Tuesday, February 28, 2017


16 January 2014

Issues identified so far:

1. I really enjoyed my time on Tuesday nights with the boys, especially with Ax because of the problems we've had getting along. I enjoyed the laughing and sharing in the car, letting him drive and showing him trust. I enjoyed watching them both with the unit and the other cadets. I was looking forward to not only many Tuesday nights together, but possibly other activities, including maybe even encampment. Given how difficult the relationship has been with Ax, and the tense environment at home, I was not just looking forward to this connection, but relying on it.

2. I'm worried that Ax is a quitter. He recently left the swim/dive team, too. He does the minimum amount necessary in each class, with a few notable exceptions. He has no drive to succeed. This is a critical time in his young life, as the next few years will determine his options for the following 10+, so naturally I'm worried that his apathy for life now will doom the rest of it to not only limited options, but cap his belief in himself and what he's capable of achieving.

3. I wanted both boys to be able to see me in a new light. My past experience in CAP put me in a unique position to show them and others some of the things I'm able to do, and use talents that have gone un- or underutilized in 15 years. I wanted to demonstrate things to my boys that would never have shown up in family life. I wanted a chance to show them that I'm not just the guy pushing them to get their homework done or take a shower or get to bed on time or put the garbage out, but I'm also a guy with real interests and talents, I'm an interesting and worthwhile man, and I'm worth their interest and time and attention. I get so little of that when I'm just being the dad who pushes them not to slack around the house all day.

4. CAP was the only outlet I had at Ax's and Bx's ages, and beyond, to deal with the shit going on at home. CAP was the only place I could go where the expectations were clear on both sides, and if I couldn't meet them for one reason or another, I wasn't shamed, I was helped. I know there's shit going on in our house that both boys are struggling with, whether they know it or not, and I'm worried that they could be missing out on not only the amazing opportunities CAP has to offer, but a valuable outlet from which to escape the chaos of our house and the marriage. Maybe I should ask if Ax would be more wiling to join if I didn't, or if I joined another unit.

5. On joining again myself, without the boys: I've already been accused, rightfully so in some respects, of starting to separate myself from the family by doing things without/away from them. I don't want CAP to become yet another way to distance myself, yet I know it could be very good for me. This particular conflict is unique because it's the only one identified so far that has nothing to do with the boys.

It Comes Back

[Fall-ish 2015]

It comes back
Those nights when you're leaving
Because he won't change his mind about the divorce
But he spent nights the last ten years crying over rejection

It comes back
The frustration you feel because now you're stuck on a tiny budget
And have to live on support payments and part time pay
Was felt every time he saw your Starbucks card auto reload
Even when the checking account was empty

Was every transfer from the savings account
To cover the cost of gas
Incurred because you wanted to drive
Half a mile down the road
Instead of just putting the kids on the fucking school bus?

Work Stuff

16 April 2016

Today, when she gave me my merit increase letter for the year, KZ told me if I'm unhappy with my salary, I should complain to someone who cares, because she doesn't.

Her tone wasn't malicious, but rather exhausted. I get that she has a lot going on right now: with work, with family...but who doesn't? Or, to give the benefit of the doubt, maybe her stuff isn't routine, but she knows damn well I have some non-routine stuff happening too. I don't use my stuff as an excuse to sound snotty or sarcastic, and neither should she.

She also made at least two vague references to things I should think about, including one specific to a scenario in which I seek employment elsewhere. KZ and I have a history with these kinds of wink/nod conversations, but I'm not sure today's were meant to compliment my ability to understand, as they usually are. Rather, I interpreted them as passive aggressive hints that she's losing patience with how I operate within the group, or handle my career, or something along those lines.

To give credit where it's due, KZ did tell me she tried to give me a better raise, but wasn't allowed to. I get that she's frustrated, but I'm the wrong person to take that out on. If she's setting herself up defensively in case I'm upset by that, that's not my issue.

I really don't feel like I have an ally in her much anymore.

A Letter to My Son II

15 February 2016

A Letter to My Son II

Dear Bx,

First, happy birthday. As I told you this morning, you're an extraordinary human being. I'm proud to call you my son and I consider myself lucky every day. I am excited to meet the man you'll become, and watch as you grow into that person. I look forward to sharing your adult life with you as much as I've enjoyed every happy moment we've had so far.

I know we're having differences right now. When you were born, as you grew up from a chubby, determined toddler into an athletic and intellectual whiz, when you beat me over and over in both real sports and video games, all those nights I held you when you were sick, or read to you even after you were asleep, I never once imagined that on your 16th birthday we'd live in different places or be struggling with the issues we now face. This hurts me all the way to the core of my soul; I can never be complete until I've made things right with you.

By now, you've figured out I'm not perfect. I made mistakes that put us in this situation and I can't take them back. Some of those actions weren't mistakes when they happened, and some that might have been mistakes back then don't seem so in hindsight. The point is I will never get it exactly right; I'm just doing my best every day and it's always been because I love you. All of you, mom included.

I'd like to say you'll understand this when you're a man yourself, but by then you will have created your own life with your own collection of mistakes and successes, and your perspective will mean a thousand times more than anything I ever said. I guess that's the tragedy of the generations: we can never really learn from each other. But I do hope you'll believe me, even though you lack this experience now. I have never done anything I didn't believe was the right thing to do for one reason or another. Most of the time, I'm the only one who knows what those reasons are. I don't think that will ever change; that's just the kind of man I am. I sincerely regret if that's made things hard on you/us.

I want our relationship to heal. I want to be able to spend time with you, have you come over and feel comfortable in my home. Which can also be your home, if you give it a chance. Or three. Because it might take more than one. I know you're hurt and you've been angry with me. You don't like all my rules and expectations. You don't like how you've been treated. Some of that will never change, but I hope you'll accept me and love me as your dad anyway. I want you to feel respected and loved, and I'm doing a lot of work to get better at that job, expecially with you.

I'm sure you know this about us: you and I have always struggled to understand each other. Even when you were a baby, I'd get home from work and you'd start crying. It hurt me even then, both because it happened in the first place and because I had no idea how to fix it. As a toddler and little boy, you struggled with rules or when I told you to do something. You tested me and pushed me. You were harder to love than Ax (Sx wasn't around then), so I had to work harder to do it.

That's why I volunteered as assistant coach for your flag football teams and tried to spend more time throwing a ball with you or biking or encouraging you. It's why I invited you to play softball with me and why I always tried to say yes whenever you asked if I could play PS3, even when I would have said no to everyone else.

I had to change how I approached being your dad, and when I did that I discovered you were an even greater treasure than I'd realized, and I felt that my relationship with you was worth even more than the ones that were easy to maintain. It needed more cultivation and therefore grew into something more beautiful. I loved you more than I had before, and in ways that were different than with anyone else; I was your dad in a different way than I was anyone else's dad.

I still think that's all true, so I'm willing to do that work again to change my approach. I'll do whatever I have to do to save our relationship. If we can't go back to that, let's start to understand each other and move forward into something new. Being a father is the most important thing I've ever done, and I'll fight until the day I die to do it right. My dad did that for me, too, when I rejected him. Did you know that happened? It was right about the time I was 16 myself. I wasted a lot of days blaming him for how messed up our family was, even though (I didn't know this at the time) he was only doing his best, too. He didn't have the emotional skills to approach me, and if he tried, I missed it, probably because I was so, so angry at him. I can never have those days back again. I am determined to not to repeat this mistake with you. I'm begging you to join me in making this right.


25 May 2016

I got sick last night. It kept me up late, so I slept in and had to call into work half a day, partly to get rest I needed but also because of residual sickness.

I'm still not completely well. The toxins in my body haven't all been evacuated. I just got in and I'm quiet, reclusive, sluggish, reluctant. Coworkers will notice and hopefully give me a wide berth. They won't ask what happened; they know only I was ill, and that's enough for them.

And that's enough for me. Except they probably think I ate something bad and spent half the night on the toilet shitting my guts out, emptying my ravaged bowels to exhaustion, enduring cramps or sharp pains or some other agony. Somehow, it's acceptable to call in sick and be given extra space when that happens to you. When that happens to your body.

But that isn't what happened. My sickness was emotional. Replace every physical symptom of the story above and the rest of it is completely accurate. I was goaded into an emotional place I haven't been in many months. I was baited into reacting to a taunt, and I bit hard. I didn't just swallow the bait, I chewed all the way up the line.

In my mind, I wasn't lashing out. Instead, I was refusing to sit idly by--again--while someone who was hurt had a public tantrum and implicated me as the bad guy. I was just done not responding; I was standing up for myself. I still feel like that was the right attitude. Clearly, however, I need to work on my execution.

We made a little mess, I'll tell you that. And I paid a price that has already included half a day's productivity at work, and will probably also cost me three late assignments. There's a lot of work to do and the stress of it all only adds to the pile of how I feel. When I stand in this place, my perspective changes, and suddenly standing up for myself 12 hours ago seems like the most foolish thing I could have done.

The worst part of all this is it's 100% my fault. What happened to me, I mean. I am explicitly separating myself from the actions of the taunters; they are separate human beings and may, for all I know, be dealing with their own consequences today. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that I saw a situation created by other people, went to my emotional medicine cabinet, picked something super potent and super toxic, and swallowed it whole without reflection.

I keep a well-stocked emotional medicine cabinet, by the way. I'm always prepared to self-medicate when certain kinds of stress hit. This is part of my addiction and it must be seen to.

So here we are: I'm half a day behind in my work, I'll be a whole day behind with my class, and emotionally I am still fighting the battle. Another field of conflict awaits me about 7 hours from now. By then, my best hope is to be too exhausted from trying to catch up in the ways I know how to get more involved with or behind in the ways I don't.