I left early. At 6:00 a.m. to get ahead of the day, the traffic, the time zone changes. My route took me through the Willamette National Forest in Oregon while the eastward rising sun kept peeking at me through the forest evergreens. For miles the ducks on a nearby lake were my only company. I pulled out on a lookout spot for Mt. Washington. I breathed in all the peace my body could take.
The last two months had left me feeling battle worn and emotionally bruised. I took this moment to be present and told myself to let go. The tears came with a smile still on my face. I breathed in the clean forest air and uttered my gratitude for making it through these rough weeks. I got back in my car and a few hours later my phone rang. “Pull over” my brother said.
I turned around at the Idaho border and headed back to Portland where my 75-year-old dad was being life-flighted for emergency brain surgery. This was the second time in two months that I went to his ICU bedside. This episode was much worse and required a more intensive surgery and recovery time. The onset was scary with seizures and a medically induced coma to calm his body. I stayed steady for my parents and asked all the questions we needed answered. I drove my mom back and forth from our hotel to the hospital. I held back tears when my drug-foggy dad didn’t know where he was or what year it was.
I was at my dad’s bedside the day after I dropped off my firstborn daughter, Anna, at the University of Oregon to start college and live 1,676 miles away from me. I can’t even write anything more about that yet.
A week prior we left Nebraska for this college departure on the heels of one of my beloved attorneys unexpectedly confiding in me it was his time to leave family law and thus – our firm. I was worried about how we would manage his work with everyone else already working to capacity every single day. I worried how our morale and hearts would be impacted by this loss. We posted for three new jobs to get the support we needed, and I braced again for the impending change I was tornadoing toward.
This news came to me right after the summer weeks I battled a two-week bout with COVID where I felt every day I was losing. And yes, my diagnosis of COVID came just two days after leaving my dad’s ICU bedside from the first emergency brain surgery. Then my old cat Oliver was diagnosed with diabetes, so twice daily insulin injections were added to my to-dos.
When I finally re-entered the interstate a week ago today, by myself for 26 hours, to finally “return to normal,” I reflected on my situational exhaustion. I was physically and emotionally tapped out. The last time I remember feeling this way was exactly 11 years ago when I divorced.
Divorce is exactly this hard – maybe harder. My divorce taught me how to navigate severe emotional fatigue and depleted reserves while still needing to show up for parenting, managing a business, advocating for clients, and keeping a household.
I learned how to ask for help from loving family and friends. I battled and won against guilt when needing a nap or two or three. I know now that this time will pass, and easier days are ahead. Not often do I truly appreciate the gifts beget from my divorce. This time I do. I am reminded anew of the acute hardship men and women experiencing divorce face. Compassion for our clients, and awareness of my life lessons learned rise to the surface helping me place my situation in perspective. I am being time tested and reminded to value the hard times for the inevitable wisdom that will follow.