Posted: April 21, 2011
Do you read obituaries? I don’t as a rule, but five days ago, the caption “Judicial career ruined by alcohol at end” caught my eye. I read a couple lines. My internal radar went off. I glanced over at the picture. Oh my God. It was my judge.
Twelve times I stood in front of Judge “West” asking him to protect my son. Twelve times I presented evidence of guns, knives, break ins, emotional abuse, and road rage. I played tapes of m y ex screaming at our son. I brought police reports, newspaper articles, domestic violence injunctions, and witnesses. I brought the road rage victim to tell his story of being attacked while a child left in the “crazy man’s” truck watched. Did I get supervised visitation? No, I did not.
At my last attempt, I brought a box of weapons his father had given our seven-year old. That box completely flummoxed the court security system. You cannot bring weapons into court, they said. But they’re evidence, I said. Doesn’t matter, they said, weapons put the judge at risk. I got the box past the guards but the judge refused to look in it. He ruled the father had the right to give the weapons to his child. He ruled that despite a sentence in our divorce decree forbidding exposure to guns, the father had the right to take his son to a gun show and let him handle a 44.
I was stunned. This couldn’t be happening. I began to cry. Judge West looked right at me and raised his voice, “If you don’t stop crying right now, I’ll hit you with contempt of court and you’ll spend the night in jail.” I bit the sides of my cheeks hard and stared at a coffee stain on the floor, begging my tearducts to stop. I had t o get home to my son.
A year later, my family offered me a job in Wisconsin with the family business. At last, I thought, I can rebuild my life–financially, emotionally–in every way, and my son will get a good education and be surrounded by people who love him.
I went back to court to ask for permission to move. There were six legal criteria to move. My attorney was confident I exceeded the requirements of all six. You can start packing, she said. She hadn’t met Judge West. At the end of the trial, he complimented her. You out-lawyered the other guy, he said, and clearly demonstra ted that your client meets the six criteria. But Ms Conner cannot move. Not now. Not ever.
I stopped fighting. I gave up and resigned myself to living in Florida. I send my son to visitation with nothing more to protect him than a cloud of prayer.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Three years after the divorce, I began to date. One night we talked about my struggles with the legal system. As I described one court appearance after another, his face clouded with doubt. I know it sounds insane, I said, but you’ve never met Judge West.
He stopped and looked at me. Did you say Judge West? He signed, there’s something you need to know. The police have been to Judge West’s home 13 times on domestic violence calls. It was my turn to sigh. Thank you, I said, that explains everything.
But that’s not the end of the story either.
A few years ago, Judge West was arrested breaking into a woman’s hotel room. His house of cards began to quickly tumble. First he lost a trial on the break in, then his judgeship, then his law license. Next he lost his home and his marriage. Finally, he checked into an addiction treatment center. Last month, he died at 61.
So was I gloating? No. As I put the newspaper down, I cried.
I cried for Judge West. Like my ex-husband, Judge West
died young, broke, and broken. He suffered greatly in this world. But the truth is he was a gift in my life.
Yes. A gift. A real honest to goodness gift. Because fighting him and losing time after time after time, led me to finally stop fighting not just him and the legal system, but my ex husband as well.
There were two huge awakenings in my divorce: stop fighting and forgive. And Judge West played the key role in both. If I’d won even one round with him, I’d have kept on fighting believing that fighting was the answer. It took me twelve rounds, but I did stop fighting. And the moment I put my own weapons down, the moment I said to Spirit, I surrender, I quit, I give up, you have to take over, I don’t know what to do; I created a space where something new could happen.
And that something new was forgiveness. If Judge West hadn’t ruled that I had to stay in Florida, I’d never have forgiven my ex husband. And if I’d never forgiven him, I could never have invited him to come to our home for visitation. And if I’d never invited him to come to our home for visitation, the life insurance m iracle could never have happened. And that life insurance miracle created the financial wherewithall to begin this writing career and send our son to college.
I am who I am today because I forgave my husband. It’s that simple. You would not be interested in anything I have to say about deep soul writing or any other spiritual tools if I had not first forgiven my husband. Forgiveness is THE central spiritual practice. It is the core. It is the key to freedom. Or as Hafiz says, “Forgiveness is the cash you need.”
But that’s not the end of the story, either.
I think we all have a Judge West. We all have a person or problem or situation that we butt our heads against over and over and over and over trying to change it, fix it, control it, manipulate it into something we want.
Here’s my message to you: Find your Judge West and forgive it. Your Judge West might be an actual person or persons, but it might be a job, a financial situation, a diagnosis, a loss. It might be being abandoned, frightened, alone, lost, or in pain. Whatever or whoever your Judge West is, find it and forgive it.
Can you do that? Can you let go of the struggle? Put down your weapons? Open a space for something new?