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

holidays

It’s the Quiet Time, the Alone Time, the Empty Spaces

OFF-lasskiss

When you’re happily married you think life is all set. Then you have kids and the world gets even bigger and brighter. Then some tough times come along and muck up the happily ever after. And after much hand wringing, and arguments the money is settled, the housing is decided upon, and dad (that’s me) is out on his own, to fend for himself, in the world of being a single dad with normal custody, that is to say, about 30%.

Some days I roll along like a happy man, a single dad working the program, doing his best. Other days, I fall below the “joy” quotient and I would really rather chill in my bed, watch movies, surf the net, and withdraw from all the activity. The holidays are some of the hardest times, for some reason.  And today, when I delivered my kids to my old house, my wife’s house, I was a bit bereft. Lonely. Aimless. Sad.

As the emotional aspects of our relationship got more complicated, the sex simply dried up completely.

It’s not that there was anything that happened. In fact, just the opposite. My life is feeling pretty sweet, considering. But today, as I was getting back in my car, backing out of my old driveway, with no particular place to go, I felt the punch. A light poke in the solar plexus. A minor ache, that continued to echo though my body the rest of the afternoon. It’s the little things that get you.

Like little places you pass that remind you of a good moment. And we had a lot of good moments, before we had all the bad moments. And today, eating lunch, I pulled into a place, not on purpose, that was one of the last good times I remember with my ex. She was working nearby, over six years ago, and we made plans to meet for lunch. It was in this golden moment, right after I’d had my vasectomy, when we were trying to score the 40 ejaculates before we could have the well-earned unprotected sex. And for a month, my wife rediscovered her libido, or something. She joked that it was more about hitting the goal. I was thrilled for the renewal and imagined the sex ahead would be even better.

After divorce, you count back in your head, sometimes, the moments when you knew things were great, and the moments when you first sensed that things were spiraling out of control, in the wrong direction. And the little moments of magic can pop up, like today, and re-trigger the old hurt. And who, knows, maybe there was part of me that wanted to lean into the ache that was already taking root in my chest.

This last moment flashed before me today, as I was eating at this funky little Mexican restaurant, and there was pang of sadness, a worry, will I ever have another moment, another love so good? The moment strikes at the heart of what ultimately blew us apart, and so this little scene of playful joy is not important, except for the feeling I still get when I remember it. We were happy, joyful in our quest for liberated sex again…

In good old days, this one time, we met at this restaurant, and in the parking lot around to the side, my wife gave me a quickie blow job, in the most silly and playful way. We were like kids, getting away with something terribly forbidden. Today, the flicker of that moment, showed two people playing at sex, enjoying the raucous play, and getting away with a little secret in the middle of the work day.

I guess the deeper part of the ache is the lack of spontaneous or playful sex I’ve had in the years since that peak. When the condoms came off the sex continued at ever slowing pace. It seems the “goal” really was part of the fun for my then-wife. I tried to rekindle whatever I could from my end, but things continued to fade. She became less willing to even be close, much less have sex.

We all have to work on our sexual communication. If it gets off, we need to chat about it. If it REALLY get’s off, we need to bring it front-and-center in therapy.

Sex is not everything, but it’s important. As our sex life continued to fade, I continued to be the interested party who was given the challenge to “ask differently” and “keep the house clean” and “pay all the bills.” It was as if there were a string of conditions for intimacy that became more of an alchemical mixture rather than anything I could predict or influence. Why is it, that this stereotype is so common? Men continue to want sex. Women, as we now know, get bored within monogamous relationships. Um, no shit. Men do to, it’s just we’re more willing to work on the monotony with more intention.

In the last year of my marriage, I am certain we could easily go for a month at a stretch without having sex. And it’s not that I wasn’t asking, cajoling, seeing if she wanted a massage. Her switch flipped off and stayed off. There was not much I could do about it. As I was making lists of things I could do to entice her, she was becoming more distant.

In a recent post by a friend, on what to get your husband for Christmas, I was saddened that the tone, even from this psychologist, was so one-sided. Here’s the list.

  1. Oral Sex
  2. Regular Sex
  3. Some Other Sexual Thing…
  4. Appreciation
  5. Love
  6. Wear a Santa Hat and Nothing Else

This is a common theme. The “how sex used to be” theme. In a Facebook post Dr. Psych Mom poses a theoretical question from a reader.

“Why his wife last 69ed before they had kids, 12 years ago. Then i can answer, with solemnity:

My friend, there is probably no amount of doing the chores that is going to get you that again. It’s one of those things that women only do when they are young and uninhibited, like dyeing their hair purple, or dancing on top of the bar.

Now if you took care of the kids for an entire weekend while she visited the friend with whom she used to dye her hair purple and dance on top of the bar….. then maybe.

No promises.”

But that’s the point. I was doing the extra things. I was offering her “girl’s night out.” I was taking care of putting the kids to bed so she could get in the mood. Except, more often than not, she was falling asleep or working on a project when I came out of the kid’s room.

We all have to work on our sexual communication. If it gets off, we need to chat about it. If it REALLY get’s off, we need to bring it front-and-center in therapy. Somehow I was letting our sexual disconnect be “okay.” We went to therapy, but we were usually dealing with some “crisis” that I didn’t really see as a crisis. And I’m sure, that was the problem. I wanted closeness, and maybe even sex. She wanted all the worries and struggles of the day to be gone.

Sure men have an easier time getting turned on, and women take some warming up. But women also have to be open to suggestion, or it’s a non-starter no matter how you phrase it, or what technique you use to rub her feet. Needless to say, it wasn’t the sex that caused us to get a divorce, but the loss of sexual connection sure indicated that something had gotten out of balance. Unfortunately I was never able to regain that balance with my then-wife. And as the emotional aspects of our relationship got more complicated, the sex simply dried up completely.

So dear, Dr. Psych, what is a man in a committed relationship, who *IS* doing all the extra things and still getting the cold shoulder supposed to do? Move on?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

This posts continues here: Sexy Sex and the Other Two Kinds of Romantic Relationship

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reference: What To Get Your Husband For Christmas. And None of The Suggestions Are From Brookstone – Dr. Psych Mom

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We’re All Happy Now, After the Divorce

OFF-santacat Yeah, we’re all happy. It’s Christmas time and the kids get two Christmases. How fun. Except we’re not. The loss is accentuated at this time of year as we make plans for the vacation time and the transition of the kids on Christmas day to house number two. (A temporary housing situation for me, at this moment.) And yes, we’re all doing fine. We’re happy, in fact. So why lift up the angry and sad curtain that reveals the bitter divorce beneath the civility? Why indeed? This year, let’s skip it. Sincerely, The Off Parent @theoffparent back to Single Parenting   A few other posts of interest:

image: not so merry, trish hamme, creative commons usage


The Lover I Had This Time Last Year

OFF-greentango

I was trying to figure out why the cold weather and my upcoming birthday were starting to feel heavy rather than up lifting. And I got it. I’m alone. Damn. In this most exciting of times, dark cold nights, holidays and birthdays and time-off ahead, and what… Nothing.

I’ll admit I was so struck by her sexiness that all I wanted to do was jump into bed. She, however, wanted entertainment along with her sex.

Last year I was falling into some sort of intoxicated frenzy of a relationship. (see this poem from that time: it’s just desire) And while I know it wasn’t healthy, it was so sexual, I’m now recalling the warm friction and the full mornings lounging, lovemaking, and lounging again, until we had to get out of bed to find food. It was good and innocent, but lacking in some fundamental element that I have to have in addition to the good sex.

When courting this woman I was not aware that she was about to turn 40. (I was moving towards my 51st year.) And while that wasn’t the issue, there were definitely issues that ran along those lines. She was recently divorced and still working through a lot of conflict and drama with her ex. And, of course, I was a good stand-in confidant for her. But I didn’t really like being her sounding board for all things divorce. It made my heart heavy. I would try to sum up the conversations occasionally with, “Oh that dickish-ex.”

I was also struggling with my own issues, as my ex-y had pressed charges against me with the AG’s office, and now it looked like I might not be able to save my house. I was heading into the holidays with very little money, and very little self-esteem. And this woman was just the tonic I needed. Or so I thought.

She met a lot of my criteria for dating.

  • Smart.
  • Pretty. (she was way-out pretty)
  • Funny and playful.
  • Has kids.
  • Well-employed.
  • Gets me.

And still there was something fundamental that was missing in our interactions. I couldn’t put my finger on it. But when she railed at her ex, I sometimes felt like I was part of her inner dialogue. And sometimes she also said things to me that seemed (I don’t know) disconnected.

I’ll admit I was so struck by her sexiness that all I wanted to do was jump into bed. She, however, wanted entertainment along with her sex. She wanted to “go out.” But we didn’t even know what that meant for us. Probably two very different things.

Still I liked having her on my arm at the club to see a couple of my friends playing hot jazz. No dancing though. And we ate out a bit, and that’s nice. But as we rounded 9:30 pm she was ready to start the evening, I was ready to wind down. I blasted through some wine-soaked evenings with her, and came out the other side wondering, “What the hell did I do that for?”

Short answer. Sex.

We, fit well in that department. But in most other areas we didn’t have a lot of common interests. She loved music, but it was more from an iTunes perspective, not necessarily going out to see bands. She liked partying, and I wasn’t really ready to jump back in that pattern, with the potential job interviews coming up. And so we ate nice food, spent mornings in bed, and tried to find other stuff to do together.

If the idea of dating was to entertain each other every night we were together that got tiring pretty quickly, especially if the time to start was 10pm.

And that’s a part of *my* problem. I have a lot of projects I’m working on. (This blog included.) I’m not ever looking for something to do. I don’t need to disconnect to unwind. I plug-in and get creative. That’s my passion and my past time. So how am I going to fit a girlfriend in?

It’s an interesting question. I came close to sorting it out with my first girlfriend. We really liked being together. And we did like to go see music and movies together. And she had her own projects that gave her a lot of contentment as well. I got to feel what it was like to have someone who was cool with just hanging out. “What’s for dinner,” became a date invitation, even if it only meant one of us would grab some stuff to make dinner. That’s what I really wanted. Just some living and being with someone else.

If the idea of dating was to entertain each other every night we were together that got tiring pretty quickly, especially if the time to start was 10pm.

I’m missing the smell, feel, and presence of a woman. As the cold weather seeps under the doors I’m missing this amazing vixen that came into my life to light me up. And she did to that. She ignited my sexual enthusiasm in a way I hadn’t experienced since college. And while we didn’t stay together very long, I came away with the understanding of what good and happy sex looked like.

This winter I’m okay with the loneliness. I raise a glass of bubbly water to my hot lover from a year ago, as I let her memories go. I’m resigned to the rebuilding program I started 4.5 years ago. I am also committed to saying YES to someone amazing. Nothing less will do. But for now, I’ll be here, buzzing away at my creative tasks. The more amazing I become, the stronger my broadcasting signal grows. She’s out there. Lot’s of women of potential are out there. It’s up to me to call them in.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Everyone Loses In Divorce – What We Can Never Get Back

OFF-my-kids

A few gaps in my kids education are due to my divorce. A few are due to my bout with depression, while struggling to recover from job loss and mid-life disorientation following 9-11.

And tonight, for no reason, I’m wishing I could just tussle their hair and tell them that I love them.

One of the sad symbols of my loss was my old toolbox. And what leaving it behind meant for both me and my son, who should’ve been building forts and projects with me by his side. And as we’ve gone along in the fractured mode, there are huge gaps in my knowledge and relationship with my kids. It’s something you don’t really understand until you’re well into the process. Or maybe you do understand, and that’s part of the huge sadness of divorce.

When I pick up my kids from school on Thursday it will have been seven days since I saw them, hugged the, really got to check-in with them. There are so many moments that are missing. So much information and growth they experience in the custodial home, and they return to me as slightly different, slightly more mature individuals. I too am changing. We all do the best we can.

But the gaps… the gaps are maddening.

My ex-wife gave me a handful of photos last week. All scenes that I had no recollection of, of course, because I was not at the beach trip. I was not a part of that biographical memory of theirs. Even when you try to show up for every event, and give them all the attention they can stand, after divorce there are still the maddening gaps.

Like my son learning to shave is mustache shadow with a women’s razor. What? A cat my daughter is holding, that I’d never met.

I have a lot of gaps in my relationship with my dad. After the divorce he chose to exit the scene, for the most part. He curled up into his alcoholic choice and married another drinker. I never wanted to go over to his house with his new wife. I learned not to get in the car with him. Ever.

We’ve got texting. We used to have Facetime. But things are busier. And the routine check-in is about all I can expect.

Of course, my kids have nothing like that, with me. And my ex-wife and I have done everything we could to keep any disagreements between us not color the relationships with our kids. And that’s fine. We’re doing a good job of it. And still… Still I am not getting enough time with my kids. And I am sure they are not getting enough time with me. We’re all fine. Everything is wonderful, except for the gaps.

And now they are both in middle school. 4.5 more years and my son is off. The gaps are beginning to add up. I am certain they don’t know much about me. I try to share everything I’m doing, but they don’t really have the time. They’ve got homework, music, sports, friends. It’s fine. It’s my problem. I get it. I’m riffing here, a bit, but I’m ever more aware of the missed days. And tonight, for no reason, I’m wishing I could just tussle their hair and tell them that I love them.

We’ve got texting. We used to have Facetime. But things are busier.  And the routine check-in is about all I can expect.

And the gaps… I’m sorry for the gaps.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: kids away, the author, 2014 all rights reserved


please stay gone

[from a second wave – poetry]

i can’t take it back
you’ve got it
our love has spawned
these beautiful
beautifuls

and when you’ve got them
i am ultimately alone
alone in an ultimate way
a way i never anticipated
as we looked ahead
our mad plans
and said
i
do

today
i don’t
and i can’t imagine
what misguided joy caused you
to send me photos
happy photos
i guess you’re showing me
“our kids” are so happy

but
why

are you in any of the pictures

so i can put you up on my mantle
if i had a mantle

please leave yourself out
your smile still hurts
the ache now is for them
and the loss of any seconds
with them
you were my world
you are gone
please stay gone

thank you

4-30-14

for the story read: divorce support

image: dad and kid on the beach, dinuraj k, creative commons usage

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 6.09.47 AM


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

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references: The 12-Steps of AA – wikipedia

image: practice, fabio bruna, creative commons usage


Gone. A Pause at Summer’s End.

What we lose in divorce

And out of the clear blue sky, it is gone, and I am sad.

It’s been a great summer. Through many challenges and growth opportunities, but we made it. And with the school drop off today, after a three-day weekend, I find myself struggling to maintain momentum. I’ve got plenty of work to do, so it’s not lack of requirements. It’s something else.

Little reminders of the loss of my children sometimes sneak up on me when I’m not paying attention. And the coffee doesn’t stave off the bummed out feelings. The nap that sounds like an escape is really just a temporary sedation.

In divorce you lose everything.

Maybe this is preparation for the empty nest that’s at least 5 years away. Or this is just part of being a single parent with less than half-time custody. But I’m not sure it’s about custody, or schedules, or even the divorce. I think it’s me. My sadness. My losses. The grip of my daughter’s hand as we walk into Starbucks for her lunch sandwich. Those things that we take for granted, the ever-present child, is stolen away by the changes required by divorce.

And as always, it is a growth opportunity to me. It is a moment to pause and reflect. Remember not to fall into soulful revery and sadness. And pickup with the work to be done. But the pause IS important.

This is what we’ve lost.

And with so much to gain from the newly available time, the nights and weekends “off,” the opportunities to find what makes us GO again, there are still these little pauses, setbacks, to remember our own pain. And to walk on into what’s next.

This is not about them. It’s not about her. It’s about me.

The journey is long. And, for the most part, we travel alone. And we have choices about how we move and grow with the changes, losses, and new wins in our lives.

Time for a walk in the sun. The work will get done. The days will grow shorter. And another chapter is waiting to be created.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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More Play Summer: Keeping Your Joy After Divorce

play-more-summer

The concept that we learn most of our relationship patterns from our family of origin is fairly well documented. What we learn from Mom and Dad is either 1. what we want to do; or 2. what we don’t want to do. Often we are not clear on pulling the two different concepts apart. And more often, the connections are even more obscured by emotion or lifelong baggage.

Today, I had a moment of realization about my family of origin and the disastrous path my Dad and Mom took.

I walked down to the lake from my modest house. And the sign above reminded me, “Oh yeah, this needs to be a play more summer.” And I thought about my parents and our monstrous house on the lake. While my dad was successful in business, his relationship skills were limited and eventually destroyed by alcoholism. And what I missed, once my father moved out of the house (I was 5) was the time and space to play with and really get to know my Dad. Or, more importantly, know that he loved me. Somewhere deep in my heart, I’m still not sure of that one.

Today, swimming in the lake, by myself I was noticing my life at this moment. Even as my kids are traveling on a summer vacation with my ex-y and her boyfriend, I am happy.

My dad worked hard every day, and as part of his come down each night he would have a few toddies with the boys in the office next door. His success was limitless. His medical practice was thriving. He had just completed a stunning lake house and would drive his boat to the country club in the mornings and drive his car from there to work. It was a golden life. Well, you would think it should be.

But my dad was really mad about something. He was always mad. [Hmmm. This sounds a bit too familiar.] The anger of my father is legendary even among my friends. He was an ass all the time. And somehow he resented his own success, because he had to keep working so hard to maintain it.

My mom said she made a proposition to my father one time early on, as the success was coming, but the stress was also growing with it. She offered to go with him, anywhere, take some time to enjoy the money he’d been making, get away from it all. He declined.

And in the real sense of the word, he declined from there, even as his financial success shot upward.

By the time my mom gave him the ultimatum, the drink or me and the kids, he was probably too far down his own destructive path to imagine that recovery was possible. And being a doctor, AA was out of the question. He insisted to me, years later, as I was a son pleading with him to get help for his drinking, “I don’t have a problem.”

Today, swimming in the lake, by myself I was noticing my life at this moment. While I’m struggling a bit financially, I’m sure that I will continue to pull up from the strained economy. And even as my kids are traveling on a summer vacation with my ex-y and her boyfriend, I am happy.

My dad got on a trajectory of success and big money that would’ve been very hard to get off. My exit was easier, I was no longer willing to be shut out sexually from my wife.

What I have, however, that is so different from my father, is a clear and loving relationship with both my daughter and my son. They KNOW how much I love them. They will never wonder if they are enough. I tell them all the time.

And I have made some choices to keep this clarity of purpose at the forefront of my life. I could work more. I could go back to Dell and slave it out at the corporate-level again. But in those two years, even as my life was following the life dream of many, I was unhappy.

It was “almost” enough to keep me there. I loved coming home to my wife and kids in the affluent neighborhood and knowing that I had provided for their well-being and  support. But there was an imbalance.

My dad got on a trajectory of success and big money that would’ve been very hard to get off. My exit was easier, I was no longer willing to be shut out sexually from my wife, and I was also not willing to just jump into the next corporate job to make that fantasy picture come back together. It was a fantasy that was killing me, making me fat, separating me from time with my kids. I made a choice.

Today, swimming in a modest public park, I recognized the pressure my father must’ve been under and I said a little prayer that I learned from his early death, that possessions and wealth don’t bring you joy. And in the end, the pressure of those things may be what separates you from the most important things in your life, your family.

My father lost his family in his divorce. But he made choices to go down the alcoholic path. I have not made the same choices. And my hope is that my ex-wife will find some joy in life, some relief from the constant anger that seemed (sometime it still seems) to be aimed at me. I am certain I was not my father’s issue. In the same way I am certain I was not my ex-y’s anger problem either.

We each have to grow and evolve as individuals. We have no choice. I think I have evolved into a more caring and more dedicated father that my father could be. And today in the lake, I gave thanks to my health, love, and awareness.

More. Play. Summer.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Another Single Father’s Day

doing dad's day - team dadIt’s been three years. In posting about divorce and dating I’m here to say, the transformation in the last three years has been amazing. I don’t think it was the only way to go, but when the other person decides they are DONE, there’s really only the “business of divorce” left to take care of.

I’m struggling a bit, still. BUT, I’d have to say I’m on the happy side of the recovery process. I did wake up this morning with a huge panic, thinking my depression had just jumped on my ass while I was sleeping. (I do recall an epic bad dream.)

I’m happy to report it was only a momentary freak out. Probably based on the beginning of summer, and the fact that I was behind on one of my work projects. Because when I start feeling REALLY GOOD, I can also start fucking up. [Not this summer — my mantra — not this summer — not this fucking summer.]

It’s the end of day on a long Friday, where I’ve been up-and-at’m since 6 am. I’m actually going to the semi-annual divorce recovery graduation party tonight, hoping to introduce myself to a woman I crushed on last year, but didnt’ get to talk to. I was at the party with GF #1. Anyway, it’s been a long road. BUT, TAKE HOPE.

There is a way out. There is life beyond divorce. And there is happiness beyond all the grieving that must be done. Here are my last three Father’s Day posts. I expect I’ll write a real post in the next few days, as well.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Update: As I introduced myself this evening to the crush she was getting her purse to leave. “I wanted to say, Hi. I’m J from Facebook.” She connected after a few seconds, and remembered that I had attempted to connect with her after the last graduation class. I said, “It looks like your leaving.” She smiled, “Yes, I’m going to my boyfriend’s house.” BOOM. … Next.

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i could be back here in an hour

shaking off depression

 [from The Black Pages – poetry]

i am down but i was up just a little bit ago
feelin high singin songs smiling through the light in the hotel room window
but now i’m down, can’t find what’s on the ground in my mind
i’m underneath, in-between, i’ll be right back with who i really wanted to be tonight

if you’ll excuse me please, it won’t take but a day or two or a week

sometimes
when i hit it just right
i could be back here in an hour
swimming in the pool
i could

but nothing is cool about this foolishness today
nothing is colder than the grip of icy fingers across the back of my neck
i won’t be down for long, cause i don’t play this way
but when i can, i let the time and the rest and the touching lead the way

just wanna be with me, wanna be talky or play a game?
ya wanna go fishing?
go somewhere different
we can have coffee in a new cafe, everyday, don’t ya think?

cause there’s nothing to be done for it that ain’t already be done
there ain’t no vibe that a kicking rock song can’t find an edge
something so pretty, something of sparkling bliss
that can pick me up, take me out of this state

i’m a bout half as tired as when i went to sleep last night
all the words and projects and figuring it out
never gave my gentle thoughts equal time
i’ve been like this before, and if i can move beyond the bum
i can sometimes find my way into fascination

fascination and creativity are doors out of this hole i’m in
singing connects all of my arts with word, soul, resonance, breathing…
performing for people sets me free, shows all of my parts

9-7-09

a poem, written fragment of hope before the demise…

This is a list of todos to help with my emergence out of depression was ahead of this love letter to myself:

MUSIC
TENNIS
SEX
PLAYING WITH KIDS   and FAMILY
swimming
seeing live music 
performing music
writing music 
writing 
poetry 
publishing

The blue dots represent parts of my life currently reactivated today 5-27-13. With a little bit of effort and good fortune I could light up the other tasks shortly.


She Would’ve Liked Me To Just Leave the House

divorced dad and kidsWhen the proverbial shit hit the fan, and she had fully articulated that she wanted a divorce, that she had gone to see an attorney to understand her “options,” that even our therapist had shown his doubts about our survivability, she wanted me to leave. She was incensed that I simply would not LEAVE THE HOUSE.

I made a declaration over and over as she kept raising the subject. “I will not bring this divorce full-force into this house until our kids have finished this year in school.” She was not happy. She used ideas like “trial separation” as enticements. No way.

But I was not willing to uproot the entire family, because the ex-y had come to a decision, had weighed her options, and seen an opening and a greener pasture outside my arms.

I was the survivor of a horrible divorce, when my parents started the kid wars that became my life. When I grieved my divorce, as it had been spelled out for me by my sessions with the ex-y, I was crying for my kids, not for me. Of course, I’m aware enough to know that my tears for my son were really tears AS A SON, who was losing his dad. I lost my dad, big time. When he walked out that door, the second time, he never came back. And our lives quickly descended into a living hell for years. My dad is not me. My son is not having that experience. Not by a long shot.

But I was not willing to uproot the entire family, because the ex-y had come to a decision, had weighed her options, and seen an opening and a greener pasture outside my arms. Our kids were in 2nd and 4th grade. It still makes me angry to think she was so oblivious to their needs and only focused on HER needs. Her needs for immediate separation and space. For her to get HER house. I guess…

I did not move out until the kids were done with school. It was two of the hardest months of my life. Knowing I was toast, that my wife was unreachable, and that I was more of a ghost dad than a dad. But I stayed my ground. Fuck her and her separation and space. And fuck if I was going to give her the house, just like that.

In the end, that’s what happened, she got the house, as my real estate friend who was experienced in several divorces said she would. “She’s gonna get the house, and your still going to be paying for it,” he said. And while part of that does not seem fair, it’s the way it is. Any whining about it is whining. Let’s move on.

I did not walk out the door that March. But in many ways, as June arrived and the kids completed their semester in elementary school, I suffered mightily for my decision. I think it was the right decision. As I said to the ex-y, it’s a business. We can’t just divorce overnight. There are a lot of details to work out. So what’s the hurry? Other than the fact that you want me out, you want to start whatever is next. And boy didn’t she. She was sexing it up within weeks of the divorce papers being filed. SHE WAS THE STARVED PARTY? What? That’s kinda funny.

…Being a great parent, and looking after the best interests of our kids even when it goes against what we want or think we need.

Okay, so I stayed and now I have my badge of honor and my heart-on-sleeve righteousness. But it was a hard two months. As we navigated sleeping in separate rooms and getting the kids ready for school, and coordinating the details of running a family. By June I was a basket case. I was depressed beyond belief, I was hardly functional, but hey, we’d done it. The kids got to finish 2nd and 4th grade without the sigma of their familial collapse.

I’m trying to take precautionary action this year, before June arrives with it’s regret and memories. The long summer. The death of my marriage. The real separation of my kids from me. And the last three summers have been very hard. I can plan, strategize, and keep meeting with my talky doctor, but to say I’m bulletproof heading towards summer would be a fool’s dream.

I am leery of summer now. I am a bit sad just now, thinking about how hard the past three summers have been.

I am also strong, rebuilt, and reoriented towards health, fitness, and being a great parent. And part of that includes looking after the best interests of our kids even when it goes against what we want or think we need.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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The Nap Was a Source of Great Conflict In My Marriage. Why?

i love napping with someone Yes, Virginia, there are always going to be more chores to do. More things that need fixin. More honey-dos than any man could ever do. So there needs to be a release point, a moment when you can relax and let go of the shoulds coulds and wouldn’t it be nices. However, that ability became rarer and rarer in the ex-y. I’m not sure if she’s ever satisfied that enough clothes are washed, that enough money is in the back, or that there isn’t some other pile of stuff that needed going through and decluttering.

Perhaps it was a defense mechanism that she used as she began to pull away from me. But she generally seemed unhappy, most of the time. It wasn’t me. I was pretty sure of that. In any relationship, you can have complaints, mistakes, anger, and frustration, but her CONSTANT GRUMPINESS probably had more to do with her internal workings than whether I cleaned the litter box before I went to bed.

I can recall a number of conversations that sounded like this.

“If you’ll do the dishes, I’ll put the kids in bed and we can meet in our room in fifteen minutes.”

Trying to make things even easier, I’d suggest, “How about I put the kids to bed, you go get ready for bed and I will do the dishes in the morning before you guys get up?

And it always struck a nerve. And in the last couple years (amazing how long misery and complaint can go on) she woke up with an inflamed sense of “what are you doing now to disappoint me?” It seemed she was ALWAYS MAD about something.

I saw the world as pretty positive. And it was as if she was expressing the opposite viewpoint, just to counter my happiness. Of course this is an oversimplification. But in the last weeks of my attempts to show her she was making a mistake, as I was still living in the house with her, I said, “Do you really think that I’m going to walk out that door and you are suddenly going to become a happy person?” It was a rhetorical question.

So how did our holidays and weekends become such divergent opportunities?

We would be coming up on Spring Break and she would ask, “So what are your goals for the weekend?” Fair question, if that’s really what she was asking.

“Um, I don’t know. Play some tennis, relax, maybe catch a nap or two.”

“Hmmm,” she’d say. Not in response, but in a sort of disapproval. So I would inevitably ask, “And you, sweet wife, what do you have in mind for this coming holiday?”

And out would come the projects, the plans, the ideas for WORK. Home work, yes, but not R&R. And somehow, my GOAL of a nap seemed to infuriate her.

Of course at this point, she was still working part-time and managing the home front. [Nice job if you can afford to have someone do it.] And while I was commuting back and forth to a large technology company, she had very little sympathy for my weekend decompression requests.

Today, I think the shoe is on the other foot for the first time since before we were married.

She changed jobs recently to a “butts in seats, you earn 1.5 vacation days a month” kinda job. And while I’m sorry for my kids, I’m a bit self-satisfied that she’s dealing with the rigid authority and ownership of the corporate job that I’d been navigating our entire relationship.

Oh, what goes around… I’d be her napping requests have gone up a bit. And since any time she doesn’t have the kids she’s camped out a her boyfriend’s house, well, I’d bet she’s not all that focused on HIS chores. Meanwhile the porch, her boyfriend and her started to replace in November, is still less than half-finished four months later. I guess her honey-do on that one is either expired, or so inflamed she can’t stand being at her own house. Probably something all together different, but I chuckle when I see the whole front half of the old house torn off and looking like crap.

Ultimately, it’s her choice, her honey-do, and her boyfriend that she’s signed up for a long series of weekend working sessions. I just want a nap when I look at it. I would have paid the $3k and had it done in a week. But we do things differently. Always have.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Sittin Here on Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day confustionSittin here on Valentine’s Day, watchin the comings and goings in my local neighborhood up-scale coffee and wine bar. And I notice her, getting out of a white 535i. She’s wearing her yoga pants, has her dark hair in an athletic pony tail, and bounces out of the car and heads for her sandwich pickup. There is a “guest” sticker on her warmup top, where she’s just come from her kid’s Valentine’s day party. She’s proud, happy, pretty, and it’s a sunny day. All good.

Except there’s something stuck in my craw. What’s the path that creates these young entitled goddesses? And why when I am walking the grocery, in same up-scale neighborhood HEB, do I long after their rocket bodies and astral attitudes? I think of the Mathew Sweet song, “But does she talk?”

So I long for them. But I also have a bitterness about them. And I want them. And they represent the affluence I aspired to when I was married. But there they are, and here I am. And something about their entire life path seems trivial to me. AND… Truth is, I know nothing about them, their marriage, their career, their path in life. I know about things.

  1. They are young and beautiful. (is this the rub?)
  2. They have ample money and ample free time. (Don’t we all wish for this?)
  3. They love their children.

What is it about this culture that has me lusting after these young bodies and beautiful smiles? And what same culture has me bitter (just a little) about my path in life and the fact that I didn’t get to accomplish the financial prowess of my father. (Yeah, but how did that end up for him?)

So, this sweet young thing, hops back to her $50,000 BMW and buzzes off to what’s next in her life. And I know nothing about her. But I want to be her… what? Her husband? (Um, a bit too worried for that.) Her lover? (What would I do with her once the sex was done?) I want to be her… DAD? I’d love to be able to provide the life for my daughter that I would’ve hoped to have provided for my now ex-y.

There is some double standard going on, that has many of us a bit confused.

If they are too pretty or too successful or too… something. They are either spoiled brats or kept trophy wives. It’s MY sickness. It’s our culture’s sickness.

Aspire to a woman with a great body and a great mind. Pray, exercise, work, improve. But when you seen HER, the IT GIRL. We are angry with her, not desirous of them. HUH?

Sittin here on Valentine’s day, I’m sitting in judgement of other peoples lives, wives, successes, fortunes. And I’ll drop it here and rise above it. But I wanted to express and capture a moment of my own confusion, and acknowledge the conflicting culture we live in. And then I can clearly state, I DON’T LIKE JEGGINS.

So happy single day, to my single friends. And happy Valentine’s Day to those who have significant others. And I’ll focus on my 10 yo daughter today and get my mind out of the BWM and LuLu Lemons. But I’m aware there is a problem.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Oh, “that” Conversation Comes Up – Post-Divorce Holidays

she asked the big question, do you love meIt happened last night. The “big” conversation. It wasn’t that I was trying to avoid it, but I didn’t really prepare for it. What can you do? Be open and honest.

She, the “girlfriend,” was asking about the balance in our relationship. She was/is/has been expressing her desire and affection for me. She was curious if I was enjoying our relationship for something more than affection, comfort, sex, and closeness.

Huh?

Okay, I knew what she was asking. In a subtle way, she’s been asking all along, “Do you love me?” Not directly, that’s not what she was asking, but she wasn’t hearing the words she was seeking when she professed her affection for me.

I tried to explain:

“I’m unpacking a lot of old baggage. You are helping me un-armor and open up. And we connect on so many levels. I am certain that I don’t know the answer to what  you are asking, but I am giving you all of my available time, I’m not looking for another relationship, I am here.”

She retreated to the familiar, “It’s okay. I mean, I know you like me a lot.”

And I didn’t say this, “That is enough. That is all I have.”

We’ve been “dating” for 95 days. And it is Christmas. Her first Christmas post-divorce. This is my third. And I’m damn happy. Well, I’m not 100% happy. I’m still missing my kids deeply. But I’m confident that they are in an okay place with their mom, and they will be excited to see and be with me starting tomorrow at 2pm. (Christmas Day.)

And she may be right when she says that she’s my “healing relationship.” And I’m okay with that. But what I do know, is that I have very few “adult” experiences of being with another person.

We are equals. She doesn’t need me. We have good solid lives. We enjoy time together. And we make plans to spend as much time together as possible.

What more is there, at this point in our trajectory? Anything else would be jumping the gun, in my opinion. And I’m certainly not stepping in to fill her Christmas sadness. I can’t. I don’t want to. And I won’t. She’s got to work that out on her own. I will be there. I will hold her. And I will be with her and her kids tonight, Christmas eve. (Because I can’t be with mine!)

And we will be boyfriend and girlfriend.

And that’s enough, for now.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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