Tag Archives: Divorce Recovery

A Post About Nothing and Everything

(Image/teepublic.com)

(Image/teepublic.com)

I’ve been sitting here staring at the screen. Another one of those I-don’t-know-what-to-write moments.

“What happens if you just took a pass on writing a post for today?” a friend asked.

“I took a pass on writing a post on Wednesday,” I said.

Maybe it’s time to cut back to two days a week. Or maybe something awful needs to happen because I tend to do my best writing when I feel.

It’s not that I don’t feel. Life is just more typical of the human experience I remember having prior to all the shitty things that happened once I turned 30.

Maybe that’s something, though. Sometimes people hurting after divorce want someone to tell them how long it’s going to hurt. That’s what I wanted to know the most back then. When will I be ME again? Ever?

I kind of wanted to die for the first six months, didn’t care whether I died the following six, but noticed improvement. I don’t remember the 18-month mark which means it wasn’t that significant, and I must have felt better.

As we sit today, I am two years and more than four months away from the separation date—the worst day of my life. And I’m totally fine. Things about my life are shittier than when I was married. But some things are better. It’s how you feel when you wake up in the morning that really matters.

The “problems” I wake up thinking about today are a spoonful of sugar compared to the fuckness of divorce. I’m down nearly 20 pounds. I feel pretty good. I’m actively engaged in various business pursuits as I attempt to improve my financial standing.

It’s a very nice change. To not feel wretched all the time.

I’m not saying two years from now, you won’t hurt anymore. Everyone deals with these things differently in their own way and at their own pace. But I think MOST people are MOSTLY the same on the inside. I think you can mark your calendars for the two-year mark as a nice “I’ll totally feel better then!” benchmark. But don’t forget to be grateful each step of the way when you notice the pain fading.

It’s a slow process.

But you notice yourself breathing more easily, smiling more, living more fully, with each passing day.

As I sit here not knowing what to write, I choose gratitude for those things.

Things on my Mind

That’s usually what I try to write about. Whatever’s top of mind.

I spend a lot of time thinking about my career.

No one gives a shit. I’m not going to write about that.

I was interested in, and entertained by, last night’s GOP presidential debate even though I tend to feel mostly disgust for Washington politics (toward both major parties) and am usually politically engaged only during election cycles.

Political conversation is too divisive. Debate and defending myself exhausts me. And I’ve never (not even once) seen someone change their mind while discussing issues with someone with whom they disagreed. I don’t want to write about it.

To that end, I’ve been reflecting on relationships between people from different backgrounds or faiths or political philosophies, and whether it’s sensible for those people to try to make a relationship work.

Not unlike my general belief that couples too far apart in age are often making a poor choice in terms of sustainability, I have strong feelings about other aspects of a couple’s personality makeup as well.

I once spelled out exactly what I’m looking for in a relationship partner. It has been read just 162 times because it’s one of my oldest posts.

I went back and read it to see whether I feel differently today.

I don’t.

I’m not going to write about that because I already have.

So what am I going to write about?

Nothing.

Everything.

This.

I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.

But I do know it’s good to be back. To recognize myself again. To feel back.

And maybe that’s what this is really about. You tell me.

*PUBLISH*

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Groundhog Day CXXIII

Phil saw his shadow. Bogus.

Phil saw his shadow. Bogus.

“This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement

of a large squirrel predicting the weather.” – Phil Connors, Groundhog Day

It was just one of those days.

Things, breaking.

Dad’s closest friend called. He’d just totaled his wife’s brand-new car. My five-year-old son was complaining that one of his legs was hurting. The old Jeep Cherokee-turned-snow-plow was having trouble starting and it was snowing. And not just regular snowing. It was of the bend-over-and-how-do-you-like-that? variety.

Our family only knows one way to deal with such trying circumstances. “Did somebody say ‘tequila?’”

Drinks started flowing early, because: Suck it, snow.

Last-minute preparations were being made for the annual Super Bowl party. It’s kind of a big deal. Dozens and dozens of people because my father is one of the few people on the planet who builds not one—but TWO—pretty massive bars on his property.

The only problem with having the greatest party location in the world is that everyone wants to come and bring everyone they know.

I think Dad used to like it. Hey, look at me. I’m in my fifties, and a million people come to my parties without me even inviting anyone!

Which is true. There will be 60-75 people here tonight without any sort of formal invitations being sent. People just know to come.

It would appear that Dad’s liking it less these days. Now, he’s more of the mind to have a bunch of his close friends here but maybe not worry about how much fun 20 strangers might be having.

I get it. But I’m also trying hard to be Take-Responsibility-for-your-Decisions Guy, and, hey Dad: If you build it, they will come.

Someone my dad doesn’t know very well who looks remarkably similar to R.E.M. front man Michael Stipe (I saw him at the Super Bowl party last year, looking very shiny and happy) wants to bring a bunch of his in-laws. I heard my father tell someone “No” for the first time, like, ever.

And all night, Dad was walking the line between crotchety old guy and total hilarity.

He leaned over to his friend who just hours earlier had totaled one of his vehicles, not particularly sympathetic because he had a Super Bowl party crisis on his hands with the possibility of Fake Michael Stipe showing up with his wife’s family.

“I mean, if you’re coming, I better know you, and I better like you!” he said.

A Different Life Now

Dad’s not unkind. He just cares less about making new friends than someone like me. I live a life isolated from most of my friends and family.

I live somewhere where I have no roots.

My dad’s side of the family is 500 miles west of my house. He lives in the general vicinity of where he grew up surrounded by lifelong friends. And my mom’s side of the family is more than 200 miles away despite also being in Ohio. She too, lives surrounded by familiarity.

I took a different path. Choosing independence. Moving away for college. Then moving to Florida after college. Then returning to Ohio, but living about as far away from “home” as Buckeye State geography allows.

My ex-wife is from the area—the area in which I now live. Her extended family lives there. My in-laws. An entire family. Evaporated because of divorce.

And now it’s just me. Just me and the boy and the handful of friends I’ve been fortunate to get to know over the past seven years.

I don’t like to be jealous of my father. Especially because no human being has done more for me in my life than that man. But deep down in the part of me I don’t talk about much? I envy people surrounded by friends and family. A built-in, reliable support system to help carry you through the challenging times.

There have been some challenging times.

It’s not loneliness from an entertainment or companionship standpoint. I have wonderful friends. It’s more the feeling that I have to deal with life 100-percent alone. That’s never happened before. And the 10 months that have passed since my family disappeared have done little to erase that feeling.

And now I’m back in the nest. Safe. Here’s my dad. The guy that fixes stuff that’s broken. Here are a million friends and family members. Masking the aloneness.

But a few days from now? It’s just going to be me again.

Just me back in the quiet house in Ohio. Fingers tapping these keys. Tap, tap, tap.

And you. You serving as my support system to fill a void I’m not sure it’s fair or healthy for me to ask you to fill.

It’s Cold Out There Every Day, What is This—Miami Beach? Not Hardly.

So, it’s a little like Groundhog Day now. Not the traditional real-life event which happened today in Punxsutawney, Pa., but the 1990s film starring Bill Murray, whose movies I’ve been going out of my way to watch lately. (Because I like laughing.)

Where most every day is the same. Unlike Phil Connors’ experience, the details change. But really, it’s just the same thing over and over again. And like Phil, I’m going to have to make some changes in my personal life to get me out of the rut.

Seeing friends and family is a powerful reminder of that.

Because something’s different. And anything different is good.

“There is no way that this winter is EVER going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

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The Fantasy Life, Vol. 3

happy-worker Not unlike some overdue library books I kept far too long, my fantasy football teams in 2013 were a reflection of the state of my life.

Unmanaged. Disorganized. Neglected.

The day I wrote about those library books, I was feeling particularly wretched. I’m not sure I can pinpoint why. I just know it was one of my lowest days in what has been a three-year run of major suckage.

Fantasy football is no longer the obsession it once was for me.

There’s nothing like a little personal turmoil to help a person straighten out their priorities.

What I’ve found throughout this divorce-recovery process has been that all of the fun things I used to enjoy when I was married—my individual hobbies and pursuits, I mean—I now have trouble enjoying.

I don’t blame my interest in fantasy football, or my interest in playing poker, or my interest in music as reasons for my marriage ending. But it’s almost as if subconsciously—because they were mine and not ours—I’m having trouble finding joy in these things.

I’m sure many of you know exactly what I mean.

Sometimes, It’s Not as Bad as You Think

Because of—I don’t know what to call it. Depression, maybe. Because of that, I totally neglected my fantasy football rosters this year.

For the uninitiated, fantasy football requires those of us who play to manage our rosters of real-life football players that make up our teams. If they play well in real life, your fantasy team scores points and does well, also.

Sometimes players get hurt. Sometimes they have bye weeks where they don’t play at all.

And because of those scheduling inconveniences, and my inability to find five minutes to adjust my rosters each week, there were at least eight weeks this season where I played someone who received zero points because they didn’t play in real life.

Of the three leagues in which I participate, I started players who were on injured reserve and out for the entire season in two of the leagues for several weeks, and I started a nearly uncountable number of players during their bye weeks.

Despite this gross negligence, I have managed to remain in third place in the league that matters most to me—the one I won for the first time last year. We formed this league 20 years ago when I was 14 years old. I haven’t done anything for 20 years other than be alive, and eat, sleep, etc.

With two weeks remaining in the season, I am 89.16 points behind the guy in first place—an insurmountable lead, unless every player on his team dies.

Because I’m a masochist, I decided to go week by week through each week’s scoring summaries to see how many points I would have if I’d simply not started injured players and guys on bye weeks.

Had I managed my team as I normally would have, I would have scored 151.52 more points this season. I would have a 62.36-point lead—a lead I don’t think I could lose.

I would be preparing to win back-to-back championships.

I encourage everyone reading to ignore this image except for the guys in my fantasy football league.

I encourage everyone reading to ignore this image except for the guys in my fantasy football league.

I was watching The Legend of Bagger Vance a few weeks ago. I’ve seen it a handful of times.

The film ends with an epic golf match between three players. The film’s protagonist—played by Matt Damon—calls a penalty on himself because his ball moved a half-inch when he was trying to clear the ground around his ball.

The ball moving was an accident. It did not give him a competitive advantage. He didn’t have to call the penalty on himself.

But he did anyway. To be honest.

Be good even when no one’s watching.

And on the 18th green, the match ended in a three-way tie.

But you always know the protagonist would have won if not for that silly, little technicality.

So, you smile.

Kind of like me.

Sure, my fantasy team didn’t suffer from some great act of nobility. It was nothing but laziness and apathy. I don’t deserve to win.

But I still like knowing I did it again—that I put together the best team—even in the midst of chaos.

Sometimes, it’s not as bad as you think.

I was frowning early today about the gray, cloudy skies. But now they’ve parted. And the sun is shining.

I was frowning yesterday, unsure whether I wanted to leave the house, feeling content to stay home alone. Reclusive in recovery. But I attended a Christmas party with friends. We laughed. We drank. We laughed some more. It was perfect.

I frown often, because my life is unmanaged. Disorganized. Neglected. But my mom visited for a few days this week and helped me pick up a lot of the literal pieces.

And now many things are in place.

Things are coming together.

Literally.

And metaphorically.

Hope.

Always, I choose hope.

And I feel as ready as I have in a long time to continue my pursuit of happiness.

The place where joy lives. Where peace lives.

The fantasy life.

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The In-Laws

The holidays are coming. As does the all-too-literal winter of my discontent.

The holidays are looming. As is the all-too-literal winter of my discontent.

The losses in divorce are great.

There’s a huge pile of them. And a lot of collateral damage.

With the holidays approaching, the one I’ve thought about most is the loss of my ex-wife’s family.

You see, I live here—in northeast Ohio—in large part because of her.

I willingly came here and was happy to be here.

But taking my wife out of the equation? I don’t really want to live here anymore.

Today, I live here because of my son. Because I would never, under any circumstances, choose to relocate somewhere where I saw him less, or made him feel like his father was abandoning him.

There’s just no way. There is no person. No amount of money. No anything that could pull off that magic trick.

I’m here.

My choice.

Own your shit.

My ex-wife’s family is amazing.

Her mother is precious and kind. Always so steady. Even in the worst of times. A steady presence for her children and grandchildren. A steady presence for her now-estranged son-in-law.

My ex-wife’s only sibling is the best brother-in-law imaginable. Kind. Generous. Hard-working. An incredible uncle. He’s the perfect blend of his steady mother and his kind, generous, hard-working father who he lost two years ago. He and his wife have a beautiful little girl who’s life is rapidly passing me by, and will continue to.

Her immediate family took me in right away despite recognizing I wasn’t like them. I can’t pinpoint exactly all the differences. I’m maybe less country. A little softer. A little more selfish and self-centered.

They all have siblings. While I do have two stepsisters—good ones—and a half-sister 14 years younger than me, my upbringing was predominantly that of an only child. And I have those traits. The good and bad ones.

But they took me in just the same.

I think the one thing they always recognized despite my many flaws is that I always had my ex-wife’s best interests at heart.

From Big Families to Small Ones

My mom is the oldest of eight children.

Family gatherings—even the impromptu ones on random Saturdays and Sundays growing up—were pretty big events. The holidays, weddings and other family reunion-ish events were almost epic in scope.

I have a million and a half cousins. The youngest ones are still in high school.

So, even though I grew up an only child, I was always immersed in a big-family environment.

It was wonderful. I am so fortunate I was able to grow up as I did, where I did, and with the people I did, family and otherwise.

It was a rude awakening when my ex-wife and I moved to Florida—1,200 miles away from everything and everybody we knew and loved—upon graduating college.

Down there, everything was different.

No big family.

No huge social network.

No nothing.

Just my ex-wife’s aunt, uncle and adult cousin who lived more than an hour’s drive away. And the few friends we were lucky to make in a community dominated by retirement-aged people.

One Thanksgiving, it was just a half dozen of us eating turkey and ham in our apartment. A bunch of kids far away from their families and unable to afford the airfare home, or unable to get away because most of us were on-call newspaper reporters.

One Christmas I made lasagna for a few of us. We drank a little beer. We watched a basketball game no one cared about. We played a little basketball ourselves because it was 80 degrees outside.

Everything was strange.

We made the best of it.

But it was strange.

Home beckoned. And Ohio—all the good, bad and in-between—is home.

New Family Traditions

And so they began, almost immediately, as my wife and I relocated from Florida to Ohio in the fall of 2005, just before Halloween.

It took me a little while to get to know her large family. While I’m an Ohio native, this new, faraway region of the state was foreign to me. New faces, new places.

But here we were.

You could see on her face how happy she was. Celebrating Christmas with her parents. With her brother, who had also returned to Ohio after several years living in southern California.

Living a three-hour drive from my family and hometown was like living next door after those years in Florida.

It was wonderful.

Very kind, decent people on both sides of her family.

Her mother’s family. And her father’s family.

I was, and remain, particularly fond of her father’s side of the family.

There are aunts. Aunts who hugged me like their own every time I saw them.

There are uncles. Uncles who helped repair our cars and complete home-improvement projects.

There are cousins. Reflections of their parents, and in a lot of ways, reflections of my own family and my own memories, as I observed everyone come together during life’s best and worst moments.

They are beautiful.

And I love them.

And every time I flip the calendar, I get a little sicker as it represents more time disconnected from them, and the realization that the holidays are five minutes from now, and they can never, and will never, be the same without them.

My new family.

My new family that isn’t.

Living in the Now

I don’t have a choice.

None of us do.

We live in the present. We play the cards we’re dealt.

We can piss and moan and whine, and God knows I do that all the time. But the cards don’t change.

We play with them. Maybe win a hand. Maybe lose a hand. Maybe fold them altogether.

But there’s always a new hand coming. Always an opportunity for that next win.

And that’s what keeps me going now.

It’s been a decade now since a bunch of random young adults gathered in our apartment to celebrate the holidays the best we could even though everything was weird and wrong.

And that’s what I must do now. Be resourceful. Be grateful. Identify the good and celebrate it. Because there is always good to focus on.

But that doesn’t mean I can just forget everything that’s now missing.

When you lose a spouse, sometimes you lose more than a spouse.

Sometimes you lose a family. A big one. A wonderful one.

I haven’t spoken to any of them since the separation. I don’t know whether it was supposed to be my job to reach out. I never really know what to do in these awkward human situations. So I tend to err on the side of withdrawing.

I’m sure some of them think I just moved on and don’t care. I wish there was some simple way to let them know that’s not the case. To let them know how much they matter. To let them know how grateful I am for all they’ve done for me.

They turned a strange land into home. They turned strangers into family.

Like miracle workers.

And someday, I think, they’ll probably have to do that again. There will be some new guy. Some stranger they’ll need to turn into family.

My son’s stepfather, whoever that may be.

Once in a while, I pray for that guy. Whoever and wherever he is. That he be blessed with the strength and wisdom and kindness and ability to love required to care for my son’s mother, as she will deserve once she learns to love and forgive again.

That he be able to love my son as my stepfather loved me.

That he be everything I’m not.

That he be a much better man than I ever have been or will be.

I want that so much for my son.

I want that for my ex-wife.

I want that for that beautiful extended family who has treated me like gold all these years.

And I pray they will treat him the same and that he’ll deserve it.

But deep down?

I hope they always miss me and like me better.

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The Fantasy Life, Vol. 2

My championship trophy from last season is so much smaller than the Shiva trophy, pictured here.

My championship trophy from last season is so much smaller than the Shiva trophy, pictured here.

Many of us have been there.

Drinking all night. I feel fine! Totally cool to drive.

Maybe your friends take your keys.

Maybe you drive and make it home safely.

Maybe you try to drive, realize you can’t, and pull over.

Maybe the fuzz busts you because you’re stupid.

Minus the increased likelihood of hurting someone or getting arrested, I’m kind of like the I-feel-fine! asshole right now.

Because most of the time, I have myself convinced that I’m fine.

But then I need only take a step back and look at the evidence objectively.

Non-manicured landscaping.

Dishes piled up in the kitchen.

Not calling my grandfather on his 80th birthday.

Letting my bills pile up, half-heartedly paying them, sometimes late.

Neglecting projects I’ve promised to complete for people I really care about.

Not exercising regularly.

But one thing stands out above them all: Abandoning my fantasy football teams.

The Comeback Tour

That’s what I thought the return of fantasy football and the NFL season represented for me. I wrote about it in The Fantasy Life.

The comeback tour. The bounce back. The ability to let loose and really enjoy something again that doesn’t matter. To derive pleasure from the inconsequential.

That, I’ve come to learn, is evidence of a charmed life.

Things started off okay, too. I didn’t draft particularly well this year. My teams aren’t as strong as I’d like due to a little bit of bad luck and a little bit of poor decision-making.

But I was active. Participating. Competing. Attentive. And doing relatively well.

And then, during the fourth week of the NFL season, the wheels came off.

I just checked out.

I didn’t make a conscious decision to check out.

I just kept remembering on late Sunday afternoons: Oh shit! I didn’t update my fantasy football lineups again!

Then I’d shrug.

Screw it. I don’t care.

For four consecutive weeks, I didn’t update my teams or participate or give any kind of shit at all.

I just don’t care.

Right now, 50 percent of you are like: Yeah, no shit. Fantasy football is stupid. I don’t get it.

Another 49 percent is like: Yeah, every league has guys like that!

And then there’s the remaining one percent of you who know me. Who know that, while I’m not the epitome of fantasy football nerddom, I do take it pretty seriously. All those people just had stroke-like symptoms.

Because I read fantasy football magazines. Study. Watch shows. Have several conversations leading up to the preseason. Analyze coaching and personnel changes, and evaluate how they might affect a particular player’s performance.

Formulate strategies for draft day. Target sleepers in later rounds, and debate how I want to tackle the meat of my roster early.

But here I am, right now, halfway through the football season.

And, I. DON’T. CARE.

“I love the Cleveland Browns as much as my family,” I’ve said more times than I can count.

I’ve always been joking, but that line was designed to illustrate the depths of my fandom for that football team and for the NFL, in general.

It’s 6 p.m. on Sunday. An NFL Sunday. I haven’t watched one minute of football today. Not one.

I played with my son. I made lunch and breakfast. I took him to a park. We played with toys outside and on the living-room floor. We played video games. We played basketball on his Little Tikes hoop in the basement. We watched a show about African pythons.

After dropping him off at his mother’s, I mowed my lawn.

And now I’m here.

Here at the keyboard. Feeding this place. Because it’s what I care about.

Because this is what matters to me now, after my family.

This Road is Long

This post-divorce road.

This journey to rediscover myself. To create a new life. A new normal.

It’s so long.

It’s so laughable to me that I was trying to date right from the get-go. And justifying it because I hadn’t gotten laid in 48,000 years, as if that somehow made me ready.

A lot of people say it takes a year.

Others have said more like two. That sounds about right to me.

And yet another said it takes about a year for every three in which you were married.

Which means I’ll feel normal again in another two and a half years. Ugh.

I want to be back. I want to feel like me again. So badly.

But I’m not ready.

I’m not ready to date. I’m not ready to hurt someone or be hurt by someone.

I’m not ready to be back to 100 percent at work.

I’m not ready to prepare good, balanced, time-consuming meals.

I’m not ready to get all my work done at home.

I’m not ready to be back volunteering at the shelter.

I’m not ready to wake up early every single day and make this body what it wants to be.

I’m not ready to get lost in the inconsequential. Football. Television. Books. Poker. Golf. Parties. Music.

I’m not ready.

You see, The Fantasy Life used to be regular life. And I didn’t know how good it was.

And now regular life is the elusive fantasy life.

And I can’t wait to taste it again.

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