Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead
The evaluator arrives today. I'm escorted from my cell to a visitor room, and left alone with the evaluator.
"Hello, Mr. Hall. Do you know why I'm here?" Not even an introduction; just straight into the assembly line practice.
"Yes. You're here to dot i's and cross t's."
"I'm sorry? What does that mean?"
"It means you're here to do a job. You have a job to do. You're going to do it, and it doesn't matter whether anything about it is true or accurate."
You might be thinking at this point that I don't learn very well. Wouldn't it be better to play along? To tell people what they want to hear? I think telling people what they want to hear is just fine, as long as they want to hear the truth. I think most people do want to hear the truth, and they're in jobs where they rarely hear it; especially in court related situations. This time, it worked out in my favor to be a little shocking.
"That's not really true," she said calmly. "Yes, I have a job to do, but that doesn't mean I just want to fill in a form and be done. What I'd like to do is talk to you about your situation and find out how you feel about it. Is that okay?"
"Okay. Let's talk."
The visitor's room is divided down the middle by Plexiglas and steel supports. There are half a dozen stools on each side, and you normally talk to each other through a telephone setup. In this case, the evaluator was in the same section of the room as me, and I was handcuffed.
The stools are all steel, there's a small ledge at each visiting station, and a concrete ledge at the end of the room. I'm a restless person, always fidgeting and moving, so I kept moving from one stool to another and to the concrete ledge as we talked.
"Alright. I'm here because you've violated an order of protection twice. Would you like to tell me why you did that?"
"First, I didn't actually violate the order." Seeing her eyebrows come up, I quickly followed that claim with an explanation. "I know the court says I did, and I agree that I did everything they say I did. But nothing I did violated the order of protection.
"You see, the order says, in big, bold letters, that I am to refrain from doing a whole list of things. My position is that I can't violate an order that says to refrain. If it said prohibited or forbidden then I would agree that I had violated the order, but it doesn't say that. And I do not accept that this court decides to reinterpret the English language."
"So you don't think you've done anything wrong?"
"No, I didn't say that. In fact, there are lots of things I've done wrong, and I've made lots of mistakes. I'm facing up to those mistakes, and doing what I can to either fix them or avoid making them again.
"What I am saying is that yes, I did what they say I did, but no, it doesn't violate the concept of refraining from doing those things. I kept myself from contacting Maria as much as I could, and the finally gave in to the desire to reconcile with my wife. Do you understand?
"Yes, I do. That's an unusual position."
"Well, you'll find I'm an unusual guy," I said with a smile and chuckle. "I try very hard to get rid of my illusions, and face each situation as honestly as I can. Of course, that sometimes creates difficulty when dealing with other people."
"That's admirable," she said as she glanced down at her notes.
"So can you tell me why you contacted your wife when the order of protection said you shouldn't?"
“I wanted to work things out. Maria has said and done a lot of things that aren't true during this whole process, and we both have to live with that. I wanted to give her every opportunity to change direction, tell the truth, and work toward making a happy, healthy marriage. I love her, and I love the kids. I didn't want to lose them.
“I contacted her precisely because the order of protection says to refrain from contacting her. It does not say I’m prohibited. So I thought it through, I chose what I thought to be the least offensive, most honest way of communicating with her, and then reached out to my wife.
“And just to make sure the point is clear: The order says refrain precisely because it isn’t allowed to say prohibited. So what’s truly galling about this situation is that it’s happening because the whole system chooses to behave as though they are allowed to say prohibited."
She didn’t say anything to that, but she paused for a bit. She seemed to be thinking about what I had said.
"And what about now? How do you feel about your wife now?"
"Well, it's a different situation now. Do I love her? Yes. Would I like to be with her and the kids? Hmmm... Mostly.
"The fact is that we were divorced last week. So that's it, the marriage is over. Maria has followed this process to a conclusion. A divorce is not something you can undo.
"And before you say it, yes, we could get back together and work things out. Sure. Anything is possible. But in this case, that would not be possible for me. Maria has chosen divorce, and now all of us - her, me, and the kids - have to live with that."
"So, if you're released, you're saying you wouldn't try to contact your wife?"
"Former-wife, actually. And no, I'm not saying that. I don't see any point in answering the question.
"Think about it. I'm in jail, and I want to get out. The only way to do that is convince you I'm not going to contact Maria; that I pose no threat to her. So whether it's the truth or not, I'm going to say 'No ma'am. There's no way I would try to contact Maria.'
"No matter what I say, you can't trust the answer to that question.
"In fact, there's no way for you, or anyone else, to be sure of what I intend or don't intend. Do you want to hear me say it? No, I'm not going to contact Maria. The marriage is over, so there's no point to contacting her.
"Yes, there's still the property settlement to be worked out. That means we'll see each other in court, and that's it. I need to put my time and energy into figuring out where I go from here. What do I do? What do I want to do? Maria has chosen her future, and now I have to start looking after mine."
"You've been doing a lot of thinking about this, haven't you?"
I stopped to look at her with a "is that rhetorical?" look on my face. Then I shrugged and raised my hands saying "Not much else to do around here, is there?"
She smiled slightly and nodded.
"You've told me what you're going to do. Can you tell me how you feel toward your ex-wife?"
"Now that's a harder question.
"How I feel changes from hour to hour. Sometimes I'm angry and feel betrayed, other times I try to make allowance for her, and sometimes I'm just depressed.
"If you're asking whether I hate her, the answer is sometimes. Like I said, how I feel is all over the map, but here's the thing: What matters to me is moving forward with my life.
“I can’t do that in jail. And I can’t move forward if I keep trying to make things different between Maria and me. The only person I can control is me. Maria has made her position clear, and I have to accept it. So moving forward means leaving her and the kids behind.
“Do I like that? No.
“Am I going to do it anyway? Yes. My health and well-being are more important to me than any relationship.”
Her voice was calm and genuine as she wrapped things up. “Well, Mr. Hall, you’ve made a lot of good points.”
She made a few notes, and closed the file folder. “Now, I don’t make the final decision, but I don’t think you pose a threat to your wife.”