Jan 10, 2014

The Class.

Okay, now that you have hopefully all read the last blog I wrote and now that you all know where I am in my little old life I can not let another second go by without telling you about this class I had to go to last Tuesday night at 6:00 pm eastern time. You see in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, if you happen to have kids, before you can file for a divorce both spouses have to take a special class that teaches you about dealing with your kids throughout the divorce and basically the rest of life. I have some notion that there is hardly anyone in the state of Massachusetts who is excited about this class but it may be that I was doing a wee bit of projecting my own views on everyone :) The way it works is you choose a night, a place, pay lots of money, and you go to the class. I sheepishly confess the word "racket" may have crossed my mind with regards to this class.

Anyway, I looked over the three page list of where the classes were going to be offered and put a ton of thought into which one I wanted to attend. Yeah, I know, who puts a ton of thought into which divorce class location they are going to choose? :) Just me :) I chose Northampton because I love, love,love Northampton. It is a college town through and through. Smith College is there. UMASS is just down the road. There are tons of unique shops and unique places to eat and I have so many great memories involving Northampton. Often when I want to "get away" I go to Northampton all by myself and wander aimlessly. It is a beautiful town. I really wanted going to this class to be something I looked forward to and figured if I chose Northampton that would help. Your spouse chooses a different class than you do. And I am not sure where Brian went for his.

I got a letter in the mail confirming my choice and time and it also told me I needed to go to a website and complete some assignments there. So since I HAD to I checked it out. It was extremely cheesy. Some good things were there too but the cheesy was also there...in abundance :) I stuck it out and completed the course and can definitely say that I got some good information from it. I mean it is my first time getting divorced so there are a ton of things I do not know and I honestly do appreciate any information on how to help my kids no matter if the word cheesy creeps in or not.

The day of the class came I worked at the library from 12-4, ran home, got one paper route done, and then headed out. I always leave way too early when I am not sure where I am going. The drive to Northampton is about 25 minutes. I did not drive straight to the building where the class was but that was okay since I was way too early :) When I finally found the building and parked it was still 20 minutes before the class started. I grabbed my journal and a pen and headed in. The building where the class was held is a courthouse so when I walked in there was a "guard" that greeted me, he asked my name and checked it off a list. There was an ominous looking security "walk through thingy" which the guard assured me that I did not have to even walk through...but I felt like it so I did. After you walk through the security "thingy" there was a foyer and there were about 8 people already there all sitting in the only available seats which were placed around the edge of the room and it was silent....very silent. I mean divorce class is not a place you invite your friends to tag along with you to so it was just a bunch of random people with only divorce in common....thus an awkward silence. I found a wall to lean against and started casually surveying the scene. I must mention again how awkward the quiet was. Usually there are groups of people talking when you are out in public. I desperately wanted to crack a joke about us all standing there so quietly but I practiced restraint. Who wants to be the class clown of divorce class?? :) It was so intriguing to look at all these other people and realize they were all going through the same things I am. Our paths to this foyer in Northampton were obviously all different but we all started in a marriage that we imagined would be happy forever and ever. We all sat or stood around the edges of this room in relative silence for at least 15 minutes as more and more people arrived. I smiled to myself wondering what would happen if someone just randomly chose to stand in the middle of the room rather than the edges. I also started wondering how many were going to be in the class. I used my time to carefully and thoughtfully inspect the shoes of everyone I could see without obviously turning my head. A little afraid to raise my eyes and boldly stare. I furtively stole some glances at faces and wondered so desperately at these peoples stories. I do love to connect.

By the time someone came to take us to the classroom there were 30 people standing or sitting in that smallish foyer. I had not imagined that many people in the class...one of the drawbacks of imagining. It felt a little sad to realize there were that many failed marriages and that this was just one class out of three pages of classes offered. Multiply that by 30 and by several times a month and...wow. 

When we got in to the classroom I deliberately chose a seat on the back row so I would not have to turn around to look and see who was making comments during class :) From the back you have a good  over view :) I sat between two other women and two men were in front of me. The first thing they asked us to do was to introduce ourselves to the people sitting around us. We were supposed to tell them our name and how many kids we had. I surprised myself by quickly realizing that I did not want to tell them how many kids I have. Sometimes a girl just does not need that look and those comments that she usually gets. I have been cursed or blessed to look like I am 20 years old  and every time I say I have seven kids you see so much math and questions going through peoples heads. Usually I am ever so game to play along with all the questions that gush out but not in divorce class. So I asked these ladies next to me enough questions about themselves that I hope they did not notice I never offered the exact number of how many kids I had. I learned the woman next to me had been married 22 years and her husband just simply walked out. She was caught by surprise and was very bitter, and sad, and had definitely been recently drinking...all things I do not blame her for in any way. The man in front of me had been married 33 years and his wife had walked out on him and he was in the bitter stunned club too. The other lady next to me was not as chatty so all we got from her was that she had one ten year old girl.

I have to tell you I ended up loving this class. As the two and a half hours progressed I learned so much. We listed our losses when it came to divorce. We listed our gains. We talked about the grief cycle. We talked about reflective listening to help us communicate with our kids. We talked about statistics. I learned so much....wait I already said that :) Our teachers have been teaching the class for twenty years and they did a great job. Here was this room of thirty people...some of whom asked for the divorce, some who did not. Some who had been abused. Some who had one kid and some who...ahem...had seven :) I mused about all these people in this room and how, most likely, they all just longed to be happy and to have a meaningful connection with someone. Some of them seemed so broken and angry. Others seemed so hopeful and free.

I get to go to the class one more time next Tuesday. I wish you could all go with me and observe the different personalities in this class. I sort of....gasp.... wish the class was longer. Information is power and I love gathering it and learning and evaluating myself. I learned that night that anger is a secondary emotion and that explained so much. I learned that the kids will be all right if you are all right. I learned that I need to know myself if I have any hope of ever having a healthy relationship.

I am not a huggy kind of girl but I almost wanted to group hug all these people I did not know. I wanted to tell them it would be okay. On the way out to the parking lot I struck up a conversation with another lady and we discovered we both felt the same about the class. And that we both really wondered what everyone's stories were. She asked how many kids I had and I was grateful for the chance to redeem myself and I told her seven.


Camie said...

Jen, I think in this next phase of life you definitely need to be a writer. you tell an amazing story about a simple event.

Marty said...

I have hoped for years that you would write a book, okay actually several books (kids, LDS life, everyday home/homemaker stuff, and especially about your garden and chickens). Then when you are famous and doing book tours you could come to Hawaii and visit us. (Of course, you don't have to wait until then.) Please talk to the other librarians about local authors, book agents and editors.