Thursday, April 14, 2016

The REAL Reason

Written 24 April 2015

I was challenged by my (then) wife about the "real reason" I wanted a divorce. I realized years ago it did no good to respond to these accusations with honesty, as honest answers are complicated, take a lot of time, and usually weren't listened to/believed anyway. So I wrote this in response for my own edification/exploration
* * * * *
The real reason is that I am a flawed and broken person. There are so many things I have failed at, so many things I want (especially from you) that I don't know how to get, so much I've screwed up, so many times I've hurt people, especially you... And this has been unacceptable. You haven't approved of who I am in all these years. Sure, you tell me how attractive I am and how much you love me, but when it matters most, when I am at my lowest, you don't want me the way I am really am, you would rather have a version of me that will never exist. Not that I haven't struggled and beat myself up our entire marriage to become that man... But I never will. And what I've learned over 20 years of trying is that I am okay the way I am. But you won't take me this way, and it's unfair and unreasonable for me to expect you to change, and you really do deserve that man you've been looking for (regrettably, in me) all these years. And that is the real reason.

On Bullies

Written 21 August 2015, in response to a friend's Facebook video posting. I love this man dearly, but he's a tough guy: from a rough neighborhood, minority, now a United States Marine. I know the culture that teaches the best way for someone downtrodden is to get tough and push their way out, but it's not always that answer. I did not post this response to his video, but I wouldn't hesitate to tell him this over a beer in his Bronx neighborhood.
* * * * *
Its not this simple, and it never will be. If you've never been bullied, you can't possibly know this. Bullying is about abuse of power, plain and simple. Bullying is not ever going to be solved by making some kids tougher, because for bullied kids it's not only about size or strength. It's also about confidence and what they believe themselves capable of. For kids, both those factors have a lot to do with family and social environment. I knew plenty of kids who were capable of flattening their bullies with one swipe, but for them, power wasn't about size. I knew other kids who were scrawny the bullies never once would have considered picking on because of that kid's projected self image. If you simply make every kid able to defend him/herself without addressing the issues of power abuse, you will just make more bullies who can do more damage.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sometimes

Sometimes
I glance out the window of my mind and see
Poetry
Love
Beauty
Tears

Grandmother's Eulogy

19 May 2013

Good morning. I'd like to tell you about my Grama, Minnie Mae Hobgood.

Whether you called her Friend, Sister, Mother, Aunt Minnie, Grama Hobgood, or any of those things with a Great- (or Great-Great) in front of them, everyone here knows what a special lady she was in her lifetime.

To me, she was Grama. She brought me to church as far back as I can remember. She was an amazing combination of patience and urgency whenever Chuck and I would be talking during sermon and she'd look back at us. Even twenty pews away, she was NOT to be ignored. Like many of us cousins, I practically grew up in her back yard, and I actually believed in the much talked about 'ugly stick' until I was about fourteen. Not to say Grama was a mean lady--she just had so many of us lambs to mind. My most enduring memory of those days are of a woman feared as and rumored to be strict and stern, who did occasionally show it, but was never angry more than a moment, always forgiving, and constantly filled with the kind of love that still forms the core of my religious beliefs, and still cements my faith when it falters.

That's just been my own personal experience, and between 4 siblings, 1 spouse, 7 children, 26 grandchildren, and 65 great grandchildren, it represents literally less than 1% of what kind of person she actually was.

She meant something special to each of us. How many of us have slept in her house because we had nowhere safer to go? How many of us have eaten only because we knew she'd offer freely without judgment? How many of us found love and sanctuary in her care when they were needed most? And then, once we were helped gently back onto our feet, how many people in our own lives have benefited because we were nourished and comforted by her unprejudiced kindness?

She touched so many in such countless ways; the amount of Good she did in this world can never be measured, but I know if God is keeping score, He called home a winner this week.

What I ultimately learned from her is that life is an open system based on love, and it is not self-sustaining. We need to feed into it by taking care of each other, and being responsible for who and what we bring into this sometimes cruel world. Through her example, I learned that the greatest help we can sometimes offer another human being is remaining true to that person we've grown into ourselves, and directing our own lives not away from, but toward those we love. This is how she touched me; this was the gift I received.

What gifts did she give you?

Of course, after a while, I wasn't a very good grandchild. Like everyone eventually does, I became an adult focused on myself: my stuff, my work, and eventually my family. I formed my own bubble and floated away, seemingly having forgotten Grama's lessons. Now I do know that that's how it's supposed to work--of all people, Grama would know this after raising seven children. I know I'm not alone in having drifted away, and I doubt I'm alone in having been reminded by her declining health how important our family bonds are. As we slowly gathered at her bedside, or included her in our prayers, we tried to return the favors of love and kindness we'd all been given for so long. In this way, she gave us one more gift.

If you loved Minnie Mae Hobgood, honor her last gift by continuing her legacy. Continue her work to make the world better through unsolicited acts of kindness. Hold dear the connections you share with those who sit here today to remember her. Today it's easier than ever to send a message or text, or even a simple Facebook poke, just to let others know you're there, and you care about them. Whether blood kin or a friend, Minnie made us all Family through her love. Let's make sure she is always remembered by never letting that go.

Adult Lives

10 July 2014

My whole life, I've watched adults, living their adult lives. Even after I was grown, I watched as adults... not just adults, /other/ adults... did things with their lives I had never imagined I'd do: start businesses, educate themselves, date casually, drink responsibly (and otherwise, without being judged for it), initiate and end intimate relationships, tell uncomfortable truths because they believed in themselves despite their bad decisions, make investments, have disagreements but not fights, express anger without yelling, disapprove of another's actions without disapproving of the person himself, make hard choices with money and live happily anyway. And other healthy adult things.

I had occasionally seen these behaviours on TV, but not often, and with too little information to learn them. Given my literature choices, a select few of these were demonstrated, and of course only under ideal and/or unrealistic circumstances. More often than not, however, with my media influences and adult role models, these commonplace adult actions were completely foreign to me, even as I grew into physical adulthood myself. And as that happened, and my youth (even adult youth) slowly became less and less of an excuse for my irresponsible behaviours and bad habits, I became more and more confused.

(emotional immaturity)

And if you haven't experienced this yourself, let me assure you: being a physically grown yet emotionally immature adult in a healthy (or at least functioning) adult world is terrifying. Going into a coffee shop and watching two people discuss business, I wonder at the idea that neither of them depends on an employer for their livlihood, and how that can not paralyze them with fear. Trying to finish school, I watch as young 20-somethings make their way confidently from class to class to (minimum wage) job to (sometimes their own) homes without trying to pad their daily existence with the approval of other people that so often depends on frivolously spending time and money. Being nerdy made engaging in hobbies like gaming easier, but I wondered how so many young men, some married professionals, could engage in twelve-hour long sessions of anything without somehow alleviating their wives' or girlfriends' (when they had them) disapproval.

[unfinished]

Anniversary Card 2012

12 November 2012

To My Dear Wife,

(Notes)
Today, our 18th wedding anniversary, will very likely come and go just like most of the other 6,500+ days we've been married: we'll go to work and meet our responsibilities to others and try to find time to remember how important each other is.

Every year on our anniversary

We have been through so much together. I have days when I am amazed at our resilience, days when I truly never want to even imagine a life without you, and of course other kinds of days too.

The truth is wherever you and I end up in our lives, w

and that we both have a lot of learning to do about our own selves,

Even after all we've been through, and despite our worst fears, t

(Written)
I am an imperfect husband, and you've always deserved better than I could provide. You've shown a divine grace in your acceptance of my faults and forgiveness of my missteps. I have spent most of my adult life wishing to be the man of your dreams, and I still hope I can get there one day.

I know we have uncertain times ahead, but I believe we can make it. Just like 1 Corinthians says, love is patient, and kind, and other stuff, but in our case it is also stubborn. We have lasted 18 years because parts of each of us refuse to give up. I'm counting on those parts to see us through.

There hasn't been a moment in the last twenty years that I haven't loved you, and no matter what happens there will never be a day for as long as I live that I won't keep loving you with my whole heart and soul.

Eighteen years ago today, we said our vows and lit those candles, and they went out, and we lit them again... and again. We have a bond that can never be broken, no matter what our hearts or heads may say, no matter how far we may grow from one another. You will always be my forever partner.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Depressed Thoughts


  • I waste people's time, especially my kids'
  • Even if I am good at my job, I don't do it well or fast enough. I fall hopelessly behind and put myself at risk of losing my livelihood despite any job skills I may have.
  • Although I like a clean space, the energy required to pick up is too much for the work required
  • It doesn't matter if I'm prompt in doing financial and other business because I don't deserve the prosperity that would result

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reflections

"Reflections at Timmys" edited, written 29 March 2014

So now I am near the end of  the first leg of that journey begun so many long months ago. How much has happened since then? How much will happen now? It's not just my education I've been working on.

That, in fact, is the only thing over which I truly feel control. That, and my career, which is directly dependent on my education to a large extent. I know I will finish whatever degree(s) I set out for. I know I will push forward in my profession(s) to eventually get what I think I deserve. It will only be a matter of time and perseverance, and human limitations aside, I have those things in abundance.

The real question is what I am doing with my life--my marriage and my family life. I have allowed these things to become my life. That's how it's supposed to work, right? I chose a life partner; we made a family; that's supposed to be the end of it. But of course it isn't the end of anything.

I had hoped it would at least become a beginning. Indeed, it has, but I am not satisfied with the progress of this life. The early denial of affection in marriage resulted in my bad choices to seek it elsewhere. That destroyed trust never came back on either side, and has crept into every other aspect of the relationship, slowly poisoning not only both of us, but our children.

I know I know the right thing, for now, is to be alone, and heal. I need to rediscover myself, redefine who I am, what kind of man I want to be and what that will take. I can not do this without hurting people I dearly love. TV common sense tells me if they love me, they will also want the best for me, but deep in my broken core, I am too afraid their pain will overcome their love, for they are broken too. And so I am once again paralyzed.

I am not impressed with the man I am. I have lied and been unfaithful. If I am completely truthful, I stand to lose the privilege of watching my children grow up the way I really want to--the way they really need me. I am only now starting to see see the effect my brokenness has had on them; what if, in an effort to heal myself, I inflict on them even more damage? Which decision makes me least selfish: new honesty or continued deceit?

And so I float in this Purgatory, on the edge of a blade, never knowing which side to lean toward, never sure where lies Paradise or Inferno. It is a painful reality to wake up to each morning, to retire to each night. Every smile of my children almost hurts me: they believe in the reality I show them, they rely on it. It breaks my heart to know that reality is laced not with a history of fierce protection and providence, but of desperation and deceit. It tears me to fucking pieces.

And so I am no further forward than I was 20 years ago, except that now I carry the baggage and guilt of the last 20 years on my shoulders. I know I am wiser, but I must dig out that wisdom and sort it from the bitterness I still surely feel. And then apply it to some as yet unmade plan.

Divorce Announcement

Written 10 July 2014.

Last night I told Nx I wanted out of the marriage. We had the talk with the kids. It was shitty.

I am more scared now than I have been at any other time in my life. I know this intellectually, but do not feel it. In fact, I feel like almost nothing's changed; I feel the same as I did every day I woke up unhappy and unresolved about how to change my life. I thought a weight would be off my chest, but I still feel just as burdened as I did yesterday and a hundred days before this.

I also feel guilty, not about Nx but the kids. Sx was devastated, heartbroken. I fear I've ruined her for the rest of her life. I worry, too, about the boys: of course they'll deal with this differently. They didn't really respond appropriately at all, which worries me more than Sx's response. They will have to deal with this, just like they dealt with all the silent bullshit for years before this, but I know (both intellectually and emotionally) that they will be better off after this has settled, and real happiness comes into view. (At least for me.) I also feel guilty about not feeling guilty about Nx.

I have fucked this marriage up, it's true, and it's on me to end it. I have not fucked it up alone: I bear no more or less than 50% responsibility for its slow, agonizing demise. Nx knows this in her heart, but has never accepted that it needed to end. She may never. What I did yesterday was nothing more than pointing to the situation as a whole and calling it what it is, what it has been for a long time.

Today's Facebook status should be: "Looking forward to living without pain."

And to think this all started with a really productive day at work. I had a fire under my ass about unfinished business. (unfinished)


FFF-55 draft: Disappointment

(Written 23 March 2011.)

I made up my mind a long time ago. I resolved to set expectations for myself that were higher than everyone else's. That way, I'd at least satisfy most people, probably impress some, and hardly ever disappoint anyone but myself.

So far, it hasn't really gone as planned. At least, not from what she says.


* * * * *

Overheard

There are times in the life when the soul says, "ET, go home, I don't like it here, it's a terrible squalor nasty place, and I wanna go back to Heaven...I wanna go back to the Garden of Eden, and merge back into the Whole, and  God's eternal grace." But I can only have that I if I die, but I wanna live, so I choose not to do that. At that point we begin to look for something in this world of reality to take the place of connecting with GOD.

Reboot

(Written 17 October 2011. Notes to myself from the trenches. Time to publish.)

Now you're being punished. Now you have to finally be a good man.

What makes a good man:

A married man honors his vows.

A father protects and provides for his children.

But before and after than,
 - a good man is strong enough to protect the weak
 - a good man develops himself equally for its own sake and also to provide for the people he loves

What are a man's responsibilities to himself alone?

Be honest with yourself. Speak your mind and ask for what you want. Expect what is reasonable. Express opinions and make a difference. If ashamed of something, decide why, and either abandon that behaviour or embrace it.

Be tactfully honest with others. Be the guy everyone can count on for the truth, and from whom it will come gently, even if it's harsh.

Do not remain in a situation that is unhealthy. Determine what needs to be done and see to it, or speak out as to why it's unhealthy and make an exit.

A good man makes mistakes and then admits them. A good man does not hold others' mistakes against them.

Steps:
 - find and attend a 12 step group at least once a month.
 - speak to Rev. Kxxxxxn regularly
 - journal and write at least every other day
 - run, walk, or bike 30 minutes a day
 - focus on Nxxxxx and the marriage. Spend some time with her every day. Journal it.
 - try to stay positive. HALT when necessary. Do not dwell on the negative, but do not forget it. Laugh every day.
 - get more, closer male friends
 - share writing with Nancy to better expose the other side

Development:

MENTAL: Stay in school. Get good at your job. Read and act and think critically to stay mentally fit.
SPIRITUAL: Find God. Again.
PHYSICAL: Become strong. Use physical development as an outlet to frustration, and as a medium to concentration. Try to get off the hypertension meds.
EMOTIONAL: Solidify. Pay the bills, mind the business. Stay on top of your depression. Then reevaluate.

Because THIS, the guilt, and humility, is only temporary, but these are the only feelings that hard-focus on what is wrong, and what needs to be done.

But I am already a good man. But I am a flawed man. Who isn't flawed? Nobody, but few are flawed in the ways you've become, and these ways hurt those around you. That is unacceptable. But my flaws don't negate the ways in which I've stayed a good man? No, they will be your anchors, and your refuge when necessary. These are the places you will go when in doubt. When in doubt.

55: Days and Nights


(Written 14 December 2012. Time to publish.)

There are days
I can’t see it coming,
Days of laughter and smiles.

There are nights
I wonder why it’s taking so long,
Nights of tight-clenched teeth and hushed arguments.

And the times in between
I just don’t know what’s happening.
Maybe nothing. Maybe that’s why it needs to end.

But what if I’m wrong?

* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. XLVIII.

Christmas Tree 2014

(Written 8 December 2014. Time to publish.)

7 Dec 2014: "I had a really nice time picking out a tree with you today. We are a really good couple. Please don't throw everything away. I love you and want to have our marriage work."

Well, I love you too, and would prefer if our marriage worked as well. Unfortunately, it doesn't. You'll accuse me of looking to the past for justification, and rightly so. But in addition to being aware of our struggles six months ago or six years ago, I am also thinking of the past week, the past month, or sometimes even yesterday. What's taken me so long to reach this conclusion is the realization that all that arguing, all that conflict, is connected, and evidence that our marriage is broken, and every effort we've made to repair it has failed.

Our experience yesterday picking out a Christmas tree does not represent a potential for resolution of all those years of conflict. It does not show a glimmer of hope beneath years of dysfunction. It holds no answers to our inability to see eye to eye on financial issues, or form a sexual bond. However, I won't deny it was a positive experience. It does (to me) represent the very best we can be: friends and coparents. No part of the Christmas tree experience crossed a line of conflict or touched a point of sensitivity. It did not require an intimacy we've never had, or a major decision regarding our children or money. In this way, I definitely agree with you: I also had a really nice time picking out a tree with you today.

As for "throw[ing] everything away," I am certainly not doing that. I am choosing to live without you, my spouse, and our marriage, true. But I am taking every day of our twenty years with me. I will not discard it. I will remain the father of our children and your partner in raising them. I will, if you're willing, remain your friend, and do things for/with you that friends do together. Maybe we can, after all, enjoy a concert together, but won't it be a relief when it's time to go home and I'm horny and excitable from the show and all you want to do is go to bed? Won't it be freeing to drop all the baggage built up for so long and actually enjoy each other's company without the expectations that have soured our relationship for so long?

That's really what I'm looking forward to most with you: the ability to just be in each other's presence and emotional space without all the defensiveness, the guarding of information for fear of criticism, the sensitivity to the past, and the disapproval. This mistrust has killed our marriage.

So that brings me to question your first statement: we are a really good couple. Why? Because I disagree: We don't touch each other; even before I moved out of our bedroom, while I was still trying to make things work, you didn't lay a hand on me unless we were in public. We argue in the open because it's the most civil arena; arguing in private always breaks down to hurt feelings and accusations. We have little in common when it comes to how we spend our leisure time, what sparks our brains, and how we respond to emotional stimuli. These are just the public aspects of our couplehood. I don't think it necessary to get into detail about differences in our sexual appetites and interests, but this has been the single most challenging part of our marriage, and ultimately what I'm looking forward to changing the most.

Truth

(Written 12/7/14. It's time to publish.)

So here's the long and the short of it: I'm ending my marriage.

The reasons are myriad, convoluted. Here are some of them:

- Sex/Intimacy
- Inability to resolve conflict
- Differences in parenting priorities
- Differences in financial priorities
- Failure to resolve differences after 3+ years of therapy

None of this means I don't love my wife. It's just not that simple. In fact, part of the reason I need to divorce her is because I love her. I need out of the marriage because I can't love her the way she deserves to be loved; I can't give her the love she's earned after a marriage of twenty years. I feel this is two-sided: I no longer think she's capable of giving me the love I deserve or have earned after everything we've been through. For my own part, I have recognized this latter fact over and over again for years, and it's slowly broken my heart. Or perhaps hardened it, but at this point there is no hope for my situation either way.

None of it, in fact, is simple. We have three kids together. I can't imagine a life without seeing them every day, hugging them before bed every night, hearing about their days at school every time we sit down for dinner. Also, I provide the main income for the household and my wife can't make a living on her own salary. I am unsure about the ability for either of us to support a home and shared custody on what I make after it's split between us. Even our dogs complicate this mess. Frankly, this whole thing scares the shit out of me.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Marital Aide

Written 18 October 2013

It hurt, to be sure, but I had to say it. Within seconds, years of waning hope turned into anticipation of months of mutual agony and bitterness. We both knew it was coming, of course, but denial is a powerful marital aide.

Movement is good. When you’re at the south pole, every direction is north.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Some Days

Some days, smiling is hard.

I admit I've let the cracks widen, despite an ongoing fight to keep the depression from squeezing in. I admit I've neglected to take care of myself in ways I know are not just good for me, but critical to daily self-care. I admit that I may not be able to handle this all on my own.

[unfinished]

Friday, September 11, 2015

Worth It

Early 2015

So. Breathe.

Stop worrying about what's happening around you. Stop worrying about what anyone will think. This is about you.

That's what she told me: it's always all about me. How can I trust that sentiment? How can I possibly take care of myself when I always make it about everyone else?

The answer is to find balance. Between taking care of yourself and any/everyone else. And make good choices about who the 'everyone else' is composed of.

I do not need to care for those who don't care for themselves or abuse me, or both. Not the adults anyway. The children will continue to take advantage of me by failing to recognize what's been undertaken toward their care and feeding. That's just part of parenting, or so I'm told. But they are not the issue.

I do not know why I'm worth saving right now.

Anger Management

9 December 2014

So I'm dealing with a lot of shit today. None of which will be gone into for this post.

But one thing that's eating me alive about all this stuff is that I do not have a partner to share the burdens. My wife says she wants to be my partner, but I don't trust her with my vulnerabilities, doubts, weaknesses, or fears. I've been burned too many times when admitting wrongdoing of various degrees of severity to believe even small mistakes will go unpunished by some judgment or disapproval, let alone (what I'd really love to get) with a deeper love and understanding as a result of showing I'm a flawed human being.

This hurts me terribly. (unfinished)

Untegrity

2 June 2011

I am struggling with myself.

There was, long ago, a Great Time in my life. Actually, it was a terrible time in many immeasurable ways, and a time I'd never -ever- go back to if given the choice (unless said choice included wisdom gained between now and then, but that's always the rub, isn't it?), but of all the awful things happening in my life and family then, I can honestly and truly say I was at the height of my moral existence.

INTEGRITY was my watch word. I struggled with my deeds, constantly asking myself if I'd do this or that thing if I knew someone was watching, or if I knew anyone would find out later. Of course, there is such a thing as privacy, and nobody is perfect, and I negotiated an uneasy balance between what I thought was "right" and all the other stuff, the bulk of which was immense. It wasn't driven by an outward force such as religion, or even by fear of judgment by others, but by a personal quest to be the best person I could be.

(Yes I've seen Forrest Gump, why do you ask? Now shut up.)

In those days, I trusted and respected myself, and if any outside person didn't trust or respect me, it was only because they hadn't known me long enough.

Oh, how times have changed.

In the years since then, I have made awful choices, selfish and hurtful choices, shortsighted and destructive choices. Now, to be fair, I know that as everyone matures, they all do pretty much the same thing--just different versions of awful/selfish/etc. Everyone, I think carries this burden of youthful guilt, and it is as crippling to one as another, regardless of how each person's actual deeds compare. I do admit that I was a younger man once who believed I deserved something I wasn't getting. And maybe I did deserve it. But no truth to any such statement excuses how I behaved. I threw away friendships that should have lasted a lifetime, and took advantage of a beautiful person who loved me unconditionally.

Eventually I came clean. I made good the best I could. As a formerly integrit-ous person, I had some ideas about how to make things right. I put the pieces back together, and in the process I reformed myself and my relationships in such a way as to be healthier and more satisfying to all parties. I also tried to build in some resilience to future indiscretions.

Unfortunately, I am human, and so was my partner. And we acted as such. Barriers that were meager to begin with started to erode once taken for granted, and eventually collapsed and became overgrown with the weeds and bramble of relationship bullshit. These same vines choked both old foundations and new infrastructures not yet strong enough to resist. And so, over time, our marriage once again became a burden.

This, I hope, says little about the edifice beneath the overgrowth. Even the grandest structures fall to ruin once ignored. No, I'd like to believe that the breakdown occurred due mostly to our failure as partners to give attention where it was needed. Like a garden without someone to prune and encourage the age-old trees and tender new growth, or eradicate the weeds before the taproot takes hold, the ideals of our relationship sort of began to fall away, or at least blend in with all the trivialities of modern everyday existence: bills, work, oil changes, laundry, etc. The problem, I suspect, is that to tend such a garden, one must get one's hands dirty.

I can say for certain that in my little stone structure of a marriage, any acknowledgement or recognition of any potential problem (beyond the level of aforementioned trivialities) almost always created an uproar. It has never been safe to bring up dirty business, so any time there was dirty business to deal with, not only did we have to deal with that particular business, but all the bullshit that was brought up as a result of the business existing in the first place. Typically, dealing with the bullshit immediately became the more urgent topic, and so the original dirty business, typically, went unresolved.

Eventually, you can imagine, we accumulated a whole bunch of these issues that were brought to the table just long enough to catalyze a heated discussion, and then be put back into the growing pile. The heated discussion, though usually brief, almost always hurts people's feelings and pushes them a tiny bit further apart, which then makes it even more touchy the next time a serious, but uncomfortable, issue comes to the table.

Maybe you can see where this is going. Maybe you can understand that it all becomes quietly overwhelming and exhausting after dozens of iterations.

Maybe you can predict the inevitable outcome. Not with the marriage, but with my oh-so-valuable integrity. It no longer mattered whether or not I tried to make a "right" choice; if the choice was in any way disagreeable, it became a problem. It no longer mattered if I tried to be vigilant in addressing our issues; all I ever really accomplished was creating a shit-stir and a reminder of our inability to succeed as a couple. And because it no longer mattered, I stopped caring about whether or not I did the "right" thing.

That has been the biggest indiscretion of all. That has been my greatest failure: not to any other person in my life, but to myself.

My focus shifted from success to survival. But by this time, there was so much more at stake than our parents' reputations, our mutual friendships, the joint checking account, the car note, my 401k, the mortgage... by now, there was a family to save or to ruin. Or just to keep together in the hopes that these precious little people we'd both dedicated our lives to would somehow rise above the faults of their parents, and be better people than either of us had become.

Now listen: don't get the idea that my partner was a terrible person. She was, in fact, an extraordinary person when we met. Independent, cheerful, successful, and all manner of other qualities I admired and wished to learn the secrets of. She was an unwitting victim to my unwitting negativity. Ours became a classic addict-codependent relationship, modeled after and shaped by all those of our preceding generations, in particular the marriages of our respective parents. I ruined her as much as... well, she didn't ruin me. I ruined myself. I was always in charge of my own actions. Just as she was of hers, so in reality and hindsight, she had also ruined herself.

Also, don't imagine me in the days of trying to make "right" choices, and trying to address relationship issues, as an innocent player. I had severe problems. It is probably an understatement to say I didn't always make for a pleasant partner.

All inevitable outcomes aside, it may surprise you to know that we're still together, still trying. We recognize something valuable in each other, and in our marriage, and work to grasp it in some way every day. Sometimes, we get a solid handful; others, our reach falls short. And in between those attempts, we are still playing the same old game of avoiding dirty business in favor of a peaceful dinner, or putting off some unpleasant discussion or decision so as not to ruin the weekend. And the weeds and vines continue to grow over what could, if properly tilled and tended, be a very beautiful thing.

what i need

July 27th, 2006

what i need is a place and an outward reason to cry. i have all the inward reason i need, now i just need an excuse. constant rejection and ignorance of my desires have been too long tolerated, and i am now unable to express my sadness in a healthy way.

i must resort to alternative methods i suppose, but ones not altogether acceptable, and possibly more unhealthy than not expressing my emotions. this is where it gets dangerous.

it hurts so bad, and what hurts more is that by the time i get to this point i'm so pissed nothing i say or do comes out right. i am not an asshole, but i am a hurt and angry and rejected man. how do you expect the tone of my voice to sound? HOW THE FUCK DO YOU EXPECT IT TO SOUND???????????

Failure

I consider myself a partial failure as a man.

I say this for purely clinical, factual reasons, not emotional ones. Based on all the standards I grew up with, and have developed through various means to this point in my life, including positive and negative examples, I do not meet many of the criteria I would hold any other man to as a judgment of manhood.

I live in another man's house. I am dependent on that man for at least half of what comes into the house every month in terms of groceries, utilities, kids' necessities, gasoline, and various odds and ends. I have another house that I don't live in that consumes a good portion of my salary that I can't sell for a high enough price to pay what's owed on it. I have a decent job that pays well for my education level, but even if I wanted to, I now live so far above my means that, if I could choose one of the houses to simply disappear, I wouldn't be able to afford the living my family has become accustomed to on my own.

I can't keep my wife happy enough to feel satisfied enough to satisfy me. Maybe I'm a lousy, selfish lover, and she has no interest in bedding with me. Maybe she's not attracted to me any more. Maybe it's not me directly, but even if it's her there are lots of sources of stress I contribute to that, if I could take them away, she might feel some desire for me again. Maybe she has another lover. She certainly deserves a good lover; she's a good woman. Why it can't be me is something I have struggled with for most of our marriage.

I do take solace in my role as father; that is something I do consider myself pretty good at, even though I don't read, throw a ball, play games with, or see to my kids' spiritual guidance nearly enough. I'm imperfect in that way, and I don't feel I'm alone. But my children are happy, and smart, and well-mannered, and healthy, and while I know I am in most respects not responsible ONE BIT for any of these things, I realize I've been given charge over these gifts, and take this responsibility seriously. Why it is I can't pull myself together enough to actually provide for their material needs is something I beat myself up about literally every day.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Letter to My Kid

A thing has just occurred to me: we are not alike. Or rather, we are exactly the same, just at different times in our lives. But let me explain.

First, a bit about my dad, the guy I grew up: a grouchy old dude who was always angry at something, unless he was drinking with friends. He'd been in the Army, then worked for GM most of his life. He had stories from the foundry, from sweeping floors in the admin building where John Delorean worked, from Army wargames and jumpschool, and slashing through jungles in Panama with a machete he still owned. He also told stories of fist fights he'd been in, guys he'd beat up for one reason or another, and I was always convinced the guys deserved it. My dad wasn't a large man, so this made him impressive and a little scary, even more so than his being grumpy all the time and his violent ways when he'd had too much to drink.

Now let me tell you about me as a kid: I was a wimp. Successful academically but not an athletic bone in my body. I was clumsy and awkward. Going to an inner city school district, I was picked on every day, something you can't even fathom despite all the modern awareness on bullying. I was beat up by girls and shamed by gym teachers. I considered myself a disgrace to my dad, who was by every measure I could come up with a certifiable badass.

I tried everything I could think of as a kid to meet his standards, but I was no good at any of the things he was interested in. I couldn't box, play baseball or football, or ride BMX, and having left school in 8th grade he couldn't help me do the things I liked. I made the most of the talent I had--academics--to make him as proud as I could, but I still never felt like it was enough. Not that my dad wasn't proud of me--he said it often, and he probably said "I love you" to me every day we ever spoke during his life. Back then, I knew nothing about the real reasons he would never be able to give me the approval I really wanted. But back then that didn't matter; the fact is I wasn't getting it.

At some point I realized my dad was not, in fact, super human. It's something every child realizes about their parents eventually, and it always comes with a broken heart. It didn't help that so many needs went unmet. Between my regular teenage angst and the bubbling tension always in my house, I spent the years between probably 15-30 hating my dad in varying degrees. It brings tears to think of it now. I left home at 16 just as my parents were losing their home to foreclosure (completely unbeknownst to us kids) and never really went back. When I was in their (new) home, my dad and I would usually butt heads.

In the meantime, I did "everything I was supposed to". That goes in quotes because it's a game, as you and I have discussed. I finished high school and started college, but I also worked full time and was in love with a girl I'd been dating too long and was too afraid to let go of. Doing all that while living in my parents' dysfunctional home was too much. I finally flunked out of college and decided I should marry the girl I was dating who had her life in far better order than I, figuring it was time I got it together and made a Man out myself, despite the challenges, which I was sure to overcome through stubbornness alone. I was 21 years old.

We bought a house, got a dog, and had kids, of which you were the first: our baby boy. My dad, of course, was ecstatic. He and I weren't at each other by then (he was far too distracted by conflict with my sister at that time) so there were many days he would hold you and I'd see a part of him I never knew existed. You may still remember his beard when he hugged and kissed you. But he was still the same old guy, and we had many differences, and struggled with boundaries. It felt like the same old shit to me, so I acted the same old way: I kept him out of most of my life except in ways I was in complete control of. Only writing that just now do I realize how cruel that was to him.

You began to grow up. You got a couple siblings who were similarly hugged and kissed by my dad and his beard, and similarly hustled out of the house before he had too much to drink. I kept on living my life as I had built it, never realizing you might have been imprinting on me in the same ways I did with my dad. I was so busy trying to fill the roles of Husband and Father I never paid much attention to those of Self or Son, or Brother to my own siblings. Only after all those relationships were strained did I realize the damage I had done.

You have never been a typical child. You and I were able to bond in ways I didn't with my dad, but you still seemed to have trouble meeting my expectations. I know now that's only because my expectations were too narrow, not because you were ever a failure. I imagine this was merely confusing to you, especially early on. It was frustrating to me, especially as you became more intellectually self sufficient and wanted to try new things and take risks online. You wanted access to information and devices I'd neither had as a kid nor understood as an adult. And you weren't athletic, which was only a disappointment because I was so afraid that when you started school you'd be picked on the same way I was, which is terrifying to a parent who grew up bullied.

You aren't grown yet, but you're well on your way, and handling it admirably. I think we have a strong bond, but we still have our "crucible moments." We are still clashing, but rarely because there's conflict. We suffer most often from misunderstanding. For 16 years you were our son, and now you reject gender. Know that despite every argument we've ever had over this I never, ever am rejecting you, or insisting you define yourself as anything different than you understand yourself to be. It's just not something I understand, and it hurts--not the fact that I don't understand, but the fact that you take offense, feel disrespected, possibly unloved. And because you get so, so angry at me. I am realizing now that your anger probably comes from my inability to understand.

And it hurts, too, because I recognize that anger. It's the same feeling I had for a long time before I started using it to punish my dad for not meeting my needs as a kid. I punished him for over 20 years for something he neither understood when it was relevant nor could change after the fact. Maybe that's just how things work: parents are ignorant to how they hurt their kids when the kids are young, and then ignorant again about why their kids hurt them back when the kids are grown. If that's so, this letter is a desperate attempt to break that cycle. I am pleading with you to break the mold with me.

Because, as I stated in the first sentence above, we are the same, just at different times. This is true in both directions.

My dad was 28 when I was born, and I was 25 when you were born. My dad had been abused by an alcoholic stepfather. His mother didn't stick up for him, and his older sister bullied him. He lied about his age to join the Army at 17 to get away from them. My dad himself was an alcoholic who I was happy to leave at the age you are now in order to move to school. I buried myself in CAP and school and relationships. You have hated me at times in the same way I hated my own dad.

Now, I am no longer a 'wimp.' I am not the same person I was as a kid trying to navigate teenagery and early adulthood. I have my own stories about my CAP days and dorm life and the rock band in high school, and built many more with adult friends doing adult things. I've spent 2½ years using a gym membership to change what I see in the mirror every day. The tagline on my Tough Mudder page is "trying to become a badass." You are so much like me at 16 I can only imagine how you must view me, the man you've grown up with.

And I have pushed you to do and like the same things I do and like, or did and liked as a kid. I know you'd rather be streaming some cutting edge game you found on Steam for 19¢ than watching hockey with me, even if I only watch a few games a year. I know you don't fit into the mainstream social groups in school and I haven't always understood your friends. I know we've conflicted, sometimes in big, scary ways over some pretty fundamental issues. And I'm 100% guilty of having the "do everything you are supposed to do" talk. I still maintain it's part of being a parent, but I know that means nothing to you. You have the luxury of being able to dismiss that excuse, and I envy you completely in that regard.

It was not until he was dying before I began to know my dad man to man. Only then was he forced to give up drinking and smoking, and I finally met the man who raised me. Or rather, the Man beneath the man who raised me: the Real Mike S. Many of the same qualities I knew were still there: the good and the bad, but he was himself, finally, not the wounded kid who'd spent 50 years hiding from the asshole who would slap him at the dinner table. He was still a pain in the ass, as all dads are to all kids, and because he was in his 60's then, probably more of a pain than he would have been at 42, my age now. The age when I am reaching out to you to meet you, man to man. Or man to not-quite-a-kid-anymore. Or adult father to almost adult child. I am probably screwing it up again. But I am eager to have that meeting, whatever words we use to define it.

You will still hate me at times, just as I will still have an overwhelming desire to defenestrate you occasionally. I think that's how it's supposed to go, but unlike the cycle I want to break, some conflict is natural, and the healthy way to handle it is with love and mutual respect. I am breaking out of my own addictions because they have chained me too long to a way of living I know will lead to less happiness than any of us deserve. I don't want to wait until my life is almost over, or you move across the country, or my first grandchild is born, or it's too late for any reason, to realize I've been living in a fog and never really built the relationships that should mean everything to me.

You need to know that you have my respect, even more because you aren't quite ordinary. I am proud of you, and I love you, regardless of how you define yourself. These things will never stop being true. I've made many statements about how some things 'just are' true as a result of being a parent, but among them the truth of this last statement is timeless, coded deep in our humanity. And it's true personally, between me as your dad and you as my child. But even on top of that, if I just met you today, I would like and respect you. I'd wonder who the man was who raised you and imagine he must be proud of who you are becoming, of how you treat others, how you stand up for those unable to for themselves, and even how you view the world despite your dark outlook on life. You are a positive force in this world, and for that I can take no credit. The person inside you is yours alone, and I am priveleged and humbled to be a part of your life.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fireflies

Source: http://www.fireflyexperience.org/photos/
Walking the dog along the trail at dusk with my daughter, we stopped a minute to marvel at the light show the fireflies made. We watched in awe and silence, then talked about how it would have happened whether we'd been present to see it or not. Then we wondered what other beauty was happening right in that moment despite remaining unseen by any appreciative eyes.

Don't question the worth of a moment based on your perception alone. Don't question the usefulness of beauty because you can't see or recognize it. Don't doubt the amazingness of the life you're living without knowing what other lives you've touched and in what ways.

Nothing is permanent, and everything that is happening now must be enjoyed, dealt with, lived in... now. Because there's another moment right behind it that must be treated the same way. Are you prepared to miss it because you're still in some awful past moment? And if so, why hang onto such a thing, considering everything you could be experiencing in the present?

Not all of life is great, but one minute alone with my child on a dark trail was enough to remind me that no number of bad days will outweigh the beauty that surrounds me in every moment of every day. Stop and pay attention. I have missed too much already. What about you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rebirth

Source: Dylan Guest Art

I've been thinking hard, in some deep places, in my background processes. There are hard times ahead. The world is about to fall apart. I am about to permanently change the lives of everyone in my family.

I will lose a lot in the processes. I hope to rediscover lost parts of myself, and build new ones of only happy and strong parts, that will make a framework for the rest of my life and every relationship I'll have from now on.

I am scared. Shitless.

The only greater fear I have is that of nothing changing, of staying trapped in this unhappy place, which is not awful, and has become comfortable. But is not happy.

So I know I must get myself out. And despite the overwhelming fear of this, I know it's only temporary. Or I am beginning to know. I can feel the solidity and purity of that kernel of a new beginning. And what sweetens it is love.

Love. From friends, for and from the children, and of myself. Love to be felt and shared in days and nights yet to come that I can't even imagine except in after-school-special caricatures of what a real life of contentment and fulfillment and building something together with people might be.

I feel this undeniably beneath the despair: quiet, still, and patient beneath a hulking grotesque inflated mass, mostly transparent but still huge and formidable and terrifying. That mass is called Fear.

Fear must be dealt with.

I don't know how to do this. I will fall apart. I know I'll misstep and have to retrace my path, berating myself over lost time and wasted effort. I will screw this up over and over again before getting it right.

So be it. This is the process of emerging. This is how I love myself and, ultimately, my family, including my wife: by becoming the very best human being I can be, the man I was born to become. There may be dark days but I will find the light.

SCWA

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fragile Things

Image Source
My body is becoming more sensitive to the environment of my mind, or specifically, my heart and soul.

Emotions which swirl and would overtake me that can normally be quelled by a good workout, or a satisfying fuck, or a long walk with the dog, or a bucket of brown bottles, are no longer so easily controlled. I would not say that I am losing control of the emotions, that is not so; what I would say instead is that I am losing control of the valve that allows me to prevent them spilling into the arena that is my face and body language and social interaction. The arena that is my public life.

This presents some interesting problems. My work is affected, in some ways more so because of how I deal with coworkers than how I actually perform the work. The manner in which my marriage is being addressed is crucial to my ability to control what comes trickling or gushing out of the aforementioned valve and is therefore at great risk of a flat spin earthward resulting, no doubt, in a terrifying crash and the resultant splattering of every piece of the Life I'm hoping to hold together when that business is concluded. Indeed I feel at times (like this one) my very sanity is at stake, when I'm typing out thoughts on the keyboard and I don't notice when I say my vary sanity is at steak until it's nearly too late.

I am losing cohesion.

I sincerely hope this is part of a rebuilding process, the kind bodybuilders talk about when they discuss resting phases and building phases and plateaus. I like this analogy because I've done more than my fair share of heavy emotional lifting all these years past, and I used to think and feel like I was emotionally stronger as a result. Now I feel like my emotional body is failing me, as if I were bent to deadlift a heavy bar with a stack of 45 pound plates on each side, which I'd done successfully for weeks before but now, when I bend and lift, I feel a plink in my back, and my forearms can't hold the bar, and the blood drains from my face, which has somehow become covered in a cold sweat. I sincerely hope that what my body, my heart and soul, are telling me is that I what I need is rest, and better emotional nutrition, and spiritual rehydration. But of this I am not sure.

Not that it matters; I have little choice, and so that is what I'll do.

Maybe this goes back to what Screwtape says: that as humans, we inhabit both the physical and spiritual worlds, and the boundary between those, within me anyway, is thinning. Maybe I'll end like those characters in The Celestine Prophecy, evaporating into the air as I transcend physical being... hah, not likely. And not that I'd want that, anyway. I like it here, for the moment, and this vehicle is an ample lodging with plenty of reasons to enjoy existing and indulging and twisting around in the celestial mud with others of my species a little while longer.

I want to live. I just want to do it with full awareness, and I feel like I'm losing that. And this I mourn.

* * * * *

Today I found this: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2012/06/man-who-forgot-ray-bradbury.html and listened to it on Spotify. It's worth putting into text that I want to be Neil Gaiman when I grow up, or like him: the sad introspections that lead to happiness, the pure and uncovered thought and emotion that weave into beautiful words and concepts as they explore each other. The beautiful Muse by my side (yes, I am still that human. All those moving parts are still doing their jobs fantastically, sometimes to my disdain.) I even want to be recognized for all the sad happiness and beautifully woven thoughts, and I know this makes me vain. And I don't care. The problem is I am still too afraid to Become.

But I'm working on this.

SCW

Monday, August 11, 2014

Desperation of Clarity, Clarity of Desperation

Image Source
I occasionally see glimpses of myself through the fog. Whether by music, poetry, literature, tea and solitude, or some other means, the life I see so far away is something blissfully undefinable.

Thoreau says, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," and I am one of this mass, painfully aware of the plight but ignorant of how to free myself. I suspect there is hard work involved, and the moving mass which surrounds me is actively resistant to my efforts to experiment with such work. And so I have spent the majority of my forty one years allowing its currents to flow through and carry me in ways that will keep me safely down in my duties. I fear the only way to free myself will be to hurt those I love around me. They know not the viciousness and ferocity with which they work to keep me held down in the place that was chosen for me, and because I love them, I allow this to happen every day, every year, every decade.

Til death do us part.

SCW

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Internal Dialogue...

Image used without permission. Ooops!
...Regarding Leftover Cake Sitting Out At Work

You really shouldn't be doing this.
-You are right.

You really shouldn't have had the first piece.
-That is true.

But you did, and that was fine. But a second is too much.
-Yes it is.

You'll feel gross later.
-Probably true.

Haven't you worked hard to get fit the last year and a half?
-Yes I have.

Now you'll have to work harder.
-Yes I will.

You sure this is worth it?
-No I'm not.

You're even hiding it from your coworkers. Don't you think that's a giant red flag that you shouldn't do this?
-Absolutely.

Then why are you...
-Oh shut up.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Innocent Fantasy

Written November 2006.
* * * * *
There's a new girl named Missy. She's tall and blonde, with long wavy hair and hips that are sloppy but not overly large. She's pretty in an imperfect way, and her smile is genuine. With other professionals around, she matches suit, but face to face she's adoringly shy.

I couldn't tell Missy liked me right away, but I did like her. We did our business and shook hands. We met later for an appointment, and we were alone. She only occasionally met my gaze. Her almost flirty nature, that one I'd become so comfortable with before, was gone. Her voice was quieter, and her smile more girlish. It was only then I detected an attraction.

Some of her appeal was gone, but only that part that goes with forward women that aren't afraid of anyone. In its place, something new took over. It felt like a secret that only her and I shared, and that made it sweet. Soon I will go to her office and steal glances at her over a magazine, knowing she will steal them at me via the mirror.

Friday, January 17, 2014

55: Privacy Please

Image source: internetevolution.com
Queuing for the checkpoint, I noticed the NSA was doing its routine download from my phone. The call to my Controller would wait; not that it mattered: the implanted GPS would tell her where I was.

I reached the front of the line. The officer didn’t even look at me as he spoke.

“Papers, please.”
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. LXVI. Tell a story in exactly fifty-five words. Go see G-Man! It's his 350th 55!

(A little cynical commentary on President Obama's anticipated address on the NSA's surveillance programs today.)