continually threatens to stop child support.  He insists he shouldn’t be required pay the agreed amount regardless that it’s less than the state’s calculated child support amount.  And he threatens to move back to England every other week, so he doesn’t have to pay anything at all.

Basically, he tries to manipulate and control me.  I shouldn’t be surprised.  As a narcissistic abuser, he will continue believing he is above the law.  He will continue thinking he is superior to everyone else.  Could I survive without child support?  Yes, I could.  Would it be easy?  No.  But why should I let him walk away from his duty as a father?  My ex now makes double my salary.  Double.  So, will I continue taking his money?  Hell, yeah.  I’m going to make him pay for his son as is his duty as a father and as required by law.  I’ll keep taking his child support until he makes good on his threats and moves back to England.

In the meantime, I can deal with his manipulation and controlling behavior.  I have to admit it does bother me at times.  But I am in a much better place emotionally than I was a year ago or even six months ago.  I’ve learned to realize there are things out my control and things in my control.  I’ve learned not to overreact, to take deep breaths, and then calmly decide what to do.  His threats and his actions are out of my control.  But how I respond to his threats and manipulation IS something I CAN control.

I’ve learned to let his bluster go in one ear and out the other.  He has made his threats so long and often there is no weight behind them any longer.  When he starts yelling and threatening me I hold the phone away from my ear and then, at a pause, I try talking calmly.  If that doesn’t work, I calmly inform him I’m hanging up, I say goodbye, and press “End.”  I can tell you that listening to him rant and not responding in kind brings me so much satisfaction.  Not rising to the occasion means he is no longer in control.  I am.  And what an amazing accomplishment that is!

In addition, I am eliminating his ability to threaten non-payment by filing paperwork with the Child Support Enforcement office.  I’m really not sure why the hell I haven’t done this by now, but my attorneys didn’t think it was necessary originally and it would take too long if we could work out a verbal agreement.  But at this point, our house is sold, custody is definitely not an issue; so why wait for settlement papers to be filed?  The Child Support Enforcement papers will go in the mail on Monday, and then hopefully, there will be no more threats and no more manipulation because his child support payment will be out of HIS control.  Then maybe I can finally make my way through this land of limbo.

Even if our lives are in limbo, because we are waiting on some decision, a date, or a piece of paperwork; we are not helpless.  First, realize what is not in your control, and choose how you will respond.  Your response is in your control.  In most cases, the best choice is detachment and acceptance.  Second, determine what is in your control and take action. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career that holds true in my journey of divorce is to be proactive.  Otherwise, you are still a victim to others’ whims and wants.  Don’t wait for something to happen.  Form a plan.  Do your research.  Set priorities.  Then execute your plan.  If it fails, so what?  You stood up and took action.  It’s better than sitting at home on your butt waiting for things to happen to you.  Make another plan and try again. As my mom always told me, “If at first you don’t succeed; try, try, try again.”  Eventually, you will get somewhere.  You will transverse the murky land of limbo. You will leave the Waiting Place behind.  And you will do it by taking action, being proactive, and by not being a victim.

You are a survivor.  And more importantly, you are yourself. :o)

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