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

health

Little Ecstasies In the Afternoon

divorce and the little ecstasiesI’m coming upon a realisation about why naps are so powerful. They are a bit like orgasm. There is a moment when your body feels like breaking and then you give in, clear the schedule, open the flood gates and let yourself go. Even in the middle of the day. There aren’t too many things like a nap that you can do for yourself to create this little ecstasy. (chocolate, masturbation, maybe a great shot of liquor)

Of course we long for the big ecstasies, when possible. Making love is often the most accessible of those. I remember when the ex-y and I knew that we’d cleared an hour out of the day for love-making, how excited I would be. Showering for the event. Anticipating in a Pavlovian way, in an almost tastable way.

Today I have little ecstasies. It’s okay. And on the days I don’t find the time, make the time, to nap, I’m a bit more dependent on coffee and type-a drive. But why wouldn’t you want a nap? Maybe it keeps you up late at night.

And in your relationship why wouldn’t you want a big or little ecstasy? What things would prevent you from wanting unlimited amounts of chocolate, if they could some how make it non-fattening and good for you?

I guess routine can set in, even boredom. Noticing for the first time that your lover is bored is quite a wakeup call. Noticing it with your wife is a much deeper transgression. Maybe it’s different for men and women. Maybe there are things a woman would like even more than to be made love to. Maybe there are things that sound better than a nap on a sunny afternoon wrapped around your lover.

But I can’t think of any.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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ecstasy defined


This April’s Fool: Today I Napped When I Should’ve Walked

I masturbated when I should’ve written. I ate well and then I ate a bag of popcorn. I watched television and played an iPhone game on the hammock in the front yard. I was April’s Fool today. I was full of something, unaimed and unfocused, I gave into the whimsy of the humor on Facebook. I forgot for a moment that I have a business to run, that I am trimming myself to attract a better mate. I forgot all this stuff and simply fucked around today.

I did pick up the guitar and I wrote a few lines of a song…

maybe the lover IS the goalyou’re who I think about, when I think about *uhhh*
you’re who I think about
you’re who I think about when I think about it
and I think about it
and I think about YOU

And I found myself thinking about the lover again. What about that proposition? Just walking around the grocery store I could see the beautiful taut bodies and think, hmmm, maybe if I said YES again… I’m conflicted. But masturbation is so easy. So quick. So soulless. It’s clearly why I went on Flight 7 a few weeks ago, just incase. In many ways I’m happier than ever, and in some ways I’m still alone. Full of myself, but alone.

Perhaps I talked too much today. I spent time on the phone with my male friend talking about her and it and what we were gonna do. And then I didn’t do it at all. I started out with a spark, but it faded, and today even the coffee and moments of inspiration didn’t carry me forward.

Alone I am able to listen to my heart. Sometimes I don’t want to. I had an offer to join someone for happy hour and hugs. But I was more comfortable being uncomfortable. I noticed that if I filled all my empty spaces with a relationship, I would have very little time for this empty, and yet important, reflection on myself. Myself being alone.

I point at how fast my ex-y jumped into the sack and now into the house with someone else. And I hold up some example of health and mental clarity, but here I am, alone.

What is alone, today?

When there are posts to write, music to sing, or poems to voice, I am like a romantic warrior on a quest. SHE is here, SHE is everywhere, SHE will eventually find me again. When I am bored, bored and alone, I have a different conversation. I wonder about what I want. I wonder about what it would look like if this evening, instead of dinner for one and catching up, alone, on Game of Thrones, I wonder what it would be like if that someone, if SHE was in the house waiting for me to come in and start our “together” time. And for a moment I have pause. I wait and savor the peaceful sunset in the hammock. I cook the salmon to my liking and give the rest to the cats.

What is difficult about being in relationship with an artist, from the artist’s perspective is how to balance the draw towards time with loved ones vs. time at craft. Without the “time at craft” the artist will become an idea rather than a practice. I am rediscovering the artist that has held his tongue for years. Hold that vibrant word inside no longer.

But what of that potential date? What draws me towards giving up this quiet nothingness of an evening? What warmth of company, of community, of skin and breath and angle of bone, is worth all the trouble of figuring it out? Last week I could not have told you. Today it was apparent, I wanted comfort. Not applause, or even sex, just company.

It is important to listen to the desires of the heart. It is important to remember what I am seeking and what I am willing to give up.

And on an April day it is occasionally okay to abandon the plan and camp out on the hammock and play games, fuck off, and day dream. Drive and direction can be picked up again tomorrow. There’s plenty of time. And in this time, this alone time, it is critical to listen to what the heart is longing for while being aware of what I am willing to give up in the name of resolving or filling that longing.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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off-onmymind


What Are the Big Relationship Questions After Divorce?

lena dunham is powerful and beautiful and...What’s sex about? How do I make a living in this world? Are relationships where it’s at?

Lena Dunham is the 25 yo powerhouse who’s show GIRLS is a hit on HBO. Is she and her cast voicing millennial ennui of our time? The show tries to be shocking. It’s stars are quirky, damaged, and beautiful in many different facets. At least we’ve graduated beyond the vapid (shoes, sex, power, self-obsession) view of Sex and the City. And we’ve come a long way from Carrie Bradshaw to the lead in GIRLS played by Ms. Dunham.

So sex is a loaded gun.  We’re all carrying it around in our pocket.

And the questions, I now realize  are the same ones I am asking myself. The questions that divorce and recovery have pressed firmly in my face as said, “Get your shit together, or don’t.”

And we know what not getting our shit together looks like. It looks nothing like writing and staring in your own TV series.

So the voice of this younger generation… The same questions. No wonder it’s doing great. Well done, Ms. Dunham and Co. Now let’s see these three biggie questions are pretty important.

What’s sex about?

Is it possible we (I am) are still trying to answer this question? In fact, as Thomas Moore would lead us to believe, the sex in our lives is one of the last un-illuminated mysteries of our lives. It’s still the primary place that can generate elation, ecstasy, horror, passion, obsession. Not all good, not all bad, but mysterious, yes. And taken one step further, Mr. Moore suggests that there is a spiritual component to sex, even if we don’t want to look at it. God is there, in the mystery. God is there in beauty and unexplained fantasies. Not all good. And not all bad.

So sex is a loaded gun. (pun sort of intended) We’re all carrying it around in our pocket. Sometimes we have concealed permits and we keep our deadly weapons hidden. Other times, sometimes with shocking results, we wear our weapons on our sleeve. I think of the 50+ woman in the local grocery store in her yoga pants and perfect hair and perfect teeth. I’m guessing her car is quite new and clean as well. It takes money to be dressed like that, to look like that, mid-day on a work day. For most of us, yoga, midday on a Tuesday is not an option.

If I’m clear and in-tune with my inner dialogue and self-directed goals, it’s easier to enter a relationship and stay true to what’s important to you and YOUR goals.

There she is. A loaded weapon. Sharing every good piece of herself that she can. She may or may not have been to yoga, just now, but she’s looking like she just stepped out of the Yoga Journal, or some “special issue” of Playboy, “The Yogini Babes of the West Coast.”

I don’t think she’s putting out “come hither” vibes. But she is putting out the best that she’s got in a very sexual way. And all the other loaded weapons in the store, men and women, are taking notice. And that gives her some additional lift. Her brightly colored tennis shoes springing just a tad more as she heads for gluten-free.

So *what* is SEX all about?

Hell if I know.

Today I have a few touch points. But of course, tomorrow they will be different.

  1. Sex is essential. In fact is on the base level of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s connected with survival. Instincts. Primal, animal, procreative sex. When you don’t have it, you either NOTICE or you don’t. We’re all animals with different wiring.
  2. Sex is fun.
  3. Sex can be messy. (Complications, miscommunications, obsessions, loss, lack of…)
  4. Sex… well it’s somewhere between Miranda in Sex in the City and XXX in Girls. Where you fall on the spectrum, has more to do with your family of origin and how you feel about the loaded weapon you are packing.

How do I make a living in this world?

I guess until you hit the ball out of the stadium, or inherit the unlimited wealth, making a living is going to form a large part of your existence. And your relationship to this task is critical to your self-worth, self-expression, and even your ability to thrive. And the rules and conditions change all the time. You think you have it figured out, and you get laid off. You imagine a big project is coming, and someone dies leaving the signed contract in limbo. There is always change in the world of work.  Learning to take the “change” with balance and integrity, forms a good portion of how you walk in your life. There is nothing abstract about paying bills. And there is nothing casual about missing mortgage payments.

Are relationships where it’s at?

We deserve to burn brightly. We crave that other flame that will bring additional heat and passion and beauty to our lives.

I think so. But I also know the “relationship” to myself comes before my ability to relate to another person.

“To find someone to love, you’ve got to be someone you love.” — nada surf, concrete bed

When I don’t have my own shit together, so to speak, it gets messy pretty quick. However, if I’m clear and in-tune with my inner dialogue and self-directed goals, it’s easier to enter a relationship (whatever the form: lover, inspiration, ex-wife) and stay true to what’s important to you and YOUR goals.

If you don’t have a clear link with your plans, if you don’t have a PLAN, you are likely to be misdirected by relationships.

There are three kinds of relationships that are most important in my life.

  1. Relationship to self and god. (*my* spiritual program and self-care regimen)
  2. Relationship to my children. (a life-long lesson in humility and blessings)
  3. Relationship to another person.

In my failing marriage, my therapist said to me,”It seems like she’s cut her flame off from you. She is protecting her flame for some reason.”

The metaphor worked for me.

“You should probably let her go. You deserve someone who can stand unshielded with you. Next to your flame. Someone who can burn brightly WITH and BESIDE you.”

Yes. We deserve to burn brightly. We crave that other flame that will bring additional heat and passion and beauty to our lives.

However, without our own flame, we are more likely to be looking for a light. That’s the wrong way to enter into a relationship.

So there you have it. Are relationships where it’s at? YES. And there are THREE of them. We have 100% responsibility for the first one. Relationship to self and god. (Please put whatever *concept* for god in there that fits with your belief.)

We have a lot of control over the initial trust and love of the second one: Relationship to my children. At some point they will fly under their own power, but at this critical juncture they need all the guidance and inspiration they can handle.

And on the final one: Relationship to another person. The loaded gun is in our hands. Either we have a clear understanding of our goals and purpose in holding it or we don’t. Either way, the gun is still in our hands. And the gun is always loaded.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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On Domestics, Exotics, and Sports Cars (An Aspirational Relationship Metaphor)

Exotics, Domestics, and Sports Cars

I am pretty sure I would have a hard time picking any domestic car that I would be happy with. In the same way, I’m pretty sure I would feel like I was settling if I didn’t aspire to be with a beautiful woman. And then there are the exotics. The Ferrari’s of the woman world, lulu lemons, fit, mid-day at the local Whole Foods still slightly damp from their yoga or crossfit class. Oui!

Now, stepping back and looking at my 2.5 years of post-divorce longing I have a few more data points into my likes, loves, and must haves. And most recently, I ended (mutually, I might add) a relationship with a beautiful woman, who floored me with her ability to express her feelings, and completely disarmed my defensive resistance by her adoration. “She really digs me,” became one of my refrains when describing her. I said it internally, as a mantra, like one continuous healing prayer. “She digs me, she digs me, she really really digs me, someone could really dig me, she digs me…”

There was nothing not to like about this sports car model. She was fast, sleek, shiny, responsive, and did I mention, she adored me?

But…

And this was the hard thing for me to fathom… At some level she was not the brand of sports car that got my pulse all hot and ready to go.

At first my internal dialogue sounded something like this… “Oh shit, I’m older, oh crap, I’m fat, oh hell, I’m depressed, oh my fucking god, I’m having sexual disfunction for the first time in my 49-year life. (Of course, I’m 50 now, a point we used to laugh about, me being the younger man and all.) But it was a mystery to me, how this “perfect” model could be more *ho hum* than *rev rev*. And it saddened me a bit.

But I went with it. I often over think things. I WAS depressed when she met me. And fuck if I knew what my brain or dick was thinking. Maybe it was my meds. God forbid if it was my desire or my erectile proficiency. God forbid!

The first month my dialogue went like this, “Oh I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what I need, I need this, I really need more of this, this is incredible, but… well… why am I not getting the *burn* for her?”

The second month my inner dialogue sounded a bit different, “Well, we’ve only been together a month, there’s no reason to jump to conclusions, I don’t have to move in or marry her right away, it sure feels good when she’s here, really really good, what is wrong with my dick and desire, how is there such a beautiful woman who digs me and I’m looking her gift mouth in the horse?”

Moving into the third month things began to get a bit more frustrated and my self talk took on a new quality, “She’s amazing, she’s everything I want, she’s beautiful, she’s stable, she’s got her finances together, she’s a HUGE plus, I could really see combining forces with someone like her, but… It’s not her?” I did my best not to thrash with my emerging thread, “It’s not her. It’s not really (consciously) me. It’s something else. It must be chemistry.”

Adding one more metaphor into the mix, I started trying to understand the ON and OFF switch to be something a bit more mammalian. “Two dogs meet up in the park, they sniff and size each other up, and based completely on their animal instincts, one of them wags an expressive and desirous tail and the other dog walks away with indifference.” There’s no accounting for size, color, breed… Nothing. It’s as if some internal radar system that detects passion level is ON for one of the participants and the the other is a MAYBE or an OFF. There’s no point in dissecting the WHY at some point. For the dogs it just IS. There’s no shame for either dog. It’s just the magic game of life and love.

So, my girlfriend was a sports car to be sure. There were a few things that were different from any previous relationship I’d been in. There were a lot of things I could point to as desirable and great qualities. But some internal radar was not wagging my tail. Why struggle and fight?

Except I wanted to observe what things DID make my tail wag. I did want to see if the logic and affection could override the heart.

In my case, the heart won.

As we moved into the holidays, there were moments of great joy and moments of disconnect. She had a catch phrase that would pop up at times when we hadn’t seen each other for a while. “How is it with your heart?” she would ask.

I could never really come out and say it. “Um…”

We both knew what she was asking. She was checking my pulse. In her own way she was asking, “So… You feel it now?”

An amazing thing connection we had kicked our connection off in an amazing way. We were both graduates of the WYRE divorce recovery class, given in town by a psychologist who’d been leading the classes for over 25 years. I was a graduate of class number 172 and a facilitator of class 173. When we made that shared connection at about minute 20 of our first “date” it was a slippery slope into bed. We were both hungry. I was ravenous.

So the other day, post “back-to-friends” change with the girlfriend, I was out with my daughter. We ran into a woman who was one of the most charming exotics I’d ever met. “She’s almost too pretty,” I said to my daughter, who was gunning for me to ask this new woman on a date. “She liked you,” said my little 10-yo wingman.

There was a blood rush that happened the moment she began talking to us. A smile, a tone of voice, a laughing style of talking. WAG WAG WAG. She’s also 10+ years younger than myself. No ring, so there was that as well.

I was a bit intoxicated as we left the “party” in the local high-end dog treat store. She was “selling” for a local high-end veterinarian business that was nearby. Maybe she was selling, I thought. Surely someone that pretty and happy has a boyfriend. Surely.

My concern with the exotic in general goes something like this, “She’s hit on by every man in a 100 yard radius. Eventually Brad Pitt is going to show up and she’s gonna go with THAT exotic.” But that’s a projection of my own insecurity. For me, once there’s a lock, there’s a loyalty and a trust that can be established that is unbreakable. I’ve seen it. I know it exists. I’ve experienced on my side. And I’ve seen it fall apart on the other side, IF it ever really existed.

So, I’m into exotics but I’m a bit scared of the intoxication that goes along with them. (Lot’s of preconceived notions about who they are and how easy their stroll through life has been. Of course that stereotype is bullshit. But still hard to shake.) BUT, the funny thing was, when the tail wag happened there was very little I could do to stop the rush, longing, the “hey, let’s go sniff around that for a bit more.”

She was charming. She was selling services to a local vet. She said how pretty my daughter was. She made sure we had the $25-off coupon. I made sure we said good bye in a “see ya later” way.

I don’t drive an exotic. But I don’t drive a domestic either. I drive something on the sporty side of sports cars. A solid german car with a bit of a AWD punch added in. I love my car. I am loyal to it. I don’t have eyes for ANY OTHER CAR. That’s the way I roll, I guess.

And that was the final tell for me in the relationship to the beautiful ex-girlfriend. I was clearly not DONE when I was with her. I wanted to be DONE, I wanted to be SET, I wanted to be LOVED. But I was unsatisfied at some dog-brain level.

She and I used our training from the WYRE class to discuss our friendship, hope for the other person to find what REALLY lit up their passion radar on all levels. And mostly, we hoped for each other that the adoration would be mutual. She deserved someone who adored her, who coveted her, who IMPRINTED and LOCKED on her scent, color, strength, and passion. She deserved more than I could offer. And her, “How’s it with your heart,” question pretty much illuminated how much she knew that and desired it too.

As we were having coffee and breakfast after the breakup, I told her, “You have been my best friend for three months. I don’t want to give that up. I will continue to care about you and encourage you to not settle for anything but AMAZING.”

We are good friends. She’s a lighthouse who brought me out of the deepest of self-fogs. She illuminated the possibilities in my heart before I could seen them for myself. She loved me out of my stupor. And I will continue to LOVE her, I even said it in a txt or email last night, in a different and powerful way.

She is my healing relationship. (a WYRE concept) She still IS.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Like Father Like Brother Like Son

depression, divorce, suicide, family historyI’m in paradise. I’m in the hospital. My brother, like my father before him, is awaiting open-heart surgery. And I look at my brother, and I look down at my own girth, and I’m committed to doing even more on my healthy living path.

My father had his first heart attack when I was about 10. He was playing in the finals of a tennis tournament. I wish I could remember what my dad was like on the tennis court. Though it became my favorite sport, I’m pretty sure we never played.

It was a typical hot Texas weekend and my dad had just split sets in the singles final. In the 5 minute break he had reclined in the shade with a huge glass of iced tea. He never got back up. The ambulance came quickly and screamed off to the hospital with him. I was left with HER. My drinking, smoking, step-mother.

My dad faced a choice soon after that moment: change your life, for the better, or deteriorate into a series of health catastrophes until your untimely death.

Somehow! Even with four loving kids. My dad did not rectify his life. He died at 53. His widow followed soon after. Young and pickled from their love of alcohol.

It’s an odd thing when you are facing death. Mine came in the form of suicidal ideation. (A gentler way of saying, thinking about killing yourself, but stoping short of making plans to kill yourself.)

There I was, a wreckage of post-divorce sadness and self-pity. And my silly, wounded mind kept imagining my fall from a famous bridge, or calculating how many Ambien it would take to make the euphoria just take me away.

EACH TIME I came back to the impact it would have on my KIDS. While I wasn’t pulling through FOR them, I was certainly not going to intentionally devastate them with my self-inflicted demise.

So how did my Dad make the choice to turn away from us, me (his adoring mini-me) and my brother and two sisters? My rationalization goes to his alcoholism and the complete lack of clear thinking possible under his Cutty Sark dementia.

Still, it is not enough. Something deeper drove my dad to his death-wish demise. Some wounding, some battle-royale with his mom or dad… Some overwhelming sadness that fed his helpless withdrawal from being my dad.

And now, staring across the darkened hospital room at my obese brother, I am praying rather than rooting for him. At a point there are the larger things in life that drive us onward. For me, in those dark dark dark times it was my kids that held me to the mast.

My brother is 5 years older than my father when he died of his heart failure and cancer. When I look at his buddha-like figure I recognize too much of my own pain. I have kids to guide and encourage my future efforts at remaining healthy and alive. I wonder at my father’s lack of perseverance at getting well, after his FIRST heart attack. And I am prayerful about my brother’s condition. He is alone, without kids or current relationship. He has us. My mom, my sister and me. What will be HIS core strength?

I see my father in my brother’s condition. And I see too much of my brother’s tragic sadness in myself to ignore the resonance. I sit in the dark and listen to his labored snoring. I think about his easy laugh and willingness to make other’s happy at his own expense.

There is nothing easy about today. I am happy in my life. I bring that joy to others. Beyond that there is prayer.

We Skyped my kids last night from the hospital. They danced and entertained us for 1o minutes. It was a bizarre-futuristic movie scene. There was joy and poignant sadness at what was missing from my brother’s life. At least he has us.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent


How Much Longer Until I Feel Better? (Post-divorce Depression)

when will I feel better after divorce?

One a day, or one day at a time, is the only way to think about recovery from divorce. Recently a trusted friend said that we DO need to take vitamins, that there were some key elements (in the general population’s diet) we were just not getting from our diet any more. And while I’m certain she was thinking of something more holistic than one-a-days, the price and convenience was right.

Each day, I dutifully swallow these little green happy pills. And I can’t help but wonder, “When are these new minerals and vitamins going to kick in? When will I feel better?” (Of course, if you need real happy pills be sure and talk to your doctor.)

There is no map out of this land of confusion. You press on, day after day, because you must, because there are people [kids in my case] counting on you.

There are going to be good days and bad days. And even when you feel completely free of the influence of your ex-y, something will happen, a trigger, a song, a restaurant, a movie, that will trigger you feelings of longing and loss again. It’s okay, it’s good to feel into those deep feelings in the moment, and then move on past them.

For me, the routine is the thing. I’m usually up by 6:00 am when I do my creative writing. (I developed this habit when I needed time to write and I would wake up before the entire house to get an hour in before I needed to wake everyone else up. It was always a little like being Santa Claus. Every one was soundly dreaming away an I was up making coffee and lunches and sitting in my comfy chair and writing. It was a golden moment.

And I enjoyed the routine of getting the kids out the door every day, for school. I was the breakfast dad. And I’m sure, from what my kids tell me, things are a bit different at the old house now. My son told me he shared with my ex-y about how I get them up in plenty of time to listen to some music and roll around in bed before having to get dressed. There’s always music in my house.

I do have to get the work done, so I can keep the house, and keep making child support payments, and eventually catch up on my taxes and credit cards.

So now there are 4 or 5 days in a row when I don’t have them to wake up, when they are with their mom. I still get up at 6 and write. And even by myself, even on weekends, I love this time alone. And I think this blog, this writing about it, has brought me up and out of any lingering sadness completely. Not so sure about the One-a-Day vitamins. I think my friend was imagining a more holistic vitamin. (grin)

So I’m up and at it early every day. And not that it’s getting really damn hot during the day, I try and get my walk in before 10 am as well. There is no question that the walking has helped a lot. Not with my buddha belly (yet) but certainly with the energy and confidence that comes from “doing what’s good for you.”

And today, just for a moment, speaking to my son on the phone, I wanted to be with him rather than where I was. I could’ve changed my day and done something else with him, but instead I stuck with the plan. I do have to get the work done, so I can keep the house, and keep making child support payments, and eventually catch up on my taxes and credit cards. Onward we go.

And walking down the road or trail with my iPod blasting, I can imagine that I will come through all of this in a better place. (Hey, maybe that One-a-Day is working.)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Nobody Is Going to Hold Your Dream for You

Our obsession with abs, men and women of the gym crewSo when did we start making love to abs? I’m kinda sick of it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a sculpted body is nice, and obvious results from a hell of a lot of work… But…

I’ve seen my abs once in my life. I was a sophomore in high school, I was on the swim team and we were swimming twice a day, lifting weights, and eating well. It was all so planned and supported. And I had swimming teammates, and perhaps a romantic interest in more than one of the women on the swim team. It’s kind of what you do up East in the Winter. Swim, Basketball, or Ice Hockey. I swam.

Once in my life I had the abs we so aspire to. But is it like pornography, the uber-fit woman or man? Sure we glamorize the human body. And the magazines are filled with 20 – 30 year olds who have spent a good bit of their free time working on their abs. I can’t think of anything quite so boring.

I’m afraid the effort it takes to maintain that form would completely outweigh the potential time with me, or time fulfilling other parts of what’s important in a life.

I wasn’t one to spend time in a gym. I mean, running on a treadmill going nowhere. What do you do with that? Watch TV? No thanks. And something about being inside, always feels kind of like cheating. But, then again, I live in Texas, and it’s fuckin hot out there. So what’s the trade off?

I probably will not see my iron stomach again in this lifetime. I mean, it’s possible, but it’s not really a goal of mine. I can’t add up the number of hours it would take, doing stuff I don’t like doing, hate actually, over the next 6-months to a year. Um, yeah… Not going to happen.

That’s not to say I don’t have ideas of getting in better shape. I do. It’s just, the learnings I am getting along the journey back to fitness from depression, divorce, and isolation, are unbelievably valuable. It’s a process back to myself. Back to learning what I’m in it for, what I like doing, and what the time is worth that I could be spending “at the gym.”

I have plans. I am getting ready to work with a nutritionist to learn about things like gluten and carbs and my particular chemical make up. But I can tell you this, I have had love handles in some shape and form, since I was 2 years old. And that one brief period of my life, when I was 15, was the only time I’m going to have a GQ-cover-worth stomach.

So that’s not my goal. And while I would love to nuzzle up to the beautiful body above, I’m afraid the effort it takes to maintain that form would completely outweigh the potential time with me, or time fulfilling other parts of what’s important in a life.

She once said to me, about her beauty, “It’s all I have.” She was depressed about her divorce and she drank alone on weekends when she didn’t have her kids.

There’s a lot to be said for physical beauty. And there’s a lot more to be said for attitude, life approach, centeredness, and warmth. (see Enlightenment post) And when I find the next woman, I hope she has a slim figure, it’s what I’m trained to be drawn towards. [It probably has more to do with my older sister’s ghost than any media driven ideal.] But that’s not the first thing I’m looking for or at.

So here’s the concept: No one is going to hold your dream for you. The woman who I met a few weeks ago, who felt like a first possible “match” was not impressed by something. And she couldn’t possibly see the me I am aiming for. And could I actually expect her to understand my self-improvement plan? No, of course, she sees what she sees.

And the lesson here is, SO DO I. I see myself, and if I compare my stomach to my 15-year-old stomach, I might get depressed. But it’s not about my stomach flatness. That might be something that she is interested in. And it might be something that I marginally aspire towards, but it’s nothing like the athletic-gym-addict stomach above.

I recently met, and hung out with a woman who resembles the picture above. She was funny, cute, spunky, and obviously obsessed with her image. She once said to me, about her beauty, “It’s all I have.” She was depressed about her divorce and she drank alone on weekends when she didn’t have her kids. [The definition of tragedy.]

We can’t set anyone else’s priorities or reprogram their dreams. The near match woman was as close as I’ve come to someone who seemed balanced.

But she didn’t have time for me. I wasn’t stalking her or anything. We went out dancing one of those vodka nights. And we had a blast. And I was only able to wrestle one more meeting out of her, over coffee where she fiddled with her iPad the entire time.

Her email later said it all. “We can have fun. I just have to get some more of my life back together first.”

A few months later I saw her running on the trail around the lake. There was a moment of recognition and she ducked her head and ran on past. Yes, fine, I didn’t want to interrupt her run.

Later I pinged her via email. “Did I see you this afternoon on the trail?”

“Yes, that’s about all I have time for, being a single parent and all. Work, working out, and taking care of my kids.”

“Okay, well, you looked good. Hope you are well. Cheers.”

That’s what we’re all doing. Setting priorities between work, self, kids, relationships, spiritual practice. There’s only so many hours, and of course, you are what you pay attention to.

So I’m happy with a flat and fit stomach on others. And I do want to get mine in better proportion to how I would like to look. But if I start aspiring towards my old 16-year-old body, I can lose sight of my own priorities.

We can’t set anyone else’s priorities or reprogram their dreams. The near match woman was as close as I’ve come to someone who seemed balanced. And if I’d been more balanced, maybe she’d have seen the same spark I saw. But, of course, she could not hold the idea of who I was becoming, or where I was going. How could she? There’s no one who is going to hold your dream for you.

No worries. Of course she is out there. And the me I want to be is too. Oh wait… The me I want to be is right here. I need to remember that.

It gets better.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Followed by the Black Dog (of depression)

the black dog disappears

He came out of nowhere with a grin and a wild look in his brown eyes. The black dog began following me this morning on my walk. It was as if he was lonely for someone to cruise around with, and he took my singing with the iPod as encouragement. And he was like a shadow.

So much of the time recovering from divorce is about recovering from depression. “Clinical” or “temporary,” depression is a bitch. It keeps you in bed when you should go to work. It makes you eat crap when you should really start watching what you eat even more carefully. And for me, the worst part, it makes ME isolate like a motherfucker. That’s the killer for me.

I’m not depressed at the moment. So I am able to see and respond to the black dog [sadness] with an open hand. My energy level is high, I’m walking, so that’s good, and the music is weaving its tentacles in my brain and I’m feeling quite buoyant at the moment. So where did the black dog come from?

One of the most pivotal moments in recovery is admitting to yourself that depression is a problem. For me, isolation is pretty deep on the list of symptoms. By the time I’m isolating and fucking up at work, the other mechanics of depression are in full bloom.

My check-ins look kind of like this:

  • eating
  • sleeping
  • sexual desire (even masturbation can be a positive sign)
  • laughing or playing
  • calling people back
  • spending time with friends

When any of these balance points gets way out of whack I’m heading towards a wrestling match with the black dog. The last real battle lasted 4 – 5 months and could’ve easily killed me.

So when the black dog of depression is showing itself, I try to take evasive action as soon as I can.

Evasive Actions:

  • go for a walk
  • play a game (online with others if I can’t be with real people)
  • clean up my diet (it’s amazing what junk food and sugar highs can do to your overall life-performance)
  • see if there’s anything pornographic that interests me (if I can get an erection, at least I know I’m alive, I have a desire)
  • call one of my D-buddies (“Um, I’m just calling because I don’t want to call, and I don’t want to get together for lunch or anything.”)
  • meet with my counselor or doctor (talky therapists are critical, and meds doctors are too, if you’ve ever had deep bouts of depression)

The most important thing for me is to stay out of the isolation chamber. That is where I slowly, patiently, kill myself.

So this morning, I’m not feeling much charge from the depressive side of my life at the moment, and the black dog is more of a friend and companion. He won’t come close enough for me to pet him, but he smiles at me just the same. He keeps his distance, I keep singing along to the music on my iPod, and we mosey on down the road together.

And then out of nowhere appears another set of black dogs. The twins from down the street. These guys I know.

the twins from down the street

For a minute I’m not sure if the black dog is going to gel or fight, but I keep walking, imagining they’re going to work it out between themselves.

I look back about 5 minutes later, to see if the black dog is still with me. The three dogs are doing some sort of ecstasy-daisy-chain-circle-dance, They are lost in their dog-ness.

I am happy the black dog has found better companions. I’m not afraid to befriend him. The converse is true. Depression is part of loss. And if you are FEELING the divorce, you will probably feel depressed.

For me, this blog became one of my re-stabilizing forces. I write to process. I write to learn and make sense of what is happening. The first time, when my ex-y asked me to take it down, I was depressed. What I realized only later, was that I was in the early stages of depression. By shutting down the expression of my anger, sadness, and loss; by killing this blog, the first time, I actually hastened my own slip further into darkness.

Today the black dog (of depression) is my friend. I will see him again from time to time. He will travel with me for a bit. And we will part ways when one of us has a more interesting opportunity.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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