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

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Going for Gratitude No Matter What

Every morning I wake up and contemplate my gratitudes. Often it is in contradiction to how I feel and I use the first moments of the day to reorient my attitude. It would be much easier to wallow in the negative, the losses, the current crappy situation I have landed in. But I know the negative can rule my life. I can live in the down and depressed. Anger on the other hand is an emotion that I have a hard time accessing. So if I can even be grateful for the anger in my life, perhaps I can harness some of the energy that’s caught up within that emotion.

This morning’s meditation came back with plenty of the negative aspects of my current situation, as it does many mornings.

  • I’m homeless (my last relationship included her house)
  • I’m alone (as it should be, I’m refinding my solo-self)
  • I’m working a shit job (it’s the most fun I’ve had at work, but it won’t pay my car payment)
  • My ex-wife gets half of everything I earn, after taxes, so my effective hourly rate is somewhere in the $5 – $6 hr range.
  • I feel the frustration of the pennilessness every day.
  • I no longer see my kids every other weekend, I don’t have rooms for them, so I see them “as I can make dates with them” and with teenagers that’s a challenging goal

And somehow I feel entitled to more. I should have a job that utilizes my 15 year career and college degree. I should have rooms for my kids, though things are a lot easier on all of us now that we’re not switching every other weekend. I would love a relationship, an opportunity to be building again towards the future. And I’d really be happy to reach some arrangement with my ex-wife that takes the impossible financial burden off my daily life and ties the payoff to the sale of a piece of property that I inherited. But that’s not how things work. We go through hard times, we survive, and we come out the other side changed. And I think we either come out smarter, leaner, and more optimistic, or we break and become bitter. It is through the active reframing of my life, with positive affirmations and prayers, that I am changing my attitude about my situation.

  • I am grateful that my kids are healthy and doing well in school and life.
  • I am grateful that my ex-wife has maintained gainful employment since the divorce.
  • I am grateful that my mom (humbling disclosure) still has an extra room that I inhabit.
  • I am grateful that I am able to maintain joy in my current job.
  • I am grateful that I have the financial help of my mom, as strained and emasculating as that is.
  • I’m grateful that I am super healthy and getting plenty of sleep.
  • I’m grateful that my creative energy is strong and my inspiration is growing.

Today, I have everything I need. I may not be close to having everything I want. But my basics (food, shelter, safety, community) are pretty well covered. If I can keep my attitude at the proper trajectory I can see that my current state is temporary and my prospects are ever-growing and improving. I have to believe that. I have to believe that I can find a high-tech marketing job as an “older worker.” I have to believe that I will grow out of this phase of my life back into the self-sufficient adult that I thought I was, that I have been, that I will be again. It’s like a prayer, really, these affirmations. I keep repeating my thankfulness. I keep appreciating what I have. I keep letting go of my expectations and immediate gratifications. And I am learning, everyday, to be closer to living in the moment. I am appreciating my current life, my current job, my current loneliness. And sitting in this place, I am also learning to become more conscious, more compassionate, and more humble about what I have vs. what I want.

Just for today, I will rise above it.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: man in stress, creative commons usage

Recovery and Why the Okay Counselor is Not Enough

First let me say, I mean no disrespect to my former counselor. He worked with me through rough times. And gosh darn it, I survived, so I’ve got that going for me. And, more importantly, I don’t think any version of talk-therapy could’ve brought me out of a depression that was so obviously chemical. And with all that, firing him and getting a new counselor enlightened me to the benefit of having a more engaged and more active counselor.

Let me explain.

At several points over my dark period I was asking my counselor for a “plan,” something I could rally around. And like a normal therapist he reflected that question back to me. “If you had a plan, what would that look like.” Now, I get it, I understand the theme behind what he was doing. But when I asked the third or fourth time, I think it was time to give me some help. I needed hope desperately. I needed to imagine I had a plan, even if I had no plan. I needed him to think ahead of me a bit, and give me some ideas about what I should be hoping for in my recovery. What is the goal? What’s our path? Where are we going?

Now, I imagined him working really hard with me, and thinking about ways to challenge and encourage me along in my deep struggle. But at this point, reflecting back, I don’t think he was doing any “homework” on me or my case. I think he was going along in his tried and true method, and being the encouraging counselor that he was, and asking me to come up with the plan, the goal, the hope. That’s not what I needed. I was broken. After several sessions I complained that no hope, no plan, was forthcoming. I needed some help.

Again, we talked around it. We talked through a lot of stuff. We talked about the things I was having a hard time with. But we never came up with a plan. I’m not sure if he didn’t want to give me a plan, didn’t think it was in my best interest in coming up with a plan for me, or had no idea what a plan would look like, but the result was the same. I did not get a plan. And as a result, I really didn’t find hopefulness either.

One of the targets we agreed on was my need to feel anger. But beyond asking me to get mad at him, or encouraging me to express my disappointment at him, directly at him, we had a hard time accessing my anger. Let me put that more correctly, I had a hard time accessing my anger, and he had a hard time giving me direction that would help me get there. We were at an obvious impasse. But again, as I imagined perhaps he would be consulting his books, his notes, some recent research to come up with ideas, he came up with nada. We cruised along though our twice a week hour-long sessions doing the same old thing. Both being frustrated that I couldn’t seem to muster up my anger.

What if we tried something different?

That would’ve been great, but I don’t think it was in his mindset. And I’m guessing he was not actually “working” on my case outside of our hour. My guess, and this is 100% projection, is that he was just cruising along on with his routine counseling method. And since I fell outside the zone, he was okay with simply repeating the same session over and over, each week.

I was distraught. I was in no position to manage up. He was the therapist, I was the patient. And still, I was constantly asking him for new ideas, and any new ideas he might have for getting to a plan. We didn’t. He didn’t. And we soldiered along. But it was not very productive. There were no insights or forward movements that I could point to when my girlfriend asked, “What did you guys work on today?”

And then my new meds kicked in. And after one more session I fired him. It was too obvious to me at that time that we were not making progress. That he had no new arrows in his quiver.

My new therapist is like night and day. I was mad within 30 minutes of meeting him. No problem triggering my anger. Sure, it was still hard for me to get there, or stay there, but there was no lack of ideas for exposing my unresolved anger. I’ve got a lot of it.

So, in the world of recovery and counseling, make sure you asking for what you need. And when you keep asking for it, and getting the same results, it might be time to change horses, so to speak. Get a therapist that challenges you. One that keeps a few steps ahead of you along some path or plan that HE keeps in mind for both of you. Aimless, feel-good therapy, is not where it’s at for treating depression. And while I survived, I think I would’ve suffered much less with my new therapist.

Keep going to new therapists until you find one who fits. And when they fall in a rut and don’t serve your needs, get rid of them. You are the customer, and you can demand an awesome therapist.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: padding, creative commons usage

Sexual Energy and the Power of #Desire in Men and Women

I have no authority to write this post, and perhaps it will piss some people off, but I’ve been thinking a lot about sexual energy and the power of desire. Let me explain. As human animals, specifically men, we have been told we are programmed by our sexual desire to be in continuous pursuit for a sexual partner. It’s animal, we’re trying to reproduce and ensure the continuation of our genes. And this sexual pursuit is hard-wired into our brain and body. And from what I experience of my own behavior and fantasies this appears to be true. To a point.

I do love looking at women. Men, not so much. And I do enjoy seeing young, fit, attractive women as well. But they are not sexual objects to me. They are not targets for my affection, they are merely beautiful creations to be appreciative of. The same way I admire a Ferrari. I don’t want a Ferrari, and I don’t really want any of the young women sexually, but they are both amazing to look at. Is this the same thing?

What makes “people watching” so fascinating? I think it is the flow of human beauty that we enjoy looking at. Again, we might initially be more drawn to the fertile and nubile of our human tribe, but this gut reaction is not all about sex. And one thing I’ve noticed about myself, even when I’m sexually depleted, having zero sexual energy, I’m still attracted to watching the flow of women passing by. What could that be about? It’s not about passing my seed, unless this is an unconscious drive, and that’s Freud’s assumption. But it is something sexual. I’m not drawn to men in the same way. Still, I find it fascinating, that even when I have no sexual energy or passion, my mind still get’s “up” for a pretty woman.

As it stands, I’m not in the market for a lover. I have two children, so I’m not in need of procreation. And yet, women, the female form, fascinates me. Is the unconscious hard-wiring that strong? It’s as if I can’t look away without effort. And my attention is not only on the youngest and fittest. In fact, most of the young women resonated with thoughts of my daughter and are actually less interesting for that reason. And maybe that’s the crux. “For that reason” does point towards some sort of sexual tension.

And coming from a man’s perspective, I’m curious if women approach people watching from a similar perspective? I’ve read that women don’t feel sexual energy the same way men do, something about testosterone, but I’ve also read that we underestimate the sexual desire in women due to social mores. I can see how a man might be more driven, if you will forgive my pun, for release. And women might be more driven by security and power. But is that just clichéd thinking? Do women view attractive men in a less sexual manner?

I’m sure there is a difference in the chemistry of men’s and women’s bodies. And I’m sure that testosterone has a role in that “drive” towards sexual fulfillment. But I’m curious, for a population in their 40s – 50s, with “families” already established if the sexual drive is more similar in men and women? Do we both enjoy the sexual thoughts that come from people watching? Aren’t we essentially doing the same thing? Asking that tried and true question of our inexperienced, and pre-family youth, “Would ya do them?”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: frame rate, creative commons usage

Losing Everything Again, And Finding Happiness Anyway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: cartwheel, creative commons usage

Bad Daddy and the Delicious Breakfast Dilemma

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Daddy.”

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

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

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

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

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

“No, that part I’m really good at.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will you make my eggs?” BBBen asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daddy didn’t answer.

“Daddy? Is my English muffin ready?”

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

“Daaaady,” LLLucy cried.

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

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

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

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

“You should make one for yourself.”

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: english muffin, creative commons usage