I spent most of my life trying to do everything in my power to escape my parents’ influence. Until I was in my late thirties, I barely spoke to my mother. I saw my father exactly one time between when I graduated from high school and when he died two years ago (that’s more than half my life). The one thing I feared more than anything else -- the thing I was running away from -- was having to come to terms with the idea that I was anything like them at all. And so, for the most part, I stayed away from them. I said they were crazy. They were idiots. I told myself over and over again that I was nothing like them. That I didn’t need them. That their lives had nothing to do with the life I was making for myself without them.
But here’s the thing about my parents. My mother was a psychiatric nurse, and my father was mentally ill. And in some hazy space in between, that’s where you’ll find me. I can say that now. I’m getting better and better at not running away from the hard things.
One of my greatest fears is that deep inside I’m as loony as my crazy-ass dad. And yet at the same time, from my mom, the psychiatric nurse married to a crazy person, I inherited a superhuman tolerance for other people’s insanity. And I recognize now that sometimes that manifests in me as an endlessly empathetic heart, and other times as a borderline masochistic ability to accept a whole motherfucking lot of bullshit from people. And it’s in that space where I struggle. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to recognize the difference between good crazy and bad crazy. My instinct is to give a pass on a hundred bad qualities in a person, in favor of one good. This is a survival mechanism, and a way that I learned from a very young age to endure the very difficult people in my life. You look at only the good parts of a person, and you throw away all the rest. That’s how you get by. That’s one reason how this all happened. I’m trained in the art of dealing with terrible people.
I went to court last week to face off against my ex one more time before a date was set for a trial. I wanted desperately, above all else, to negotiate a settlement. But my ex will not budge. He will not bend. He will not negotiate. Either I give him exactly what he wants, or he says he wants a trial. He believes he stands to gain more at trial than to simply make a deal, and no one, so far, has been able to convince him otherwise.
The estimated cost of a trial is somewhere around $30,000. It’s pure lunacy. But he’s got me trapped on this crazy train, and I can’t figure out how to get off. My options now are to accept the exact terms he has laid out, which I know are terrible for me, and disastrous for my children. Or I can go through with a trial, which is psychotic. To sacrifice all of my agency, all of my children’s agency, to people who don’t know me, don’t know my kids, and most certainly don’t know my ex, is surreal insanity. Going on trial, when you have committed no crime, is something only a wildly unhinged fool would willingly agree to doing.
And yet here I am. I don’t know what to do. Is my ex the lunatic, or am I?
At some point during last week’s court appearance, my ex interrupted the court. He interrupted the judge, disregarded his attorney, and asked “excuse me, can I just say something?” My jaw hit the floor in disbelief. And then he pointed at me and said “Ms. Blair over here is lying about the laundry, your honor.” I didn’t really hear the rest of it because it was so surreal that my brain went dead. My ex of sixteen years was pointing at me across the floor of the Supreme Court, accusing me of lying about laundry, and referring to me as “Ms. Blair.” The judge reprimanded him. It was a foolish and totally inappropriate thing for him to do. But all that I could think was how is this real life?
Anyway, Elizabeth Bishop wrote, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” Nope. It’s one of the first things in life I learned.
p.s. Isn’t this a pretty song for hard times?
And you can also listen to this fun playlist which makes getting divorced like a party, so yay for that. Yay?