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Not a Casserole Widow™: The Drive to Court Emotion

Monday, January 22, I went to court again. I can't actually remember how many times I have been to court over the past 5 years.  When I drove myself to the courthouse the first few times, I had to enter the address for the courthouse in my phone (ironically located on Justice Dr.), and follow the Google directions so I wouldn’t get lost.

It wasn’t because it was far or confusing, but because my mind wasn’t working at full capacity.  I was panicked, overwhelmed, traumatized, sad, scared… today, I know I was absolutely incapable of thinking clearly due to trauma.  Back then, I thought I was incompetent.

Monday, I intentionally focused on what it felt like to be in a car driving to armageddon.  It’s a hell you never wanted to see, a hell with an unknown conclusion, and a hell that could have been completely avoided.  Injustice and hollow rage runs rampant in my body.

My drive is mostly a straight drive.  I pull out of my garage, turn right, turn left, go to a roundabout’s right angle, turn right, drive for about 13 minutes until the road ends, turn left, and arrive at the courthouse after one stop sign.  The drive is etched in my brain.

The 13 minute part is the painful part.  I have to drive past my children’s history.  I can feel my teeth beginning to hurt as I recount this part of it.  My stomach rolls in grief.  I want to rewind my life.  I just can’t believe this is where I am.

The 13 minute drive takes me through a cute, quaint, midwestern downtown.  A picturesque street full of chic shops, antique stores, and tasty ice cream parlors.  I drive past an historic restaurant where, years ago, our family, including my 4 kiddos, ate an eloquent dinner to celebrate a birthday.  The boys dressed up in suits and my daughter wore a gloriously pink, frilly dress.  We felt like we were royalty.  

There is also a unique train station that Thomas the Tank Engine visits in the spring and an actual running train drives you to Santa at the North Pole in winter. 

I remember how excited I was to take my oldest, Alex, to see Thomas when he was 3. I planned, bought tickets for his father, myself, Alex, and our 1 year old who couldn’t quite understand the experience.  I prepared the stroller, diapers, snacks, wipes, extra clothes in case of an accident, formula, bottles… And I was probably as excited as Alex.  There really wasn’t anything more heartwarming than seeing joy in my children’s faces.  It was a pure, clean, and unblemished delight. There was no grief hiding behind their exquisite elation.  Thomas became a tradition for the next several years until Alex grew too old to enjoy it. 

I return to my present reality and continue to roll through downtown, stopping at the red light in the center of town.  Train tracks run directly in front of my car.  I visualize the train driving past me and I remember one of the last times we rode the train to the North Pole.  It was freezing and we had all 4 children, ranging from 1-9.  I still had the stroller and all that entailed, still had the scrumptious joy filling my soul, still had the dream of a perfect future.  As we boarded the train, I remember scanning the ground for any lost mittens or hats, climbing aboard, and asking the children what they would ask for from Santa.

A green light abruptly halts my reminiscing and I unenthusiastically drive my mini van towards the courthouse.  It doesn’t feel fair.  I want to weep, scream, or do anything to change my trajectory.  The mixture of joy and horror feels prickly in my chest.  They shouldn’t exist together, yet, here we are.  What emotion is this?

Whatever emotional pit I feel myself wanting to climb into is not going to be an asset for me in court.  I have exactly 5 minutes to find the courage to face my reality.  I use music to shift my mood and my song of choice today is a common choice for me: Speechless by Naomi Scott. I turn up to a volume that will silence any emotion hiding in my spirit which might distract me from whatever goal the courts think I need to achieve today.

Try to lock me in this cage

I won't just lay me down and die

I will take these broken wings

And watch me burn across the sky

Hear the echo saying:

I won't be silenced

Though you wanna see me tremble when you try it

All I know is I won't go speechless, speechless

'Cause I'll breathe

When they try to suffocate me

Don't you underestimate me

'Cause I know that I won't go speechless


I let the song roll around my brain as I park, walk the short distance into the court house, and notice the automatic response my hands have as my nervous system goes on high alert.  They begin shaking uncontrollably as adrenalin kicks in.  I’m used to this response.  My body knows I have entered a dangerous space.

60 minutes and thousands of dollars later, I walked back out of the courthouse with nothing accomplished.  It went as I predicted.  No solution.  No movement.  No resolution.  

I was glad it was over, disappointed it even was a thing, and angry with the unfairness of it all.  

What do you call the emotional roller coaster I just endured?  Where is it on my emotion wheel?  I focus on the question I ask my clients, “where do you feel it in your body?” I feel it in the deepest part of my stomach - a place no one can touch.  

I open my door, sit down, close the door, turn on the heater, and wait for God to tell me what I need to do to put my soul at rest.  I’m drained.  

I hear in my heart, “Fight on, Fighter.”  Gotcha.  Thanks, God. That is what I will do. I turn on another familiar survival song, Fight on, Fighter by King and Country.

Fight on, fighter

Don't let anyone steal your fire

Fight on, fighter

The Spirit is alive inside ya, yeah

Stronger than you ever thought

I know you're stronger

Braver than you were before

You know you're braver

Oh, no, you don't have to be afraid

Together we'll face it

So don't ever stop no matter what 'cause you're gonna make it.

The "Drive to Court Emotion" feels as confusing as the “Empty Room Emotion”.  One of the major differences between the 2 is how I show up.  The Drive to Court Emotion requires me to temporarily compartmentalize my pain and implement tools to increase my confidence.  The Empty Room Emotion frees me to explore my pain.

I’m still can't find them on my emotion wheel.

If you are feeling alone as you explore your emotions, find support at

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