When my lawyer asked me to deliver the story in a few weeks I easily agreed, but when it came time to begin I procrastinated. I told anyone who asked that I was spending all day writing, but hours would pass and all I would have were a few hastily written words and doodling. I drank lots of coffee. I tried different pastries at a new cafe down the block. I listened to Oprah Winfrey podcasts. I watched YouTube self-help videos and every single one made sense to me, a clear sign that I was not listening to any of them. I scrolled through job postings. I didn’t write.
Writers call this writer’s block. Writer’s block translates into this: you would rather do anything other than write for any number of reasons. I think of writer’s block as a pause, a break prior to sitting down and writing. Anything can be accomplished in the stead of writing, but my personal favorite is dabbling in a myriad of small busy tasks and errands such as, oh, making sure that there are an even number of chopsticks in your kitchen drawer. The point is busyness, not completion. Instead of writing, I went for a month to high intensity training classes where I lifted sandbags and collapsed on a sweat-drenched stinky mat. My child observed me from the sidelines and told me I was the second worst person in class. I coped with my severely grieving child, wrote a book proposal (no sale), desperately looked for employment, planned an inter-island move, emptied the contents of my apartment, procured new housing, bought a car, shuttled the kid to lessons, and learned the rather complicated process of transporting rodents (pet guinea pig) in containers between islands.
I spent considerable energy mitigating my soon-to-be-ex’s attempt to seize control of our jointly owned property thousands of miles away. I noted the lack of safety bars on my windows prior to his arrival to sign papers and pondered various arguments that might lead to an unexpected drop from an open window. Since divorce is a worst-case scenario, you think in such terms, and my anxiety refused to be quelled despite my counsel’s pragmatic take that my death would be inconvenient for my ex, and therefore unlikely. My Hong Kong lawyer repeatedly advised me to update paperwork to transfer my share of the home to my parents, so that in case of my death before the sale of my house my interest would be safeguarded for my child. He was quiet when I asked him why he advised it, and simply repeated his concern. He repeated it at least three times. Maybe four over the course of a week. Yet I could not muster up the energy to go through a title change. I was still reeling from the physical effects in the run-up to the final days before the divorce: strands of white hair appeared, my left hand could not stop shaking, my eye seemed to permanently twitch, and insomnia was perpetual. I called my lawyer from a parking lot of a hiking trail about some paperwork issue, but was so frazzled I couldn’t track what he was saying, and asked him to repeat what he said at least three times before crying in the parking lot. He commented that I was not in the best mental state and that I would have to count on him to move everything forward and I agreed. I changed the locks, moved into my mother’s apartment, got a prescription for sleeping pills, and dropped to the skeletal weight I last claimed after a bad case of bronchitis in the run-up to my wedding.
Was I writing? Nope. How could I write it? I was living the nightmare! Never mind writing about it! Why was I being asked to write this! What? This was worse than a dissertation! The story remained unwritten. Nothing was more unappealing than writing the narrative of how I got to this position of near-collapse. Days, then a few weeks passed. I would start, then stop. I was so bereft and adrift that I did not know how to begin to write what I knew even then, was the most significant story that I had lived in my adult life. How could I encapsulate my lived experience in mere words? How was I to possibly condense the most significant and turbulent relationship of my adult life into something manageable and readable?
An excerpt from WRITE YOUR DIVORCE STORY. This is a prescriptive non-fiction book designed to help you author your divorce story. You can use this for your legal file and/or your personal record. Write your truth to power and author your life. Register at drstephaniehan.com