Notes From a Divorced Dad: And There I Was

At last, I was free. Or, at least I was somewhat free. There were more steps that I would have to take but I was unaware of what those steps would be. I had no clue about the need for personal change or growth. I thought this is just the way life is.

I was alone, yes. I was uncomfortable as well. The small rooms in my tiny apartment were empty. There was nothing on the walls. There was nothing to absorb the sound or stop the echoing in the rooms. There were no decorations or anything of the sort. My kitchen was the smallest I have ever seen. The cupboards were empty with the exception of a few plates and a few utensils that were left behind by the previous tenant. I went from living in a large home with a two-car garage, an in-ground pool and a nanny’s quarters to a small, upstairs apartment in someone’s private home.

Again, I say that I was alone. Yes, this is true. I was alone and frightened. I was beaten and sad. I was fine to be on the path of divorce. Besides, the lovelessness was no secret to me or anyone else. The failed marriage was somewhat expected. I had friends that called and said, “Yeah, we kinda saw this coming.” In fairness, I knew this was coming too. What I’m about to describe is an idea of mine that describes the way I felt most of my life: Life happens. Sometimes, life just happened around me. It’s like being on some crazy ride at an amusement park and feeling sick about it. No, there is no way to stop. All one can do is vomit and wait until the ride stops. Sometimes, I swear, this is how it seemed. It seemed to me that life happened and I lost to so many things the same way water loses to a drain. And me, I was sucked down the spiral of my decisions and flushed down the drain. I couldn’t get away from my life or my decisions. I had challenges to deal with and depression to navigate through. I had faults and flaws and insecurities. I could hardly accept myself, let alone that someone else would accept me or even better; it was hard enough to believe in myself so why would I ever believe that someone else would believe in me. So, when someone said they did; I believed them.

There were people from my ex-life that called to wish me well because whether this is fair or not, there is more than just a split in marital property. There is also a split in friendships that could no longer be nurtured because of family loyalty. This does not always happen to everyone but this was a given for me. I knew there would be people that had to choose a side (not that anyone should ever have to choose) and I knew why as well as who this would be. I know this is not my imagination because this was clearly stated to me. And that was fine. I got it. I received calls and words of encouragement that came from people on the other side of my divorce. This was something that made my decision painfully clear that yes; divorce was not only the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do.

I am not writing this with any gripe or offering this thought in defense of myself or with the taste of grievance. I have nothing bad to say about anyone else or any other party. Instead, and more accurately, I am exposing some of the truths in my situation. I am exposing the obviousness that stems from mismatched people that make attempts in forced or coerced relationships. This is what happened between two people that had entirely different visions for their future. 

I do not speak for anyone else. I am not interested in smashing or slandering anyone else, especially since there is no reason to. Instead, this is a guide to my faults and mistakes. Rather than point the finger, please allow this to serve as an honest roadmap which led to some of my behaviors, outbursts and hasty decisions.

First and foremost, when life is only seen through insecure eyes, the understanding of value and worth is skewed by the deception of our thinking. And me, I was misled. I was afraid. I was unsure that someone like myself would ever find the life and the happiness I had always hoped for. This is why I turned a blind eye to all the red-flags and warning signs.
This is why I never chose to walk on my own because my fears of being alone outweighed my drive to be happy. Plus, I was never sure if happiness was real. Besides, is anyone ever really happy? Does happiness even exist? Does real love exist? Or, is this something people wear as a facade to fake it as if they’ve made it.

I lived most of my life with this type of understanding. There is no good or bad here nor is there right or wrong. This is only an inventory.  And now, I was alone. There was no one around. There was no way for me to hide from the fact that it was time for me to care for myself and be by myself.

There were no distractions. There was only the truth that much of my life was me playing pretend. There was nothing for me to hide behind. There were no degrees on the wall. My educational insecurity was always very punishing for me. I had a job. I had a decent position with a decent rate of pay but as for prestige, I lacked a good title at work. I had bad credit and a used car. I had a little apartment and a young daughter that would eventually become part of the push-pull model that is often a characteristic of divorce. I mention this openly and fairly because the record needs to reflect there are two parts to the push-pull system. With an honest heart, I admit to my part in this. And yes, this became a sad detail of my divorce. I accept my part in this, wholeheartedly. Otherwise, I would have never learned to stand back up and move on.

When it comes to co-parenting, I can say that I have seen what insecurity and the drive for validation does before and after divorce. I can say that I have seen this in my case and with my child. I can say that although I had valid points, the way that I expressed my concerns was interpreted in ways that did not match my intention. I can say that yes, there were extenuating circumstances but again, this message is not written about other people or circumstances. This is written about me and mine. This is a map which details the understanding of my own side of the street. I expose it this way because the one thing I have learned to be most effective in personal recovery is we can only clean up our side of the street. I accept my responsibility here and call out the exact nature of my wrongs because yes, I was emotional. I was resentful. I was not thinking clearly; therefore, I was not acting according to my best potential. I was off to say the least. I was hurting and facing the ideas of rejection. This is what hurts the most. Emotional thinking. This is what does the most damage.

It wasn’t that the marriage failed so much. This was fine. However, the feelings of failure were from a different angle. The feelings of shame or the concerns of how others would see me, look at me, or worse, the ideas of people looking at me with either disgust or pity was an uncomfortable thought. I did not like feeling exposed or thinking about the public ideas of character assassinations, which do happen in cases of divorce. This was my ego.

There are certainly two sides of the story and I was uncomfortable with the idea that my side would never be told, understood, cared about or validated. Actually, there are more than two sides. There is my side of the story, her side, my perception, her perception and then there’s what actually happened. Yet, my need for validation was fierce. And this is just it. Validation is everything. The need to be validated and acknowledged was one of the problems in my marriage. Believing we have been disregarded or unimportant leads to the ideas of rejection. Then again, all roads can and do lead to the ideas of rejection.

I know this works both ways. I know there were mistakes I made. I know there were resentments that I held onto. I know there were wrongs on my side the same as I knew there were red-flags and warning signs that I should have paid attention to. I knew this and became angry because in all fairness, I allowed myself to succumb to treatment that I did not like. I allowed myself to submit to people that spoke with me in unfair ways, and yet, I wrote this off because this was part of the package. It was simple; either I take the entire package or the facade breaks and there I am, alone again – a failure, uninteresting and more.

I hated being alone. I hated believing that there was something wrong with me. I hated believing this was the best I could do or the best I could possibly be. I hated the fact that I traded my personal dreams for a quasi-sense of comfort, which inevitably became uncomfortable. This is not the way to live life. The mistakes I made were very apparent and simple to me. I did this. And because this is true, blaming anyone else or being resentful and angry with others was simply me trying to escape the fact that I placed myself here. No one else did.

First and foremost, my mistake is I was more loyal to my fears and insecurities than I was to my own true self. I stayed this way for too long.  In fact, I stayed this way for so long that I never believed I could ever be any different.

I remember the first time I walked into my apartment alone. There was no one around. There was nothing to entertain me. My television had not been hooked up yet. All I had was an old television set with a built in VCR player, which made this a dinosaur. I had one movie to watch. Pulp Fiction was the title. I watched this movie every day for nearly two weeks until the cable company came to set me up. Slowly but surely, bit by bit, I started to decorate my little apartment. Piece by piece, I added furniture. I added decorations to the walls. I learned to maneuver in my little kitchen. But more, I learned to live. I started these journals of mine, which, with all my heart without them, I’m not sure how I would have made it this far.

As I see it, divorce is an unfortunate truth. This happens. Shame happens. Guilt and blame, fault and regret happens too. Know what else happened? I learned to change my life. I learned to strengthen my spine and stand proudly. I still have fears. I still have insecurity. I have resentments too; but I also have the ability to use mindfulness.

I have the ability to grow and improve. I cannot say these were my best days but I can only say that from the bottom of that pit, I was able to rise again. From my bottom, I learned how to climb up and be myself without taking hostages. I was able to do this without blaming the world for my faults as a Father or my flaws as a husband. 

Both change and growth come from within. No one is saying this was easy. No one is saying that I’ve mastered my improvements either. All I’m saying is that some of my greatest victories came after my biggest downfalls. It is possible to recover and recreate our life. Divorce happened. I needed to make changes in myself and clean up my side of the street. As painful as this was, my change began with me. Everything else was out of my control. And this is what I always have to remember.

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