More Play Summer: Keeping Your Joy After Divorce
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.
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.
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.
The Off Parent
- Evolving Single Dad: Failure to Hopefulness Again
- What I Need To Tell You: Take Heart. It Gets Better.
- Happy Mom Chat About How I Got Here: What I Figured Out
- Creative Parenting and the Gifts of Enthusiastic Participation
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)