Who’s On First?

June 28, 2014

When you live with your parents and sleep on their couch, communication is key. Lack of communication may be catastrophic. If you are divorced with children and you live with your parents and sleep on their couch, lack of communication may be apocalyptic. My mom and my ex-wife are on opposite ends of what I will call the “organization spectrum.” My mom knows what she is having for dinner Tuesday night three weeks from now. My ex knows that Tuesday comes after Monday. There is a second spectrum that I will call the “adaptability” spectrum, which has an inversely proportionate relationship to the organization spectrum. My mom and my ex are on opposite ends of that spectrum as well. For my ex, plans are subject to change right up until the moment the tires lift up off the ground. For my mom, plans are sacred covenants, the variation of which is tantamount to a material contract breach. Damages and reparations must be paid, apologies must be given, contrition must be shown. Somewhere in between these social-philosophical extremes you have me, between a metaphorical rock and a hard place.

This leads to all kinds of problems. First and foremost, we have the problem of communication. I am used to making plans with my ex about our children, free from interference from anyone, including my parents. But now, since I rely on my parents for certain things, including transportation (sigh…this will get a post all it’s own at some future date), any plan relating to my children must involve my parents. You would think: we alternate weekends, how hard can that be? The divorced parents with children would be nodding along in solemn agreement with me as I say: very. It can be very hard. I hope that at some point in the future the blazing hate of a thousand suns my ex harbors for me will phase down into the heat of a thousand brown dwarf stars. But that does not appear to be happening.

In fact – for reasons known only to my ex, God and her therapist – we appear to be headed the wrong direction. Her distrust for me and general dislike appear to be gathering steam. As an aside, it really is amazing to see the effect blind, unchecked rage has on a person. They become completely irrational in a very self-sabotaging way. “Oh really? You want the kids this week? Well you can’t have them! What’s that? My JOB? I’ll QUIT my job, then. I don’t care!!” I have seen up close the kind of cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face anger that leads someone to load up the kids in the family station wagon and chart a course for the bottom of Lake Erie. It’s scary stuff.

This leads to a cloak-and-dagger kind of existence where I have to mask my true feelings about people and things. I have to be careful about letting the ex know that something means a lot to me or that I really want to do something. Because her knee-jerk reaction to something that is important to me is to try and blow it up. For the first six months after I met my girlfriend (I swear she’s real), any time I didn’t do something the ex- wanted, she started making threats to contact my girlfriend – presumably to tell her what an unrepentant douche-bag I am. She even made these threats about my boss – at the job from whence the child support comes(!). That’s what I mean by self-sabotage. You know how every story has two sides? Well this one kind of doesn’t, okay? Just take my word for it now. Or read “Texts From the Ex.” I deal with some crazy sh@t.

This cloak and dagger existence applies to plans and the custody schedule. I have to be real careful about letting the ex know I want to do something. Because if she gets wind of that, she the answer to “do you mind having the kids that weekend?” becomes an obstinate “No. Deal with it (words from an actual text. Several actual texts.).” So I have to use misdirection and subterfuge in order to make plans. And quite often, I fail miserably. The problem, in addition to the cloak and dagger existence,  is that my ex makes all kinds of assumptions. Assumptions like: well, I took them for a week, so now you get them for a week – whether that actually works for me and my job and my parents or not.

The logistical problems we have learned to work around, for the most part.The other problem is what I will call the diminishing tolerance my parents have for being around children generally, and my kids in particular. My parents are great grandparents. They love my kids and they know it and I know it. But they are not necessarily sensitive to the fact that I am not my children’s grandparents – I am their parents. I want to spend the amount of time around them that is appropriate for a father. Which is a totally different time commitment. Sometimes I feel like my mom and dad have reached their saturation point after about 20 minutes. 

And I get it – my parents have done their time with kids, and my kids – trust me on this – are exhausting. But I’m still trying to be the best dad I can under the circumstances – and it is not my kids’ fault that their parents kind of want to tear each others eyes out like rabid spider monkeys. But they are the ones caught in the middle, just like me. This all leads to situations where I am getting blistered by the ex- with texts, emails and phone calls about how I am the “f@cking Dad of the year” while also getting heat from my parents about how my mom just doesn’t have the stamina she used to and “she’s not wonder woman” anymore – sometimes at the same time. My mom has also perfected passive-aggressive to a near art form. And round and round it goes. I literally can’t win. And it’s a pretty common occurrence that everyone is mad at me at once.

Those of us who are parents have a difficult enough job as it is. And navigating the inter-generational waters of the competing agendas of parenting and grand-parenting is difficult enough as it is. And a terrible job market and economic difficulties create real-world pressures that are difficult enough as they are. But all those things at once, PLUS a recalcitrant and obstreperous babies’ momma who is hell-bent on making everyone’s life more difficult?

It’s just the worst, Jerry. The worst.

 

I feel immense pressure to create. Allow me to deconstruct that loaded statement. I mean “pressure” in the sense of aligning my professional trajectory and that of of the right hemisphere of my brain; I’ve always doubted that I’m productive enough to find purpose on a moon-lighting basis. By “create” I mean arrange some kind of material element in a way no one else has ever organized it before. And not because I was being paid for it (but still having the contradictory expectation that I would), or because of some utility it served, but simply because of an aesthetic, or to serve as the conduit for some kind of insight or a reflection of a greater truth.

The only real talent I have is writing. I mean, I have other talents that might – and do – make wonderful hobbies. But there’s only one that could ever become a profession. And I’ve always thought that I have important things to say, and will eventually know what to say and when to say it, and that then, and only then, will I be able to get paid to create.

I have taken the longest way possible to say that I have always expected that at some point I would say that I am a writer. It never really bothered me that – although writing is an important part of my profession – I couldn’t describe myself as a writer by trade. My profession always felt like kind of a place-warmer to keep my writing skills sharp for when I would actually use them to Find Fulfillment. I have been biding my time, keeping more notes than I could ever possibly use in MEADE compositions books, making audio notes going back several generations of cell phone, and conjuring up more ideas than I could ever bring to fruition if I wrote from now until the Second Coming. I always figured it would be self-evident when I needed to start making that transition to professional writing. After all, I have plenty of time to find my voice for all those important things I have to say.

But now it doesn’t feel like I have all that much time. And I’m also beginning to wonder if I really have all that much to say. Some major bouts with addiction and depression haven’t helped, nor has the scramble to provide for my children in the aftermath of those twin scourges. 

There is also a more fundamental problem that I have been vaguely aware of for quite some time. My brain seems more wired to poke holes in other ways of thinking than come up with alternatives. I can find all the problems with your solution, but damned if I have my own. Rather than collecting answers to questions or special insights about the human condition, or least this human’s condition, I feel that all I’m doing is collecting more questions. What kind of writer just asks a bunch of questions? Don’t I need to at least need to have something of my own to add to the dialogue? Even fiction requires the writer to commit to some kind of narrative. I don’t want to pick a narrative; I want to tell you your narrative sucks. 

But the process of asking the questions at least makes me feel like I am getting closer to the self-awareness that might some day lead to some tentative answers. Because I think I won’t ever know what it is that I’m supposed to say if I don’t know who I am. And I’m afraid I still don’t. Getting away from this blog set me back in that respect. Even though all I’ve ever done here is curse the darkness – as opposed to lighting a match – at least I was asking the questions, sometimes the right questions. Lamenting the questions might be the more accurate description. And I think I need to be content to do this just for me, and stop worrying about whether it’s my day job. Above all, I need to be completely honest, something I really struggle with. I want to be liked too much.

So this entry is a preface to what I hope will be my most honest period of writing. Ever. And I am going to try to do it without being cognizant of what anyone might think of me. I think that my answers, and my fulfillment, and my recovery – something I have barely mentioned in this post – demand honesty as a first step.

I am going to be completely honest, maybe for the first time ever. This is my commitment to you, the reader, who I will now try to do my best to pretend doesn’t exist. 

Arrested Development

May 29, 2013

Image

“I’ve made a terrible mistake.”

Arrested Development is defined as “an abnormal state in which development has stopped prematurely; fixation, infantile fixation, regression, abnormalcy, abnormality – an abnormal physical condition resulting from defective genes or developmental deficiencies.” That sounds really, really awful. I’m really having second thoughts about associating myself with that concept. But hey, I’ve cut and pasted it now – it’s there.

I was looking for a concept more along the lines that “I have been away from my blog for a little while, to my detriment.” But on second thought, this is probably better. The Arrested Development imagery – as in the TV show/rumored motion picture – is appropriate because after a hiatus of several years, AD – “Arrested Development,” to the layman – is out with an entire season’s worth of episodes on Netflix. I’m hoping this little plug will dissuade would-be intellectual property police from coming after me for whatever copyright I have infringed with the use of the photo of Gob Bluth you see above.

This is appropriate for another reason, namely, that I have been away from this forum for a while and a whole bunch of stuff has happened during the interim. Some of it good, some of it…not so good. There is now such a thing as twitter, something I am going to try to take advantage of, anonymously of course. So I can explode to, like, 7 readers. That’s right – the sky’s the limit.

And I have a lot of material to cover. Much like the Bluth family and its season’s worth of episodes coming out all at once, there will be a lot of information, some of it will be bizarre, some of it will be ironic, and there might even be a banana stand made of money. God I hope there’s a banana stand made of money.

Happy Father’s Day

June 19, 2011

I will actually be here today. Weird.

    I’ll be taking my oldest to Disney World today for father’s day. /Huge Smiley Face. We leave from the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch in about 10 minutes, so I just have a second to post. I’ll have a lot to talk about this week, including a road trip that I will be taking later tonight and tomorrow in order to go see an old friend.  I will take a lot of pictures, and will probably make it back alive. There’s at least a 90% chance I survive. Okay, maybe 80%. 75? Call it even odds that I survive.*

* This is a joke

    C.S. Lewis is one of my intellectual heroes. I have described my association with him during the secular-humanist phase of my metaphysical journey as the “C.S. Lewis problem.” The C.S. Lewis problem was a lingering shadow of an idea in the back of my mind that suggested, even when my frontal cortex wanted to declare me an atheist, that there was a major blind spot in my world-view. Because C.S. Lewis believed that beauty, or “glimpses of the sublime” here on earth, pointed to something much bigger. Pointed to God.

    Human beings seem to be programmed with an appreciation of beauty, both natural and man-made. This is a subsection for me of the more general and often-repeated idea that mankind is born with a void inside that hungers after the infinite. After God. As an atheist/agnostic, it was difficult for me to reconcile the idea that the Sistine Chapel was just another piece of art, even if its conception and execution were of the highest standard. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, an excellent piece of music, but nothing more. For me these two things, and so many more like them, are much more than just technical masterpieces. What are they then? One can become technically proficient at water-skiing, cross-stitch, archery, basket-weaving. There are those who will be in the top one percent of the top one percent at any ridiculous thing that humans conceive of to try. But on those relatively rare occasions that humans succeed in making something truly beautiful, what is that?

    What is different about Ode to Joy, and Moonlight Sonata, and the Allegreto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony? Why do songs without lyrics make us weep? I have a theory. Art and beauty of the highest form point to something. I think that something is God. And I don’t even think it matters if the artist intends it (as Mozart usually did, or, obviously, Michelangelo). God made music; He doesn’t just exist in the “spiritual songs” box. God made art. When man makes art, when he makes music, he points to God whether he means to or not. Listen to Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh and a song called Exogenesis Symphony: Part III from the rock band Muse (of Twilight fame, unfortunately), two songs that were not composed, at least overtly, as an homage to God. Then tell me if you agree.

Allegretto from the Seventh.

Muse: Exogenesis Symphony Part III (from the movie Children of Man).

 

 

I will mind-melt you!

    Mike never had to answer for losing a 15-point lead in the final 6 minutes of a home game in the NBA Finals. He never had to answer questions like this. If this had happened, Mike would have probably  blamed you and he would have been forced to melt you with his mind.  Love ya, Scottie.

    But please stop talking.  LeBron, great; Mike, GREATEST.

   Off topic, I know. But I’m the boss, applesauce, and I will never miss a chance to advocate for the greatest competitor in the history of team sports.

Not a bad idea if the intent is to remain upwind.

    Some days just drag by. Any number of things explain it: anhedonia, which can be a vestige of substance abuse (and a symptom of post acute withdrawal syndrome); or clinical depression which was possibly a pre-existing condition and exacerbated by substance abuse; or yet, still, a syndrome called dysthymia, a milder but-longer-lasting-cousin of depression which seems to be gaining steam as the likeliest of the causes of my flickering light.

     I suppose partly to blame too is the fact that I have worked long days and weeks for as long as I can remember. The…pace…of…recovery…is…by…design…less……..intense. Some days it’s easy to find stuff to do with down-time. I read, I write, I draw, I socialize. Sometimes though I don’t have any desire to do any of that stuff, either. On those occasions, I can either force myself to do something (like I am now), or…what? I guess that’s the $60,000 question. Sleeping isn’t really an option. Exercise works if it’s not 100 degrees.

    But at some point, I need to wrestle – under someone’s guidance, of course – with the fundamental brain-chemistry questions posed in my first paragraph. For fifteen years, when I had this feeling, I would use something to alter my mood. That approach, as we now know, will eventually kill me, if I let it. Death is bad. So I need to find another way to treat the underlying syndrome. These questions, this early in recovery, are tantamount to putting the cart before the horse. We still don’t know what my normal brain chemistry is (maybe I can speak Spanish?). I’ve been told many times already to lower my expectations for myself right now. Just don’t use today. Good, great, grand, wonderful.

    Some days it feels like I’m just hanging on. Which makes me think of a song by the greatest college-radio rock band ever. It sounds like a morose song at first, but the message is one of hope. Hold on. You’re not alone. Take comfort in your friends.

Day 39: Opiate Free.

June 2, 2011

I KEEL YOU.

    Woke up this morning for the first time in a long time completely opiate free. MURDER KILL MAIM /SHOOTS LASERS FROM EYES. I feel good about that even if I feel kind of lousy physically. HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE. I know that probably starting tomorrow – or even later today – I’ll start to have the sensation I call little rays of light: moments where I feel this thing called contentedness. SPIDERS SPIDERS SPIDERS SPIDERS. Fleeting at first, kind of like when you’ve had a stomach bug, and you first start to get the sensation of being hungry again. SKULLS BONES ROT DEATH. MORE SPIDERS. The clouds part just a bit, and you have the realization that the worst is over. RAGE ANGER RAGING RAGE-IER RAGE-IEST. I have lots of material to write about, and I’m going to do my best to reconstruct what the last five days or so have been like, since I haven’t posted much. PUKE VOMIT VENOM. Stay tuned. And one more thing:

         @#$%^&@^@*#&$*@&#$*&@*#$#*%&#$*$&%@,@#$%$&*!&@*#&$*

@&!*@#&$*!@&#*#&$*%&@#$*#$#$$%$@*!

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best things I’ve ever read:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
5. Be Skeptical, But Learn to Listen – Don’t believe yourself or anybody else. Use the power of doubt to question everything you hear: Is it really the truth? Listen to the intent behind the words, and you will understand the real message.
From the book, The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz

Day 35: No Excuses.

May 28, 2011

    I haven’t been posting very consistently this week, but that’s mainly because I’ve been busy during the day, and the time when I post most often – the early morning – is the only time I’ve been able to get good sleep. And I choose sleep over you, I hope you don’t hold that against me. I have lots of material for this week, though, so stay tuned.

    I’ll post more later today (promise this time). In the meantime, enjoy the melodic  “No Excuses,” by a frequent subject of this blog, AIC.