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

creativity

Confronting God Alone, After Divorce

OFF-jesus-necklace

We are the rebound and rebuilding of our past loves and losses.

I’m certain that I prayed to God to save my marriage. More than once or twice. I would’ve done nearly anything to keep my little family unit together. I counseled with my minister, I shouted out loud at the heavens, I wrote prayers that sounded more like love poems. And nothing…

It was a time for miracles and togetherness. One shiny family, orbiting God, and giving thanks along with lots of giggles and screams.

Turns out, somewhere, a bigger plan was being put into motion. Praying for the repair of something broken might not have been aligned with the plan. Who’s plan? What plan? And when would I know the rules and routes of the plan? I knew very little about any plan, and I was getting pretty snarky in tone as I pleaded with my higher power to fix things. I wanted them fixed the way I wanted them. I had no idea what was in store, but I had a lot of living and self-discovery ahead before I would catch a glimpse of my bright future.

My then-wife and I got really spiritual about the time we decided to start “trying to have a baby.” That means we ended all birth control and had a brief window of joyful and bountiful sex. It was the opening up to the possibility of a child, or children, that was the big Ah ha moment. We had some woo woo things we did, like talking to the baby in the womb and going to birthing classes. And we prayed and said thanks all the time. Life ahead appeared to be full speed ahead.

In less than a year after being married, we were gifted with the first child, a son. Once again, our lives were transformed as we surrounded him and each other with a warmth that only comes from some kind of spiritual grace. We were aligned, in-tune, and in-communication with God, capital G, for sure.

Through toils and snares we tried again and were given a baby daughter this time, to fulfill our pair, one of each, our unimaginable fortune. For years and years the kids took all of our energy, all of our creativity, all of our focus, and a lot of our time. But we were happy for the transformation in our lives from self-important to parents. It was not a sacrifice to tell friends, “Sorry, I can’t come see the movie, our kids are working on an important Lego fortress and I’ve got to help.”

I was devastated and depressed and God was nowhere to be found.

It was a time for miracles and togetherness. One shiny family, orbiting God, and giving thanks along with lots of giggles and screams. As it turned out in our case, the bliss didn’t last. And after a series of events, none of them catastrophic, we agreed to get a divorce. In spite of our love for each other, and our love for our kids, the love of our relationship had wained. Perhaps we didn’t focus enough on each other as we were praising and singing to our children. Perhaps we didn’t pay enough attention to our own individual needs. But in the Spring of 2010 we were no longer a family unit, we were two houses and two kids and two single parents.

That’s the moment I came face to face with my own relationship to God. It’s not like I went looking for some spiritual revelation. Actually, it was quite the opposite. I began to crumble under the loss. The nights and days without seeing my kids was torture. All the years we had spent as one unit, to be locked out of my own house, outside the circle, and given about 30% of my parenting time back, was akin to being turned into a zombie. Lucky for me, I had family in town who took me in. I had recently lost my job, and had no money for an apartment, and no desire to find one. I was devastated and depressed and God was nowhere to be found.

Except when my kids arrived. Everything changed when they were around. My little girl snuggling and asking me to chase her around the house. My son hard at work on some project or another, rather stoic and aloof. And me, trying my best to put on a brave face. I was anything but brave. I did hold it together, somehow, but there were times when I was actively trying to give up. That’s what depression is: giving up. Of course, when you have kids, there is no such thing. I suppose you could run off and vanish from their lives, start over in Montana or something. But without that option, the future was here, in the same town with my ex-wife and my kids, trying to hold it together at school functions and holiday kid swaps.

Somewhere in that period I went through my dark night of the soul. I had joined a divorce recovery group and we were supposed to write out our “anger letter” to our ex. I started out at about 10pm, with a fairly tame rant. By 3am I was on fire and fuming. This anger was the energy and turning point that expelled the depression from my heart. And even as I was writing the words to her, I was also expressing my anger at God, at “the plan,” or “his plan,” if that’s what you want to call it. I was fuming mad and I was going to get it out in every way I could.

Depression, the saying goes, is anger directed at ourselves. Well, I had un-targeted myself and was shooting sparks at God and my ex-wife and all of her friends and the friends who had abandoned me… I was just plain mad. A bit “mad” actually. But the anger sure got me motivated and un-depressed.

In the process of this rebuilding, if we listen for spiritual guidance, what we hear is our own hearts, our inner spirits.

During this period, one of the weekly chores of the divorce group was self-care, or doing something that helps you feel better. I started an Aikido class and began learning how to get thrown down on the mat every afternoon. And I didn’t think much about God except during the quiet times, when the kids were away, and my Aikido hadn’t burned all the fire out of my day. In these moments, staggered between loneliness and the potential of growth and energy I was cultivating that I began to pray again. These prayers were much more like love poems. Like Rumi as he called out to the beloved, I was also seeking a beloved. I still had a long way to go, but I began to hope and dream about being with a woman again, and the possibility of even falling in love again. Hard to imagine, but easier to pray about.

In the quiet moments, I do think my higher power was listening. Maybe it’s just the higher power in me, but the praying, and love poem writing began to soften the anger just a bit. The driving force that got me up off my ass was not very conducive to finding a date. I was pretty far from dating material, but I was at least beginning to think about my quality of life when I was the “off” parent, when the kids were not with me.

Looking back at this time of rebuilding, strife, prayer, Aikido, and living with my sister, I can sort of imagine the roadmap that got me here, to today. I can acknowledge that my marriage to the mother of my children was not serving either one of us, for whatever reason, and in the moving on I was given a new lease on happiness and even love. All of those fractured years, after the divorce, I spent building new ideas about myself, about what was important to me, and keeping the focus on building my now time-limited relationship with my kids.

Today the love poems are arriving en masse for a woman who has arrived to wake up my sense of God once again. “How could I have known?” I ask her, playfully. “That all of that shit would crack open my creative spirit again, and that from these prayers and poems I would find you.”

She still smiles at my pontifications and says, “Those that fired us, brought us here.”

We are the rebound and rebuilding of our past loves and losses. And in the process of this rebuilding, if we listen for spiritual guidance, what we hear is our own hearts, our inner spirits. It is in the listening that I was able to hear what aspects of a relationship were important to me, and what things I would like to avoid in the future. And while there’s not guarantee, the woman of my dreams is sleeping beside me these days, as we flow through the happiest moments of our lifes. Even when my kids are not with us, the joy between us… Well, isn’t that God, in a way.

Love = God.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: santo cristo tile image, mary anne melo, creative commons usage


and know i love you

OFF-monkey-coffee[from strange horizons poems]

though i can’t see now
what i’m supposed to be
alone and happy
i don’t understand
how you’re not with me
was i dreaming

it’s not right with my world
i hope it’s right in yours
without me
it’s not okay with me
may you be okay and strong
without me

i was holding you
when it first revealed
you were leaving
there was no recourse
no rebuilding life
you’d decided – for me too
if i tell you now
that i love you still
would you hold me
now that you have gone
i’m in a better place
loving someone
and i don’t know what
the future holds
i’m rebuilding
if you hear my voice
just ignore the words
and know i love you

song idea: 6-14-15


After Divorce w/ Kids: You Won’t Believe How Good It Can Get

OFF-coupledacing

Off as in wacky. Off as in when you don’t have your kids after divorce. Off as in batshit crazy. What is an OFF Parent?

As I have begun to reemerge as a happy dad I have paid careful attention to who deserved my “off” time.

Divorce sucks. And in the end, divorce may have been the most liberating and creative thing that ever happened in my life. I have certainly been transformed in many unexpected ways. And the decision of my then-wife that wrecked and the reshuffled my family life, might have been the event that set me in motion towards the next true love of my life.

But getting from married with children to divorced with children to dating with children to whatever-you-want-to-call-next with children… Well, that’s the tricky part about being an off parent. I’m here to offer hope.

I’ve been through:

  • major depression
  • financial disaster
  • dickish ex-wife moves set to hurt me
  • complete loss of my identity and home
  • rebuilding and reassessing
  • creative rebirth
  • establishing relationships with my kids during *my* time
  • losing a best friend and partner in planning and future visions

Through all of it, things get a bit rough. Things might even get so bleak that you consider dark and harsh alternatives. Hope is hard to come by at times.

And I arrived at:

  • creative freedom
  • effortless and inspired writing about my experience
  • creating my own parenting style, not burdened by my ex’s OCD
  • establishing father-son and father-daughter bonds in the time that I did have
  • a rested state of living (naps whenever I wanted, instead of a fight)
  • redefining *my* needs and passions
  • exploring and learning from what went wrong
  • setting sail for a new kind of relationship
  • finding the love of my life

I’ve been married twice. And I can tell you the divorce from both of those relationships was difficult. With kids, however, you never fully get divorced from your co-parent. And as I have begun to reemerge as a happy dad I have paid careful attention to who deserved my “off” time. I went through a few test relationships, learned some powerful lessons along the way, and arrived here: madly, passionately, and freely in love with a new woman, a partner unlike any I have ever imagined. Better. Stronger. More passionate. Much more compassionate.

The second love of my life took over 52 years to arrive. We had been looking for each other for 5 – 7 years. And when we connected the sparks flew, the inhibitions evaporated, and our hearts began to sing in harmony, the big “Yes” from within minutes of our first kiss.

“That was the most auspicious beginning I’ve ever experienced,” I said to her a few days after we’d spent the first weekend together.

My kids, as important as ever, will be building new connections with the WE, rather than just me, Dad.

The exhilaration has not stopped. The continuous effort on both of our parts to find the time, find the space, and find the way to connect both in an out of the bedroom. And of course, the sex is amazing. And how could I have imagined, as my known world was collapsing, that I would be having the absolute best sex of my life at 52? And more sex than I’ve ever had? How could this be possible?

When you embrace the loss of your marriage, you can begin healing yourself and reestablishing your relationships with your children and yourself. As you burn through the pain and frustrations, you may find yourself stronger and more self-assured. You may find yourself unwilling to settle for half-ass. And with the compressed amount of time you have, you will value both the ON parent time and the OFF parent time.

Today I begin a new journey with my girlfriend. (That term seems so weak compared to what we have established.) Today we begin building OUR relationship WITH and AROUND my kids. The parenting plan I defined with my then-wife spelled out a 6-month waiting period before introducing the kids to a partner.

The new relationship is between her and me. My kids, as important as ever, will be building new connections with the WE, rather than just the me, Dad. She won’t ever be Mom, but she can bring a new idea in to their young lives.

In the next 4 years of my son’s life, and the next 6 years of my daughter’s life, I can show them what a healthy and happy relationship looks like. The last time they saw my then-wife and I in respectful partnership was when they were about 5 and 7 years old. What a gift I imagine in this new, re-envisioned partnership, with the next love of my life.

The more amazing thing about finding love again, is when you find the flow of energy and affirmations is easily expressed by both partners. In my marriage I was the “emotional” partner. My then-wife was more logical and excel/task/budget based. This new connection is stronger and more pure than anything I’ve experienced in my life. (I know this sounds like puppy love, and I’m not afraid to admit we are still in the honeymoon glow.)

Where we go from here is together and up as a newly formed family unit. The three of us now have a co-pilot. I now have a collaborative partner to reason things out, to make joint-decisions, and to reflect on the demands and requests of my ex-wife. Not to mention, the most exciting partnership I’ve known.

Today, I have it all. I’m still rebuilding. My kids are still adjusting. Perhaps we will be readjusting our entire lives from the fracture that changed everything. Today, at this moment, I can say, “For the better.” By a long shot.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: dance, vladimir pustovit, creative commons usage


in her little toe i find an expression of love

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 10.02.42 PM[from strange horizons poems]

what if what if what if
the hardest part about this whole thing
this whole world wide living loving thing
is actually finding someone to love
someone to really pour yourself into
a flexible person who bends when rough patches arrive
comes at problems with joy and energy
to be joined in
not always understood or reasoned out
but just joined
and what if what if what if she is here
and this quest has been fulfilled in this moment
what then
what joy could burst forth
what symphony awaits
as we warm up our instruments
tune and retune
stretch and press into the heart
and then drop it all
to be together
close
skin

pause

repeat


The Self-Regulation of Poetry and Longing

OFF-songwriter

I understood something tonight for the first time. It came about after I wrote a post on depression and the artistic temperament for one of my other blogs. As I was explaining how my art is often a form of self-soothing, I cracked open a tiny window into my own current situation. I’m not depressed, but I am highly activated and in an artistic spurt. Tonight as yet another love poem (or poem of #desire, as I’ve come to call them) surfaced I caught a glimpse of myself, doing my thing. And I noticed the effect. The poem of longing seemed to relieve some of my suffering. It gave me a lift even as I was expressing my dismay.

In touching the sadness in words I can begin to unlock and feel them in life.

By telling my story, even in poetry, I am giving voice and awareness to my inner voice, my inner pain. I don’t admit my sadness or loneliness much these days. I’m too busy, too creative, too “happy.” But tonight, something in the back story of the love poem signaled from my subconscious creative brain to my rational and self-assessing brain that there was a problem.

Again, it’s a poem. But as I look back on the two books of poems that have come out of this period of my life, I began to understand, tonight, that these were as much a narrative as my prose. When read in sequence, you can see the arc and trajectory of my heart out of darkness and into hopefulness. I even achieved several moments of “love.” Even when the relationship couldn’t hold the feeling, in the poems I captured a tiny sliver of the potential.

Women of potential. My muse.

And tonight, as I was writing this poem, about something as simple as noticing a woman’s dark shiny hair, I was also able to hear a bit of the ache that I long to medicate with a relationship. And barring that, a love poem.

In the act of desiring, in the writing of a romantic epistle, I am releasing some of the tension I feel. In touching the sadness in words I can begin to unlock and feel them in life. Again, I’m not sad, but I’m lonely. As creative and inspired as I am, my seeking is consistent and unanswered. I have learned patience. I have learned the language of love. I have taught myself to compose songs. And yet… I’m alone.

Another moment occurred this weekend that opens up a bit more of my thinking about relationships, and “what’s next” for me. I had taken a long Saturday afternoon to drive my daughter and two of her friends to the local outlet mall for her birthday. That afternoon, when I got home, alone, I was exhausted. After a quick nap I arose and felt inspiration hit as I was trying to put down a song idea with my guitar and computer. An hour later I was one song richer, and again, slightly exhausted.

And at that very moment what I wanted was someone to share my song with.

It’s sort of romantic, and productive, all this being alone. But it’s not a condition I aspire to, it’s merely where I find myself at this moment.

I contemplated going out. There was a local band playing, and I knew the woman who books the club was newly single… But I was tired. Fulfilled somewhat with my creation. And still, aching for connection. So some of what I am longing for is simply being seen. Having someone to share my new book of poetry with. Or even a new poem. Sure, I’d like someone to come along who can trigger some of the “loving” sides of my poetry and songwriting, but I’ll settle for a confidant. Well, perhaps a cuddling confidant.

I know that I don’t want to become addicted to this state of longing. It’s sort of romantic, and productive, all this being alone. But it’s not a condition I aspire to, it’s merely where I find myself at this moment. And clearly, for a few moments more.

All is well. A new poem is written. A song released inspires yet another. My creative heart flows and flies.

And. Longs. For. Connection.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: the author, kristy duff wallace, creative commons usage


Dating Time Out: Swiping Left or Right is Wearing Me Out

OFF-glider

I’m done with the online forum for a minute. I’m back to rebuild, remodel, retool mode. I think I’ll even take my profiles down for a bit. I had a non-online date become a non-date via email yesterday and I sort of bummed me out. Not that she was an amazing fit, or that sparks were flying all around between us, no, it’s more the idea of dating that’s wearing me out.

I’ve got a new fitness program, that I’m committing to. I’ve got my next musical performance in early Dec. And plenty of kid duties and work duties between now and then. I think I’ll take them down and focus back on the project of building, becoming, and enjoying a better me. The “she” will have to follow.

I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself.

Would I date me, at the moment? I’m not sure. If I take the example from this week as a sample, I’d say yes, I would. The woman was within range on certain qualities, she was vibrant, engaging, intelligent. And on others (touchy-feely, love language understanding, physical closeness) she hadn’t shown any indications how these things might come into play. And that’s where I knew we had a sticking point.

I know the woman I want to be with will light up when were together. In the same way I light up and cheer at the sight of a new potential lover, the same way I still light up ever so slightly when I see one of my two previous girlfriends. I’m a “happy to see you” kind of person. I don’t need subtle, or introverted, or quiet. I can be quiet. I can enjoy quiet. But a lack of joy comes across to me like a dull color. I need shine and dancing.

I generate a lot of energy and joy in the world. And I’m clear that I tend to blow people off their center, especially if there center is not very well established. I will require a strong partner. Both previous marriages broke down in some ways as a response to my over-abundance of energy and creative drive. It became a competition thing. I didn’t think I was competing, but some how the woman, both of my previous wives, did.

So I get that. I temper a bit when I’m meeting new people. I keep most of my peacock feathers tucked beneath my non-logo t-shirt. And still, I’m often the person who interrupts, jumps from subject to subject, and if I’m zoned or in a highly productive day, I might miss the person completely. Or I might miss a moment, when I should’ve been quiet rather than engaged. When I should’ve had a non-response, rather than a delighted one. This last woman didn’t seem to be able to keep pace. More likely, she didn’t want to.

Again, that’s OH KAY. Really. I hear myself explaining my own type-a, driven, goal setting, personality. But I’m not apologizing for it. I’m merely saying, this is the way I am. I hope you can keep up, and I’d really like it if you came on the ride.

Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Heading into November, my birthday month, I’ve got no one to cuddle up with. No problem. Not the way I’d want things, but there is a LOT of stuff that’s not the way I’d choose it to be, at the moment. Still, I’m not unhappy about my withdrawal from online dating. It’s more of a refocus, again, back on myself and my empire building.

I have many rooms in my house. I am remodeling some. Others I have down, but I prefer to spend less and less time in them. While over here, in the writing and relationship wing, I am constructing an entirely new atrium. I’m done with settling for almost in an online profile. I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself. Each of the projects I am working on requires a certain amount of energy. The date this week was an opening of possibility. As she closed that door, I’m taking the message from the universe (too woo woo, again?) and getting back to my own basics.

Become who I would like to be with. Show my highest form of passion and creativity. Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Switching to glide for a bit.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: Hang gliding over Makapuu Beach, peddhapati, creative commons usage

They’re begging me not to cancel my Match.com account.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.11 PM

But when I do, I get a nice message. Almost like an answer. 11/27/2014 will be my 52nd birthday. Gracias Match.com!

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.37 PM

And finally, the Tinder…

tinderdone


My Funny Man Divorce: A Little Bill Murray a Touch of Robin Williams Mixed w/ Ferris Bueller

OFF-billmurray

If anyone can explain why he hasn’t been able to find the love of his life it’s Bill Murray. And I’ve often been likened to a younger Bill, so I read this Vanity Fair article with a bit of self-interest.

“Not to diminish a relationship with a woman but I can’t take care of another relationship if I can’t take care of the things I really need to take care of the most. It’s not a selfish thing . . . it’s just sort of an obligation.” – Bill Murray

What Mr. Murray latches onto as his reason for not being in a relationship is his own lack of attention and self-examination. He mentions his children from his previous two marriages, but it’s clear Bill hasn’t found what he’s seeking in a woman.

Murray did admit that he wonders why, at 64-years-old, he still hasn’t found the great love of his life.

“I do think about that. I’m not sure what I am getting done here. I do have kids. I have children that I am responsible for and I enjoy that very much. And that wouldn’t have happened without women.” – ibid

>He knows he need to so the self-examination work, but he doesn’t really want to do it. He’d rather show up as a comedian extraordinaire and find his love in the public embrace. One of my favorite movies with Bill is Lost in Translation. It seems to capture the loss and ennui of Mr. Murray’s self-reveal in this article. Fascinated and crushing on the young Scarlett Johansen, Mr. Murray tells much of his life story. I’m guessing that this film captured a bit of what it must be like to be Bill Murray. Detached and disoriented by the “jobs” that send him all over the world. Drawn to youth and beauty. But in this touching film, the father-figure chooses not to take advantage of the young woman. It’s an amazing moment. And it’s a huge win for both characters and the film.

Only from a place of inner-wisdom and self-knowledge can you hope to regain your balance in life and open your heart back up to the possibility of love again.

And Mr. Murray plays his role in a number of Wes Anderson movies as well. Perhaps it is easier for him to act out the scripts that others put in his mouth rather that examine or work through his own troubles.

Robin Williams is another character and body type I’ve been associated with. I share the bear-ish shape with these two rock stars as well as some of their demons. Whatever depression Robin was dealing with, he killed himself while his adoring wife slept in the next room. How terrifying. How dark his night must’ve been to extinguish even his bright star of hope.

AS a bit of a frenetic funny man, myself (I’m not putting myself in the same league with these greats, please.) I am also prone to flights of fantasy and falls of desperation. And it’s wonderful to hear that someone as buoyant as Bill Murray can come out and share his own difficulties, much like he does in Translation. I can take a different path from either of these body doubles. (I wrote myself in as Ferris Bueller in divorce, as well.

I am committed to self-examination and taking care of as much of my sh*t as possible. In the same spirit I can do what it takes to keep my dark thoughts at bay. Often it is the self-examination and self-revelations that come from doing deep work, that keeps me above water. Bill speaks of the difficulties of stripping off the mask and looking at the ugly truth.

Asked what has stopped him from committing to himself, Murray continued, “What stops [any of] us is we’re kinda really ugly if we look really hard. We’re not who we think we are. We’re not as wonderful as we think we are. It’s a little bit of a shock . . . it’s hard.” – ibid

As men, we are often not encouraged to dig deep and feel what’s going one. The man’s role in the world is to be strong, to be stoic, and to be a good provider. I don’t see either of these men being described as feeling fathers. Perhaps Mr. Murray has had to distance himself a little from his role as a father. (Of course, I have no idea.)

What it takes, as a man, to deal with divorce is the courage to strip away the facade and let the feelings and frustrations out. You can do this in therapy, on a blog, or with friends. You cannot do this with your kids or your ex-wife. But most of all, you have to do it. You have to strip back down underneath Bill’s Caddyshack character and understand what’s hurting inside. Only from that place of inner-wisdom and self-knowledge can you hope to regain your balance in life and open your heart back up to the possibility of love again. Because with the risk of love comes the risk of failure, again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Note: My brush with greatness involves Bill Murray. I was on the set of Ghostbusters, my sister worked for Warner Bros. at the time. During a break Bill came around the corner and saw a teenage boy standing there in red painter pants. “Whoooooo’s the madman!” he shouted, as he reached out and shoot my hand.

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images: bill murray, publicity shots


For Hire: Used Husband, Classic Model, Works Well With Kids

OFF-headless

I’m feeling a bit like a for sale or for hire ad on Craigslist.

Upbeat and optimistic dad of two middle-school kids, seeks pleasant and easy-going woman for casual and romantic evenings. Looking for an extraordinary woman in need of service and support. I’m touch-oriented. I thrive on honest and open communication. I’m over playing any mind games, and am looking for a steady relationship.

I didn’t really mean for this to be a personal ad. Let’s cut to the chase.

I’m a former husband and a current father. I am more focused on my kids than on my own relationship status, and for the moment, that’s how I believe it should be. I do have time in my schedule to accommodate a relationship, and now that I’ve gotten my act a little more together, I’m putting our a few feelers again. I’d like a relationship. I thrive in proximity to a nurturing and active woman. In fact, I expand creatively when I have some sexual chemistry in my life. Oh, what wonderful things that chemistry does to our souls.

When I’m not so aggressive about looking for an available woman, my entire body relaxes just a bit. Rather than hunting and pursuing, today I’m going to continue to refine my package.

In relationship I tend to think less about myself. Or, to put it another way, I spend a good bit of time thinking about, imagining, writing poetry, singing, in response to the growing warmth in my heart. I’m a hopeful romantic. I know the right romance is yet to come. I got close in marriage number two. And perhaps now, with a good bit of recovery time in between, I’m re-centered and ready.

Perhaps, I say, because I also enjoy my seemingly limitless alone time. When I’m in a creative mode the “off” evenings seem like a gift. I would’ve had a hard time negotiating a single evening off to go into my music studio before the kids went to bed. So I worked creatively between 10:30 and 2:30 at night. Any wonder I was a bit tired as the corporate work routine wore on, and my double-lit candle began to burn perilously close to meeting at the center. I was inspired and yet constrained. As a family man, as a fully engaged father, it was okay. But my creative drive was suffering under the time constraints.

Of course as a single man on a regular schedule with my kids I go into some weekends knowing I have 5 nights in a row with minimal obligations. I could set up some activities to keep me busy, but I’m over that period of my recovery. Now I see the juicy potential of that time and I am jumping into those nights with a euphoria that will be hard to give up, when a relationship re-grounds my flight. I’m looking forward to that, but it will be a change.

Already I had a moment of awareness when the last date nearly turned into a girlfriend over a three-day period of romantic, lusty, courtship. She bailed out. (See She Came On Like a Freight Train – The Woman Who Says “Yes”) And though she gave me some reason, I’m not sure it wasn’t just her “holy shit what if this happens” moment. She too was highly creative and a full-time single parent, with little or no support from her ex. That’s a scary place to be, I’m sure. But when she was pouring on the fuel in the first two days of our “dating” I began to not only get ramped up romantically, I began to turn my evening attentions towards her and away from my creative projects.

That is a transition I want, mind you, but it came on so quickly with her, that I didn’t really have a chance to warm to the idea. In a day we met from a Tinder connection, and in the second day she was texting me alluring (non-sexual) photos. But she was in my head. She was changing the course of my week and we’d just met.

In the end, I think the derailment was more an indicator of her actual stability rather than the projection she was showing me. She did have some amazing effect on me. I was ready and willing to lay down all available nights in search of her sweet spot. And that too was an indication of how unrealistic I had become while basking in the light of such a white-hot romance. When the euphoric state hits too fast, I’ve learned that something is off. Kind of like the woman who got this amazingly glazed look in her eyes as we were making love. I thought she was blissed out. Turns out she was vaping pot in the bathroom just before sex. Um… No. (see My Casual Sex Experience – First Lesson)

I don’t need drama or high theater. And at the moment I “want” more than “need” a woman.

Okay, so I got a big YES/NO and I’m a bit lonely at the moment. And by lonely I really mean hungry. I’m hungry for a woman, for that connection, for the scent, touch, tasted, and imaginative rush that comes from being with someone who turns you one. And at the same time (this is not a cop out) I am willing to wait and work on myself, my physical fitness, my musical project that hits the stage on Dec. 5th, my own internal creative inspiration. I’m happy. I’m alone. And I’m dialing back the hunter-mode a bit.

When I’m not so aggressive about looking for an available woman, my entire body relaxes just a bit. Rather than hunting and pursuing, today I’m going to continue to refine my package. Sure, I’m flirty and aware of every breathing female in a 50-foot radius, but I’m content to appreciate and smile. When there’s a smile back, I’m also satisfied with that. I’d rather see if there are additional signals, additional indications that might illuminate some “mutual” attraction, without the forcefulness of approach and courtship.

One recent example. I was picking up my daughter from a new friend’s house. The mom was there and very attractive, and yes I noticed, not wearing a ring. She was playful and touched my arm a few times as she expressed herself. (Ah, my type, a touchy -feely person.) And yet, also not my type: she was just heading into her divorce. She was preparing the house for sale. And according to my daughter, she and the dad didn’t get a long at all.

Quit a contrast from the rest of my daughter’s friends the weekend before when she said, “Everyone at the sleep over had divorced parents.” It’s becoming the norm. And at a 50% failure rate, you’re likely to have just as many divorces as you have marriages.

So she was amazingly pretty and open. She was not exactly in my “type” mode, but she was wearing little or no makeup, she was practical and happy to chat with me about our kids. She was reaching out to connect with me. And that was enough. I let the moment just be a nice moment. (Yes, I’ll admit I tried to get my daughter to give me some contact info so I could give her the martial arts instructor’s name.) And while I was revved up by her presence, I was also clear in one thing: divorces are hard and getting INTO a relationship as you’re getting OUT of your marriage is a terrible idea. I wasn’t going to stand-in for the maelstrom.

And so, I’ve been girlfriend free since the end of the summer and it’s fine. I’d rather not be. But I’d rather be alone that coping with another person’s major emotional distress. I don’t need drama or high theater. And at the moment I “want” more than “need” a woman. Sure, I’m hungry for a mate, but I’m also aware that I’m hungry for an adventure at the same time.

Re-center, refocus on myself and my growth. < My current mantra.

But I’m putting up the services available ads as a way to feel like I’m at least fishing for an amazing catch. I’m also enjoying the boat ride around this new pond of older single women.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

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image: headless hunter, jd hancock, creative commons usage


temper the joy

OFF-final-cut-300[from a second wave – poetry]

with potentially dangerous epiphanies
i learned to temper the joy
hide the enthusiasms
mistrust the high
i could not contain
i tried many strategies
tell no one
tell selected few
tell my therapist
none worked very well
epiphanies may be between you and god
see… that right there is the problem
saying stuff like that
gets you in time out
and adult time out is much worse
then kid time out
so for now…
this time…
this joy
moment
bliss

i’ll keep between me
and
my

you fill in that blank for yourself
no, it’s okay, i’m good

8-2-14

image: the final cut, robb north, creative commons usage


17 Simple Ways to Say “I Love You”

OFF-bathSometimes it’s the little things that have the most impact. In relationships today, we are so pressed for time and often so exhausted, that the littlest things might be the turning point to lift our spirits. Here are 17 little things that can make a difference in your significant relationship(s).

It’s the little things that signal how much you care. 

It’s not what you say it’s what you do, is a phrase I’ve heard a lot in my past relationships, often as a battering ram to let me know things are not going well.

Texting is the modern love letter.

1. The Wakeup Message – “Good morning, sunshine. I know your presentation will kick ass.” The wakeup message is great for establishing a relationship-like rapport with someone, even before you’ve established a relationship. Just a simple “Thinking of you.” can brighten someone’s morning and give them warm thoughts that might lead to warmer acts later in the day.

2. The Little Flirt – “I can’t stop thinking about our makeout session last night.” Put that smile back on their face with a reminder of how good things went last time. Let them know you still have them on your mind. And give a simple nudge towards “next time” without mentioning it.

3. The Cheerleader Text – “You are going to rock those exams today.” Most of what we do for others is to provide a positive cheering section. When you know your partner is heading into a tough day, give them the little pocket vibration a few minutes before their event to let them know you’re with them in spirit.

4. Random Non-sequitur – Or Inside Joke – “Running shoes are sexy.” These are little bridges of connection that you begin to make with things that are important to the other person, running for example. And even if you may not share those passions you can high-five your friend on their enthusiasms.

5. Can I Get Anything For You? – “I’m at Costco, do you need anything?” Ah, the single parent’s dream. Remember when splitting the grocery duties were part of the plan? A good friend can easily offer to pick up some Costco bulk items. It’s a true sign of caring.

6. Fueling Desires – Often as single parents the actual time we get to be together alone is spaced by a lot of time apart. But you can heat up the flames of desire, just by letting the other person know something sexy is on you mind. “I’m kissing the back of your neck, in my mind.”

7. The Tuck In Message – “Good night, sweetie.” Ah, the last thing you think of at night is them. As you’re drifting off to sleep, let them know you will likely dream of them.

Actions Speak Louder Than Texts

8. Bring Random Goodies – The special food from the bakery across town can be just the thing to comfort a difficult day.

9. I’ve Got Dinner – Just let them know they can relax after work, you’ve got it covered. No cooking, no dishes, no effort. You’ll do it all.

10. A Peppermint Footrub – There is nothing more sensual than a good footrub with a special minty lotion. Sure, it may be a gateway to rubbing other things, but start with the feet.

11. Can I Give You a Massage? – Oh boy. One of the most exciting ways to give while receiving. I love giving massages. Depending on the intimacy between you, these can be clothed and casual or oily and wild. Again, it’s best to start these as non-sexual. And if the other person is tired, it’s best to stay there. Let them move things forward if they’re feeling it. Get into the touch and sight of their body. A feast for the eyes and hands.

12. Doing What They Like To Do – Even if you don’t like to run, it’s good form to go on a run from time to time, just to show your collaborative and supportive stripes. Or walk and run with them. Always offer.

13. Giving Them the Night Off – How can you take care of all the chores for one night? Can you give them a girl’s night out? Alone time build up desire, so make sure they get some so they can desire to see your smiling face even more next time.

14. The Tiny Gifts – A single flower, a bag of their favorite tangerines, a new essential oil massage oil. All these things show how you’re constantly thinking of them, and you want to appreciate them.

15. A Love Poem – So you’re not Shakespeare. But putting down a few words of affection, in random order, without syntax or reason, is a good sign of advanced expression of love. Sometimes it’s the two words that don’t belong together more than the three words “i love you” that unlocks a deeper expression. Try it. Read some love poems to help get you along your way. (See: Rumi and Neruda)

16. The Scented Bubble Bath – “Can I draw you a bath?” Again the best way to show affection is the caring things you can do that have no ulterior motives. If your partner is aroused by the candles and warm water they can initiate your participation. They might also like you to scrub their back and then leave them to soak.

17. Radiant Joy – Just let them know how much joy they bring into your life, not by doing anything, but just in being. And of course, being with you. Appreciations are the love drug of choice, we can never have enough appreciation.

It’s the little things that signal to another person how much you care about them. Sure the big things are more important, but it’s the little things that get you there. Even in the early stages of a relationship you can build the loving feeling by gifting the other person with some of these ideas. Share your appreciation and you’re likely to get some appreciation in return.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Please share your additional little love ideas in the comments.

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image: relax, janet ramsten, creative commons usage


My Divorce: A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

OFF-flyingchild

Step 4 of AA: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Today is a day of reflection. I am examining what I’m doing here on The Off Parent. Assessing the damage and progress of my self-observation, self-obsession, self-centered divorce blog. Let’s see if we can get to the heart of the matter.

  1. Strive to cut deep into the pain and healing of divorce recovery.
  2. Express anger and hurt without blaming the other person.
  3. Eliminate cynicism.
  4. Always go for the truth, my truth, the painful truth.
  5. Protect the innocent through anonymity and discretion.
  6. Write for my own personal journey and healing, if there is a reader that’s fine, but I am not writing for anyone but myself.
  7. Lift my psychology out of the hurt and sadness of depression and towards the healing and recovery for all the members of my family.
  8. Do no harm.
  9. Take on no more shame.
  10. Leave this discussion behind in favor of the next love and romance in my life.

Those are my goals. I’m not sure if I hit the mark with 100% of what is left here, but that was (is) my intention. I have progressed from a confused and angry soon-to-be-ex-husband to a hopeful and romantic single father. That’s the ultimate goal, and for that I give thanks.

Writing is therapy.

I hope you find love along your journey through whatever challenges you are facing. We can live through this shit together. And I will continue to light the way along my path so that you might learn from my trespasses and mistakes.

For me, when I write down an experience, I begin to understand it in new ways. I find common threads with other experiences in my life. I hear echoes of past hurts. I recognise the hopeful little boy who survived a crappy divorce and has now grown into a divorce and family of my own. And here on these pages, sometimes, I process the hard stuff, I leave behind puddles of blood and anger that I no longer need. I am discarding these stories as fast as I can write them. Discharging the energy they might still hold on my emotional life, by putting down the bones of truth, as I remember it.

I am not writing for you.

I am glad you are here. I have gotten a lot of support and love through the four years that I have been writing this blog. I have been amazed by some of the comments, troubled by some of the misunderstandings, and encouraged to keep digging for gold. Digging for the heart of joy that is still inside that needs encouragement to hope and dream of loving again.

And I have found the language for that love again. I am writing aspirational love poems. There are still a few divorce poems, but for the most part, this blog has transformed from angry/divorce/rant to relationship/love/discovery. Sure, there will always be flares of anger and sadness when managing the ongoing life of a single parent, but there are also great wins and joys that I am determined to celebrate here, right along side the struggle.

Next Steps

As I continue to change and challenge myself in the coming years, I hope this blog will continue to evolve with me. As I do find that next relationship, I hope that I can write with care and tenderness as “we” this woman and I, journey down the next road of our lives together. Or maybe that will be a different blog. I don’t know. And I’m not trying to get too far ahead of myself, here, or in my relationships.

As I grow and parent this blog will still be the rally point for my emotional triumphs and struggles. And as I struggle with depression, or employment difficulties, I will also try to pull back the armor and release the dragons that still loom ahead for me.

In all cases, I thank you for coming along for the journey thus far. I encourage you to start with the INDEX and read chronologically from the beginning. Or jump to any subject or thread that interests you at this time in your life. And if you have a comment, I value the feedback of my readers more than you can imagine. So tell me.

I hope you find love along your journey through whatever challenges you are facing. We can live through this shit together. And I will continue to light the way along my path so that you might learn from my trespasses and mistakes.

Final note: Why why why write about this painful stuff? My kids were 5 and 7 when my then-wife decided for all of us that she was done with this marriage and wanted to move on to some other configuration. We’re still reeling from the fallout. Not all of it has been bad, but all of it has been transformative. I give thanks that she had the courage to step into the unknown and make the choice she thought was right for her and thus for all of us. Whatever the motivation or past, we are now a family in divorce. We have commitments and connections that will never cease between all of us. And in my attempts to heal myself I hope to continue to be a positive influence in my kids and ex’s lives. We’re in this together. Let’s evolve to a higher discussion.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

related posts:

references: The 12-Steps of AA – wikipedia

image: practice, fabio bruna, creative commons usage


rushing into

poetry of love and desire

[from a second wave – poetry]

don’t you want to go with me
fall off the cliff
slip your disco
feel that rush of new love
don’t you want to go with me
is there something else
that you’ve just got to do
instead of falling in love
is there something more critical
to your life at this juncture
don’t you want to go with me
what can i do to give you this thrill
there’s nothing like it
we’ve been given more chances
to feel and feel and feel again
to free fall back into the arms
to risk everything
and nothing
don’t you want to go with me
slip into something more comfortable
find happy
and the simple touch of kisses
not demanding, not asking
just planted on your neck
i guess i’ve kind of got my bags packed
i’m thinking i’m ready
i’ve really got no clue
this second rushes by
and i’ll try and say the comforting thing
as i reach for your hand
to jump

don’t you want to come

5-26-14

image: JUMP!, creative commons usage


Three Loves: Eros, Filial, Agape

OFF-snakeI’ve been trying to create a lover from thin air. Using all my conjuring powers, all my musical and romantic tricks to summon the next great lover. And… I’m not sure I have been doing it right. I learned something this morning as I revved forward into a peaceful Sunday morning, alone.

At church I was listening and not listening to the sermon. I had not been in over a year. But I did love this preacher and this feeling of home that was comfort and solace in my past joys and pains. But for brief moments I was trolling. I was scanning the entire church for attractive women. WHAT?

Sid, was giving a sermon on love. WHAT? Maybe it was time to give my search a rest and listen. Maybe this morning was no random occurrence. And in my somewhat mixed state I listened and scanned. But I became aware of the frivolousness of my longing. The type-a searching, that had produced ZERO ecstatic partners, may not be serving me. What if I relaxed. Sat back. And grooved on being present and lovable. Loveable even to myself.

The words from a song by the band Bush kept running through my head.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breath out…

So, there was one woman. She was familiar. She had been part of the church for at least 5 years. She had joined as a recently divorced mom with a three-year-old daughter. She was beautiful.

Eros: is often thought of as the love of sex. But it’s much more than sexual. It’s the fire, the passion, the drive to create. And noticing that much of my eros, or erotic energy was focused on finding a partner, I could understand how that energy was being funneled away from the other creative passions. In my attempts to create the lover I wanted, to woo in a certain way that the other person becomes inflamed at the same level, was draining some of my resources and some of my beauty with all the effort.

It was not her. I was too intent on looking for someone. Perhaps I was too intent on “creating” someone who loved me back. But my impatience could lead me to a lot of unnecessary churn.

In fact, I want to let go and present myself a bit more low-key and wait for some of the flame to come from the other person. I wanted patience. Even in the heat and rush of passion I did not want to be the 90% generator of the flames. I would not create my lover. My lover needed to come fully created and meet me on the field. Anything else, was beginning to feel like pushing the river.

Filial Love: family, community, connectedness. This was the love I was being washed in, sitting alone with friends. Sometimes, in the darkness, even this filial love is not enough, and we’d rather stay in our quiet, dark, boxes and suffer alone. But just knowing that our family was out there, that our filial ties were strong even when we were all silent… Today I felt the family I had been missing. And the love from the family of origin that I had never gotten as a child.

Agape Love: the flat-out powerful love of the creator, however you care to imagine her. God, Jesus, Mohammed… Native American gods. All part of the whole. The GOD of gods. However you chose to believe, however you chose to be amazed, that was the god of Agape. And while it could be sustaining, it was not nourishing in the same way as the first two. And certainly not as filling and energetic as the first one, Erotic.

So if I am running around, poetry-ing, wooing, sending love letters to someone who I hope to awaken, perhaps I am draining some of the essence that I could be using elsewhere, if I just relaxed into the process. Time is the key. Time is everything. And timing is important too.

Let’s look at the woman in the congregation. She was obviously attractive to me and known to me. She was the only sexually attractive person in the congregation of about 120 people. And that’s it. We caught each other’s eye several times. I flirted in my mind, and tried to return to the message Sid was delivering. I had mixed results. But I did learn something.

  1. I found 1-person-out-of-120 people sexually attractive.
  2. Her physical beauty was what drew my attention in, as I was scanning.
  3. What I knew about her, other than her initial introduction to the church, was nothing. She was alone today, but that’s all I could tell.
  4. She smiled at me. Or was she smiling in my direction? Hard to know.

If I had been determined and focused on finding a partner I might have stayed after church and initiated a conversation with her. I didn’t.

This one attractive person was amazing, and the revelation of my above-average tastes was also revealing.

I do understand the commitment, beyond all measure, to continue the search for love and loving within the entire arc of our relationship.

It was not her. I was too intent on looking for someone. Perhaps I was too intent on “creating” someone who loved me back. But my impatience could lead me to a lot of unnecessary churn.

I learned something from what Sid said about marriage today and the line of the marriage vow, the part about “until death do us part.” It seems so archaic today. Do we really believe in marriage, or that vow, with today’s marriage statistics?

What I learned, or heard at least, was that this vow was more about commitment. Could we commit to wanting and working towards a love that would last. That we could put ourselves all in, and vow to do whatever it takes to keep the relationship and love growing, in spite of setbacks both personal, financial, and physical? Could we say YES to the full thrust of the LOVE we were being asked to participate in?

It’s food for thought. I don’t know about marriage. I don’t know what the ring and the vows mean today, in my life. But I do understand the commitment, beyond all measure, to continue the search for love and loving within the entire arc of our relationship. Where it will all lead, that is more of a mystery. But when she shows up before me, and says, “YES,” I won’t hesitate. I will know. But I can’t go out questing for her. I can’t write poems to capture her. I cannot make her into the lover I imagine.

Trying is not fair to either of us.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: snake, hand, bokeh, james lee, creative commons usage


symphony and storm

bridge of a cello

[from Making Love To Other Women – poetry]

in symphony and storm
i lean into the idea you leave inside me
in crash and fire
song and string
i can only imagine your caress here and now
in the flashing dark
i would swallow you whole
if there were a way to take you
with me
to satisfy the hunger for your skin
and smile
and laughter
it is easier in this moment
to point out what won’t work
than to hope towards the fit we crave
the exposed heart
opened again
vulnerable
but the trembling drums
and flashes of brilliance
illuminate just an outline
of what is possible
of how you felt
of what i can remember

we could try and pretend
that our souls weren’t seeking connection
we can say we’re complete, alone
but we can’t deny the fireworks
and the warmth that caught our minds
when we met
when across the room
our two broken spirits
recognized a kindred ache

it might be easier to listen
to the no
the reasons for avoiding the flame
and the fearful counsel of the firefighters
and weathermen
predicting more storms ahead

but under the rumble i hear the timpani
in the shuddering booms i know the melody
and in your arms
i’ve held one more cello
tight and warm
to my chest
and listened
to your breathing
seeking echoes
or rests

in this night of symphony and storm
i hold a projection of you
who i imagine you to be
who i hoped for in previous attempts
at writing the masterpiece

today i have a few notes
some scribbled maps, burned at the edges
and a hope

5-13-14

image: cello bridge, andrew sutherland ,creative commons usage

symphonyandstorm-2014


Little Turnoffs: On a First Date with a Woman

bad date issues - the off parent

A reader of my 5 First Date Tips for Women asked a cool question and I thought I’d take a run at the little things that make men go “nu uh.”

Have you done a post on what signs/signals a woman gives in the first few dates, or things she might say or do, that make you say, ‘nu uh’ ? Of course it’s different for everyone, but curious what makes your interest wane. And I don’t mean the big stuff, necessarily, like her being racist or something similar…just the little things that make you shut down.

A. She’s late: Variation: She’s late and keeps making excuses, or is overly apologetic when she does arrive. Immediate KO Variation: She’s late and making excuses because clearly she is one of the most disorganized people you’ve ever met.

Bottom line: Don’t be late. There’s no excuse. If you don’t know where you’re meeting, say so, get directions, plan ahead, get there early. Getting to the date early gives you a chance to pick the table, your seat, and get a feel for the location before your potential arrives. If you get behind, a car wreck causing massive traffic jams, don’t make a big deal about it. Offer to reschedule if it looks like you’re going to be more than 10 minutes late. If you’re potential is still interested, then say you’re sorry once and move on.

B. She’s Got No Game: She’s got very little to talk about besides work, working out, and reality tv shows. What excites you? What are you planning when you’re not just working out? Are killer abs your highest goal? If there are no areas of interest that overlap, we’re going to cool down really fast. Listen to what I’m talking about and see if you can join in. I’m doing the same when you’re talking.

Stay present and honest. A lot of information is processed between two people on their first date. Timing, speech patterns, body language, scent, eye contact…

C. She’s Distracted: If you’re checking your phone we’re done, unless you are on-call as a brain surgeon. If you can’t maintain eye contact, because you’re so interested in what’s going on around us, there’s a problem. You don’t have to get googly-eyed at me, but make sure I know you’re listening and joining in the conversation.

D. She’s Not Over Her Last Relationship: Eventually we’re going to get to our stories. If we’re the same age it’s likely we’ve been divorced and have kids. And we do want to know what happened, but ease us into the tragic tale. Resentment and anger at your ex is a huge red flag. I’m not interested in being a stand-in for your unfinished business. Hopefully you and you’re ex have made the kids a priority and are going on about your lives without obsessing on each other’s faults.

E. She Doesn’t Light Up: I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you’re interested show it. You don’t have to bubble, but letting me know you’re happy, or excited is good. Giving me some indications early on, that you’re leaning-in to the idea is a good form of encouragement. And that’s what we’re really trying to do here, encourage the other person to be interested in us. If you appear bored, you’re showing me we’re a miss before we’ve even gotten started. And that’s okay, but it’s better if you just say it. Chemistry is something that is either there or it isn’t. But please don’t pretend it’s okay when you’d rather be brushing your teeth.

F. She Doesn’t Ask “What’s Next?”: So things have gone well on both sides, as far as I can tell. And we’re wrapping up. Please let me know if you’re interested in doing it again. That awkward moment, “Um, so… What are you doing this weekend?” is awkward on both sides. But a simple “What’s next,” can break the ice and make for a very easy conversation about timing and availability. Show you’re interested by initiating the conversation. Traditionally it’s up to the man, but we can both try and give the YES or NO signals more clearly.

There are very few nights you have to date, and fewer when you have the energy to do it. So let’s make the most of it.

Dating as an adult has a lot of advantages. For the most part, you don’t need the other person. Your identity is not invested in if they like you or not. You’re independently established and can pick and choose where to put your energy. If you’re interested in finding a partner, some of that energy should be spent dating.

There are disadvantages too. You’ve got kids and a complex schedule. There are very few nights you have to date, and fewer when you have the energy to do it. So let’s make the most of it. The simplest, quickest path to a yes or a no is best for everyone involved. You don’t have to be rude. You don’t need to gawk when their online dating profile photos don’t seem to match who you’re sitting with, by a long shot. But don’t say, “Okay, well, let’s do it again” when you mean, “Not a chance.”

Stay present and honest. A lot of information is processed between two people on their first date. Timing, speech patterns, body language, scent, eye contact, etc. Make sure you’re giving out the right signals, and hopefully I will make my feelings known as well. When we don’t have enough time, efficiency is our best ally.

We can do better, so, let’s do better.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

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image: iphone date, Ding Yuin Shan, creative commons usage


What Is A Love Poem?

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 10.10.14 AM

Why does love elude accurate descriptions? Why is love perhaps the most sought after ghost and the song most sung by those of us who feel?

And the love letter too. So sad that such delicate work is not more widely shared. Often the masterpiece of passion and longing is shared by only two. Is it the privacy that makes it special. Is it the voyeurism that makes them so tasty to read?

Putting love, or our fleeting attempts to capture love, is a grand tradition. I am doing nothing unique or especially different. Of course, my word stream for it will be different from yours. Do you let yours out? If you gave expression to a love poem, right now, what would that sound that ringing of letters tell about your feelings.

Each love poem is a measure of the heart. Often those measurements and mappings are colored by the day’s events. Occasionally they are triggered by a smell, a memory, a glimpse of a photograph that held a tiny sliver of magic.

If we open up our own hearts, opening the veins a little, and let the expressions tumble out, even just for ourselves, we become more familiar with the soundings of our hearts. And as we get more comfortable with the process an amazing thing begins to happen. There is more love.

As we pay attention to certain things they become more important in our lives. And what is more important than love?

Word by word I try to get down something of my longing, quickly, unedited, and with the full force of my feelings. As best I can. But there are many things in the way of a love poem. Chores. Money requirements and thus work. Sadness. (Though finding a voice for the sadness is a way to release what might be underneath, longing for love.)

And poetry is not for everyone. Perhaps a clearly written love letter would be more to the point.

However for me, there is great freedom in allowing my heart and linguistic brain to try to hook up for a moment. Bypassing the editorial board for a minute, I occasionally achieve a satisfying result. But even the bad poems have a purpose. Even writing a poor love letter is better than not expressing that love at all.

Something about letting the expression out of your heart, through your words and sounds and letters on a page, that gives room for more. Each love poem inspires the next. And if you can nurture that “lover’s voice” wouldn’t you rather be speaking in tongues, than writing up another to-do list?

Each. Poem. Has. Value.

And if you write love poems or love letters, focusing on LOVE is a powerful medicine. And the transformation takes place without any effort once you let the flow start. Your heart and language begin to connect more frequently. You see things as LOVE again. You observe love or lack of love in the world, but rather than squelch it off you give voice to your feelings on the subject. It’s a process of opening yourself again to love and loving.

And of course, love is dangerous. If I let myself fall into a poetic trance and forget to pick up my child from school, there are consequences. If I muse for the entire afternoon without getting my work for money done, I’m not serving my life very well.

So love poems have to be tucked into our lives where ever and when ever we can find the impulse. There are so many distractions and requirements that would rather us not pay attention to our hearts, our impulses towards beauty. But with each turning back towards the heart, with each sounding out of a poem of desire, we strengthen that voice in our lives.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

image via creative commons use – beauty in death

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Is This Not A Divorce Blog Anymore? WTF?

still from stealing beauty

I’m not happy. Okay, I’m not mad either. I’m sort amused. “je m’amuse” my crappy French for, I amuse myself.

Here’s what’s funny to me. I’m looking at the current list of posts >> over there on the side navigation and I’ve just about blown the whole set of links with POETRY. What? When did this become a poetry blog? I’m sorry, I’m confused, too.

Here’s what I think is happening.

  • I’m happy. (I know I just said I wasn’t happy, but that’s not true.)
  • I’m lonely. (Not that I am not enjoying my time, because I am, but I’m also … longing.)
  • When I’m creative I write poetry and songs. (God, I hope this doesn’t become a music blog.)
  • Maybe it’s the change of the seasons. (And the ramp up towards my birthday is usually a time of great joy and striving.)

What I know about myself, is when my life is in top form, I am writing, writing, writing. All kinds of writing. (Music, poems, techie stuff, and this divorce/dating/dad thing, here.) So I’m ripping through a lot of content these days, here and elsewhere in my life. And what I think I am doing is allowing my mind to wander into the what ifs and wants of my heart. Not censoring or editing the romantic form, but amplifying it by giving it form on the page, an image to echo from.

I am sounding out the dark edges of my heart, here on this blog. And where three years ago the song came back harsh and hard, today the music is more lyrical and aspirational.

I won’t try to imagine a woman wandering into this garden and trying to make sense of the messiness. I will let my friend find her own way with all the material. She will either pick up the songs and the poems and reply or she won’t. That part I can be certain is not up to me.

And where would I go, if the symphony were to come alive with a new lover? What new form would I need to construct to hold an arrival and collaboration? I know it won’t be to broadcast it here. ACTUAL LOVE is much too fragile to publish. Longing is much more safe.

First, I am letting the words come to express what I am looking for. Sometimes that’s in the form of “dating” posts. But recently, it has come in the form of a more fluid language. I imagine that I am plumbing the edges of my desire with these streams of words, like sonar pings, searching for the boundaries and reflections. I am also writing them to make my love song more real, both for myself, and for any future lover who trips into my garden.

Second, in giving flight to all this poetry, I am slightly freed from the darker work of divorce, anger, sadness. What I think I’m saying, is this blog has evolved from a catharsis to an aspiration. In the early days of divorce I was wounded, howling, and acting out. Today I am patient, alone, and singing.

An amazing thing happened last night, but I don’t want to say too much about it. But a turn of events led me to share this blog with someone who I’m still very much interested in. I’m going to hold back the story, of course, because it is likely these words will soon be read by her… Hmmm. Isn’t this a fine kettle of fish?

As I wondered aloud, last night, about the wisdom of sharing such raw emotion with a future potential, she was happy to rejoin with encouragement. I can’t imagine what it would be like. She must have felt, last night, from time to time, as I burst out in lines of longing, as if she was in fact walking into some elaborately laid out trap.

Of course that’s not the case. This is not a labyrinth. Unless it is a labyrinth of my own imaginings. I mention snares, and nets, and quarries, but I am not hunting an animal. I am not hunting. But I am doing something. And maybe pulling the poems out of the “divorce” story will help them shine for what they are, love poems. In the classic sense of the term, I am trying to voice all the many abstract ways LOVE occurs to me.

What I know about myself, is when my life is in top form, I am writing, writing, writing. All kinds of writing. (Music, poems, techie stuff, and this divorce/dating/dad thing, here.) So I’m ripping through a lot of content these days, here and elsewhere in my life. And what I think I am doing is allowing my mind to wander into the what ifs and wants of my heart. Not censoring or editing the romantic form, but amplifying it by giving it form on the page, and an image to echo from.

I am sounding out the dark edges of my heart, here on this blog. And where three years ago the song came back harsh and hard, today the music is more lyrical and aspirational. I won’t try to imagine a woman wandering into this garden and trying to make sense of the messiness. I will let my friend find her own way with all the material. She will either pick up the songs and the poems and reply or she won’t. That part I can be certain is not up to me.

And where would I go, if the symphony were to come alive with a new lover? What new form would I need to construct to hold an arrival and collaboration? I know it won’t be to broadcast it here. ACTUAL LOVE is much too fragile to publish. Longing is much more safe.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

image: is a still from the movie Stealing Beauty

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Dating Part-time After Divorce: I Get It, It Is Hard To Make Time

dating after divorce - finding time

I get it. It’s hard to find the time to date. Even when you have opportunities, and willing partners, sometimes it’s just more of a hassle than going on your own. Let me share an example about my evening, tonight.

I’m invited to a cool house party for a musician friend who’s going to perform. And I sort of have two potential “dates” for the evening, but… I’m not calling either one. What? Hard to get closer, hard to find another lover, if we’re always going by ourselves. Let’s examine.

So in the slice of time that is available outside of being a single parent, and doing our work, there is some space for another person.

My first choice would be the second “woman with potential” who has been renamed “the muse.” After three months of courting, on all available “every other Saturday nights” we never even shared a sexual kiss. It’s okay. But having an aspirational relationship is one thing. Being in a relationship with someone who’s not that interested in going further, is another. And after her three-week vacation up East, she’s been too busy to get together. Best to let that sleeping muse rest quietly in her own world. She was happy and self-sufficient before I came into the picture, and she’ll be fine with or without me. She’s still aspirational, but on an artistic plane, rather than relationship one. Okay.

My second choice would mark a fourth date with a woman from OK Cupid. She’s cute enough and smart enough. And we’ve hinted around sexual discussions enough to know that an opening could be available for that. But… She’s not who I’m looking for. And I guess she’s knows it. My several “wanna have lunch” texts, which were really about having lunch, have gone unanswered. I guess she senses the heat is on or I’d be more active.

There’s even a third woman who came on pretty strong on OK Cupid and has since then gone dark. I just opened the site to see what she’s up to and she’s apparently blocked me or dropped off the site. Okay.

There will be negotiations to find the slice of available time to be together, but it will be an effort in mutual attraction.

So, I could call one of the first two women. And make plans to have a drink and some food before the show. And get a little contact time with either of these lovely women. BUT, it’s easier to not call them and go to the show alone. Maybe there will be a nice woman there to chat up. (grin)

So in the slice of time that is available outside of being a single parent, and doing our work, there is some space for another person. But the more you get into the alone time the harder it is to work to fill it with opportunities. So the time goes along, and we’re alone, and it’s okay.

I’m pretty sure this is the story with the Muse. She’s not had a long-term relationship for years and years. And her sixteen year old daughter needs her. But even she said, “I might be using her to keep from making time available to be in a relationship.” And the bigger tell was when she returned from a three-week hiatus and hasn’t really made any effort to connect. Then again, neither have I.

I write the love poems to soothe myself. I improve my fitness to make myself feel better about myself. And I am readying the live band show in two weeks to bring my full creative potency back into fruition.

And when she shows up it won’t have to be WORK. There will be negotiations to find the slice of available time to be together, but it will be an effort in mutual attraction.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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The Light At the End of the Tunnel, It’s Yours

feeling okay after divorceThings are not going to work out the way you think they are. Most of the time, that’s a given. Still we can aspire towards the next great LOVE with energy and abandon. I do. And yet, I have a new patience. A self-quieted place of peace. I’m not in a hurry. I’m not struggling, even with things that should probably worry me a lot more than they are. I’m at peace.

Tonight when I went for my long walk and ended it with a dip in the lake, I was filled with mixed emotions as the very old and very grey couple arrived with their dog to join me in the lake. The man entered first and was very chatty. He showed me how his bull terrier (Spuds McKenzie type dog) liked to catch buckets of water as he threw them in the air. Both the boy and his dog were satisfied and blissful with their connection. His wife sat nearby pulling off her walking clothes.

To love and really LOVE we’ve got to find that light within ourselves that is not dependant nor extinguished by another person.

As I sat on the bank, getting my shoes on I marveled at how she too entered the water with joy and purpose. Playfully, grabbing the red ball from her husband and tossing it up the bank. I could see the beauty in her 70+ year-old body and the loving light still in her eyes for both her man and their dog. And in that moment of reflection, when the thought occurred to me, “This is what I wanted,” I got a new message.

I’ve got more time between my age and their age then both of my marriages combined. There’s no hurry. I have so many adventures ahead. I have time to fall in love over and over again. While I’d really dream of having the next ONE, I can see that this projection of my future is flawed. It would be great. It would be my fantasy to be retired by a lake with a dog and a loving wife deep into my 70’s, 80’s, and beyond. And if it’s the same woman, even better.

But.

What if this couple just met? What if they have been dating only a few weeks, and this was a date rather than a routine and loving evening swim? Does this make any difference in my observation of their joy and closeness? At that moment it does not. And in my next and next and next relationship, perhaps that is the same joy I will get to feel again. While I would prefer not to suffer the downside of breakups and hurt feelings, those things might happen.

To love and really LOVE we’ve got to find that light within ourselves that is not dependant nor extinguished by another person. I am fueled by the idea of joining my flame with another creatively hot woman, but I am content to renew my focus, again and again, and find ways to continually rekindle my passion.

She is here. I like to say, or imagine. But at the moment she is somewhere else. But I am here. And the couple at the lake, regardless of their relationship status, showed me the joy I have to look forward to. The simple pleasure of a shared swim, a moment together playing with a dog, a lightly applied kiss.

I know, I am burning brighter than I was a year ago. And it’s my task to keep stoking and strengthening myself, regardless of MY relationship status. I am here. And I am actively waiting.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Last Good Moment Before the Storm: Rockstar Fantasy Camp

the last good day

It may have been the last good day of my marriage. Though I can see from my weight that I was stressed beyond belief. And it was only a few months later that I sold the prized Strat I was playing, along with several thousand dollars worth of music gear, that seemed to be saying, GROW UP, get a real job, forget this hobby of yours.

We pulled up out of the debt crisis and I landed a job just before Christmas, that put us back in the black for a few short months.

This was the last time my band played live. And it was the first time in 4 or so years. Of course I had given up the rock star dream many years ago, but the dream-fragments linger long. And what I am learning now, is my passion to write, sing, and perform live music is a CORE piece of my happiness.

As I was struggling to understand my parents hateful divorce and my dad’s drift even further away from us kids, and further into alcoholism, I turned to Lou Reed and the Ramones to express my anger. But something else was happening in the basement room that became my “studio.” I was learning how powerful music could be in my life. I have never mentally left that tiny room-of-my-own where I played Lou Reed’s Vicious, over and over and over with various friends holding down whatever instrumental duties they could muster.

Ears ringing we would emerge dazed, but somewhat empowered, by our ability to make a cacophony of notes organize into the semblance of a song. The first SONG I wrote was just before I checked into a mental hospital for a bit of aberrant behavior in my teens. It became an anthem, even for my friends who supported and stood by me during this difficult period. It was called The Shoal Creek Blues. (The name of the kid’s ward was Shoal Creek.) The second song I wrote was a bit more direct.

You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die
Like an animal

While the first one captured the ennui I was experiencing the summer my life came apart, the first time. The second one captured the anger I felt at how things were not going according to any plan I was offered growing up.

I can almost recall the melody to the first one. And I can sing “Die Like An Animal” right now, though I’ve never recorded either of them.

As I was selling my musical instruments to make a couple mortgage payments, and the ex-y and I were looking at “options” I now know that her total contributed income that year, after deducting expenses, was LESS THAN ZERO.

So, can I infer from that, that the money stress that was killing our marriage, was MY FAULT? Or, now in hindsight, can I see that she was hammering me to get it together, and “looking for a job” herself, but the selling of my musical gear was… (I’ll leave that thought right there.)

So after the hardest economic period of my marriage (because we had burned through any money from the sale of my condo – owned before marriage) I finally landed a job with a company that seemed ready to finally fulfill some of my economic promise, and reward me for the hard work I had been doing trying to launch this social media consulting thing for three years. So after that…

I was in San Francisco the first week of my hire. I was amazed that things had happened so fast, but I’d gotten a competing offer from Dell and this new company snatched me up and whisked me off to CA to introduce me and get me oriented to my new team. It seemed like a win to me.

The ex-y was also relieved, but her response was very different. Within 24-hours of hitting San Francisco we were fighting about money. And she was hammering me about when the new insurance would kick in so we could stop paying COBRA (from my last job) on the insurance for the family.

No honeymoon. No celebration. Just “where’s the fucking money?” At least that’s how it felt. Of course she was in a more feral position. She was probably feeling backed into a corner with me, the now “sometimes reliable” breadwinner. And IF she had been looking for work, that had not turned out as easy as she imagined it would. She hadn’t submitted a resume since right after college.

Well, things at the new SF company were not as they had been presented. It was hard. Not only was my then-wife giving me hell, my new manager, the Creative Director of this “life saving” job, had indeed approved my HIRE, but he was not happy about it. Apparently I had been strong-armed onboard by the new CMO-CTO a former colleague at Dell.

He was uncooperative from the moment my plan was delayed in LA en-route to SF. And things went from hello to fuck you pretty quickly. Still, I felt, under the wing of my former colleague and the head of this company’s social media division, I would weather any asshole’s diabolical plan.

In the meantime, things at home did not lighten up. I recall a phone conversation I had with the ex-y a few days after I’d arrived in SF.

“You should come to San Francisco and meet everyone. We could have a second honeymoon. My mom said she’d take the kids.”

“We can’t afford it.”

“We can figure that out. We need some together time. We need some vacation.”

“It would not be a vacation to me. It would be insanity.”

There you go. Two very different approaches to life. On a collision course through marriage to hit the iceberg. Well, I did not see it. She was drawing maps to the lifeboats.

Still, that summer before I had demanded, again on the promise of a NEW CONTRACT GIG that was paying me well.

“I’d like to go play the California festival this summer. They’ve asked me.”

“We can’t really afford that.”

“And I’d like you and the kids to come with me.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

I’m not sure if it was or was not a good idea, but my daughter still remembers seeing me live on stage doing my thing. And we swam and swam in the pool, and went to Legoland. For me, it was a lifetime achievement. I’m not sure what the ex-y was calculating or thinking about when she didn’t join us in the pool. But I’d have to say, it was the last great moment, even as she was disconnecting from me and my rocket ship of a dream, and occasional free fall when the experimental engines failed.

I believe, that’s part of life. Rocketing when you have reliable employment and fuel and momentum. Recovery and rebuilding when you don’t.

During the last refueling stop, after this trip to California, when she had “amazingly” still not found a job and the SURE THING CONTRACT company had actually fired the woman who got me the gig… Free fall.

But freefall with wonderful memories and family moments. Free fall with just a touch of rock star. Free fall with a family and woman I still loved madly.

When the ex-y made the decision that the escape pod was her best option, she got a job in a matter of weeks. She manufactured a job, created a position, and enabled her release from my capsule. Of course, I wasn’t really to figure any of this out until the SF job fell apart and she said she wanted a divorce in the same two weeks.

And really, it’s only with this writing that I’m putting the picture together with a bow around it. She was not happy with my dreams. She didn’t want to honeymoon in SF, even if “my mom said she’d take the kids and it’s only going to cost $550.” She was already on the “where is the emergency stop button” path.

I’m happy to say, I’m gearing up for my NEXT live gig in two months. The festival I played in California is now coming to my hometown. I accepted the offer to play. As they say in the Blue Brothers. “We’re getting the band back together.”

I am looking for a new co-pilot, however. (grin)

Here’s my band playing in 2009. The song was written during this rough period, about depression and acceptance. It’s “just another day.” Nothing to get too worked up about, or to down about. Just weather the storm and keep going. It was actually written after a comment the ex-y made about living with depression.

I’d prefer to live without it. (grin) But when it’s here, you just do the best you can, stay close (the part the ex-y could never handle) and know “that it always gets better.”

It DOES always get better. If you’re dealing with depression, post-divorce, pre-divorce, or not relationship related. Please seek help. You can get to the other side of the storm. It’s JUST ANOTHER DAY.

Sincerely

The Off Parent

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The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

 


After Divorce Strengthening Your Core Happiness Becomes Even More Important

OFF-openheart

The first “girlfriend” I had after divorce asked me early on in our dating experience, “What do you look like when you are happy?” She saw me struggling a bit with depression and sadness around my divorce and she genuinely wanted to know what my joy looked like. Perhaps so she could recognize it if it showed up, or to make sure she would still be in the mix when my happiness kicked off.

We’ve got a lot of programs to help strengthen your core abdominals, and therapy and philosophy to help us lift our hearts out of depression, but we are just learning about happiness. What makes people happy verses miserable. Guess what? It’s INSIDE YOU. It is not the other person. It’s not even your circumstances.

I know this sounds all woo woo, and looks a bit like a bumper sticker, but let me share a moment from an amazing book I’m reading. In this book a woman has recently been told by her husband that he no longer loves her. It throws her world into a tailspin, BUT… She decides, has decided before it happens, NOT to let other’s or circumstances dictate her inner joy. She has just come back from a vacation retracing her college year abroad in Italy, where this moment happened for her. (She travelled with her daughter. Her husband and son stayed back in Montana.)

I was lying in bed that last day in Florence, looking at my daughter sleeping with her mouth open, listening to a dog bark on a balcony above the streets of Florence–the Vespas whizzing by, the polite exchanges of Buongiorno, the smell of coffee, and yes, exhaust, and something very old.

But I didn’t feel the panic I’d thought I would, knowing I had to leave all of it behind. The desperate need to go out in that world beyond the thick wooden shutters and our own tiny balcony just one more time alone–to feel twenty and charged. The frenzy to contact my old footprints, in a state of ravenous adventure. I didn’t need to be anywhere other than in my bed watching my daughter sleep.

In not quite a twenty-year-old’s voice, but not quite a forty-year-old’s either, I hear, quiet and with morning breath, It’s all here. It always was. — Laura Munson

Wow. For me, what that meant, that epiphany she had, was letting go of the need to jump up and accomplish, or jump up and adventure ahead into the world of the exciting, and instead to merely BE PRESENT. BE AWARE OF THE JOY. LISTEN. BREATHE.

When you have kids, one of the most magical experiences is watching them sleep. There, just out of reach is your flesh and blood set off on a new mystical trajectory.

I know it sounds kind of simple and zen, but the reality is quite simple. And I too have been studying how to get there, to achieve inner peace, even under extenuating and challenging circumstances. And while I am often NOT there, on occasion, when I can take the time to notice the simple joy of things, I CAN BE HAPPY. And it’s not about anyone else. Or the money in my bank account, or if my king-size bed is filled with two cats and a dog rather than a lover. MY INNER PEACE comes from stopping the rush to be/do/accomplish.

When you have kids, one of the most magical experiences is watching them sleep. There, just out of reach is your flesh and blood set off on a new mystical trajectory. And if things seemed hard or frightening, you could return to that quiet, that calm of their secure and loved slumber, and imagine the same nurturing for yourself. By loving them deeply, you learn to love yourself.

I want to give the ex-y this book. But why? Do I hope to fix her? To help her? Do I still wish her happiness? Or do I want to show her what an actualized woman did in the face of her husband’s struggles?

I won’t. I’ve learned that extending energy to others, when it has not been invited, is simply a waste of energy. I gave her a CD a year ago. (Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong) I had hoped to speak to her through some of the words of this music. Three weeks later, the CD was right where she had put it on the kitchen counter. I took it back. I could use it in my car.

She was not interested in hearing or feeling into what happened between us. What failed. She’s moved on, a bit too quickly, in my opinion, but that’s her struggle and her happiness that I can no longer take any part in.

The song, Time Spent In Los Angeles, talks about seeing “that special kind of sadness, that tragic set of charms.” And the moment that I was trying to capture and share was something about when I left my rock star dreams (during a pop rock festival in Los Angeles) behind to become a more realistic husband.

But in my CORE HAPPINESS I am playing music. And the man she met was fully actualized. I was playing in a band, playing live, and writing music. That’s the man she fell in love with. And then something changed. Kids. Money. Work. 9-11. But it changed in her, not in me.

I remained, remain, a musician and happy artist. And I am MOST happy when I’m creating music and poetry. Maybe the music and poetry can bring on the happiness, I don’t know. But I have not lost my joy at playing and writing, even if it’s for my kids and me alone.

From time to time we lose sight of what makes us most happy. But we must keep listening. We must keep stopping in the moment, when the happiness is strongest, and firming it in.

And I won’t pass judgement on her at this point. Her core happiness is up to her to discover. And maybe it’s found with another relationship. Maybe there’s someone out there who “always” completes us. But I don’t think that’s where it’s found.

My joy is up to me. My core happiness comes from my own commitment to dig into it. And more importantly to give up on the outcome of the product and simply enjoy the process. Sure, I’d like everyone to enjoy one of my songs, someday. But the joy I experience at catching a moment just right (in song, poem, or even her in this confession) is mine alone. No amount of praise, fame, or money, or lack of those things can affect my inner satisfaction.

This is not an easy place to find in yourself. And from time to time we lose sight of what makes us most happy. But we must keep listening. We must keep stopping in the moment, when the happiness is strongest, and firming it in. Affirming, as Laura Munson did in Italy.

THIS RIGHT HERE. THIS IS MY JOY. BREATHE. AND REMEMBER THIS, no matter what.

REMEMBER YOUR INNER JOY IS YOURS ALONE.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: open heart, sebastian schrimpf, creative commons usage


Creative Parenting and the Gifts of Enthusiastic Participation

playing with the kidsI used to get criticized by the ex-y for how much I liked to play with the kids as opposed to discipline and enforce rules with them. (I think this is a very common husband – wife issue.) She would want the family to do chores and I’d be out back chasing them around the yard, or playing tickle tag on the bed, completely messing the house up.

Maybe men and women have different styles. The dad is the one who’s supposed to rough-house. The mom is the one who’s supposed to offer comfort and tenderness. The dad is the one who’s supposed to play games, incite rule-breaking, and ignore curfews. The mom is the one who has to slog away in the kitchen until the dishes are done and the counters are all spotless.

My kids have never wondered about how much I loved them. I was usually there wrestling and hugging and soothing the bumps that come from falling off the bed the 15th time.

BUT… I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be this way. And I think my ex-y could have had a profound affect on the kids had she spent more time in high-energy play rather than angry-energy chore-master.

Let’s see how things have turned out so far.

My kids have never wondered about how much I loved them. I was usually there wrestling and hugging and soothing the bumps that come from falling off the bed the 15th time. We have a physical closeness that still draws them to jump in the “big bed” when they stay over at my house. WIN.

While my musical pursuits have never paid off financially, both my kids love music and they both play an instrument. My son, 12, even got a middle-school award for his orchestra enthusiasm. WIN.

Gaming and other flights of imagination. My son has become the ringleader of a small band of Minecraft kids from his school. Essentially they quest together, with my son playing the narrator role. (Like dungeon master in D n D.)

And while my kitchen sink is still often filled with dishes (how did I buy a house without a dishwasher again?) my kids are clean, happy, and on-time for school and other events. And there is ZERO nagging or complaining about chores or homework. It’s a very different place here at my house, than the days when I was parenting with the ex-y.

And perhaps some of it comes down to core approach to relationships. In an early example, I recall my then-wife demanding of my 2nd-grade daughter, “If you don’t get your homework done, right now, there will be no TV.” My daughter burst into tears. As I joined the scene, I asked, “Hey honey, how’s your homework going? Is there anything I can help you with?”

My kids have been raised to expect a warm and joining approach to school work, problems, and aspirations. I’m always on their side. And they have been given an example of a life filled with enthusiastic play and love of playing music.

One approach was authoritarian and matter of fact, but it lacked any compassion or connectivity with the child. My approach was to join with my daughter and see what she needed to get her work done.

My kids are continuing to thrive after the divorce. And I give credit to my ex-y for working hard to keep our friction out of our kid’s lives. But she treats me in the same way she commanded my daughter, “Where’s the money you owe me? How much can you pay? When can you pay it? Oh, and btw, I’m sorry you’re having trouble.” I guess it’s the way she was raised.

My kids have been raised to expect a warm and joining approach to school work, problems, and aspirations. I’m always on their side. And they have been given an example of a life filled with enthusiastic play and love of playing music. I think those are transferable skills that will continue to serve them throughout their lives. And I couldn’t be happier with that picture.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Every Other Saturday Night: Dating After Divorce

OFF-dating-devil

If you’ve got kids and you are divorced you’re most likely on an every-other weekend schedule like me. While it affords plenty of opportunities for self-improvement and creative endeavors, it’s hell on dating. AND if your “date” is also divorced with children, chances are their schedule is exactly opposite from yours, if they’re on the SPO prescribed by the state and enforced on 80% of Texas men, for example.

Okay, so you’ve got approximately two weekends a month to do as you please.

TIME is what we need to figure out how compatible we are. TIME is what it takes, for me, to understand adoration and appreciation, apart from the drive to have SEX or be in a relationship.

In trying to move a  significant love interest forward (I’d place the remaining woman with potential in this category) it is hard not to press for some commitment. Some indication that we are in a relationship. We’ve snuggled. We’ve hugged goodbye and had the occasional closed-mouth kiss. And then we’re off to the static silence that is the rest of the week in a busy single-parent’s life. She has a 16 year-old daughter, and that entails a lot. AND… of course we are both hyper-committed parents. For me that runs a staggered schedule, for her, with the father no longer in the picture, it’s 24/7 mothering.

So rather than asking for some sign, I’m looking at the time. There is not much time to be together. And the joining takes effort and intentionality on both of our parts to make it happen. Why do I need some profession, some major milestone (a passionate kiss, lovemaking) to confirm our relationship? Do I? It might just be my longing and desire for those things, rather than some insecurity.

In terms of my available weekend nights, this summer, I have two Saturday nights a month. (I take my kids THU/FRI during summer vacation.) And now, with a little imagination, I can establish “dates” on those two nights and make the most of what is available.

I kept thinking, “Well, she’s really busy.” But it’s ME that has the time. And for real relaxed socialization, the weekend offers the most return. So Saturdays it is. Every other Saturday.

That’s not a lot of time to get time together. And today, at this moment, I’m okay with that. I admit to getting restless and desirous and checking my OKCupid profile for any “visitors” who might look interesting. BUT, in general, I think this developing story serves me well.

  1. I am busily working on my creative craft (writing, journaling, playing music)
  2. I am reinvigorated in my fitness and slimming quest
  3. I have an engine of passion and longing in imagining “being” with her (and this serves the love poem, and love song output quite well)
  4. And with things still being OPEN, I have flexibility and opportunity to explore whatever whims happen to arrive

TIME is what we need to figure out how compatible we are. TIME is what it takes, for me, to understand adoration and appreciation, apart from the drive to have SEX or be in a relationship. I want those things. BUT, I’m clear that my mistakes of the past will not foreshadow my next relationship commitment.

I can use every ounce of energy to improve MYSELF and MY VISION, and continue to dig into the wacky meanderings of my mind and my past/future mistakes. Most of all, I can stay present.

When I jump in, this next time, I intend to jump in feet first. Both times I fell head-first in love and married some of the fundamental parts of the relationship mismatch had not been revealed. (Of course, with hindsight I can imagine I would’ve seen them, but I was blind with passionate love.)

It’s enough right now to know someone is out there, someone I aspire to, someone I adore and appreciate for herself, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, without ever having passionately kissed. (I can say this, today, tomorrow might be a different tune.) She is showing me what ADORATION looks like when it grows and moves slowly.

Sure, I’d really like for a woman to take a shine to me and light up like a Christmas tree. And maybe that will happen, maybe this pause, and calm/steady snuggle artist is just what I need to prepare me for what’s next.

And I can use every ounce of energy to improve MYSELF and MY VISION, and continue to dig into the wacky meanderings of my mind and my past/future mistakes. Most of all, I can stay present.

All of this self-examination is fine if we don’t ruminate on the past or future. I feel, today, as if this writing has allowed me to shed the pain and disfunction of my divorce and explore my life as a happy single person, again. And GF #1 showed me that I know how to be open, honest, and truthful in relationships. She showed the way to what’s next. It is my job to stay present, and not rush into anything (for any reason) unhealthy. TIME is my most valuable currency. When planning my two Saturday nights, I’d be wise to choose with intention.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: me, nick, and marie, richard riley, creative commons usage


this potential

lovers on fire

[from a coffee love letter – poetry]

i want her to be gorgeous and a rocket scientist
or a poet
nice shoes, not gaudy shoes
brown hair would be a preference, nothing more
i’d like her to see through my bs
to know that i’m not as confident as i pretend to be
and i’d like to be safe
letting her see that truth
would be a release

i want to let go
and to relax into her arms
to nap with abandon
and share the fruits and the labor
and to enjoy the play between naps and sleep

where is fearless love born
what is the heart of trust
that never breaks
nothing is more important than this
there are many variables
i have a range of preferences
but this is non-negotiable
to have been hurt and yet soar
to know disappointment and still reach for the stars

every great journey must start from here
if the epic quest is to find love
to know how to be loved
and to fearlessly ignite
and stand beside another’s flame
in awe and joy
at seeing a reflection of your hopes
at believing again in someone else
at losing objections
and laughing at obstacles between us

i hold you here
holding my own heart
as an outstretched hand
an invitation
to dance
something cosmic and unknown
to fearlessly let go of everything
to dream and lose the dream
over and over
until we have built
a bonfire of passion and burning of vanities
a stripping of defense
even desire becomes satiated
in you
in this potential of we
in us

6-25-13