“You’ve got nothing.”
I am sitting in the office of my attorney, an older, proper southern gentleman who speaks his mind. He doesn’t mince words and usually offers his counsel only after a long ruminating pause. From past experience I know it is best not to chatter to fill the space between his pronouncements. So I sit quietly, staring alternately at the ceiling and at a painting of former Republican presidents anachronistically gathered together at a table, playing cards. It reminds me of the classic dogs playing poker scene.
I am here to get a new will drafted. My divorce is final and our house has been sold. My last child has turned 18. The multi-paged document that outlined the ultimate disbursement of our prior lives is no longer necessary. What he meant was that I needed only a few pages of straightforward legalese at this point in my life. What I heard was more literal. My stomach flipped and I had to force myself to take a slow, deep breath.
If my sweet and romantic Italian moment of clarity was a high point, this was truly a low. Harsh, painful, clear. What my adept attorney saw as a simplification of circumstances was translated by my stressed and emotional brain as a statement of pity and a judgment on how I had failed. I tried so hard to build a contented life, a happy home, a loving family. The beautiful house was gone along with my flower-filled garden which had always provided therapy during difficult times. Many of my things had been sold or given away in order to move into small rental while I sorted out my life. My children had grown. My marriage had dissolved. In very real terms, he was right. I had nothing.
Google “moment of clarity” and similar stories appear from the lives of others. It’s different for everyone. Sometimes it occurs after one hits an extreme low point and there is seemingly nowhere to go. Sometimes it is inspired by something observed in the trials of another, the death of a loved one, or by a hearing about someone’s similar experiences. It can be a wonderful moment or rock bottom difficult.
My moments of clarity tend to arrive in two distinct phases. There is the moment when reality breaks through the distractions and the moment when the path ahead becomes clear however difficult or blessed that may be. Sometimes this happens simultaneously. Sometimes the first event doesn’t lead quickly or directly to the second. This time the wave that had knocked me into the sand would hold me under the water for a long while.
Stunned and shaking, I slowly wrote out the check for legal services, walked down the elegant stairs to the lobby and got behind the wheel of my car. Anxiety and sorrow tend to gather in my mid-section and it took a few minutes of focused breathing to uncoil from this modified fetal position and become upright enough to drive. That night was sorrowful and sleepless with a million “what if’s” bouncing through my tired brain. How had it come to this? The sadness was overwhelming and suffocating. What was I supposed to do with this moment of clarity? I was drowning. I had nothing.