A year ago this week I – in a spectacular flailing demonstration more worthy of Clark Griswold than Nancy Kerrigan – broke my ankle “ice skating” during Winterfest at Bushnell Park.
Note: As a board member of iQuilt (one of the main entities behind Winterfest), and as a cheerleader for Hartford, I strongly encourage you to enjoy the free ice skating. As a world-class klutz, I encourage you to be careful while doing so.
After one surgery, two knee scooters, and three months non-weight bearing, I learned a lot. I learned the patience of friends and family. Kristen had to do, well, pretty much everything while I was operating at limited capacity. My parents shuffled me to numerous doctor appointments (because, naturally, I broke my right ankle and also couldn’t drive for three months). Everyone else graciously carried my things, fed me, and waited patiently while I hopped or scooted around. (It was all very dignified.) I was forced to learn to ask for more help and to accept help.
I had a lesson in vanity. You can’t fit suit pants over a cast, and your walking boot will not match your outfit.
I learned the kindness of strangers. So many doors were held open. So many people saw my scooter and my boot and asked what happened and how I was. (I did often wish I had a more dignified story to tell them. “I was climbing Everest and fell into a crevasse” sounds better than “I was ice skating and fell onto a ten-year-old.”)
I also gained a far greater understanding of and empathy for those who are actually disabled. During last winter’s weather, I found that snow and slush tend to accumulate in (and be plowed into) sidewalk curb cuts, often making crossing the street impossible when you are navigating on wheels. Kristen took over some of my divorce hearings because it was a bit of a spectacle for me to open the half door to cross the bar to the front of the courtroom with a scooter and my files. On one snowy morning trip to court to finalize an adoption, Robin and I discovered that the snow from the parking lot had been piled in, of all places, the handicapped parking spot. Robin basically got stuck carrying me into the courthouse. This, of course, is nothing compared to what people with disabilities have to deal with everyday.
A year later, I remember these kindnesses and these lessons. They frankly made me a better, more patient person. I am also reminded of lessons that we have learned, again and again, from our clients. In our work, we interact with people who are going through really difficult challenges. The breakup of a relationship or a dispute involving children, for example, can be brutal, earth-shattering experiences.
Because we understand that the emotional journey isn’t over just because the legal matter is, we make it a practice to stay in touch with clients long after our file is technically closed. I can’t tell you how often – for some a year later, for others longer – clients tell me that while they still have rough times, overall they are well and happy, and aware that the whole process, despite its difficulty, caused them to grow and get to know themselves better. They gave themselves the space to mourn, and now, sadness is no longer their norm.
What they have taught me is that life — whether during divorce or any other tough time — is what you make of it. You can choose whether you wallow in it or learn from it. You can choose whether you look forward or keep looking backward.
As we head into the new year, I invite us all to learn from Freed Marcroft’s clients. Let’s learn to like ourselves, broken bits and all. Let’s discover entirely new sides of ourselves. Let’s commit to rediscovering parts of ourselves we haven’t thought of in years.
Just maybe not ice skating.
Please contact us to learn more about how Freed Marcroft can help you navigate a divorce. And, in the event you are interested, here is a personally mortifying video Kristen took of me “skating” minutes before I fell.