We were happy in our little dream and we were working hard to keep it warm and fun. And of course we had the baby boy. The amazing baby boy.
THE OFF PARENT: I write anonymously to shield my ex-wife and children from the anger and pain that are all part of this process. You cannot avoid the hurt. But you can avoid hurting others. The goal is not to be bitter or vindictive. If I can provide some ideas that will help others with their pain, or perhaps point them in the direction of self-recovery, that is great, but that is not my goal. Let me be clear about this: This is not a self-help blog. I am not a daddy blogger. I am the *off* parent and I blog the song of myself from both dark and light rooms.
These posts are being republished by The Good Men Project in a sequence to reflect the three-year process of divorce recovery. The story continues…
At some point in the relationship, my ex-y was no longer seeing me. She didn’t listen to the songs or poems I was writing. I was unable to reach her by asking for what I needed. She was gone in some fundamental way.
The most basic need I think we are all trying to fill is that of being seen. Being embraced for who we are, for accomplishing or failing at our ambitions, for our good deeds and our strengths. When two people begin the courting process, we are trying to see ourselves reflected in the other’s love for us.
A whole bunch of the courtship is our own projection and song of desire we are projecting on other person. We are self-creating the fantasy of who this “lover” is and all the ways they complete us. A feeling of fulfillment, the fulfillment of some long unmet needs, all being showered down upon us in the radiant attention of someone else’s love. And then there is the rest of life.
I sing the song of myself all the time. I project a wonderful life story on the woman who speeds past me in the black Audi with bike racks. I plug in my projection of who she is and how she will be amazed at the new song I have written her. And I’m sure at one point, my ex-y, pre-kids, pre-major-adult-responsibilities, saw me.
My mom has a picture of me at that time. My girlfriend-at-that-point-in-time and I had gotten a Boston Terrier together. In the picture I am holding the tiny dog and looking pretty pleased with my life. It was the only time in my life that I had shoulder-length hair. This is who my ex-y saw and crawled into life with. This younger me, with long hair, and ambitions to “make it” as a musician. And she was an artist too. We were artists.
As time progressed the real world set in and our first child brought more realness than we’d imagined. She took time off from work, I was self-employed and working in the garage of the new house, in the dream neighborhood, that we’d purchased for the kids. “For the kids.” Okay, it was for us too. There was a part of it, dream fulfilled, that we had moved into a sweet neighborhood with sweet schools and a sweet tennis/swim club just down the hill. It was a sweet moment.
Things got more and more real. I had to provide financially on a different level than I had ever had to before. We were happy in our little dream and we were working hard to keep it warm and fun. And of course we had the baby boy. The amazing baby boy.
And I recall the exact moment our second child was conceived. We both did. It was a mid-May afternoon, the weather was just moving from crisp to hot and my then wife, came home from her part-time work, and she was standing in the opening of the garage door, in her professional attire, looking like the very hot woman I had fallen head over heals in love with. The baby was inside asleep. It was a perfect moment. We made sweaty hot love with her on top of me, mostly still clothed, sitting in the chair at my desk. We both enjoyed it. An ecstatic moment.
Already, we were conscious of wanting another child. The baby had been so fantastic. And wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have a girl too.
This time the pleasant valley road didn’t go so smoothly. After our first proud sonogram at the regular ob/gyn’s office, we were given pictures of our baby girl [YAY] and the number for a pre-natal specialist. A few of the numbers were off.
Way the fuck off. And thus began the roughest moments in my life. Our daughter had a rare disorder, a blood incompatibility with my wife’s blood. The weekly doctor’s visits, with their go-nogo diagnostics were almost unbearable. But what do you do? You can only bear it. There is no RESET button. You can’t go somewhere else and hope things get better.
Our son was amazing. Our nanny was amazing. Our doctor and our pre-natalogist was amazing. It was all fucking amazing and terrifying.
And about this time, the twin towers were taken out and all of our lives, the entire planet, were stopped and changed. But the doctor’s visits still had to go on. And even though each of my consulting clients froze every cent of my income overnight, I had to press on with “what’s next.”
Neither of us knew what was next. But it was probably during this period in our lives that we began to lose track of each other. My spiral into despair and struggle was not a pretty one. And she soldiered on. She was amazing. I tried to keep telling her that without sounding desperate. I tried to be strong, and I guess I was, but everything was kitty-wampus and upside down. We do what you do. We pressed onward. We fought to keep our daughter, we blessed my wife’s part-time employer insurance that covered the entire 6 months of pre-natal care. We hovered around our son and each other. And we pressed on. And maybe we broke.
Our daughter was born healthy and feisty one mid-morning in November. And she was a miracle. The blood issues that might have been present didn’t show up on any of the monitoring machines. We had made it through the dark. We were through the initial shock of it all [birth, 2nd kid, 9-11] and turning the corner into the next stretch and headlong into some very dark woods indeed.
The very real work of having a family, working to keep a house and keep our sanity during such a trying time led to some pretty serious consequences. I will admit to having some sort of nervous mid-life break down. Somewhere in my fears my brain had decided it was no longer a productive part of my body. So we, my wife and I, were both in deep reality-bites mode and moving quickly into WTF mode.
My recovery was not easy. And the toll was paid on my wife, my son, and my new daughter. And the toll was taken on my life expectancy, as I continued to struggle for what I wanted to do now that my business had been blown up by 911. And the bills, mortgage, and doctor appointments never slowed down. It’s like my life had taken a stall, but the rest of reality kept barreling right along.
But as I recovered parts of my spirit, as my trusting and happy self re-emerged there was a long distance between my wife and I. We’d both been through hell. She had stayed sane and dealt with it. And I had exited in some psychological way and left her with all the work. [That’s not quite true, it’s not like I left or died or anything, but my 110% self was tucked away somewhere deep.]
And so in trying to make it forward we stopped listening to each other. We tried, but the noise the fear and the pain was too loud. And we struggled on. We both stuck it out. What choice did we have? Divorce? It wasn’t in my vocabulary. Depression. That one was familiar, unfortunately.
And our little unit survived. Scarred and weary, but we survived. And when the joy began to return, the true gut busting joy, I started feeling and acting on the hopefulness I felt. I’m imagining my ex-y never got back to that joyful trust again. She did not respond to my affections in the same way. She wasn’t supportive of the music I was creating as part of my recovery. I’m pretty sure she only listened to them when I sat with her and made her see me and hear me.
I was looking for something like a healing between us. I was expressing my ouch and my yay. She was not listening. She must have been listening to some other internal voice of her own. And the warnings and trouble overwhelmed the positive memories. Perhaps she never trusted me, or allowed the feelings of love to come between us, again. (Sad.)
We want to be seen. More than anything in the world we want to just be seen for what we are and what we have accomplished. I tried to thank her for her support and celebrate our rebirth. I sang to my kids. I sang to others. But she had lost the taste for my voice. And perhaps it was over for her, long before it was expressed as a desire for divorce. I kept singing. I kept writing poems. I kept playing and enjoying our kids. And she continued to maintain and increase her distance from me. Perhaps even from them, in some guarded way.
I writhed a bit. Our last Valentine’s Day as a married couple was a complete miss. I posted a geeky love poem on my blog. I was sure she would see it. She was working in Search Engine Optimization, so I SEO’d the post with her name and my name, thinking that might get caught in her filter. She did not see it. I kept it as a secret not as a trick, but as a way to surprise the heck out of her when she “discovered” my love poem.
I followed through on Valentine’s Day morning by letting her sleep in while I made pancakes and entertained the kids. [That this had become more and more of a pattern, might have been a clue as to her state of mind, but I was happy to give her some extra rest.] When she woke, I made her some coffee and breakfast. And I had a gift and a card for her. The kids had cards for her as well.
Her Valentine gift to me was a bit odd. She gave the me book of The Fighter. And her card said something about me being on FIRE and her like ICE. She was saying something about how our opposites were still good together. But I don’t think she meant it. I was more confused than encouraged. I wanted to understand the hint, but I couldn’t get past the pugilistic book. How that exemplified her love for me, was unclear.
I was still writing love letters and she was giving me a book about a boxer. Clearly we were not hearing or seeing each other with the same hearts that brought us together, eleven years earlier.
The Off Parent
the story continues…
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