Reading the newspaper this morning I happened across the horoscopes. Though I’m not a believer I scanned them quickly just for the hell of it. I’m March born, which makes me Pisces, and so I read the sage words of my stars. There was nothing remarkable. It was the conventional horoscope, enigmatic and ambiguous, but it concluded with a Zen proverb that I read twice:
Knowledge is learning some thing every day. Wisdom is letting go of something you know every day.
Though I’m a doubter this at least seemed an apt comment on my situation right now. I’m not sure if it gives me an answer though.
This story starts with a trip I made on Friday. Mum’s car is to be sold as part of the settling of her estate and I had to deliver it across town for that to happen. The messy part was that I had to leave it with N, one of the people contesting mum’s will, and the leading agitator to have me evicted from her home. Given a perfect world I’d have avoided the trip – and him – but it’s no perfect world, it’s something that had to happen, and so I shrugged my shoulders and got in the car. He drove me back then with the idea that he would go through the garage here at mum’s home – as per her will – and take his pick. N was surprisingly affable, though the conversation hardly flowed. Last week when I had spoken to him he’d been aggressive, from nerves I think. For all his bluster he’s not someone who enjoys confrontation I think.
All of this is pretty prosaic except for a short conversation N and I had when I arrived at his factory. He made an offer to settle the will, splitting it evenly between us. He said, quite rightly, that going legal would likely be disastrous in terms of time and money. Then he raised the spectre of the ugly side of any confrontation between us, dragging mum’s affairs through the mud and into the public forum. They’re not really relevant to the argument, but I doubt that would prevent it occurring.
I demurred. It was not my place to agree or commit to anything. There was no point having an argument with him about it. I said we wanted more, but that I would need to speak to my sister and lawyer. With that out of the way he brightened up, and became almost friendly.
In truth, despite everything, I find it hard to dislike N. Though circumstances may suggest otherwise I really do think he has a good heart. His problem is that he tries to be someone that he’s not: he’s not his father, and he’s not nearly the strong man he presumes to be. I guess we’re all guilty of doing the same sometimes, but it has a corrupting effect on him because it is so pervasive.
In any case after he drove away with his truckload of loot I was left with a decision to make. Do we accept his offer, or not? I called a couple of friends to see what they thought of it. I always try to be so objective that sometimes I forget what I want, and sometimes so close to things that it’s hard to manage a clear and unfettered perspective. The feedback I got was mixed, some were outraged, others were more pragmatic and I had no clearer idea. Then I rang my sister not knowing what she would say. Sometimes she’s fierce, ready to go to war. Sometimes she’s more demure. In any case she blows so hot and cold that I never know what to expect.
On Friday she blew cold. She wanted more, naturally, but was willing to consider the offer. If you want to be pragmatic then there’s good reason for this. Rather than dragging it out for 12-18 months and copping legal fees in the six figures it can be resolved in a week, and for not a great discount on what we’re currently getting. And it mmeans we can settle things in relative peace, without the nastiness threatened.
Ok then, I thought, maybe we just do it. I still had to speak to the lawyer, and I had to sort out my own feelings on it. I felt conflicted. There was the great temptation of saying yes and getting it done and out of the way. I yearn to return to normal life. I knew this intellectually, but I couldn’t feel it completely. In a way I wanted to, wanted to be convinced to let it go, accept the deal and put the sorry tale behind me. I couldn’t though.
The rest of the day and into the evening I felt as flat as a pancake. Part of it was sheer exhaustion at the whole thing, and the awareness that as always it seems that it all rests on my shoulders (my sister avoids the hard realities). There was uncertainty as to what was right, and even what I felt. Above all I think the whole emotional journey had come to a head.
For once I felt lonely and alone as I tried to keep myself occupied. Even so my mind ticked over, as ever it does. It occurred to me that all throughout the dramas of this year I’ve kept a lot of the emotion at arms length. I’ve not necessarily repressed things as set them aside. I’ve been so involved in the practicalities of getting by that I’ve figured that I couldn’t afford to be distracted by what I thought of as negative emotions. In my mind Friday the image that came to me was of akll the air being sucked out the room, so that I could operate in a vacuum; when I thought about it yesterday the image was of all the colour being bled from the picture.
This year my mum was hospitalised, where she passed away. Afterwards there was the funeral, then the will being contested. I shifted home in the middle of all the drama; I dealt with doctors, mum’s affairs, mum herself, organised her funeral and managed the defence of her will. I’ve battled against people trying to evict me, my own very perilous affairs, and looked to strive against expectation to get my life back on track. For most of the year I’ve felt ‘outside’ of life – the sense almost that the life I lived so happily before is like a movie I can only look back on wonderingly.
I need to function in the face of all that. That requires a clear head, determination, and a positive mindset. I can’t afford to wallow, feel sad or depressed, can’t waste my time feeling sorry for myself. I need to keep going forward even when I feel no progress, even when I doubt the direction. That’s the idea, it will come, keep going. In practical terms it means that I can’t be sidetracked. I have my sad moments about mum, and tears come to my eyes regularly; and occasionally I get despondent. But then I put those things aside.
I feel as if on Friday all of that came back to me a bit. Like all the air I’d sucked out of the conversation came flooding back; like the arguments returned to me in full and vibrant colour. This was not something I could put aside, and maybe there was something in that I had to know. Here, when there was opportunity to see my way clear of the crap I’ve been enduring some feeling returned to me. The irony is that for all of this that I should hesitate.
I do hesitate though. It would be simple to agree to terms, take my share of the estate, and start to look toward my own life. It sounds good just writing it. I hold back though because something about it doesn’t feel right. It’s not about the money – we’re not talking sheep stations here. It’s about mum really, and about some sense of what is right.
Mum put her last wishes on paper, and while I think there is some room for compromise I still believe the spirit of mum’s will should be upheld. I can’t properly articulate it, but I feel that mum’s place is undervalued in such a deal. On top of that she was our mum, not theirs. She was my mum all my life, and while no amount of dollars can equate to that I still think it should be factored in to the final settlement. There’s a part of me, possibly the masculine competive part of me, that just wants to win – to have the final word as such.
Balanced against that are pragmatic realities. What is the value in taking it down legal channels where nobody wins? What cost is there in delaying the resolution of something for up to 2 years, even if we win? My sister is inclined to accept the offer – can I reasonably reject it? Who wins if it gets nasty – as inevitably it would? I’m confident that we would win if it went all the way, but at great expense financially, in time, and quite possibly in moral terms.
Where does this leave us then? What do you think?
It brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this post. I need the wisdom of Solomon to know what is right, but perhaps all I need do is to let something go.
As it stands right now I’m inclined to make a counter-offer and call their bluff. Time will tell.