Broken…and sucking the life out of you….

October 20, 2011

The family court system in Ontario is so broken,
it’s not even funny.

It boggles my mind that the court system can give
you a date and a time and you show up, having
done hours of work, getting prepared mentally and
physically with the paper, and then you never even
get in front of the judge. And to have  it happen the
next time you attend court as well… just how does
that happen?  The system is broken.

I recently read a book by Carla Collins called
“Angels, Vampires, & Douche Bags.” Carla is a
world-class comedian, who went to high school in
Guelph, and now lives in California. I first met Carla
when she moved with her family from the Ontario Far
North to Guelph. She moved in down the street from
me and we became friends. It has been so interesting
to watch her rise to fame. And she is funnnnny!

I had the pleasure of seeing her perform when she came
back to Guelph this past summer.  What a night of laughter
that was! I got caught up with her and read her book.
More laughter and a lot of wisdom.

Her premise is that there are three types of people in the
world: the angels that appear out of nowhere, and give you
the love and helping hand you need – maybe for a day, maybe
for the rest of your life; the vampires that suck everything they
can from you and never give you anything back; and then, as
she puts it, there are the douche bags…those people that might
appear sexy or trendy and quite seductive, but are actually
intent on focusing on themselves and bringing others down,
sabotaging our progress and making our day-to-day lives more
stressful, painful, negative and less fulfilling.

In between laughs, I realized there was so much truth to what
she had written. I could immediately think of various people that
fell into each of those profiles. And then I thought this is what
the court system feels like: a giant vampire sucking everything it
can out of you. It takes energy and determination and perseverance
to stick with it and see your case through. And it slowly sucks the
soul right out of you.

And wow! Are there ever the douche bags just ready to rip your
heart out! Hmm…the vampires and the douche bags kind of blend
together after a while.

So, what do you do to protect yourself? You be as honest, open
and forthcoming as you can right from the start. You cross your t’s
and dot your i’s and make sure your credibility is established at the
start and continues all the way through.  You work with your lawyer
and other experts and get them the information they need as quickly
as you can. You don’t delay things needlessly and drag things out
unnecessarily. You don’t descend into the lion pit and try and be as
dignified and classy as you can be through the process in the hopes
that’s what you will receive in return.

It doesn’t matter what you think as you start your separation and
divorce process, you quickly come to some realizations: no matter
how civilized you thought you and partner were going to be, it doesn’t
stay that way; even when you seem to have no money or assets, it still
isn‘t easy; even when everyone tells you to “stay in the house”, that is one
of biggest soul-sucking exercises that exists—really; and this process is
not a fast one. So be prepared for the ride. And I highly recommend
finding ways to laugh…really laugh…as you deal with it all. It will help
to keep you sane. Take care of you.

Carla Collins and I, catching up




Hurry Up or Go Slow???

July 11, 2011

The day I officially became separated, I was faced with a
million choices. While none of them were easy, some
were more obvious to decide than others; guess I need a
lawyer now; who can I call to get a referral; guess this
means we’re not going to the cottage tonight as planned…

One in particular I wasn’t sure how to handle:
do I move through this process quick as I can or do I slow
it down and inch along?

It may seem like a funny question to ask yourself, but the
reality of it is that when you are plunged headfirst into
monumental life changes there are two immediate reactions.
One is to close up, withdraw and back away from the danger
for a time. And the other is to plunge forward and tackle
immediately what has to be handled. That good ole fight or
flight response you always hear about in times of stress.
And make no bones about it, this is one of the most stressful
times in your life.

What can further complicate your
decision-making process is if you are new to the concept;
if your partner is the one who has
presented the idea and you are hearing about it for the first time.
Or if you even had an inkling, you may still not be thinking,
“yup, divorce is the way to go, right here, right now.”

Just as there are two sides to every marriage and divorce,
there are two sides to every decision. As I have taught in
crisis and issues communications courses through the years,
you don’t want to be caught reacting; you want to respond.
The difference is having something thrown at you and
immediately jumping into the fray and reacting, often before
you have all the facts and understand completely what you
are facing. Responding means that you have considered
what is in front of you and evaluated the options and then
made an educated, informed decision about the choice
you are making.

Choosing between reacting and responding can be difficult,
especially if someone else is pressuring you to make a choice,
ideally the one they want.

So, my house and cottage did not immediately go up for sale
even though I recognized that my marriage was in fact over
and that ownership of these properties needed to be considered. 

I hired a lawyer and figured out what my first steps needed to be.
And I allowed myself a month and a half to sort through the initial
divorce details. And I recognize now that my separation and divorce
actually moved through quite quickly compared to most that I
hear about.

The flip side of this is what I have heard from the lawyer of a client
recently: my client is now paying for decisions made, or actually
not made, at the beginning of their process. The consequence of
going too slow is hurting them today.

It’s human nature to want to hide our heads and pretend the bad
stuff isn’t really happening;
that you can deal with the situation tomorrow.
It’s especially difficult to deal with when you feel as
low and vulnerable
as you do.   And it doesn’t matter what
side of the divorce equation you are on – it’s still a difficult
time with l
ots of
emotions involved.

The reality of it is the nasty stuff will still be there tomorrow. And the
next day, and next month and next year. And the longer it goes on,
the harder and more difficult it becomes. I know of one person who
has become frozen with the decisions and nine years later is still
no further ahead.

Change is hard. Recognizing that life has changed forever is hard.
So, if you find yourself facing change and can’t imagine how to deal
with it, remind yourself that you are not alone and that there are
people – family, friends, and experts – that can help you to deal
with the details and the change.