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

Posts tagged “rock star dreams

Strengthening Your Core Happiness Becomes More Important After a Breakup


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • AND REMEMBER THIS, no matter what.


The Off Parent

*this post was written on July, 2013.


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image: open heart, sebastian schrimpf, creative commons usage

Last Good Moment Before the Storm: Rockstar Fantasy Camp

the last good day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We can’t afford it.”

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

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

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

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

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

“We can’t really afford that.”

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

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Off Parent


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