Twelve Minutes and Done

 In Blog, Cool Stuff

One thing family law attorneys see on a regular basis is a reluctance to actually file for divorce after a consultation. To take that final, irrevocable step. There’s a hesitation to filing and moving forward and no wonder, it’s a commitment. A commitment that leads to life changes, to stepping outside what’s comfortable even when what’s comfortable isn’t working. It is a tough step to take.

Sometimes the dysfunction you know is more comforting than the unknown. Sometimes the thought of emotional pain is worse than the real thing. Or, maybe. it’s the fear it’ll never go away.

Family law attorneys will tell you stories of clients coming back a few times over a few years, still close, but …

I’ve been thinking about this . . . phenomena lately. Then I thought of this story a friend of mine told me a little while back. A friend – out of state – dealing with his own decision about a divorce.

This resonated with me and, upon further reflection, I think it’s a pretty good metaphor for the divorce process.

My friend played high-level rugby through the ‘80s and into the ‘90s. You probably know rugby was the precursor to football, is played without pads of any kind, and the New Zealand All Blacks do the Haka before every game.

Our ‘touchdowns’ come from rugby – in order to score in rugby, one has to actually touch the ball down in the end zone. This is important to the story. As are these facts: when he played, field goals were worth three points, tries were worth four and only two subs were allowed per game – and then only for injury.

The story: in 1988 he played in an international tournament in Montreal over Labor Day weekend. The semi-finals were on a Saturday, late afternoon, his team’s fifth game in two days. It was a decidedly non-Quebec late summer day – mid-nineties with at least eighty percent humidity. Not a cloud in the sky. Brutal.

Just minutes into the game he kicked a moderately long field that put his team up 3-0, and, as he says, “Seemed like we were off on another romp.” (His team was deep into a 57-game winning streak at the time).

But, it didn’t turn out that way. The half ended with them up 3-0. They almost scored off the second half kickoff, didn’t, ended up on their side of the 50-yard line about five minutes in (halves are 40 minutes long, plus injury time). They never crossed mid-field again. They spent the rest of the game pinned in. They held the other team off, the whole time having to do so while being as careful as possible under the circumstances – in rugby a penalty leads to a field goal, any penalty could have tied the game.

“Tackling on eggshells,” is how he describes it. Under a blazing sun, in the heat and humidity. It got worse. With about twelve minutes left in the game, they got pinned in behind their 22-meter line (the 25 in football). And there they stayed.

They were exhausted, kept glancing at the referee, hoping he’d start looking at his watch. The last ten minutes or so of the game was a continuous series of tackles, scrums (pure hell, I’m told) stopping the opposition from touching that ball down in the end zone.

While this was going on the good-sized crowd gravitated down to the sidelines and the back line, basically surrounding their end of the field. A small portion yelled support, a bigger portion yelled for the other team. His team’s extras yelled out how much time they thought was left.

Tackling players out of bounds meant taking out spectators. It was, he says, suffocating, claustrophobic.

The final tackle was made after a minute of injury time, on the six-inch line. It was over. The only important thing at that moment. No thought of making another final. No celebration whatsoever. Both teams did the traditional handshake lines, grimly, everyone was much more interested in getting to the Gatorade.

You can probably see some not so subtle metaphors for any type of legal matter in all that somewhere, I certainly do.

But here’s the thing that really struck me, what my friend went on to say. He remembers a few plays, the crowd, the weather, the final score.

And that’s it.

He can’t, thankfully I’m sure, conjure up the heat, dehydration, pain, exhaustion, or a single one of the many emotions he felt on that field for that particular 80 minutes (plus one).

Now, today, he just knows he got through it and after it there was another cup that Sunday – played in 50 degrees with a mist – and there were many other games in many other cities that were just regular, fun games.

I think more than a few of the people that consult with me are so worried what about happens in the last twelve minutes they opt to stay stuck. They see the final twelve minutes as a barrier and can’t visualize what’s out there when the final whistle blows.

That’s a shame, because when it’s over, it really is over.

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