“Don’t trust happiness…never did”

I made a second call today to the Judge’s clerk in the Bergen County Superior Court. The second in three days. See, I don’t always believe what I hear. I don’t always trust my ears. I’ve been known to hear what I want or need to hear. So I called the Judge’s clerk, who is also a lawyer, and apologized for calling him again. He was almost laughing. He probably doesn’t get asked often enough to clarify what he told me on Monday. The liberalized alimony statute in New Jersey is a relatively new phenomenon. So the clerk repeated it. It’s what I thought it was. Long and the short? I won in court without having to hire a lawyer. She had a lawyer; I did not. I could not afford one. I presented a two-page case: no whining, no pleading. A simple request for justice, based on financial numbers. I was able to drop my cross, put down the boulder, and resume my life where it stopped on October 14, 1998. You read that date right. October 14, 1998. 1998. And now it’s finally over. I didn’t cry this time. I just thanked the Clerk, hung up, and felt the room spin. Euphoria doesn’t necessary require tears. That was the other day. Now I’m just relieved and a bit numb.

Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose. The worst that could happen would be that I’d have to file another motion. If worst came to worst, I’d have to take my ex back to court.

But the new law worked, and it worked for me. Thank you God. Thank you, Governor Chris Christie. Yes, me, who has been no great fan of the Governator.

What do I do now? Okay, I don’t see a downside. I won a huge form of liberation. I can afford to go to the occasional restaurant. I can go to the movies. And I’m totally exhausted. Emily Dickinson, who said so many things so well, said this perfectly:

After great pain, a formal feeling comes


After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –

First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

I felt nauseous for two days following the decision. I could not keep food down. All the relief wanted to come up. I didn’t feel hungry. Now it’s coming back, slowly. It’s  hard to believe this has gone on as long as it has.

Almost 17 years. Long enough.
In the remarkable film, Tender Mercies, country singer Mac Sledge, recovering from alcoholism and with a new wife and restarting career, gets the awful news that his only child, a teenage daughter, has been killed in a car crash. Mac is devastated. He has a new-found religious faith to cling to, but the pain is still rending. He cries out to his wife “Don’t trust happiness! Never did!”
I don’t much trust happiness, either. I want to tell my children, but I can’t. They are her children as well as mine. And I don’t want to hurt her again. God knows I did enough of that while we were still married. I don’t wish to hurt her anymore. And I fear the decision will hurt her again…even if her lawyer has perhaps warned her about what’s about to happen. If she wants to contact me and curse me out, go ahead. I fought a fair fight in the only way I could: not from hatred but from a wish to be free at last. I fought it in the courts. And I won.

About Ken Wolman

Sit still, shut up, and listen. We might both learn something.
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