The next day, I was ready to file for divorce.
I woke up that morning, determined to get it done as swiftly as possible. I made an appointment with a mediator (whom my marriage counselor had recommended), and went in for my “free consultation”. She gently explained the process, and gave me all the information I needed to file the first document. Of course, my husband would need to respond to my petition for divorce. Once he complied, we would go back, together, and hash out the rest of the paperwork.
Oops. Slight problem.
“I don’t actually know where he is,” I explained. “He’s not even in the country, and doesn’t have any plans to return. We’re not really communicating right now.”
“Oh.” She looked at me. I almost heard her say what we both were thinking: One of those guys.
“Well, does he know you’re filing for divorce?”
“Um, no,” I answered, cautiously. “I think he wants to be divorced; he just doesn’t want to take the initiative, himself.”
She then gave me some advice on how to legally protect myself. The official date of separation should be backdated, to protect my future. That way, I would not be responsible for whatever debt he was incurring at that very moment. She shared a few horrific examples.
I nodded and jotted notes on the front of the angrily-labeled “DIVORCE” folder.
Date of Separation: March 1, 2009. I had only been in New York for two weeks.
Suddenly, I felt the room grow smaller. I could hear the blood rushing through my head, and was very aware of my own heartbeat. The mediator kept talking, but I couldn’t really hear what she was saying. My body felt as if it were levitating off the overly-floral, pastel couch. I felt dizzy, and tried to focus. There was a thin layer of dust atop the leaves of the fake plant in the corner. The mediator’s credentials were all slightly off-center. Her fingernails were perfectly manicured. I marveled at how neatly organized her desk was. It was almost too perfect. I wondered how often she had to visit her hairstylist to get her roots done. Bad frost job.
I blinked, and heard myself calmly answer her next few questions. I made another appointment to see her in two weeks. Hopefully, by that time, my derelict husband would have returned, especially since she charged by the hour.
She stood up and offered me her right hand. “I’m sorry you have to go through this, but it sounds like you made the right decision.”
Another green light.
I fumbled with my documents, shook her warm, soft hand, and walked to the door. I smiled, feebly.
I didn’t want to go home, so I found myself driving towards Jeff and Jenny’s house. Almost as soon as I pulled out of the parking garage, I lost it.
Horrible, ugly groans arose and wretched from the depths of my being. I have never heard those sounds emitted from myself, and it scared me. I clutched the steering wheel at 10 and 2, screaming. I sobbed and screamed; screamed and sobbed, and those groans continued to well up and fill the the tight cabin of my Toyota Corolla. Tears and snot became one as they drained from my face, onto my lap. I used one of the blank divorce forms to blow my nose at a stoplight. All I could do was try to breathe in and out. I shook, uncontrollably.
My soul hurt. I could feel it. I can’t explain it, other than I have never experienced anything like it. It was beyond my heart and my stomach. It was painful and cleansing all at once. The deep, low sounds accompanied each inhale and exhale.
Later, I couldn’t help but think those groans of grief were, indeed, spiritual.
Romans 8:26 ~ In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
I reached Jeff and Jenny’s, and knocked on the door. Jeff opened it, saw my face, and enveloped me in a huge hug. I really needed it. Jenny held me, too, and then offered me a glass of water. I sunk into their couch and thanked them for letting me come over—I didn’t know where else to go.
Of course I was welcome. Anytime. (I have amazing friends!)
We talked for about an hour, quietly, since their bouncy toddler was taking a nap. Feeling encouraged, I slammed the rest of my water, stood up, and announced, “Well, I’m going to go potty, and then get divorced.”
All three of us burst out laughing. More hugs ensued, and I was off.
I sat in the car, across the street from the beautiful, downtown Pasadena courthouse. I rolled down my window and frantically filled in the first document, but quickly realized I had a problem. I didn’t have a physical address for my husband to be served the petition for divorce. I decided to use his parents’ address, but they had just moved, and I didn’t know where they were. They didn’t even have a cell phone. I panicked.
I couldn’t save my marriage, and now I couldn’t even get divorced.
I ended up calling my husband’s (twice-divorced) uncle in Hawaii. If anyone would understand, it was he. I explained what had happened, and how I had reached that point. He listened intently and expressed his sympathy. He then offered to help me, and even prayed with me over the phone. He would have to call his mother to get the new address, but promised he wouldn’t say anything. I was grateful; relieved. It might be a couple of hours before he could get back to me with the information.
It was getting late in the day, and the courthouse would soon close. I felt discouraged, but knew that I must be patient. As I hung up the phone with my gracious uncle-in-law, I had a major revelation. A huge grin spread across my face.
I had just tried to file for divorce on April Fools’ Day.