Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

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Losing Everything Again, And Finding Happiness Anyway

I’m in a rough place. At the same time I can’t say that I’ve ever been happier. But I’m just beginning to realise happiness is about my relationship to myself and not someone else. Sure, I’d like to be in a relationship. I really miss the physical contact, the camaraderie, the checking-in at all hours of the day with little texts and messages. I love being in love. And I love being in relationship. Until it’s not working. Then I’m not all that good at expressing what I need to make things better. So I suffer. I moan. I get depressed. What I should get is ANGRY. But I suck at that even more.

Two months ago I was asked to move out of “her” house. I was broken. I was freaked out and scared that I was retreating to my mom’s house to die. I imagined myself sleeping all the time, fighting with my mom about not getting up, like a teenager. I knew the sadness was going to be overwhelming. I mean, I loved this woman with all my being, and she was everything I dreamed I wanted in a relationship, and now she was going away? I was almost as afraid of the darkness I was going to descend into, more than the darkness I was in, but I knew that staying was not healthy. I was anxious and depressed at the same time. And I needed to get out of the house and get on with the grief and healing that would come from losing it all again.

And for the first two weeks I suffered. Very differently than I thought I would. I was sad. I was grieving. But I was also relieved. I relaxed a bit once I was alone again. I slept better. I napped anytime I felt tired. I took back control of my schedule and my priorities. And one thing I did, for sure, was I exercised every day. It was a commitment I’d made over a year ago when I was struggling. No matter what, I can walk. Even if it’s only 3 miles or so. I can walk. And while that won’t make me feel better in the short-term, in the long-run I knew it was as good for my soul as it was for my health.

I also attended a boatload of Al Anon meetings. I was going almost to keep from being so alone. But I was listening too. And I spoke a few times about the struggle of giving up on a relationship. And I got a lot of phone numbers of people I could call when I just needed someone to talk to. It was the best support network I could’ve asked for. In ways that were different from friends, these “friends” had experience with what I was going through. Most of them had years in the program and gave pretty sage advice when asked for it. But mainly they were sounding boards for my recovery thinking, about the relationship, about where I was going, about how sad I was, about how I couldn’t see my future at all. And mostly they listened. That’s really what we need more than anything, someone to listen.

Well, as it turns out, I never really fell apart. I was expecting it to happen at any time, but I simply kept going on with my life. I kept walking. I read and worked the Al Anon program. I went to meetings. I talked to some people on the phone. I got a sponsor. And I really just struggled on with my normal life, except that I was alone and not living with someone. (Well, my mom, but that is different. And we worked out a pretty good relationship around privacy and sharing resources.)

I sought out the grief. I watched sad movies and cried. I read books about breaking up and grieving. I wrote goodbye letters to my former fiancé. I dug into my feelings and sat there, not really sure what actions to take. So I stayed still. I sat with the feelings. I prayed and meditated. I ate three meals a day and walked in the brutal Texas heat. And I kept going.

I wasn’t feeling better during those first few weeks. I was feeling liberated, somehow, but sad and alone.

And about three weeks in, something happened. (I think my new meds kicked in.) I started to see possibilities for the future, my future. alone but surviving. If you’ve never experienced true depression you don’t quite understand the depth of the helplessness that happens. I didn’t really see my demise, I just couldn’t imagine my survival. But a new dawn began to break as a result of my work, my time away from a toxic relationship, and the help of my chemical altering drugs.

Then my brain kicked back in at about 4 weeks. It was as if I had been sleeping the entire time prior, and now awake I was capable of accomplishing anything. I wasn’t grandiose, I was just happy again. I was hopeful again. I was still doing all the same things, walking, napping, getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and boom, like a light switch was flipped, I was back.

That was six weeks ago and the reignition has stuck. I’ve gotten over the edgy side effects of the new meds. I’ve calmed down my fantastic ideas. I’ve watched my sleep schedule very carefully. And I’m still soaring what I consider my “normal” functioning self. I’m happy. I’m alone and living at my mother’s house and working a shit job, but I’m happy. And I’m writing. That’s one of the big tells with me, if I stop writing something is off. My brain likes to express itself with language. And when I clam up, I’m battling something bigger than just a temporary setback or disappointment.

I’ve learned to ride the edge of my good feelings too. And I’ve learned to laugh off the overused term “manic.” Sure, back in my teen years I had a manic phase. But since then, when I get high, I think I’m returning to my natural “high self.” There are psychological terms for this state as well, but I don’t even think hypo-manic fits for me. I could get there if I drank too much coffee, didn’t eat well, and didn’t watch my sleep. I could easily slip over the edge of mania and do some crazy shit. But I learned when I was sixteen, that this type of behavior only results in sadness later.

So I’m alone, homeless, and happy. How joyful I will be as things begin to turn in my favor. And it’s the season, fall, where I usually get stronger. I’m trying to relax a bit more. I’m thrashing a bit about being alone. But at the moment, as you can imagine, I don’t have many options for being in a relationship. And I KNOW that I don’t need another relationship right now. My relationship to myself is the one I need to nurture and continue to build. I’ve still got a lot of forgiving to do for my failures and failings. At the moment, though, I well on my way.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: cartwheel, creative commons usage

Bad Daddy and the Delicious Breakfast Dilemma

“Daddy, will you make me an English muffin?” she asked, waking up just before noon on a Tuesday summer morning.

“What is hard about making an English muffin?” Daddy asked. “Is something too hard for you?”

“Yes, I want you to make it,” said the daughter, Little Lazy Lucy, as she *slounched* into the comfy chair to pet the cat.

“I see,” Daddy said. “Is it too hard to cut the English muffin?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

“What about the butter?” Daddy asked. “Do you find that too taxing as well?”

“Yes, Daddy, you do it so much better.”

“And adding the jelly” Daddy prodded, “Is that part difficult for you in some way?”

“Daddy, please make me a muffin, I’m much to tired to do it.”

“And what about eating the English muffin, is that too hard?” he asked.

“No, that part I’m really good at.”

“Very well,” said Daddy, “I’ll start on an English muffin.”

And with that Daddy went into the kitchen while LLLucy scrounched even further into the comfy chair and laughed as the cat kneeded into her soft belly.

Upstairs another door flew open and dapper son Badly Buzy Ben announced, “Breakfast? What’s for breakfast?” as he stomped down the stairs. His hair was cuoffed and his suit looked freshly pressed. The blue tie matching and shining in concert with his pocket square.

“Daddy,” he said, as he entered the room and eyed LLLucy with disdain. “I am hungry.”

“Very well, Ben,” Daddy said, “What did you have in mind to fix for yourself?”

“Um… What are you making?” he asked, noticing the English muffin Daddy was cutting in half.

“Little Lazy Lucy has asked for an English muffin,” Daddy said. “But she’s too lazy to help.”

“I would like some bacon and eggs,” BBBen announced.

“Great,” Daddy said, “We’ve got eggs, but I think we’re out of bacon. So you’re almost all set. You could put the eggs on an English muffin if you like.”

“Will you make my eggs?” BBBen asked.

“Why,” Daddy asked. “Is something wrong with your arms and legs?”

“No, Daddy, but I’m in a hurry, and I’ve got a homework assignment that’s due in 15 minutes. Can you make it, please?”

“It only takes about 5 minutes to scramble some eggs, let me show you where they are,” Daddy said.

“I’m really not that hungry,” BBBen said, looking quite skinny in his fine suit.

“Yes, I understand,” Daddy said. “If you actually grew and filled out, you’d need a whole new wardrobe.”

“It’s not that, Daddy, I’m just very busy this morning, and I’d prefer your eggs to my own.”

“Nicely said,” Daddy replied. “I’m pretty sure, if you have time to eat the eggs you have time to make them.”

“Okay, I’ll just have an apple and go back to my room.” He said.

Daddy cut the English muffin and put it into the toaster oven. The timer was set to dark, but he knew that this really resulted in the perfect toasting of the English muffin.

“Do you want to come put the butter on?” he asked, LLLucy.

“No Daddy, Shadow (the cat) is kneeding my belly and I’d really rather stay here.”

“Very well,” Daddy said, as he shaved a few pieces of butter onto the steaming English muffin. The smell of toasted muffin and melting butter began to fill the kitchen, and Daddy could feel his own tummy rumble. “This sure smells good,” Daddy said. “It’s making me hungry.”

“I can smell it do, Daddy. It does smell delicious.”

“Would you like to come put the strawberry jelly on the muffin?” Daddy asked.

“Can you do it Daddy, I’m much to relaxed here with Shadow,” she said. The cat had curled up in her lap and was licking his paws vigorously. It was a nice scene. Daddy could understand how it was hard to get up when getting up meant upsetting the cat in your lap. So he proceeded to put the organic strawberry preserves on the warm and buttery English muffin.

“Yum, Daddy. That smells great. Is it almost ready?” LLLucy asked.

Daddy didn’t answer.

“Daddy? Is my English muffin ready?”

Daddy walked out the front door with the English muffin in hand. “Yes, the English muffin is delicious and ready, but it’s not yours. I made it.”

“Daaaady,” LLLucy cried.

“There are more muffins and I’ve left out all the ingredients right beside the toaster for you.” he said.

“But Daddy! You said you would make me an English muffin. You lied to me.”

“I’m sorry Little Lazy Lucy, but I said I would make an English muffin. And since you were too lazy to help and too comfortable to get up, I had it myself, and it was amazingly good.”

“But Dad! I wanted you to make it. I’m too tired.”

“You should make one for yourself.”

“And Shadow is sooooo comfortable,” she said, as I peeked back in the door. She eyed me with her teary and beautiful eyes. “Daddy, please!”

“Yummy yummy, in my tummy,” Daddy said, as he closed the door and left his children to starve.

Take care, and if you need someone to talk to about dating, divorce, or depression check out my coaching page.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: english muffin, creative commons usage

Uh Oh, She’s Not Perfect, Not Even Close… Pitfalls of Dating Again After Divorce

I’ve got a friend who is probably the coolest guy I know. But he’s not finding the woman of his dreams. And it’s not that he’s not out there, he is. But I think the issue might be his unreal expectations he sets for how their relationship will start.

He’s a bit of a prima donna. A hard nut to crack. And you’re either going to love him or grow tired of him very quickly. (Example: he might jump your shit for being 5 minutes late, then later the same day, be 30 minutes late himself, without a peep.)

He’s hypercritical of his dates from the very start and yet can’t understand why he hasn’t met his match.

Okay, here’s what I’d like to say to my friend.

  1. The woman of my dreams did not come fully wrapped with a bow on her. There are still things we’re working on. But we’re madly in love, and compassionately seeking a better connection on a daily basis.
  2. A deal killer, what I thought might be a deal killer, is actually an opportunity for discovery and exploration.
  3. She drinks. I vowed off drinking years ago. I should write her off. But I didn’t and the issue was really mine not hers.
  4. She’s never had kids. Sure there are some tight moments when my kids act out a bit and she can’t understand why I don’t lash out at them. (They might trash the kitchen a bit too often, but we’re working on it.)
  5. She’s pretty self-centered. Again, this could easily be a deal killer in many ways, but I understand. She’s amazingly pretty. She’s delightfully orgasmic. She’s probably never had to work to hard at investing and exploring life with another person, not to mention three people. (I’ve got two kids that are part of the package.)
  6. She doesn’t have one of my primary desires: she doesn’t play tennis. But she’s a sport and will get out there and hit balls and promise to get better. And she’s so fit, she’s getting good pretty quickly.

I’d like to tell my friend to ease up on the “ideal woman” for a minute. Take some of the flawed candidates and take the time to get to know them. If you’re only looking for thin 10s you’re going to have to stand in line with the other suitors. I know it’s what you think you want. I know it’s a must have. But can’t you see it’s killing your opportunity for kinda nice and…

Dating takes time, I get it. I’d rather be working on one of my creative projects than going out on a “first date” with anyone. And it takes time to weed through the fake profiles on Match.com to actually get a real girl who’s interested in meeting for coffee. And there will be set backs. So far, one woman and I have missed our window three times. But she keeps coming back and I keep coming back and eventually we’ll meet in the middle somewhere. I don’t think she’s the one, but I’m willing to see what she’s like. I know she’s tall, thin, and beautiful.

So, dating again really takes a new mindset. Define what is perfect for you, then dial it back by 80% and let the 20% of unknown be a surprise left for you to discover. I remember my first girlfriend after getting a divorce. I made a joke about “my next girlfriend will definitely have a tattoo” and boy was I surprised. It was a huge lion on her stomach. It kinda stared at me, so I wasn’t a huge fan, but my little whimsical thought came true. So, rather than praying and thinking of the Victoria’s Secret model, put your attention to something beyond physical attraction. You’ll be better served in the long run, and you will probably meet women who are a little bit more realistic about what they are looking for in a relationship as well.

Take care, and if you need someone to talk to about dating, divorce, or depression check out my coaching page.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: salsa, creative commons usage

love loving love

[from strange horizons poems]

in this blistering pace of the day, this life
all that is missed or lost or unremarked upon
all the moments we didn’t stop
and pause in prayer of affirmation
what gets lost?
what loves go unfound
unspoken
ungifted

i am certain in my last days
the joys i have celebrated will out balance the dark times
or, i am certain
that given the chance
starting at this very second
that I could begin
to tilt the balance towards
more love poems
towards more love moments
towards love
period

pointing this direction of my life
i can choose my targets
i have opportunities so clear as this
given the choice
given this life, and this pause
given everything i do and everything i’ve yet to do
if i choose with intention
i can aim my arrow
towards a deeper appreciation
of love loving love
and being loved back

01/2015

What Every Dad Loses In Divorce

Everyone loses in divorce. But in many ways the dad in the equation typically loses more and much faster than any other member. It doesn’t have to be this way. In my opinion, 50/50 parenting with no child support should be the norm. It’s not what I go, even though I asked for the 50/50 split regardless of the money. That’s not what my then-wife wanted and her lawyer had told her what she’d get if we went to court, so we started negotiations there. It sucked. It was unfair. And as the dad, I lost everything in a single stroke of the pen.

In Texas courts, seven years ago I was handed a divorce I didn’t want with a schedule that was unfair, and a financial burden that continues to make my life very difficult. It’s just the standard deal given to men when divorcing in this state. The mom gets the kids, the house, and the money. Period. You can fight it, and you might win, but that’s going to cost you more money and turn an amicable divorce into a contested divorce.

I took the idea of a collaborative divorce to heart. But in the end there was no collaboration. I lost all my issues. All that “collaborative” meant was that I wasn’t going to sue my soon-to-be-ex during the negotiations of our divorce. That was my mistake. I was trying to be the nice guy, the stand up dad, the conscious one. And I believe we were both trying to do what was best for the kids, in our own minds. But society has this idea that a mom’s love is more valuable than a father’s love. Maybe 25 years ago, when the man typically worked as the sole breadwinner and the wife was a stay at home mom. You can see how that family system might make sense after divorce as well. But that’s not the financial society we live in today.

If I want to rent a small apartment, one bedroom, no space for my kids to sleep over, I’m going to first have to pay the child support, $1,350 after taxes and their healthcare, $550 after taxes. THEN if I have money left over I can eat and pay for cellphones and gas. And then, if I have a really fucking great job, I have the money left over to think about rent. Whereas my ex-wife got a house with mortgage payments that are significantly lower than my child support payments. How is that balanced? It’s not. There’s nothing fair or balanced about divorce. Dad’s prepare to get screwed or fight for your right both to your kids and to the financial arrangement that is equitable.

It can get worse. Once I got a month behind on my child support, because I had lost a large client in my freelance business, my then-ex filed with the Attorney General’s office to begin proceedings to collect the child support she was owed. Less than 45 days in, she put me in a losing battle with the state’s attorneys who behave like collections agents. Their most fun technique is to freeze your bank account. All outstanding checks and charges bounce and you pay those fees. And you pay for the privilege of having a lien put on your account. The first time it happened I was eating dinner at a restaurant with my kids. My card was declined. I was surprised. I pulled up my phone app and saw that I was $43,645 overdrawn. Luckily my daughter had just been given some cash for an upcoming vacation. I had to borrow money from my 10 yo daughter to pay for dinner. That was pretty humiliating. Of course, I couldn’t tell the kids, “Your mom is the reason this happened.” I had to make up some excuse about a bank error.

And today, seven years later, she’s still got the AG’s jackbook on my throat.  Everyday, she wakes up and decides not to call off the AG and resolve the matter between us. Everyday she puts my credit and masculinity up on the wall as a “dead beat father.” And she has made this decision everyday now for over five and a half years. We get close to an agreement and she always backs out. We get close to meeting with the AG’s office to reduce my payment, and there’s always a problem with her schedule. For two years I’ve been trying to get her to meet with me so we can set a more reasonable child support payment based on what I make. And she’s stalled every time. “I’m so sorry, I can’t make it.” And I have to ask the AG’s office for another meeting and it goes back to being scheduled six months later.

Divorce is a bitch. There is not two ways about it. But it does not have to be a war. My ex-wife puts me on the losing end of the deal everyday. Not because she needs the money. Not because she thinks I won’t pay her. But because it gives her some satisfaction that the AG’s office is running my finances until both kids turn 18. Well, if you’re in this situation and just beginning your divorce journey, lawyer up and ask for 50/50 with no child support. You pay for them when you’ve got them and you split the bills. That’s the only fair way to go. I support you in getting time with your kids and a reasonable financial arrangement that doesn’t cripple your future.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: dad with kids, creative commons usage