Thursday, July 24, 2008

Single dads...

I was thinking yesterday about my situation as a divorced man and how unfair the system is. And in an instant it dawned on me...perhaps the best example of the inequity of the whole worlds view of divorce.
My ex wife was single for 4 years after we divorced. During that time she referred to herself, and others referred to her, as a "single mom".
She was divorced and raising a child. But I was also divorced and raising a child and yet I have never heard of a man being called a "single dad" unless his wife died or abandoned the family. A perfect example of the inequity if ever there was one.
The term "single mom" alludes to a woman all alone facing the daunting task of making a living and raising a child. It illicits sympathy in some ways. It also implies that the dad isn't around to help, or isn't willing to help if he is around. Neither of these would be true in my case...or in the case of most other divorced dads. But we face this stereotype anyway. The poor divorced woman is seen as the sole provider for those poor children and the rat bastard ex husband is off somewhere with some 23 year old secretary.
Where did this idea get it's beginnings? I don't know. Female family court judges maybe. Women's groups. Probably a backlash against bad fathers. Who knows. All I know is that while there really are a lot of bad men out there who do reprehensible things to their families, I was never one of them. And most divorced men I know weren't either. I am starting to believe that the report I read was right...there are no "deadbeat dads" there are only defeated dads. Guys who just plain can't take it anymore. They give up 40-50 percent of their income to take care of their children, their wives don't have to pay taxes on it, they can't claim their kids on their taxes, and for all that they get to see them 7 days a month.
I have said this to other guys in private conversation and I will say it here...I have seen, we all have, those stories on CNN about some guy going over the edge and shooting his ex wife and his kids and then himself. Let me say this clearly...that's wrong and I don't condone it. But...I can see how a man can be in so much pain about his divorce that if he has no spiritual base, he can do something like that. I have been in so much pain in the past that I thought death would have been a relief somehow. I did NOT consider taking my own life...but I thought, at my deepest sorrow that it will be better when I am gone someday. Of course knowing the bond I have with Morgan and knowing the scar that would have left, I could never consider such a selfish notion. I want to live a long time and be there as long as she needs me. but I can understand how a man in this situation can become so overwhelmed with sorrow, fear, longing and dismay that without a spiritual anchor he sees tragedy as the only solution to his pain. Not that the act is right but it hurts THAT much. It can hurt enough to drive you to distraction.
The system that rules over divorce treats men with such disdain and second class citizen status that many just give up. Something as simple and seemingly innocuous as our ex wives being referred to as "single moms" while we are just divorced men only twists the knife a little further.
It's a silly thing really...unless you are on the receiving end. a single dad.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Things You Lose...Part 6

Self- Respect...
self·-respect (-ri spekt′)


proper respect for oneself and one's worth as a person

I thought I was done with the series on "The Things You Lose". But, as is usually the case, life reveals a new layer of the onion. ("Ogre's have layers, Donkey!")Yesterday I needed to communicate with my ex wife about something. when she calls me to discuss child issues or whatever, I treat her with respect and a sense that I am happy to hear from her insomuch as she is Morgan's mom and maybe we can at least be civil. When I call her, depending on whose company she is in at the time, it is as if I am the I.R.S. calling to inform her of her upcoming audit. Again, depending on who is in the room with her at the time, the conversation can either have the tone of someone who is pleasant and who at very least shares the common bond of a child, or she can be reduced to minimal grunts like a caveman. In about half of these cases, whatever I have to say is nearly ignored.
There are times I want to stop in the middle and scream "I'm Morgan's DAD Damnit! I have a say here too!" But I inevitably bite my tongue. One of us has to and it is always me because I don't "hold the cards" of primary custody like she does.
That scenario always ends up with me feeling like I have been emasculated and my "remnants" are in a snow globe on Holly's' mantle, and she just gave them a big shake. Why? Why do I keep allowing this reduction of my humanity?
Well I thought for the longest time it was just me and nobody else was feeling this way. Then I wrote a book about my experiences and the handful of men who have read the manuscript all had similar stories to tell. Then I discovered a term on a website that describes...and redefines...dads in divorce. The term is "Disenfranchised Fathers Syndrome". I thought, at first, that it was maybe just a bunch of angry men who went through divorce and were bitter about it. Then I found out that an entire book has been written about a woman. A woman psychologist. I only read excerpts but what I read was startling. I was right after all. It isn't delusional or bitter or just a group photo of angry men. Divorce is statistically harder on men in the majority of cases. The system actually is working against us, and we really are given second class status in the courts and in the entire system.
The biggest eye opener for me was the empirical evidence that backs up what my heart had been saying for quite a while now...that men are lumped together in post-divorce stereotypes and even the courts see us that way.
Many men abused their wives, or cheated on them, or had porn addictions, or gambled away the mortgage, or wouldn't get a job, or drank, or abused drugs, or any one of a litany of offenses. But not all of us did that. However...all of us bear the scarlet letter because of it.
I have seen the looks in the eyes of people when they first found out I was divorced. The look that said "you must have beaten, cheated, abused, must have done something!"
Now this article is not about self vindication, whatsoever. I made a boatload of mistakes as a husband. I let the strains and stresses of a young marriage and my poor decisions and the arguments that ensued get the best of me. I take full responsibility for my half...maybe even more than half. but in the 8 1/2 years that have passed since my divorce, I have realized that nobody really cares what I didn't do. They are too busy assuming what I must have done. And after a few years of those accusing glances and whispers, I began to see myself the same way. I can't tell you how many times I apologized to Holly for my part in the destruction of our marriage. Many times taking blame for things that I honestly had nothing to do with. Conversely I can't tell you how many times she has offered me an apology for her part...because she never has. I don't blame her really. She doesn't have to. Nobody expects her to be sorry. Not these days...not in this society. You can blame feminism or the courts, or social ills or whatever. But the truth is husbands and dads are replaceable as far as they are concerned. Unnecessary to begin with and replaceable throughout. Our feelings don't matter because we don't matter. Provide the child support, see your child...YOUR CHILD for a couple hours each week and two weekends a month and the rest of the time go away and keep your head down like a good little boy.
Enough years go past like this and you start buying into it. I have walked around feeling like every person who approached me could see right through me. Wondering if she "got to them" before I made their acquaintance and now they have a preconceived notion about me. I am nobody. Mention a story about a "deadbeat dad" and instantly every divorced man the teller ever met gets lumped into the tale. We're all deadbeats, we're all bad, we're all sub-people. You face those stares enough times and you start to see yourself as they do...and then you start to act like it. It effects your job, your social life, your happiness. In many ways I felt worse about myself five years after my divorce than the day it happened.
I have tremendous respect for my ex wife. She is beautiful, funny, extremely intelligent and perhaps the best nurse I have known, and I have actually known and worked with quite a few. I speak highly of her as a person, and as Morgan's mom. I have basically avoided becoming one of "those" guys who speaks of his ex in derogatory terms, as if he'd shove her in front of a bus if no one was looking.
But she has never returned the favor. She doesn't have to. The "system" established her as "the good parent" and me as the bad. She holds the aces and she doesn't have to be civil or kind. She had self respect granted to her by the court and I had a mountain of self degradation heaped on me. I already felt horrible about my divorce and then the system held a magnifying glass to it and then multiplied it exponentially. How can I have self respect when everywhere I turn I am force-fed disrespect and made to swallow it. And I pay for that privilege.
Of course the great X factor here is Christianity. I am a Christian and I write from a Christian perspective. But this is not a Christian based system we are under. I know I am supposed to get my self respect from my identity in Christ, but it is hard to retain that idea. It is a long way from what I am supposed to do and what I am able to do sometimes. I am a child of God. But on earth, I am defined by my membership in a group whose entire being is tied to the stereotypes born of the actions of the minority.
I want to stand up for my rights, I want to see myself as I once a man. I want to feel unhindered success again and I want to dream without the fear of being reminded of my failure. I want to feel whole and I want to not only like the image in the mirror, but I want to respect it. But that ability has been stripped from me. You lose your self respect in a divorce. And getting it back is a tough task.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wounds and Scars...Tears and Smiles

I got a phone call this morning from a good friend in East Tennessee. My friend Elizabeth is a single mom of two great kids. Her son Hunt is 16 years old and she speaks about him with the admiration and pride of a mom who invests all the love she can in her kids. Her ex husband is not, shall we say, up for Father of the Year anytime soon. He has essentially ignored his kids and been difficult their whole lives. So much so that Hunt decided almost two years ago that he no longer wants to see his dad. While this decision was necessary, it was difficult for him. Difficult because regardless of how poor a job a parent might do, or how badly they might treat us, they are still our parents after all. When you are a little kid, you see them as gods and whatever they dish out must surely be what you deserve.
Hunt dealt with this dichotomy in his heart but he had never been able put it into words before.
This morning, Elizabeth called me in tears. She had read my post about "The Necessity of Dads" and then she forwarded it to Hunt, who is in Mississippi at his grandparents farm. She told me her son was sitting in the cab of a huge tractor reading the post on his Blackberry crying because someone finally said what he held in his heart. He heard a grown man describe the longing of his heart for his fathers love and approval and he finally heard someone say it in the words his heart could grasp. It was at once sad and joyful. Sad because he saw another person with the same wounds, but joyful because an adult man had been where Hunt finds himself now and managed to put it in words, and in those words Hunt found some peace about it all. It doesn't make the rejection hurt less but it relieves him from the pain of thinking it has something to do with his value as a person or whether he is a good, lovable son. Hunt was able, maybe for the first time, to say "I deserved better". It freed him from trying to figure out what he might be able to do to change his father. Some people won't be changed and hearing an adult man say that set Hunt free in many ways.
When your dad rejects you, you have an internal urge to blame yourself and do something to get him to accept you. Hunt saw my struggle and seeing a grown man saying "I've been there too, and it's okay to get off this treadmill" was what he needed.
I am not saying this to boast. I say this because, less than two weeks ago this new blog was just an idea in a conversation between myself and James Ryle. Two weeks the day...a young man in Mississippi is freer because of what has been written here.
The wounds turn to scars as healing takes place. The tears can bring a smile if yielded to God, and while I may never understand the path I have to walk, I am thankful that my gift is telling the story of the journey and helping others who walk behind me.
Thanks to James for suggesting this site. Thanks to my new friend Hunt for finding your freedom today, and telling your mom about it. It makes my pain worth it.
It's more of the "Victorious Limp" in action. Now make sure that someday you are the dad you always dreamed of having, young man!
You'll be great!
For everyone else...this illustrates the vision for this blog completely. One guy, speaking openly about hurts that divorced men feel, setting someone else free.
Pass it on...

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Absolute Necessity of Dads

Today is Monday. I have Morgan for ten more days this summer and then I go back to the doldrums of my once a week / every other weekend life. I've been so absolutely miserable lately and I've had friends ask me why I endure all of this.
Yesterday I was driving with a friend to a lodge in a very rural section, to pick up a generator. Noting the beauty of the landscape, he asked me "Why would anyone want to live anywhere but Middle Tennessee?". He, like myself, is not a Tennessee native.
I told him, in no uncertain terms, that my time here is quite limited. I joked, tongue-in-cheek, that the day Morgan leaves for college, I am leaving with her. Not to the college, of course, but back home. Open an Italian Ice stand in Ocean City MD and live out my days from whence I came. I hope my friends here in Tennessee will understand that I am not railing against Tennessee. I am miserable and the only thing besides time with Morgan that seems to change my mood for the better is going home. Family, friends, familiarity. I need that desperately right now and it's nowhere to be found. I have good friends here, and the most wonderful church I have ever attended. But something is missing and I only seem to find it when I cross the Millard Tydings bridge at Havre De Grace and I know that I am 30 minutes from home.
There is nothing like a cheese steak, there is no sports talk like W.I.P. there is NO lake on this planet that can match the sun rising over the Atlantic, or the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay.
So why do I stay? I've had friends suggest that given the current situation I should just go home. Call Morgan every day and see her when I can during the year and still get my two months every summer.
Of course these friends fall into two categories...those who don't know me very well or those who don't have a perception of what it actually feels like to not see their children every single day. I imagine that regardless of how much you love your kids you could grow weary every once in a while and need a break. But I never get that chance with my schedule. I couldn't even picture a scenario where I don't see Morgan every week. I get her on Tuesdays and every other weekend and that's not enough for me, so I have lunch with her once a week at school. She loves it and it makes her feel very special. If I were to move back home, I'd be useless. I'd be curled up in the fetal position in a darkened room somewhere.
And it isn't just me needing her, she needs her daddy as well. All little girls do. All children do. Dad's lend stability to a crazy world and they shine a light in the darkness. Dad's make sense out of things that seem senseless and they are a calming voice in the great cacophony that tries to shout us all down. They can be anyway, if they choose to be.
Morgan needs me so I stay. It's as simple as that. Whether I am happy here or not is immaterial. Being here is my job, and besides the fact that the time with her is more than a fair exchange for the unhappiness of the rest of the week, I will always do my job as a dad. Nothing else on earth matters.
Morgan will always need me in some way. Right now she needs me a lot. She needs me to make sense of this life we thrust upon her when we divorced. She needs to know that just because her parents divorced, it doesn't mean they change their feelings for her or the execution of their parental duties. She needs to know that just because I don't live in the same house, she can always call me and talk about whats on her mind and if she needs me I'll be right there.
Saturday she called me in tears because her Beta died. (A beta is a fish) She loves animals and the fish's passing broke her heart. She is the most tenderhearted person I've ever met. I can't ever put myself in a position where that call would be hard to make or she would know in the back of her mind that I was too far away to get there in a hurry.
She will need me in the future too. She will be a teen ager before I know it. She needs a daddy who is present in her life to define womanhood and run off the ill prepared suitors. Daddies can instill a sense of beauty and purpose and self esteem that nobody else can do for a little girl. And I can't abdicate that privilege just so I can live somewhere else.
She will need me when she grows up too. She will need me to help her pick a college, a vocation, a spouse. I will be there, regardless of the cost.
She will need me when the waters get turbulent and the way seems dark. She will need me when life throws a spitball and the ump let's it go.
I know this full well right now. I am 45 years old and my life looks nothing like it did a year ago. My world has essentially crumbled and my dreams with it. And right now I could use having my dad around to talk with, about what is happening and what I am going to do about it. But he is not. He will not. And it hurts. I will never ever do that to my daughter. I will give up whatever I need to at whatever personal cost so that she doesn't have this sort of fear in her heart when the trouble comes, and this sort of knot in her stomach and this sort of pained feeling about the phone call she can't make.
It's a privilege not a burden, and it's an honor not a sacrifice.
Dad's are too necessary and I will not fail my daughter.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Identity Part Two...

Yesterdays topic apparently revealed something to my soul. I had a crappy day yesterday and a semi-sleepless night and this morning I am miserable.
I started thinking about it on the way to my office, (to face another day of disappointment and defeat) and I guess another layer of the old Ogre Onion must have been peeled off.
Yesterday I talked about Identity. I gave some very good examples of how my identity changed after my divorce. The past 24 hours have shown me some more. They hurt. I don't even like addressing them but this blog was intended to help guys like me who truly lost all that mattered in their divorce so I am going to post on the topic again today.
I don't think I knew just now much of my identity I lost when I got my divorce. Not until I wrote that post yesterday. Being a husband and a dad was not the most important thing I was all I was. There's a story here, so hang on to your grocery bags...
When I was 21 I found out that the man I had always been told was my father was actually my stepfather. My mother and father never married and, depending on who's version of the ugly tale you believe, my father either wanted nothing to do with me or he was so sick of being manipulated by my mother he relinquished his parental rights. The story has been altered by both sides so frequently I get motion sickness from the constant change.
Anyway, at age 21 I was suddenly re-identified, if you will. On the one hand I had this man who I loved and thought was my father, who had no capacity for love whatsoever and who took no interest in me whatsoever. I loved sports and he hated them. I loved humor and jokes and he hated that too. I wanted a dad to hang with and throw a baseball with and he wanted to come home at night and eat dinner and then be left completely alone for the rest of the evening. We had two things that we ever had in common and did together: deer hunting and going to drag races. In both cases, once we got to the venue, we basically separated for the day. I'd go to my tree stand and not see him until dark. Or I'd go hang out with my friends who were at the track with their car, and he'd walk the pits and sit in the stands. We never talked and we never did anything together that really mattered. But I always wanted to.
When my mother informed me of the whole sordid mess my first reaction was relief. I finally had an explanation for why this man didn't like me. I finally knew why that wall just wouldn't move no matter how much I pushed on it.
On the other hand...
My father is a lot like me. More than I know, I'm sure. He loves sports. He loves education and values it greatly, even achieving a PhD. He has been a wonderful father to the two children he has with his wife. He was a teacher and his students adored him. He was his sons' best man when he got married and they are very close. My sister readily admits she is still "daddy's girl" and she points to him as a hero.
He is funny. He likes people who are funny. He has an engaging personality and enjoys people in general. He is everything I needed when I was a kid and I never even met him until May 2007. He also doesn't recognize me as his son.
I grew up in a home where love was rationed out and used as a weapon and a tool. Nobody loved us just because we were their children. Nobody ever considered themselves blessed to have us around and enjoyed just the sound of our voices. (The way I do with Morgan.) Love was very conditional and you could lose it easily and it was near impossible to gain.
It drove me to near distraction to live like that and it had a similar effect on my two brothers and my sister. (the children of my mother and stepfather...)
All of us have struggled, all of us have been broken at times, all of us have tried to become something...anything...we thought we might need to become to win the permanent affection of our parents. But we never could.
Add my whole lineage issue to the mix and it gets even more cloudy. Here I was, in many ways free at age 21, from ever having to try to win the love of a man who had non to offer. And yet I was thrust into a quest for the love of a man with lots of it, who didn't, for whatever his reasons, want to give it to me. I simply leaped from one treadmill of rejection to another one.
God mercifully brought two families into my life back then who filled so many of those wounds. Pop and Jewell and Bob and Cathy literally saved my life. I was so torn apart inside and so damaged when they found me. They loved me as their own and they claimed me as their own. They considered me family and they meant it. But for all the love they displayed to me, it was scary at times. here were two sets of parents who had made the conscious decision to love someone Else's son. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my heart I simultaneously longed for it and accepted it, and feared it being temporary and conditional...just like always. In many ways it became self fulfilling prophecy. I tested their love many times. Fortunately they never buckled. They kicked my rear now and then, but they never stopped loving me. I never realized it then, but years after my divorce, when I could still go home to them and it would really still be home.
When I met Holly I thought I had finally found one person who would love me unconditionally. I mean, that's what a wife does, right? (or a husband, in case any women strayed in here unawares) I thought, "Now I can finally be me and not worry about performing in order to keep the love I've longed for. Someone finally loves me as I am". Marriage was finally going to let me sweep all the embarrassing mess of my identity away and I could redefine myself on my terms. That lasted about a month. When the problems started, I began hearing those terrifying words, "if things don't get better I'm leaving". I lived with that devastating fear for two and a half years. Conditional love again. Obviously I didn't perform well, or I wouldn't be hosting a divorced man's blog.
Being a husband was supposed to be my one thing. The thing I could finally do right, by simply being me, and I would have a lifetime of love unconditionally. I was finally identified in a way that I thought would make me happy and stop my endless "love safari". I was a husband, and marriage means that with all the other worries in the world, losing the love of your spouse was not going to be one of them, right?
Then we moved to Nashville. Until then I never knew how much I loved my home. Until then I never realized how much I identified with my hometown. Phillies Eagles, Flyers, Sixers. Cheesesteaks and Tastykakes and Italian Ice. Rocky and the Franklin Institute and Vince Papale. Going to the beach and the Mummers parade. That was, and is, who I am. It was never more evident as it was when I moved here. There is nothing wrong with this place. But it isn't my home. Not by a long shot. Maybe if I had remained married it might have become home to me. But I think Philadelphia is a little to embedded in my DNA.
But we came here and I was once again stripped of something that identified me.
Then we had our child. I was finally a dad. I was identified by fatherhood. For all the failures I had endured, I was great at being a dad. I still am. It comes naturally to me. I think I get that from my father. I love every single second with Morgan. I could fill volumes with the amazing things she has already done in her ten years thus far. I know everything about her and I treasure her beyond measure. No matter what befalls me I am the luckiest man alive being her dad.
So the man who thought he was a part of one family finds out he is actually from another family, and that makes him feel like he truly belongs to neither.
The Man who belongs to two other families wrestles with where and how he really fits in with them.
The Man who finally found a clear, unmuddied identity of his own in marriage and being a husband is now identified as a divorcee.
The Man who identified himself most importantly as a dad, is now limited in his ability to perform that most important task.
The Philadelphian lives in Nashville, and longs for Philadelphia.
Where marriage was supposed to clear up my identity, in many ways it just made it more cloudy.
And, apart from my daughter, unconditional love seems to still be a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by mystery.
And my identity with it...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Things You Lose Part 5

Todays Topic...contentment

con?tent?ment ?? (kn-tntmnt) KEY ?


The state of being contented; satisfaction.
A source of satisfaction: the contentments of a comfortable retirement.

I was beginning to worry about having another topic to write about here. Many of the subjects I've written about overlap other subjects so my original list of about a dozen items was whittled down simply by writing what I've written thus far.
But this morning I was sitting here pondering this blog and the list I've submitted so far and it dawned on me that amongst the things I lost was my sense of contentment.
I love the definition above. It's near perfect.
When I was married I was very contented. I was very satisfied. And, like the second line says, I enjoyed the contentments of husbandship and fatherhood.
Is this to say we had all we wonated and things were perfect? Obviously not or we'd still be together. But in my heart I was content because at that point I thought my search was over. I had found what I longed for and together we had brought a wonderful little girl into the world. Everything from that point on was icing on my cake...a gift from God...the bow on my present.
I was contented that I had someone to work for and achieve dreams with. Content that I was the daddy of the greatest little girl in all the world and that contentment was the fuel which drove me and the light in whatever darkness came our way.
Maybe I was going to be restless in other areas of decisions, where we'd live, what kind of house we'd buy, where we'd go to church, etc. But who I got there with was settled and I was very contented with that part of my life. "Go ahead and rock my boat if you want, world..." I thought to myself..."I am content inside with my wife and my child." With them at my side all you are is a storm and some big waves. I wasn't driven by desire for exorbitant wealth or fame or materials things. Whatever we could achieve together was going to be plenty for me because I was content with those I loved. The picture frame had a picture in it finally, and that equipped me to face the dragons each day.
But these last 8 years have stripped that contentment from me. A job that I once liked and appreciated and was content with because it was going to allow me to provide for my family, was now just a drudgery and I hated it most days.
When we moved here from the Wilmington DE, I was moving here to start a life with my wife and the child we were expecting. I LOVE my home and I miss my family and friends. But I was content to move here because my wife needed to live where she was comfortable and I was content if she was content. So I left family and friends and familiarity and was content to start a life...just us...and see what we could make of it.
Without the source of my contentment I find myself picking this place apart. It will never be home for me, I'm afraid, and I will never lose the longing in my heart to be home. Home where I consider it to be anyway.
I hate my job. Plain and simple. I long ago grew weary of the mortgage business. I am good at it so I stay with it. A bachelors in Pre Med biology doesn't get you much accept med school and I can't go there. So I write loans...when I can...and grow more discontented each minute with my vocation.
I am no longer content with my life. When Morgan is with me it is different, but mostly, it's mundane and drab. (not depressing mind you, just dull) Contentment adds life. It adds hope and brightness. When you are content with the biggest parts of your life you can explore other areas that need attention. Maybe you make a career move or maybe you don't. maybe you try writing a book or a song or painting a picture. You feel a safe haven in the happy contentment of your little patch of Earth. From that center you can move about the place...further knowing who you are as an individual and as a couple and a family.
Since my divorce, I only see myself as stuck in a place I like visiting but where I don't want to remain forever. I see myself as working a job I don't like because I don't have many options and my daughter matters too much to me to not provide for her. I long for the older, better days, where my friends were just a phone call away. I was contented with where things were heading. Now I don't always know where they are heading, and that leaves me very discontented indeed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Things You Lose part 4

The Things You Lose
Part 4

Today’s topic: Identity

iden?ti?ty ? ? ( -d n t -t ) KEY ?

pl. i?den?ti?ties
1. The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known: "If the broadcast group is the financial guts of the company, the news division is its public identity" (Bill Powell).
2. The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.
3. The quality or condition of being the same as something else.
4. The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity;
5. individuality.
6. Mathematics
a. An equation that is satisfied by any number that replaces the letter for which the equation is defined.
b. Identity element.

Today’s topic is Identity. Not everyone will see himself in this topic, at least not right away. Because our society is so adamant about defining a man by his career or his bank account or his car, or his boat, or his house, or his alma mater, we don’t usually place any emphasis on what really identifies a man.
I will give you my personal definition and use it as a mooring for today’s topic.
To me, Identity is who I am, and how I am known, to those I love the most.
Let’s start out side and swoop in…
First, if I am going to use this as a definition, I should define who I love the most.
Who really matters most to me? Well as a Christian I should start the list off with God. In reality, He is on top of my list but I struggle daily to keep Him there. (Or to allow Him to remain there would be more appropriate) Next would be my daughter, of course. No conversation about love ever happens in my world without her name being mentioned.
After Morgan would be my family. My brothers and my sisters, Bob and Cathy and Pop and Jewell and their families. My cousins and my uncles and aunts.
Then of course are my friends here in Nashville and back home. And the ones scattered around the country.
Then there is my church family. My small group, and the guys in our men’s ministry.
This is my circle of friends and these are the people I love and care about. These are the only people whose opinion of me matters in the end.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to narrow it down to a few of these.
In our society today men, more so than women, fall victim to allowing themselves to be defined by their careers or their possessions, (an offshoot of their careers) or some other tangible thing. I’ve seen enough examples of this in my life. I used to belong to a local fitness center here in Franklin, TN where I live. I remember two guys in particular who worked in the mortgage industry as I do. I believe they owned their company and I once heard them discussing a $90,000 loan for a customer in between sets on a bench press at 5:30 AM. I laughed to myself. I figured they were in the business about 3-5 years at the time, because most guys in this business lose the “newbie” attitude after that period. A few days later I happened to be walking out of the club at the same time they were and I saw that they both drove Tahoe SUV’s and one license plate said “HOMLOAN” (Tennessee has a 7 character limit) the other guy’s truck said “HOMEMTG”. Perhaps it was clever advertising. But I doubt anyone ever saw that plate and followed either of them to their office and filled out an application. It was probably more a case of two guys being defined more by what they did for a living and less by how they lived. I don’t know these two guys so I don’t have any reason to think they were bad men or whatever. But I saw two guys who spent the extra 80 bucks each to have their careers on their license plates. I’ve known other people who did that too. In most cases, if not all, their desire was to tell the world what they did, because they wanted to world to know them by what they did. One guy I know in a service career had the abbreviation for his career on his license plate. (i.e.; if he had been a “certified city planner” he would have had “CCP” on his plates) The ONLY thing you could get this man to talk about was his job. No sports, no politics, nothing whatsoever about his family. He was known and defined by his job. So if you had no interest in his line of work, you had nothing to talk about. That’s extreme but it happens. You see it in other forms too. Go golfing with guys you don’t know, and one of the first questions is “so…what do you do”. Look on the back of a guy’s boat. How many lawyers have boats named “Jurist Prudence” or “Legal Eagle”? (As a side note…my childhood hero, Bernie Parent, the hall of fame goalie for the Flyers has had a charter fishing business since before he retired from hockey…every boat he has owned has been the “Carol Anne” named after his wife. With all the obvious hockey references available to him he still chose his wife’s name). I once owned a boat, briefly, with someone else. The one and only name I could think of for the boat was “Morgan Wray”, by sweet little girl. Why? It’s because I am not defined by what I do for a living. She is the most important thing in my world and so if I have a venue where I am going to be publicly displaying my allegiance, even on a license plate or the back of a boat, I want to be proclaiming what matters most to me. When I first moved to Nashville, I had a small vending business. I sold Italian Ice at big events in Nashville. The first thing I did was develop a flavor especially named after my daughter. (Strawberry lemonade…appropriately named “Morgan’s Pink Lemonade”) Why? Because she was about a month old when I got started and she was then, as she is now, the only thing that really matters. When people walked up to check out Italian Ice for the first time, within mere moments they saw my daughters name, and I had the chance to brag about my precious little angel.
That is how I am defined. To my Lord, my family, and my friends I wanted to be known only as a loving husband, a great father, Holly’s husband and Morgan’s daddy. Success in business can be fleeting but those things matter forever. I wanted to be thought of in terms of how easily I showed my love for my daughter and how much I adored my wife. I wanted to be seen not as a successful businessman, but as a successful head of a family. Not as a single man in his forties in a sea of married people, but as a married man with a happy family. What I did for a living was just how I provided for what was really important. I don’t understand men who don’t think from that center. Your career is so fleeting, and if that is all you really are…what happens when you can’t be that anymore?
Everyone retires someday. Lots of companies have layoffs. People have accidents and can’t work anymore. What becomes of their identity once they can’t do the thing they identified with?
Divorce forces that on a man too. I was a husband, and I had a complete family. I had a picture of how I’d hoped it would be and I was working towards that goal each day. That was what defined me…not my job. When I went to pick up Morgan at daycare I was there as “Morgan’s Daddy” not “the mortgage guy”. When I saw her in her school plays and spelling bees I was their as her daddy, not some guy who was writing a book.
When we sat down to talk about what was on her heart, I never brought up interest rates of loan amounts. I am her daddy…first and only. What I do for a living is inconsequential as it relates to that role. Divorce took part of my identity and changed what it didn’t take. I was no longer identified as Holly’s husband. I was now identified by my failed marriage…and by the stigma that went with it. I was still identified as Morgan’s daddy, but now I sat somewhere else during the school activities because I wasn’t her mom’s husband anymore. In church, when groups of couples would go out for lunch after services, I am identified by what makes me different from them. I am single, in a group of married folks.
What I do for a living makes no difference when my identity has been changed.
I longed to be identified as a good man, but divorce changes that perception of me. My identity as a dad is restricted somewhat by time limitations because of the divorce.
All I ever longed to be known as was a great dad and husband and now one job is impossible and the other is a little more difficult. I am not identified as a success in the areas that mattered to me the most.
If I had a custom license plate it would say “MORGANZDAD-E”
That is my real identity.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Things You Lose Part 3

The Things You Lose
Part 3


fa?ther?hood ? ? (f伩mg align="ABSBOTTOM" border="0" src=""> r-h d ) KEY ?

1. The state of being a father.
2. The qualities of a father.
3. Fathers considered as a group.

I wasn’t even going to put the official definition for fatherhood on this post.
But in keeping with the previous entries I did so.
I’m glad I did. According to this definition, you can have the qualities of a father and that constitutes fatherhood. And you can possess the "state of being a father" (you fathered a child) and that also defines fatherhood. But I find it interesting that you can be the former without the latter. You can father a child and not have any of the qualities of a father. Conversely, you can have wonderful fatherly qualities and not have any offspring, or you can demonstrate fatherly qualities to children other than your own.
Today’s thoughts are about something else you lose in your divorce…fatherhood.
Now, right up front let me say that you don’t really lose your fatherhood from the perspective of it being taken from you or you not actually being your kid’s dad. That only happens when a man abdicates his position as daddy, either by his actions or his attitude.
Just as you can be a wonderful dad who sees his children on a limited basis because of visitation arrangements, so to a man can see his kids every day and fail miserably as a father. Being a Dad is not positional…it is earned and kept. Any man with working plumbing can father a child, but a dad is something different.
Even in this day and age of 50/50 parenting plans, a divorced dad still loses much of his fatherhood, in the tangible sense. I am a daddy 24 hours a day 7 days a week. But I only see my daughter on my assigned days. I get a phone call or two during the week and I try to go to her school at least once a week to have lunch with her, to give us more time.
But I will tell you this…regardless of how much time I see her each week it is never enough. It is not enough because it is controlled and measured. I have almost no spontaneity available to me. I can’t just walk in the door and say, “Hey let’s go to dinner tonight and then go for a walk by the river” I can’t just wake up on a Saturday morning and decide to take a trip to the lake, on a whim. I can’t play hooky from work and keep her out of school for a day and go to the zoo. I don’t have the chance to help her with her homework or take some Tae Kwan Do classes with her. I only get to tuck her in 4 times a month. (Just seeing that statement in writing brings tears to my eyes…4 times per month!) Only hear her bedtime prayers on those four nights each month. Yet my heart yearns to hear them everyday. Each night around her bedtime I try to make it a point to be praying for her and I imagine kneeling by her bed. You never lose your daddy heart, but you can lose the chance to function as a dad. I never stop worrying but I don’t have the chance to check on her and make sure she is okay. I wonder how she is doing in school but I don’t get to help with her homework. That is how a man loses his fatherhood in a divorce. He loses the exercise of his fatherhood. I have lain awake at night while a thunderstorms rages outside and tornado warnings are flashing on the TV screen and not been able to protect her and gather her into my arms. I have worried about her when the news reports another abducted child or a traffic accident claims the life of a girl her age. I have sat in church by myself on “Family Sunday” and worried about her spiritual health, and how am I going to influence her relationship to Christ in our limited time together. She went through a phase recently where she was rather self conscious about her need for braces and her glasses and I worried that she needed some extra reassurance from her daddy and I could only provide it on certain days. There are moments where she will be sitting next to me watching TV or reading a book and I will silently turn my attention to her. Just looking at her, noticing little things like the shape of her nose or the look of concentration on her face when she reads a good book or the way she laughs at cartoons. I commit as much about her as I can to memory, in storage for those days when she is not with me. Any dad worth his salt has looked at his children in wide eyed wonder and been amazed at the privilege of being their daddy. That doesn't end when your child isn't with you. You remember it and long for it.
Your fatherhood never ceases simply because you are precluded from living with your children. If you have a father’s heart, you are never not a dad.
I’ve heard stories of men who lose a limb in a war or an accident and get “phantom sensations” and reach to scratch an itch that only exists in their heads. Their minds tell them something exists that in reality is no longer there. In divorce, fatherhood can sometimes have the same cruel, phantom effect on you. You occasionally have moments that make you think of your kids and you might even reach for them or catch yourself almost calling out their name to show them something you think might interest them.
Then you remember they aren’t there.
You are trying to be a daddy and your little person isn’t there to receive your gift of fatherly affection.
Divorce strips away so many important moments of contact and influence and bonding. Things are gone that you can’t get back. In those ways…you lose your fatherhood when you lose your marriage.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Things You Lose, part 2

The Things You Lose

Today’s topic is Hope.

hope ?? (hp) KEY ?

hoped , hop?ing , hopes

To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.
Archaic To have confidence; trust.

To look forward to with confidence or expectation: We hope that our children will be successful.
To expect and desire. See Synonyms at expect.

A wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment.
Something that is hoped for or desired: Success is our hope.
One that is a source of or reason for hope: the team's only hope for victory.
often Hope Christianity The theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help.
Archaic Trust; confidence.

Most of these definitions are really good and really applicable. I like that first one, "to wish for something with the expectation of fulfillment". It ties so well with what follows; “To look forward to with confidence or expectations.” Isn’t that so true of what marriage gives? It brings us hope. “Two is better than one” the Bible says, “because if two lie down they can keep warm, but one cannot keep himself warm.”
It’s more than just keeping warm at night and the cushion of two incomes. It’s the hope that comes with knowing someone in this world has your back. It’s the confidence that comes with having one person in the world who wants to see your dreams all come true as much as you do and vice versa. It’s knowing that when the chips are down and all the world is lined up against you waiting for their turn at your pound of flesh, someone close by will go down with you if necessary. Hope says, “I couldn’t make this by myself but with you I can do anything". Hope is looking at each other on your fifth wedding anniversary and wondering what you will both be like on your fiftieth, and eagerly anticipating the journey. Before Holly and I divorced we were invited to the 50th anniversary of our dear friends Terry and Mary Chapman at our former church here in Nashville. We were seated at the table with them and I happened to start thinking about how many days a fiftieth anniverary is and I counted it up in my head. I turned to Terry and Mary and said, “Do you guys realize that you’ve been married 18250 days?” Terry chuckled and said he’d never thought of it in those terms. Mary had been rendered nearly mute by Parkinson’s and so her words were slower to come. I asked her how many of those 18250 days were lovey dovey and romance. She laughed out loud, which for Mary, by that point had become quite a feat and she said, slowly, “Maybe half!” which made Terry chuckle even more. He said “you know, you don’t get to your fiftieth anniversary by looking for the exit every time things get rough and you don’t feel like you are in love anymore” He said “you get there by hanging on to the hope that you will grow closer together a little more each day and you determine not to quit. The hope gets you through each day until one day you hit 5 years and then 10 and then 25 and then you have a day like today, a 50th anniversary”
Mary passed away just a few short years later, and Terry lives now with a different hope. It’s the hope of being united with his bride again one day soon and never parting.
When two people divorce, each of them gives up the hope they had invested in their marriage and in the other person. Some start over with someone else but many of those people will confess that the next time they are a bit cynical and they don’t put their hope in someone else for their fulfillment. There is a psychological value to that and people will tell you that is healthy. But it also very sterile and it doesn’t lend itself to a lifelong bond nearly as easy as letting yourself put some hope in another person to help you get where you are going.
Hope appears in other forms in marriage as well and it is stripped from there too. The ability to create warm, wonderful family memories and cherished traditions is something a lot of people put their hope in, in a marriage. Sadly that too is devastated when two people divorce. Children have to alternate between parents homes at holidays, mom and dad show up at school functions and don’t sit together, spontaneous events with your kids are nearly impossible. The hope for a traditional family life is tarnished. If you came from a setting where that life was missing and you hoped to create it in your own marriage and thereby heal some of your hurts, you’ve lost that hope too.
There is the hope that your soul mate will be there every time you walk through that door, in good times and bad. The hope that the dreams you dreamed together will, one by one, come true as years go by. The hope is that with each passing day, the hard times and difficulties decrease, and the bond between you grows greater and greater.
It’s what you see on the faces of the bride and groom as they walk down the aisle for the first time after exchanging their vows. The hope for a wonderful life together and the total expectation that the life they dream of will come to fruition. Divorce takes that hope. Once you get divorced, from that day forward the picture can never look the way you dreamed it would. You might get your nice life, big house, good job, healthy kids, financial security, but not with the person you first thought you would. You might grow old with someone but not who you first planned on growing old with. And even though you love this person as much or more as you ever loved the other, the other will still be a part of the picture but in a different way and in a different role. At least if you have children. And so even if you regain hope, it takes on a different form. It is changed.
It might very well even be a greater hope than before, but it is still different.
Antoher of the things you lose in a divorce...that primal, original, fresh-off-the-vine hopefulness about the future that you planned together, and the expectations of that hope coming true. You are now faced with the task of rebuilding your hope, either with someone new or on your own. And that can be a diffcult task.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The things you lose...

I am starting a series today on this site. You lose a lot more in a divorce than just tangible belongings and child support money. You lose a part of your heart and soul and all that goes along with that. On the advice of a friend I am beginning a series of thoughts about what it is you lose and how it effects you and those around you. Some of this is basic and some of it is stuff most people don't think about unless they've been through a divorce. I'm hoping that it will explain some of the lingering sadness many folks feel who endure a divorce and maybe it might shine a light of reality on divorce and save one or two folks from having to walk down this road. PLease keep in mind that some of these posts may very well be about the way I once felt during the course of the last 8 years, and some of them are how it still feels. It isn't a state of perpetual grief.

Today's topic is Love.

love ?? (lv) KEY ?


A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance.

Sexual passion.
Sexual intercourse.
A love affair.
An intense emotional attachment, as for a pet or treasured object.
A person who is the object of deep or intense affection or attraction; beloved. Often used as a term of endearment.
An expression of one's affection: Send him my love.

A strong predilection or enthusiasm: a love of language.
The object of such an enthusiasm: The outdoors is her greatest love.

I lost a lot when I got divorced. I lost hopes and dreams and holidays and daddy moments. I lost my love.
Those of you who knew us, knew that Holly and I experienced a lot of non-loving moments in our marriage. But there was a time when we were in love with each other. I am now able to admit that I was probably a lot more in love with her than she was with me but regardless, we had our times of happiness and felt love for each other, brief as it might have been for her.
For me it went deeper and lasted much longer. Marriage was the final step in one dream for my life and the first step for about a hundred other dreams. The final step in so much as I believed I had found my "one thing" and planned on spending the rest of our lives together. The first step in all the dreams I was now making as a married man and as half of a whole and no longer just me, myself, and I. I had formed some life plans before meeting Holly and I altered them after we married. Instead of continuing with college, finishing my last 3 classes and waiting for acceptance to med school, we moved to Nashville, had a baby, and I tried to patch together a "plan B" for a career. I failed miserably and that was maybe the biggest contributor to our demise. I knew I wanted to be a Physicians Assistant and then ultimately a Pediatric orthopedist, I just didn't know what to do after that was no longer an option. It was a shame because I would have made a terrific Ped surgeon. I had the privilege of working with Dr. J. Richard Bowen, Chief of Orthopedics at DuPont Hospital for Children for 2 years as a student observer / preceptorship and I fell in love with that discipline of medicine. Dr. Bowen wrote a wonderful 3 page reference letter for me for admission to med school and to this day I cannot read it all the way through without getting teary eyed. To know that a man I admire as much or more than any other man alive, and who is the preeminent in his field, thought that highly of my abilities was an honor I can never fully comprehend.
But that was not to be. Holly and I had a baby coming and we celebrated out first anniversary in February and Morgan arrived in May. I was a dad, I was 850 miles from home, and I had a life to build. I worked at construction for a year and after nearly losing my thumb to a table saw, I decided I needed something that paid better and beat me up less. So I entered the mortgage industry and am still in it today...although just barely these days.
I worked hard to become very very good at my job. But it takes a long time to achieve success in this field and it cost me my marriage in the end. I didn't mind the struggles financially myself. I always knew that Holly and I could make it eventually. We were both educated professional, and hard working. In my mind it was simply a matter of time and we'd be fine. A year, maybe two, and then we'd look back on all this struggle and chuckle to ourselves. It would one day migrate from a fight-causing, stress inducing, minefield, to a great set of "remember when we..." stories. We would regale our kids with stories of our early poverty as we strapped them into their own BMW's and sent them off to Harvard, (or Liberty...always the faithful alumni). In my mind you plant the seeds of struggle and leanness early and year later you reap not just monetarily but emotionally. In my mind I was just waiting for that one moment when our struggles would bond us and we would be united in our battle against the wolves at the door and then in that moment we would start taking back lost ground. In that moment we would discover the real depth of our love for each other and for what we had created together.
I'll pause while you finish snickering at my romantic foolishness.
Honestly...I really did feel that way. All we endured was worth it to me because I was enduring it for them...for Holly and Morgan and our future. My one and only hearts desire was to take care of my family. They were the object of my love and desire and I gladly gave up my own pursuits to try to accomplish something for us. My love for Holly had expanded from simply the love of a man for a woman who had become his wife and whom he thought was breathtaking, to the love of who she was and the love of the thoughts of seeing her dreams come true. I now had a daughter that I loved as well and the enormity of my responsibility to take care of her and see her dreams come true weighed on me as well. Not only was I in love with Holly-I loved her. I thought she was really cool. I loved the sound of her voice and her mannerisms. We are very very different people. But the things that were so different about her were the things I found that I loved the most. Tragically I only realized all of this after she was gone. I had never seen the sort of loving admiration demonstrated in my life. I didn't grow up in a home where two people treasured each other and valued the differences between them. I wasn't equipped for the life we were trying to lead and I blew it. Disappointment turned to anger and anger led to battles and we ended up divorced.
I wanted so desperately to be able to show the love I held in my heart but I didn't have the resources to do it. My pride was wounded and I was losing the object of my desire and love and I fought back with anger instead of gentleness. We both did.
Now, eight years later, I have the same heart, the same emotions, I am the same man, but I don't have an object of my desire and passion. I'm not even remotely referring to the physical here...there are plenty of dates to be had if I was so inclined. I mean someone else to want to dream for and with, somebody else who might become so dear to me that I would want only their best before mine is even considered. I invested so much of my spirit and failed so terribly. The love I speak of keeps you working when the job is miserable and the pay is low. It keeps you believing even when common sense tells you to give up. It guides your thoughts and it shapes your dreams. It's the scene in "Cinderella Man" where James Braddock is taking an awful beating and his mind flashes to his three kids starving and his wife in tears, and it gives him the strength to wade back into those punches and start punching back until he beats the foe into submission. "I'm fighting for milk money" as Braddock said. That is love. Take that away from him and maybe the boxing world might never have seen the display of courage and heart that it took for Braddock to become a world champion as his family lived in a tenement basement.
Take that from a man and he drifts through life...the punches hurt more and there is less and less reason to wade back into the firestorm. Love endures, the Bible tells us...without love, it's so very much harder to endure.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

60 days of Happy

This is a repost from my other blogsite. I posted this a few days ago. I will periodically be transferring stuff over here from that site if it deals with the divorce topics.
Hope you enjoy...

Halfway to nowhere...
Today is July 7. In 24 days I return to the land of the undead, or so it seems.
Morgan lives with me in June and July and then we return to the once a week and every other weekend thing for the remaining ten months.
I hate it. Remember the scene in "Wizard of Oz" where the witch produces a huge hourglass and tells Dorothy that she has until the sand runs out to give up the ruby slippers or everyone gets whacked? Dorothy keeps trying to turn over the hourglass to extend her time but no matter which direction the hourglass is pointing, the sand keeps running out.
Time waits for no man.
In June and July I feel normal. I feel like a dad. Morgan and I have breakfast together for more than two days in a row. I tuck her in and say prayers together with her more than twice. We do the things she loves doing. Swimming, riding bikes, catching lightning bugs. Lighting fireworks.
We talk a lot about a lot of things. She is growing up so quickly. Words cannot describe my love for her. I see her everywhere in everything. All my future plans depend on her dreams and hopes. All my energy and effort is directed towards fulfilling her "wish list" and seeing her become the wonderful, beautiful, sweet young lady she is rapidly becoming.
Every day I pray for more wisdom than I had yesterday, just to keep up.
But August 1 is coming. All summer long, while I am enjoying her presence and cramming all the fun I can into two months; in the back of my mind is that hourglass...and the sand won't slow down for me. I try to forget about it and enjoy the day but lurking in the background is that mental calender, and the pages keep turning.
I hate this existence. I know she does too. One of the reasons God hates divorce is what I am writing about today. He hates what it does to the normal order of things.
But things are as they are and there is no way to ever put that toothpaste back into the tube.
So I do all I can to squeeze all the life and love I can into our 60 days together.
Then it's back to my measured, controlled alternating weekends and Tuesdays. And back to grey colorless pages.
Morgan is the sun in my universe....the warm breeze at the end of winter...the rain on dry ground.
For those who have asked why I don't just move back home where I am happier and amongst family and friends, this is why. Imagine me without seeing her each week.
...curled up in the fetal position in a darkened room...
So I fore go the chance to be with my family and my childhood friends and the sights and sounds and smells of my birthplace and I remain here. A fish slightly out of water, but near to the dearest person I know in my world.
In June and July this is's home and it's happy and it's a lot like the way I hoped it would be. The rest of the year, it's just nowhere. Just a place I eat sleep and work and bide my time from Tuesday to Tuesday and weekend to alternating weekend, waiting for the next summer and the chance to be somewhere again.

The Point...

I've been asked by a few people what the vision or purpose for this site, and for my book are.
So I thought I'd do some 'splainin prior to going much further. When I got divorced in 1999, there were no resources for divorced men, written from a Christian perspective. I found no books in the Christian bookstores and the only ones I found in the secular market had titles like; "How to get divorced and not pay alimony" or "How to beat your wife in court and keep your stuff" or books about how to start dating again the weekend after your divorce is final.
But there wasn't anything that prepared me for the emptiness and sorrow that comes with divorce. There wasn't anything that talked about the pain and fear and shame and the things it does to your faith, your self worth, and your hopes and dreams.
Now I will admit that many guys going through divorce wanted it. Or they deserved it because they abused, cheated, drank, couldn't or wouldn't get a job or a litany of other valid reasons.
But not all of us. Some marriages just fail because one or both parties just don't want to try anymore or because outside influences or events begin to become inside influences and events. We live in a society where marriage is now pretty much a disposable commodity and with all fifty states now being "no fault", you can get a divorce simply because you want one.
So let me emphasize that I am not defending bad behavior here, I am making the point that not every guy who gets a divorce was a wife beating, drug using, alcoholic, porn addict who wouldn't get a job. But when a guy gets a divorce...he thinks the whole world sees him like that. Man hating is fashionable these days and with "same sex" female couples artificially inseminating, we have been rendered virtually unnecessary.
The average divorced man thinks the whole world can see every weakness, every failure, every stupid decision. We didn't bat 1000 and now we are out of the lineup. It's Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter" only it's not a red "A" for adulterer, it's a giant "D" for divorced dad and it also stands for words like loser, failure, and how-could-you-have-lost-someone-like-that?
A lot of us will tell you that we think you think the worst of us because of what other men did to earn their divorces. It's not your fault really. It's just the way society is these days. Too many guys ran out on their families and cheated with their secretaries or abused their wives and kids or drank or used drugs or gambled or spent mortgage money on porn. These truly bad guys used up all the understanding and room for failure for the rest of us. Guys who couldn't figure out the answers fast enough to keep their family together. Guys who's dreams crashed and burned and took their families with them. Guys who took too long figuring out what to do about the situation they were in until their wives grew weary of living the way they were living. Those guys aren't bad men and they aren't mean spirited, abusive, addicted, miscreants. They are lost boys. I'm not excusing it, they have an obligation to figure it out for their families sake. But not every divorced man falls into the category of "all of the above".
I needed to explain this because I know people who endured well justified divorces and I want it to be clear that there is a difference between those types of men, and guys who were just part of a failed marriage and weren't monsters or bad guys.
The world tends to see us all as the same men and it causes some of us to share in the shame that those guys bring. IN fact...we probably feel it and they don't. They are the guys who justify their actions in their marriage and blame it all on their ex. They never once look in the mirror and hate what they see or feel shame for their part of the failure. They never look inside and wrestle with their portion of the responsibility for the breakup. It was never their fault, they are misunderstood and they are the real victim. Those guys have no place here. Nobody has been tougher on me than me, where my part in the destruction of my marriage was concerned. Over 8 years later I am still wrestling with forgiving myself, and I didn't fall into the "monster" category.
There are stereotypes at work in our lives and it keeps us from addressing the way we hurt and the way we grieve. That is why I started this site.
So if anyone came here hoping to find a forum for ex-wife bashing or complaints about the court system, keep on Googling. This isn't your spot. I adored my ex wife and still wish her nothing but the best. It wasn't always like that but I've never ever hated her. I'm not going to be giving dating tips either, because I haven't really dated since the divorce and this isn't
This is for the rest of us...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Another excerpt...

There will be a lot of posts here to start off this new blog. This is another from a chapter in my book. It first appeared on my other blog in May. It's specific to the divorce theme of this site so I am reposting it here as well.

Monday, May 19, 2008
New chapter from my book
Hey kids...
Most of you know I am writing a book. I thought I was finished but this past weekend I got inspired and added a chapter. It was good enough I thought I'd post it here. If nothing else maybe it'll whet the collective appetites and pique some interest for the finished product.

Going through life unnoticed
Let me make it clear...I don’t care for chick flicks. But occasionally there is a gem buried beneath the Kleenex boxes. I was watching a movie on TV yesterday and found an entire chapter buried in the midst of one such girl movie.
The movie was called “Shall we Dance” …not the Yul Brenner version but a different movie that starred Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez. I won’t even bother going into the plot…it is incidental to this story. Now normally I would instantly change the channel if I even catch a glimpse of Gere or Sarandon…especially Sarandon. But the movie was interesting and Jennifer Lopez is a stunning woman and I had time to kill.
Well one scene moved me deeply and it inspired this chapter. Susan Sarandon is explaining why she is sure her husband (Gere) is not cheating on her. She explains her theory on why people get married. She says it is to avoid going unnoticed. She then makes the following astounding soliloquy. “People get married because they don’t want to go unnoticed. There are 6 Billion people in the world and it is so easy to get lost in a crowd that size. Getting married and having a spouse means there is someone else in that crowd who can say "I see you…you aren’t just a nameless face in the crowd and your being here has been noticed.” That’s a paraphrase, but it’s the part I remember and it effected me deeply.
I remember in 1985 a book came out called “Glory Days…Bruce Springsteen in the 80’s”. It was a follow up to a Springsteen bio written in 1979. There was one chapter that dealt with Bruce’s decision to get married at 34. He had said that during a prolonged time off the road, during the recording and release of the “Nebraska” album, he had begun to open himself up to his neighbors and friends. He had been somewhat reclusive until that stage of his life and now he found himself calling his neighbors over for cookouts and softball games. He also was spending more time with his married sister and her family. He realized this was something missing in his life. Not long after, he attended the wedding of Marc Brickman, Bruce’s longtime lighting director.
The rabbi made a statement during the wedding that Bruce claims touched him deeply. He said “a man spends his life dreaming dreams, hoping hopes and making plans. When he takes a wife, when he finds that one person to spend his life with, he takes his first step towards making his dreams come true” Bruce claims it was that line that really convinced him of his desire for lifetime companionship. He often quoted the wonderful “It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston as another source for his viewpoint of marriage.
I have to agree. This was the school of thought I came from. My wife was my witness. She was the one person who was going to be there at the end, reminding me that I had really been here and I mattered. She was going to be the person who reinforced my belief in myself when I was down, and who would reel me in when I got carried away. We would one day look back on a lifetime together and wonder at what a crazy, marvelous, rocky, twisting, turning, zigging and zagging ride it had been. And we would walk off together into our sunset years, satisfied that we had both borne witness to each others validity. We would grow old gracefully, knowing that we had left an indelible, wonderful imprint on each other and our children. 50 years, 60 years…maybe more. We would one day look back and realize that without the other, none of this would have amounted to anything. The rough times bore the fruit of good times and the tears watered the fertile soil that brought forth smiles and happiness.
One of my favorite all-time movies is “Saving Private Ryan” (what real he-man can’t claim that?) The most touching scene to me is at the very end…Private Ryan has been visiting Normandy with his wife and extended family. The entire movie is his recollection of that terrible battle, and the squad of soldiers who gave all to find him and bring him home after losing all of his brothers. Capt. Miller, the squad leader, (played by Tom Hanks) has been shot and is mortally wounded. Realizing this is his dying moment, he grabs the young Private Ryan and says “Earn This” Young Ryan can’t quite hear him so he leans forward and Miller reaches up and grabs him by his jacket and says, “James…earn this” He realized that he, and most of his other men had given their very lives to bring this man home safely.
The final scene is the now elderly James Ryan, looking at the white marble cross bearing the name of that same Capt. Miller who gave his life and who charged him with so sobering a command. Ryan turns to his wife and with tears in his eyes he asks desperately…”Have I been a good man?” “Tell me I’ve lived a good life!” He counted on the one person who walked with him every step from the first vows to the final goodbyes to assure him he kept his promise to his fallen comrades. Who else would he ask? Your spouse knows you better, for longer, than anyone else in the world. They know things about you that your best friends or your parents don’t know and never will.
I had dreamed a dream and planned a plan. The completion of this plan depended on Holly being there at the end, reassuring me that my time on earth was not in vain and I had “Lived a good life” and I was a “good man”. Not in the eternal sense, of course, that confirmation comes only from God. But from the sense of my spouse, my best friend. Someone who walked each and every step with me and who could finally say, at the end…”I am proud of the way you carried yourself all these years.” And hopefully, “I would gladly have walked them again with you”.
That is gone for me now, and gone for many other men like me. I don’t know if I’ll ever allow someone into that part of my heart and soul again. Failure in that dark recess really makes it hard to bring it to light again.
That is another thing that made it so hard to let go, and made it hurt so much. All I had now was the confirmation that I did NOT do well. I was NOT a good man. She did NOT want to go through it with me to the very end. It hurt me to my core.
Part of this needs to be resolved within the bounds of my faith, but part of it is meant to be provided through marriage. Otherwise Adam wouldn’t have needed Eve. Adam was a perfect man in a perfect place. We know that he walked with God physically everyday and spoke to Him at length. And yet this perfect man in a perfect world still needed completion. He needed a helper…not a physical helper, God could do all that for Adam. But he needed a helper for his heart and a companion. We all do. And when we lose that person before our journey ends it leaves a hole so large that sometimes it never is filled.
8 years later and I am only now contemplating the possibility of someone else taking that role in my life. It was perhaps the hardest thing to let go of. The release of dreams and hopes and the acceptance of the possibility that it might be someone else seeing those dreams come true is difficult.
But in all honesty…it’s really so vital for us. When I have a bad day I come home to no one but my dogs. Nobody cares and nobody is there to tell me “I know you, I believe in you, and I know tomorrow will be better” Conversely, there is no one there to celebrate with me when I have a success. Nobody to greet me with a hug and tell me “I never doubted you for a minute…I knew you had this greatness inside you, I saw it from day one.” For me…and men like me there is only quiet and aloneness. Not the same as loneliness, but similar in it’s sorrow.

A story from my book

Meeting with my friend James Ryle yesterday lead me to develop this new blog. James and I discussed a few things and laughed at a few things. I learned that "something beautiful is growing inside me" (an inside joke I will not be sharing) and that there are many others out there who struggle with the basic things we all do.
Just because someone has a few letters of the alphabet after their name or has a few books published or CD's recorded doesn't mean they aren't guys like the rest of us. They get underarm stains and creaky knees and bacon strips in their boxer shorts and hair growing where it isn't supposed to be growing.
We are all cut from the same Adamic cloth after all and so we might try foolishly to convince ourselves that we are different and our struggles are different but in reality we feel pretty much the same things as other men and we fear the same frightening things. The difference is we have developed intricate methods of camouflage and self deception.
Divorced men especially fall prey to this. Ask us how we are doing and you'll likely hear "I'm fine" and the topic will get changed to the sports news of the day.
But cut beneath the surface and you will find the same heart breaking in the same way. The difference is how we deal with it.
What follows is an excerpt from a chapter in my book. It tells a simple story of a simple task and how right in the middle of doing something as simple as grocery shopping, that mask I wore got torn off and I was reminded of what my life had become...

Flashbacks and Nightmares
One interesting lesson I’ve learned in the 8 years since my divorce, is how there is always something lurking around every corner to trigger memories. Maybe its memories of something you and your wife once did together, or just the sudden reminder during the day that you are, in fact, divorced.

Now I admit I am an emotional guy, so maybe these things are more easily triggered in me than in other men. But I don’t think I’m all that different. Memory prompts can’t be controlled sometimes. It’s silly really.
My favorite memory story? Okay…imagine this; I’m grocery shopping in Publix one day a few years ago and not paying much attention to whats going on around me. Suddenly I find myself listening to the background music playing over the loudspeakers. It's MUZAK for crying out loud! Who actually pays attention to Muzak?? But I did because I think I recognized the song. It’s Sting and Toby Keith singing “I’m so Happy That I Can’t Stop Crying” (Maybe the best song about men in divorce ever written) and I hear some of the words and I have to ditch my cart and hide my face because I am in tears. Now, I am 6’ 4” so hiding my huge sobbing frame isn't easy. I put my head down and acted like I had something in my eye and headed for the produce section where I had some room to escape the potential stares.
Listening to those two men singing about where I was right then was too much. I was thrust back to December 1, 1999, and I could see my wife in court, leaving without me. I felt all the same feelings again.

Seven weeks have passed now since she left me,
She shows her face to ask me how I am
She says the kids are fine and that they miss me
Maybe I could come and baby-sit sometime
She says, "Are you O.K.? I was worried about you.
Can you forgive me? I hope that you'll be happy."

I'm so happy that I can't stop crying
I'm so happy I'm laughing through my tears

I saw a friend of mine. He said,
"I was worried about you
I heard she had another man,
I wondered how you felt about it?"

I'm so happy that I can't stop crying
I'm so happy I'm laughing through my tears

Saw my lawyer, Mr. Good News
He got me joint custody and legal separation

I'm so happy that I can't stop crying
I'm laughing through my tears.
I'm laughing through my tears

I took a walk alone last night.
I looked up at the stars
To try and find an answer in my life
I chose a star for me. I chose a star for him
I chose two stars for my kids and one star for my wife
Something made me smile. Something seemed to ease the pain
Something about the universe and how it's all connected

The park is full of Sunday fathers and melted ice cream
We try to do the best within the given time
A kid should be with his mother,
Everybody knows that
What can a father do but baby-sit sometimes?
I saw that friend of mine, he said,
"You look different somehow."
I said, "Everybody's got to leave the darkness sometime."

I'm so happy that I can't stop crying
I'm laughing through my tears
I'm laughing through my tears
I'm so happy that I can't stop crying
I'm laughing through my tears
I'm laughing through my tears

I think it was the line about the park being full of “Sunday fathers” that broke my heart all over again. My thoughts ran to my little girl and to how much I missed her
. It took me a few minutes to regain my composure and finish my shopping. Then I took my groceries home to my empty house and put them away.

Well that's it. Part of a chapter. I have a new series of posts going up in the coming days. Something inspired by my conversation yesterday. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Somewhere in America...

Somewhere tonight in America...
...a man is staying late at his office. He doesn't really have any work to do but his wife and children are gone and he doesn't want to go home...because without them it isn't really home, and it hasn't been since they left.
...The same man will walk in the door late, switch on the light and listen to the echoes bouncing from every wall. Echoes of his children's voices and his wife's' laughter. It will remind him how empty this house really is and how much he really doesn't have anymore. The sounds, which he only hears in his mind, will only make him feel lonelier and make his house feel emptier.
...He will tuck his kids in by telephone if it isn't too late. They will tell him all about their day in the five minutes he gets to hear their voices.
...He might even speak to his ex-wife...maybe he'll listen for a crack in the wall...a faint glimmer of hope to hang his hat on that they might all come home and try it again.
...He will politely say "good night" and when he hears her end of the line click, he will say "I love you" maybe even say it out loud, knowing she never heard it.
...He will watch TV not knowing or even caring what is actually on; and then he will lay in bed and cry silent tears, wondering how this came to be and how he is going to make it through another day.
...He will cry out to a God who loves him but who he thinks hates him...and who he himself is beginning to hate
...He will barely sleep at all and when he does, it will be peppered with dreams of his family and all that he hoped this would be, but is not.
...and he will keep all of this to himself, because nobody thinks dads get hurt when families crumble...but they are wrong...not all men want this and not all men deserved this...
...Sometimes, Daddies Cry.

Day One

Hey there...
Welcome to my newest adventure. I have been blogging for several months now and, on the advice of a good friend, have opened this newest site.
Here's a little background...
I was divorced in 1999. It's not at all what they tell you and nothing like the stereotypes and stigma that go along with it.
In September of 2007 I began a journal of my experiences with the heartache, pain, tears and emotions that go along with being a divorced dad. The journal morphed into a book and I am currently in the process of trying to gauge the interest amongst publishers. Those who have ready the manuscript have been impressed, especially divorced guys, so I decided that I would put this blog up there to maybe expand the circle of influence and bring some healing to guys like me who are out there, feeling their way along in the dark.
There is hope in this sadness. Your world has been blasted apart at it's cellular level and it is a long road to rebuilding. But it can be done.
This blog, hopefully, will serve as news from the frontier. It won't always be pretty, but it will be real. We are in this together, men.
Here we go...