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Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

I’m pretty sure I’ve written here before how having children so dramatically changes your perspective, not least of which has to do with regrets you may have had in life.  The steps you took in life, even the steps you may have regretted, ultimately led you to the path that brought your children into your life… and every day I see these wonderful little souls, these amazing lives that are growing and becoming more and more independent and curious, with dreams and hopes for their futures, I realize that even a slight deviation in my path to them might have prevented them from even existing.  It takes my breath away when I think back and contemplate how easy it could have been to take a different path, and so how can I regret the things I used to think of as mistakes and lost opportunities if they ultimately led me to these beautiful kids?

In the universe of previously-regrettable moments, there are two that are tied to one particular individual, an old friend I’ll call Mike.  Mike and I knew each other for years, but got quite close in high school and our early college years.  We had similar interests in nerdy stuff, were both smart and creative, and both rather big guys.  But while I tended to be more shy and introspective, Mike was outgoing and boisterous, which of course let him be much more successful with girls than I.

At one point in high school I went over to the house of a different friend of mine and met his sister for the first time, and I totally flipped for her.  I don’t even remember what I had gone over there for, all I recall was that his sister and I hit it off like long-lost soulmates.  We had a ton in common, we had a similar dark sense of humor and constantly laughed at each other.  While I tended to get extremely bashful around girls, something about her put me totally at ease, we kept constant eye contact, shared smiles, and by the time I had to leave she gave me a wonderfully long, lingering hug.  She was tall, long dark hair, a dazzling smile… I never wanted to let go.

I remember driving away in a daze, totally smitten… and in a quandry.  This was my friend’s sister!  In my circle of friends there were sisters who had gotten involved with friends and it usually didn’t end so well, and it tended to muck up the friend dynamic, often evoking the “protective big brother” response, which trumps friendship every time.

But… but… she was perfect! (more…)

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Today is one of those awkward dates in a recently separated/divorced person’s life.  You know…

The Wedding Anniversary.

14 years ago today, my ex and I said our vows in front of God, family and friends.  It was a lovely ceremony; we’d rolled the dice and crossed our fingers, picking an outdoor wedding at Maymont Park, and the weather was gorgeous.  The humidity was low, a nice breeze in the air, warm but not too warm.  Birds were chirping.  The very next day, the weather turned cold and rainy, but by then we were in the air flying to Cancun.

It’s certainly a bit sad now for me to think back to the man I was then, filled with all the hopes and dreams for our future together, and then ponder where we end up.  For many people, there’s probably a lot more emotion tied up in the Wedding Anniversary than a little bit of sadness, but that’s all there really is for me.

I recently had a nice conversation with Cdn Stormweather — who writes the awesome Life in the Dash Lane blog — regarding my previous post on a Reverse Bucket List, and she asked me if I died tomorrow, would I go feeling fulfilled and happy?  Certainly an interesting notion to ponder.  Yes, it would be easy to get caught up in regrets and other negative emotions regarding how the marriage turned out, but I have to say that I think I’d be fine on that front.

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While reading various blogs about singledom and dating, I often run across these “non-negotiables” lists.  The bloggers draw out these lines in the sand, and if someone fails to stay within the lines, they are not worth dating or loving.

Really?

My friend Courtney wrote an awesome guest blog on Simply Solo called When He Cheats, about finding the strength to forgive.  In reading the comments, quite a few people said, more or less,  “I would never be able to forgive, I’d never be able to trust him again.”

Seriously?

I have to admit I find this sort of rigidity perplexing.  Yes, I understand having a mental list of what you want in a mate– after all, my blog is called My Ideal Woman, so I’m familiar with the concept!  But I think too many people get what they want in a mate confused with what they need.  Sure, I could picture what I may want my ideal woman to look like physically, and I could even sketch out a laundry list of personality traits that would indicate we’d be perfect soul mates.  I’ve written a ton of blog posts doing just that.  But honestly now, those are just wants.  They are hardly non-negotiables.   What people need are the big ticket items:  someone you love and who loves you, someone who’s relatively sane, someone who’s not wanted by the law.  Things like that. (more…)

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Shelter from the Storm, by Kendra Baird

I was in another lifetime one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness a creature void of form
“Come in” she said
“I’ll give you shelter from the storm”.
–Bob Dylan

Most people I know consider me a pretty optimistic, cheerful person; a “glass half-full” kinda guy.  But there was a time I wasn’t like that.  I had a lot of anger, a lot of hurt, a lot of self-esteem issues.  When life handed me a steaming pile of shit, my main response was “well of course, that’s just my luck.”  The world was out to stomp me at every turn and people, in general, were selfish, unreliable, petty and mean.

Then at one point, in my early 20s, I had a revelation.  A revolution of sorts in my attitude.  I wasn’t a musician or poet or a darkly handsome hipster, so being sullen and angry was not at all attractive.  It wasn’t attractive to women, it wasn’t attractive to friends, and it wasn’t attractive to teachers, employers or potential business contacts.  What good was giving in to my dark emotions doing for me other than making me feel horrible, and repelling those around me?

Now, that’s not to say I was 100% sullen and angry back then.  There was a big part of me that was kind, sympathetic, and found pleasure in soothing and healing other people’s pain.  It’s just that for too long I let the dark side dominate my attitude and something needed to change.  I made a conscious effort to pack away the anger, the hurt and the self-esteem issues and let the other side rule my life.  It made a big difference in my enjoyment of life and made me someone who was a lot more fun to be around.  I’ve done a pretty good job keeping those positive thoughts and feelings in the forefront of my mind for 20 years now, even through the tough times of a disintegrating marriage and subsequent divorce.

But sometimes it gets really, really hard.

This Fall and Winter has been hard.  Yes, there have been good things that have come my way, blessings from special people in my life and a few lucky breaks, and I’ve tried hard to focus on them, to let those things light my path.  But there have also been a steady stream of bad breaks, bad news, and stress that have accumulated and left me in a general funk lately.  And it’s made me realize just how awesome it would be to have a special someone in your life that you can turn to in times like these, to give you that shelter from the storm, who can share in the burdens and soothe that pain.  Yes, family, children and friends can offer some level of comfort, but nothing beats having a lover that can wrap you in her arms, give you warmth and kisses, to be not only shelter and shield but your comrade-in-arms, our love the swords beating back and conquering the negative forces that surround us.

let's whoop some ass

In times like these, not having someone like that leaves a great gaping hole that threatens to let all those dark forces I’ve kept put away come pouring back out.  But I know that giving in to that will do nothing to help my situation and, indeed, likely just make it worse.  So no need to worry—my positive attitude remains the dominating force in my life, but right now it’s just really hard, and has left me with a serious case of the February Blahs.

One day she’ll come into my life, someone special who will be shelter, shield and sword for me, and I will offer her the same, and together we’ll handle anything that life throws our way and come away smiling.

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The other day I was listening to the awesome Sex Nerd Sandra podcast and she was talking with guest Dr. Christopher Ryan, the co-author of an  interesting book on human sexuality called Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality [the paperback is called Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships].  Basically the theory is that we human animals have a million years of sexual and social behavior that’s been hard-coded into our bodies and brains, with just a thousand year thin layer of “modern” notions of sexual and social behavior trying — often unsuccessfully — to paper over our natures.  If you’ve never listened to her podcast this is a great one to sample (though she’s got a wide variety of topic and show-styles outside of this interview show).

Among the many topics he touched on was one that kinda blew me away… and really hit home.  Basically he said studies have shown that birth control pills tend to suppress the chemical responses in women that draw them to particular men as mates… and also supress similar chemical responses in women that repel them away from particular men as mates.  After listening to the show I Googled up an article he published in 2010 about the topic (How the Pill Could Ruin Your Life), and here are some of the key things he brought up:

“In 1995, Swiss biological researcher Claus Wedekind published the results of what is now known as the “Sweaty Tee Shirt Experiment.”  He asked women to sniff T-shirts men had been wearing for a few days, with no perfumes, soaps, or showers. Wedekind found, and subsequent research has confirmed, that most of the women were attracted to the scent of men whose major histocompatibility complex (MHC) differed from her own. This preference makes genetic sense in that the MHC indicates the range of immunity to various pathogens. Children born of parents with different immunities are likely to benefit from a broader, more robust immune response themselves.”

“The problem is that women taking birth control pills don’t seem to show the same responsiveness to these male scent cues. Women who were using birth control pills chose men’s T-shirts randomly or, even worse, showed a preference for men with similar immunity to their own.”

Consider the implications. Many couples meet when the woman is on the pill. They go out for a while, like each other a lot, and then decide to get together and have a family. She goes off the pill, gets pregnant, and has a baby. But her response to him changes. There’s something about him she finds irritating-something she hadn’t noticed before.

Now, I think it takes a lot more to make and break up marriages than pheromones and whether someone is on the pill or off, but I’m also a firm believer that biochemical reactions in our bodies and brains drive a lot more behavior than most of us realize.  What blew me away though was that this was weirdly the perfect answer to what had been a rather perplexing ending to my marriage.

My ex and I had a really long, on-and-off-again relationship before we got eventually got married.  I was always under the impression that there was plenty of love between the two of us, but once we had our two kids (nearly back-to-back) it was like a light switched off with her, and everything I said, did, didn’t say, or didn’t do annoyed the shit out of her.  Built up over time, it was pretty impossible to stay together.

In the aftermath, trying to make sense of things and learn Life Lessons from it, I cooked up several theories that I thought did a pretty good job of explaining What Went Wrong… but none of them easily “fit” as a good answer.  That’s okay– life’s complicated, people are complicated.  Sometimes you can’t explain everything.

But… our relationship prior to children, which spanned about 11 years of-and-on, while up and down certainly did not seem to lack passion and love.  I’m pretty sure she was on the pill that whole time.  Stopped taking the pill to have kids… and everything went to hell between us.

Both my heart and brain tells me that such a simple answer can’t be right, but then I think of Occam’s Razor, the pill + bio-chemical responses… and damn if it doesn’t seem to fit what happened much better than my other theories.

I know there are things we could have done — should have done — differently that might have made a difference, but I find it both fascinating and appealing to think that perhaps our bodies just weren’t bio-chemically compatible all along, and we just didn’t know it until we wanted to have kids together.

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The other day I was reading the awesome blog  Life in the Farce Lane and her entry End of an er…or inspired a comment from me that inspired this blog post.  She talks about recently taking her engagement ring off, months and months after breaking up with her fiance, and how it felt to take off the ring and having a personal “farewell” party.  It was a very touching and bittersweet post.

It’s tough going through those sorts of milestones, putting away important pieces of your old life. Reminds me of when I first stopped wearing my wedding band after my ex and I split.  It just felt weird not having it on.  My finger was used to having it there, the small indentation and slightly lighter color where the band was took a while to go away.  Oddly enough, what bothered me the most was, when tapping my fingers to music, I couldn’t add that metallic “clink” to the rhythm.  It also made me realized that I used to “clink” the ring against stuff as I’d put my left hand against it sometimes without really thinking about it, but often enough that it was a little jarring not hearing that sound anymore.

I still find the white gold ring lovely to look at; it’s scuffed and worn from 11 years of getting brushed against whatever I put my hands on or carried, taking showers with it, swimming with it, doing yard work with it.  Some of those years weren’t happy ones, but I still see the ring as a reminder of the happiness we felt when we bought it and got the inscription made inside the band (both our initials, plus the wedding date to help my forgetful mind remember as the years went by), the optimism and the excitement for the future when we gave our vows and exchanged rings.  The scuffed and dull finish now reminds me of the time invested in a relationship that produced two beautiful and sweet children that I adore.  While the marriage didn’t ultimately last, I don’t regret it.

I remember when we went on our honeymoon, and we had to sit in seats across the aisle from each other on the airplane, where we could chat but obviously not really act like newlyweds and hold hands, snuggle or show more blatant public displays of attention.  Even so, one of the stewardesses asked me if we’d just gotten married.

“Yes!  How did you know?” I asked.  I was 32, she was 31, so we weren’t kids.  Did we have a newlywed glow?  Was there some vibe that we gave off?

“Your wedding band is so shiny,” she pointed out.  “When you wear that ring every day that shine wears off pretty quickly, so yours is obviously really new.”

I lost the band a couple times over those 11 years.  I’d rarely take it off, and occasionally when I did I’d forget to put it back on, then forget where I’d left it.  It usually wasn’t hard to figure out where it was, in part from my habit of tapping the ring against stuff to give me that “clink” sound, and how I’d notice when suddenly that sound didn’t happen when I was subconsciously expecting it.  It was usually within the hour or so, and I’d quickly find it.

One time the band was missing for over a week.  I remember tapping my hand against a doorway, realizing the “clink” sound was missing… and I couldn’t remember when I may have taken it off.  Or when the last time I had been conscious of it on my finger, the last “clink” sound.  I retraced my steps, checked all the floors in the house, checked my car.  The next day I checked my cube at work.  It was nowhere to be found.

After a week I was resigned to the fact that the ring was gone, and contemplated whether I should get another one or not worry about it.  I’m not really a jewelry-wearing kind of guy anyway.

Then one day, as I walked to the shed to get out the lawnmower, a gleam of light reflected off something in the grass in the middle of the yard.  I knelt down and there it was—my ring, deep in a clump of grass!  It kinda blew me away that something so small, in the middle of my back yard, which is mostly shaded by trees, could have given off a reflection of sunlight at just the right angle for me to see it as I walked.  Finding it again seemed remarkable.

Right now it’s packed away… safekeeping it for whichever of my kids might want it when they grow up, maybe as something to hang on a necklace, or something else interesting.

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GREAT movie!

[NOTE:  I recently watched Lost in Translation again and, even after all these years, I still find the movie mesmerizing and enchanting.  But having gone through the crucible of a failed marriage the movie resonates even deeper.  Murray’s Bob is a lifer in a loveless and cold marriage and feels disconnected from his kids.  Johansson’s Charlotte is just starting out in married life but is justifiably having second thoughts and concerns due to a spouse that seems to take her for granted and not be all that interested in her.  They both are longing for something greater, more meaningful. I relate and connect to both of their characters in such different ways than I did back when I first saw the movie and was moved by it.

I’ve always thought of “art” as the space between what the artist creates and what the viewer brings, it’s that intermingling of intention, perception and perspective that makes something special that moves us.  I find it a rare joy when you can enjoy a film one one way when you first watch it, and have that enjoyment change in tone and texture as you yourself have changed over time.  I thought I’d repost this review I wrote up for Livejournal back when it first came out in theaters.]

I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where they’re blowing

Scarlett Johansson is intoxicating. She first hit my radar in the delightful Ghost World where she gave a solid performance in a supporting role that nearly felt like a co-lead. With Lost in Translation, she’s even better. The critics have been showering praise on Bill Murray– and it’s warranted. It’s his finest performance ever. I guess he’s getting the attention since, for the first time that I can remember, he truly transcends himself. When you watch you often forget that it’s Bill Murray up there, you think of him as his character Bob.

Lean on me

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