The hardest cases I have ever had all involve clients that share a common view– they feel their life is over. They tend to believe that the divorce makes a mockery out of their entire married life; they see no glimmer of hope in the future; they regret ever walking down the aisle and saying their vows. In other words, it is nothing but gloom, and their negative attitude taints their ability to properly assess settlement offers and make sound, practical decisions. In the world of psychology, they attribute this to “situational depression.” I can only hope to get them out of the legal situation as quickly as possible so they can get to a better place, but if I could interject a non-legal opinion to those that find themselves in this kind of rut, it would be this: try to view life in chapters.
I loved being a gymnast and competing across the country. It was an amazing experience to spend summers in Bulgaria or at the Olympic Training Center; I met some of the most talented and dedicated athletes in the world, and when I retired from that world at 18, I was sad– I lost a huge part of my identity. But I made a choice to focus on academics, and so I closed that chapter of my life as an athlete and moved on to the next task at hand, which was focusing on getting my law degree.
My academic years were filled with incredible opportunties to meet some of the most brilliant minds in the U.S. I studied abroad and had wonderful internship opportunties that helped prepare me for life post-graduation. I admit, I miss my Ivory Towers, where I could lose myself in noble and lofty visions of an ideal world; where I also took for granted that everyday was filled with possiblities for meeting others that were equally gifted and driven. But that chapter also had to end, so that I could step out into the real working world, where I would apply the knowledge provided by my alma maters to hopefully make things better for others.
Married life was certainly not something I saw ending, especially after being together for over a decade. But our partnership did end, and we had to work very hard to renegotiate our ties as co-parents for our son’s sake. Together we have shared some of the greatest joys and sorrows in life, and it is sad that our partnership could not last, but it is that experience that helped spark my professional transformation and led to a far greater understanding of the struggles my clients face in their own lives. Closing the chapter of my divorce was not easy, but necessary in order for me to forge ahead on the unexpected journey that lies ahead.
Whatever we learn from our past life chapters, helps us form what we believe is our mission in life, gives us a vision for what we want, and establishes our values. There is plenty that we will continue to carry with us from these other phases of our lives, but sometimes in order to move to the next part of our journey, we have to close a chapter, and it will not be easy because it will involve some loss. Unfortunately, most great opportunities involve making difficult choices, and it is these very choices that will define the full story of our lives.