It’s Okay; He’s a Single Parent

I’m a mid-forties old male.  The Leaver stayed home for years, so that, nominally I could concentrate on my career.  I say nominally because for many years the Leaver’s life took up a lot of attention and energy but that was kept out of sight to the outside world for the most part.

That’s probably the case for a lot of families.  Perhaps not the extent of Theroux’s “quiet desperation,” but we all have our struggles and I don’t think I’m alone in that I tend to under report those struggles to friends and family.

Well now my life is laid bare for all to see.

Really it’s a bit of a relief. Perhaps too comforting of a relief.  You see, I’m out of the game.  I’ve been taken out of the front lines with a reasonably heroic wound.  I’m the single dad.  Every accomplishment no matter how piddly from here on in has the asterisk — “while raising two children.”

3 legged Wegman-dog dancing

The Dog dances.

The Dog is missing a leg and still dances.

The Dog is missing a leg is a bit deaf and still he dances.

Oh Bravo!  Well Done! Amazing Effort!

However you define middle age —  28 or 55 (I’ve heard 60 is the new middle age?  Does that mean we all expect to live to 120? Der is a river in Egypt called de..)– there comes a point where you feel like your apprenticeship phase is done.   I’m not just talking about the formal education. But you’ve finished however much on-the-job experience is necessary, for whatever you have deemed  important in your life, so that much of  it is habitual.

Habit doesn’t mean easy.  Habit gives you certainty, confidence, yes.  A seasoned firefighter sees a burning building and decides immediately what to do, where to go, what he needs, who to take with him — that doesn’t make going in any easier than it was when he first joined up twenty years ago.

I think anyone doing anything reaches that level of habit, ease, confidence, whatever you want to call it that we associate with middle age and its corollary, the mid-life crisis.  World famous artist, in-theatre CIA operative, proverbial brain surgeon, VP of GE, or hermit monk in the mountains — it doesn’t matter. Human beings strive for that moment of comfort and sense of routine and position of leadership, even if it’s just leadership over a kingdom that is merely our kitchen or a cave.

Then inevitably as human, we are disturbed by the comfort and the crisis follows.  Corollaries of doubt must appear for everyone at one point. And we look at ourselves and remember how we looked at those of middle age when we were young:

comfort = complacency


established practice = decadence.

Throw into this heady brew a bit of middle-aged angst (perhaps stirred by a glance into old diaries and passing mirrors for catalysis ) and sudden transformation is the result:



safety=fear of mortality

Christ, if it can happen to Christ (Garden of Gethsemane, agonized cries on the cross) and pretty much any hero of culture worth remembering, from history or from literature (I really wonder if there’s much of a difference or if there is, who cares.  History is history, after all, when someone writes it down and in so doing, creates literature.  Up to that point its archeology… but that’s a whole other argument) at one point or another wonders….  was this really such a good idea?

You can just imagine an omniscient parental God contemplating all the internal crisis and destructive doubt that seems inherently linked to success, power, comfort, safety, that take hold of all of us whether in the Oval office, on a stage in Wembly stadium or settling in front of a warm fire in a front room embraced tight to the bosom of familial contentment and screaming — “what the hell do you bloody well want?!! You unappreciative, ingrates…  a Nobel Prize for living?!”

Well, as a single dad, I’ve been sort of taken out of the race.  I’ve been exempt from competition.  It’s almost like winning without trying.

It all feels a bit too easy in some ways.  My mother says to me, “how do you manage.”

And I think, well that’s a bit much…  My kids are healthy, I have a job, there are no bombs  dropping (unlike during my parents’ childhood, an experience just one generation removed), nor do I have to spend an hour each day procuring water from the village well…  so of course I “manage.”

And just for managing I get a prize.

No more, he could have been a VP of GE or he should be starting a not for profit or published that novel or how he gave up on the dinosaurologist dream or that rock band in ’89 that would have changed everything.  No, he’s a single dad.  The fact that the kids get to school on time without a single outbreak of cholera from unwashed toilets is amazing enough.

I think I’m getting complacent.

About a year ago my neighbour left his secure job in a bank to join a small company involved in condo development.  His wife works at the same bank. You could see the fuel of middle age restlessness powering that seismic shift in their lives.

Back in the summer time he was talking about the big party he’d throw for the street when the condo deal he was working on at his new job closed in the fall.  The fall came and went his replies to “how are you doing?” when he’s on the front porch smoking more curt and glib.

He’s falling after that admirable leap. He hasn’t caught an updraft yet, and he’s probably wondering if it’s all worth it.  I don’t know exactly because as is often the case for all of us, my neighbour was open and effusive when he took the leap but since then has hunkered down more and more:  quickly disappearing from the porch after the quick “hi.”

The great middle age leap is either admired or dismissed as fool hardy only in hindsight.  I  blame it on the rock songs learned in youth taunting us in the middle age that we haven’t lived.   You know the ones.  smithers jones the JamThe Jam’s Smithers Jones, The Clash, Lost in the Supermarket, Pink Floyd’s Time

(And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun….)

Lord forbid we end up in the rock hell of Lennon and McCartney‘s Father McKenzie, “writing sermons that no one will hear.”

Go on McKenzie.  Damn the consequences, and leap into the unknown, change your life!

The Leaver took that leap before me and without me.  That’s one way to look at it.  But perhaps time turns us all into a lyric if we just wait long enough? Perhaps Elenor Rigby was once married and decided to chuck it all away?

Now it is very difficult for me, to do the same sort of leap.  Being a single parent means time constraints, of course, and the lack of a financial partner means taking a temporary cut in income for the big payoff down the road is out of the question.  I work with educational institutions so a change of job typically means travel and/or relocation since my potential customers are scattered across the continent.

As the kids get older, more travel is possible, however, relocating is fraught with huge complexities.  As custodial parent, I can’t just up-and-move without the other parent’s agreement.  She might try to come along and start a new life wherever we went, but I know she would not be able to handle it.  I could actually move to the US as I have dual citizenship and in my space there are plenty of interesting jobs worth applying for down south.  But this is not just emotionally complicated for the Leaver, as it happens, it is legally impossible — she is banned from travelling to the US due to a minor immigration indiscretion in her student days.

So I’m honourably disqualified out of that race.

My parent’s early life, and therefore that of my siblings, was that of an academic nomad. In ten years they lived in London, San Francisco area, Munich and then Canada. Later, we enjoyed the benefit of sabbaticals. When I was a kid, I was fraught by insecurity over the thought of changing schools, losing my friends for a year (including one of those girlfriends writing those spectacular letters with the sketches in the margins)  affronted that my parents thought they knew better.  Well, they did know better — the experience of changing countries for a year when the sabbatical rolled around, was life changing and life affirming.

Long ago, the Leaver and I talked about doing the same with our children, when they were in their teens.  Rent out the house, go teach English somewhere, give them a chance to live in another part of the world, push the reset button on all of our lives, that sort of thing. We didn’t quite get there. Now it seems inconceivable.

So instead, I’ll write.

Instead of making the big job change; starting a new business;  going back to school to up my skills — simply can’t afford either time or money wise —  I’ll just keep turning out pages.  This blog, short stories, novel — this is all an attempts to live up to the legacy of checking out and starting again that my parents modelled for me.  I tried to calculate, and I think I’ve got somewhere like the equivalent of 500 odd pages since the Leaver did her thing.

Is that enough to impress the judges? Whoever they are.

That dog sure is awful cute.

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The Nobel Prize of Vanity — Don’t Throw Out Your Love Letters (3 of 3)

That’s not to say, I wouldn’t love to meet the women those girls, who wrote those love letters, have become.

If indeed they are still with us.  I’m coming up to my middle forties.  That some of these people might be dead is not just morbidly convenient ending to the story (closure and all that, a concept I really despise) but thoroughly possible.

One particular love-of-my-life (and I’m not trying to be glib, there really is no other way to describe what this particular girl meant to me when I was eighteen.  It’s a pity that words like “love-of-my-life” and “heartbreak” are thwarted by their contemporary saturation in irony), I try to imagine her alive today and I just can’t — I really don’t know if she made it. She was very troubled and suicidal when I knew her.  I don’t expect her to search me out (but because of the possible re-namings that come with possible marriage, it is far more likely that the woman can successfully seek out a man than vice versa) but I know people, who know people she should have kept in touch with or got in-touch with by now.  And no one has seen or heard anything of her in over 20 years.

Back when I was first confessing and convincing lovers of my love I was certain that you never stopped loving people, once you really, genuinely, mutually fall in love with someone.  It was something I kept going on about at the time.  It’s a Rubicon crossed; you make an absolute connection. It’s not a question of degrees – I love her more than him.  You can stop getting along with your lover, grow apart or stop liking them altogether but you can’t stop loving them.

As acrimonious and even physically dangerous for me the relationship with the suicidal girl got to be and the resulting anger and resentment…  I really want to know that she’s okay. It’s not just a curiosity; it’s a bit of an ache.  Not an invasive mid-life crisis nostalgia fired obsession.  Honestly, no.  I stopped liking her for good reason, and I can’t imagine that the personality path she chose in those formative years having altered enough to make her likeable to me, considering the personality path I went down.  But I wish I had the privilege to know that she made it or mourn her loss.

Vanity, vanity, vanity….

Vanity, Charles` Cabinets

What right do I lay claim to know Suicide Girl’s or any other lost loves fate?

What vanity to assume that once loved is always loved?  Who says that my affections and curiosities is at all reciprocated.  And isn’t unrequited love just a blatant manifestation of vanity?

It’s as much a vanity as religious practice is.  And I tend to hold to it with as much fervour.

But of course reading old love letters as an indulgence in vanity is as complete as you can get.  The Olympic marathon, the Mount Everest climb, the Carnegie Hall recital, the nobel-prize medalsNobel Prize, Solo Exhibition at the Tate of vanity.

First of all, if you ever need a boost to your self-esteem, an epistle of ardour to you, is pretty much a sure-fire prescription.

It’s not only the compliments, the drawings, the double entendre’s but the undeniable physical manifestation of a need to connect and communicate.   “please… write back,” “Please, write soon…” “fast…”   “a lot…”  “I can’t wait…”  “I run to the post box… etc. etc.”  Also makes you think… oh shit…. Did I?

Write back, I mean.  I wasn’t a shit….  Was I?  How much of a shit?

Which is one of many reasons why the physical postal service should not cease to be, if only for the function of love letter writing.  Your vainglorious imagination can reconstruct the space left by your answers, which is far safer in hindsight.

You don’t want your “sent” items preserved – this is far too much information. You don’t want a conversation in verbatim with all its undeniability.  And you don’t want hard evidence of how unworthy your spotty, flabby, unpoetic (well… a part from the shirt, of course) past self was that was the recipient of all this passion.  You can construct your John Donnish responses, imagine whole epistles of iambs, metaphors that would make the nightingales sing….

Right, see, exactly. You really don’t want to read what you wrote.

Part of my anti-etext bias is no doubt because of my current process of break-up and divorce – so much “in;” so much “sent,”  so many “drafts.”  Makes me wish Gmail had an actually attainable archive limit, forcing me to purge.

It’s all still there.  Preserved under the pretext that all exhibits and evidence must be ready at hand until all appeals are exhausted.  I find myself forwarding texts the Leaver has sent to my email just to preserve them, just in case, it comes down to some future legal fight over competency. And it’s also evidence for myself.  That has helped sometimes when I’ve asked myself not rhetorically – “that thing that happened four years ago… did things really get that crazy?” then I look at the preserved emails….  so I can answer back “yes, yes they did.”  Maybe 4 years from now I’ll need evidence of just how nutty my current situation, oft-times, descends to reassure me that my responses were appropriate.

And there is an awful lot there in the In and Draft and Sent — just ask General Petraeusdavid_h-_petraeus…   Leaving no space for imagination, no blanks to fill.  That much information turns archaeology into forensic investigation. Imagination is the stuff of love, documentation the stuff of litigation.

The Leaver sketched too.  She pressed relics, and quoted poetry and sealed promises with calligraphied flourishes.  And not just lifetimes ago, but mere months before she told me that she had to leave.

Is re-reading that healing?  I don’t know.

But it is a landmark passed, to feel pain, acknowledge, wish, lament and…  just be there with that for a bit.

Then put it away and preserve it, for the next time you need  a restoration of faith and so relive a love that has not quite passed.

Posted in Emotional Divorce, Physical/Mental Health, What's Worked | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome All! We’re Serving Pity Turducken, This Year!

“How did that happen!?”Asked my sister

And rather more pointedly  “Why are you spending Christmas with her!” from my girlfriend.
By the context and the gratuitous use of exclamation marks you may well have already surmised that the personal pronoun in question is referring to the Leaver.

The best explanation I can offer is force majeur and the best defence is that I had not planned it that way.

Or is it the other way around…

Pity with no malice a forethought.

I’m really beginning to get, “till death do us part.”

If there are children, really there is no other exit from a marriage except for that big light that beckons us and which we are advised to not follow. I say that only because I have no personal experience of a marriage without children.  Perhaps any marriage produces surprisingly strong ties that are inescapable by time or space.  My brother’s first marriage ended almost 20 years ago and he’s lived thousands of km away from his ex for most of that time.  However, even though they were together for just over a half dozen years she still uses my brother’s (and mine, too) family name.  I was quite chagrined to discover that when I search our family name on Google Images (it is quite a rare last name, and all who have it are directly related to us) my brother’s ex’s picture comes up ahead of mine.

The plan was the children were to spend Christmas at her place (Eve and Day) and I was going to get them at Boxing Day.  Despite my mother’s admonitions – “how can you spend Christmas alone!  Come home!”  I was quite looking forward to the experience, maybe doing a spot of volunteering, then opening a bottle of wine, watching a movie etc. etc. Relishing the Peace-on-Earth and bit.

But the Leaver had a crisis last week and decided that no, she could “not handle” the kids, pining for home.  She understood completely if I said no – although she’d already discussed it with the kids and they had thought it was a brilliant idea, so of course I’d be dashing their dreams, if I did not grant my permission for them to be home for Christmas – but could “we do Christmas” at my place?

Be brave.

And (according to the divorce guide books, advice columnists, lawyers etc.) just resign yourself to do everything wrong.

“It didn’t go so bad last year…” she said

Hmmm.  Well I remember me very carefully, tersely busying myself about, ignoring all the cynical bitter little clauses and footnoted to any comment or reference or joke.

When do we deal with the reality of the situation like divorced adults and start leading separate lives?

Perhaps never.

Love is the province of the Brave.

And a few shots of vodka and my sister and brother-in-law should give me courage enough.

But there are repercussions compared to last year.  I excepted with the knowledge that my girlfriend, who has never been married, is an only-child and thus has spent many a lonely Christmas, would be quite pissed.  She has to spend another Christmas alone and the Leaver doesn’t.  Why?  Because the latter is needy, broken and almost perpetually in crisis.

Bad behaviour and narcissism rewarded?  .

Intelligent counselling would have strongly suggested that I not have given in.  That this sets a bad precedent and I should stay in control of my life, etc. etc. But there are those kids of mine and the thought of them getting hit by the shrapnel of their mother going to pieces on Christmas does not seem fair to them.  To what end?  There’s nothing left to be proven about her limitations as a parent or a single parent or a co-parent.  The war is over.  She capitulated the corollary of which, is I won.


Who cares.  My house is absorbing the refugees.

It’s my kids house too, after all.  So I can’t tell them not to come home for Christmas, if they want to be here and their mother allows it?  And then they want their uncle there who’s visiting… but of course.  And then how can I say no to my ex?

I wouldn’t say no to a stranger in need on Christmas, why should I treat her worse because I do know her?  Because I’ve decided she doesn’t deserve it?

It’s a turducken of pity… or compassion…   bit of love in there…  Christmas spirit.


To the victor goes the spoils. To the victor comes the refugees.

And there’s the leftovers…  That’s nice.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Why a Tweet is Not a Love Letter (Don’t Throw Out Your Love Letters Part II)

Woe, oh young generation!

Where are your love letters in the age of pocket tweeps and tablet bluzzes!

I don’t doubt that there is as much ardour today as ever — thumbed and zapped, snapped and swiped.  And all of it preserved in the omniscient, ever-present Cloud.  POETS_SHIRT_BACKGROUND

But that’s just it, with everything preserved on some drive, some data centre somewhere, how do you distinguish, box and preserve your relics?  Perhaps the fact that your passionate Instagram may eventually be part of collage to revive the Juicy Fruit brand, plumbs new found depths to your feelings?

However, if in 20 years you have to plough through a gazzilion texts, emails and Facebook postings — piles of puppy pics, LMFAO’s, “I don’t believe my parents won’t let me” and “NO, we’re at the booth on LEFT side of the bar” –would you ever find the important stuff?  If you put it in a separate file folder, wouldn’t it be so easy in a fit of pique to hit “Delete,” and then “Yes” and boom something else created is now instantly consumed by the never satisfied maw of oblivion?

That’s the unfortunate corollary of e-texts efficient production – easy destruction.

Love letters, you have to pick up throw out – decide whether they are suitable for recycling or are more appropriate for the byre anyway, with some ritualistic fire.

Takes effort to take love letters to oblivion, which offers plenty of opportunities for reflection and reclamation.

Because they are objects, they are artefacts — every piece. As much meaning is evoked in the paper chosen, the roses pressed, the locks of hair snipped, the concert tickets and transit transfers tossed in between leaves.   The width of the circle above the ‘i’s, the flourish of the signatures, the doodles and sketches in the margins…

If by some chance, someone is reading this who is in their first two decades of life allow me to offer this advice; give priority to girls who can draw.  In such cases, fall in love with abandon.  The relics alone are worth it.  In my own utterly unscientific sampling of two, you can expect much fraught passion, projectile dodging, late night phone calls and even suicide attempts.

I think back to my spotty, scowling self of my late teens and early twenties, with my poet-shirt pretensions (oh, yes indeed I had several), second-hand store certainties and sagging waistline and I wonder what on earth could have inspired, calligraphied envelopes, with flowers pressed and sketches enclosed.

… and what sketches!

Perhaps one should not go so far as to marry one (as I did) but if you can inspire some sketches… especially some that would panic you in the same way a porn magazine would if the children entered in the room unannounced 20 years later – it is damn well worth it!

Posted in Art, Emotional Divorce, Physical/Mental Health, Poetry and Other Such Balms, What's Worked | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Throw Out Your Love Letters (Part One)

Don’t throw out your love letters.

Don’t burn them, don’t bury them, no matter the heartache and heartbreak and anger and lingering enmity.  And for the love of God, don’t return them!

Hide them from your present self in the agony of broken love: unmarked shoe box, file folder, safe deposit box in Bern – whatever protection is necessary from yourself, do not skimp, do not hesitate.

In all likelihood you will survive the HEARTBREAK moment (and as inured as we have become to that term, really  what could be worse – ALL CAPS is still an understatement — it hurts like hell, you don’t just feel like you’re dying, you are dying and the effects last a lifetime) ten, 15, 20 years will pass between that day when it all ends and then a day will come when you will need to discover not what the love was, but what the lovers were like.

I found a box of them while clearing out a closet and first began to marvel at their apparent indestructibility.  How many domiciles have these things migrated? (close to a dozen); how many countries?  (a bunch of them have been in five different countries); how many ocean crossing voyages? (3 or 4);  and still they persist.  Being a man my love letters weren’t wrapped in a ribbon in a treasured stack.  Or even in a box — jewellery or shoe  – they were in a plastic bin, with another bin on top with an inch of dust and bits of plaster reno shards at the back of my son’s closet.  Now they have been vertically filed by writer, roughly in chronological order.  What can I say, my Dad’s a historian, my mother’s a librarian — archiving is in the genes.

There were also a few diaries and journals.  Now those, if I may digress, should be buried in the back somewhere and if lost, burned etc. should not be mourned too much.  You shouldn’t leave your diaries lying about for a quick and easy reference.  There’s something a bit toxic about the raw thoughts of your younger self.  Unrequited dreams and aspirations, compromised principles, loves left on the table  — who wants to remember the hand that you folded against the bluff?  All your abandoned suicide missions with glories left unclaimed? Small swindles you got away with?  Dangerous stuff – make sure you have donned hazmat suit and are turning the pages with tongs.

But love letters…

Unearth them from layers of ignored bills, uncelebrated certificates and “why the hell did I save that!”’s  Brave the booby traps of your closet, the possible avalanche of precariously balanced stacks of linens!

Courage, Courage, Courage!

You have aged.  Yes!

People have died already! Yes.

Your own death is edging closer.  Yes!

That was 2 decades ago!

Oh shit….


That can’t be right….

No, it’s actually almost three.

…. Fuck me…

(…to be continued)

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Separation/Divorce Agreement Part II — Your Child’s Future in 500 Words or Less

So here’s your child’s upbringing as brought to you by a standard divorce agreement:

  • S/he go to school
  • S/he on sport teams
  • S/he go on a few trips
  • S/he go to university

Once completed university they are no longer childrenand parents cease parenting.

From contemporary New Zealand surrealist, Peter Lewis.

There.  Done.  The end.

It’s all summarized in a couple of paragraphs among dozens of pages of legal obligations.  That’s childhood. We know who pays for it (the husband, of course).   There, we’re done.

Now, it’s not the fact that I’m paying for it, that is raising my ire.  I knew when we were married that I was the financial backstop. I want my kids to go to school and go on the trips, and do the extra curricular etc. etc. etc.  that’s why I go to work.  To be told I have to do something that I can’t imagine doing otherwise is personally insulting but it is a legal agreement and I remind myself not to take it personally.  I get it.

It’s the reductionism that is repulsive.

Again, it’s all about the time and money.  But now we’re measuring in years and thousands of dollars as opposed to days in the week and a few hundred.

There’s your life my friend, and not just your life… but your wife’s and your kids too.  About 5 lines in a contract.

All the fits and starts and back-tracks, not to mention all the various parenting disasters – kid goes to jail, takes up drugs, car accident, runs away, gets pregnant, orthodontistry, gets sick, gets a data-plan…  etc. etc. – is all obliterated, by a nice steady curve that leads out the door.  It’s all straight line development and progress.

The kids live, they go to university, they stop being children

Maybe, I can use that as a parent? If they start skipping school or their marks dip, or they want to take a couple of years off after high school to find themselves in a snowboard commune in Kamloops,  I’ll just whip out the separation agreement – “Hold on there, youngster!  Says right here, in this here paper — you are contractually obligated to go to college after high school!”


“Where do you think you’re going with that suitcase and that stroller?  Oh no, according to my contract, once you’re done with school, my obligations to you are finito, little lady.  So you can take yourself and your newborn bastard and hit the road!”

This your middle class family and family break –up writ large.  What we say about dealing with it, says a lot about what believe about the modern family:

  • Man is still the primary bread-winner and takes on all financial obligations
  • • Only a man would avoid and run away from financial obligations so we will have to spell out his financial obligations eg. The husband will… comes up a lot to do with finances.
  • Kids go to university/college.
  • • People get jobs and a life right after university.

There is an overall diminution of dreams.  I don’t suppose it’s giving too much away to say that one of the motivations for my particular Leaver was to pursue professional fulfillment.  She felt she had a vocation that she had never entirely committed to and couldn’t commit to in the context of her marriage.

Putting “dreams” and “vocation” into a legal agreement and it’s a bit like making sausage – you never have any idea what you started with and you wouldn’t want to know when you see the end results, even if the result is something you ultimately need.

There’s no sign of that vocation, that dream in the agreement, even though it’s what got us to this point and the agreement suggests she has no shot of them coming true.  There’s never any provision that her gamble may pay off, that she’ll ever make any substantive amount of money doing what she wants to do.

No, as she is now, is the way she always will be – dependent on me.  Her immediate and long-term future is dependent on me.

Go find your future, little bird.  Spread your wings and leave the nest to find yourself…  Fly! Fly! Fly!

Her lawyer’s comes back with something that says, that as you were then (with me), so it shall ever be thus.  Actually, if we were living together for another two and a half years, I would be obligated to support her forever – something which I don’t have to do with the kids.

The thing is as the kids are also dependent on me.  And I don’t have any extra money to spend on myself – everything goes to mortgage and bills  and we try to live pretty frugally (don’t go out to dinner, don’t have cable, not compulsive shoppers, no PVR’s or iPad etc, bread’s from the bread maker).  So by definition, any support I give to the Leaver, is support taken from the kids.

The legal agreements however are built on the supposition that there is money worth fighting over; that there is money that will not go to the care of the children; rather than the reality for the vast majority of people in this country and most – that you just get by.  As far as I can see into the future by about a decade, all my money is going to either the kids or paying off the debt I owe my wife for this house.

So there’s no BMW in my future, no champagne nights with stewardesses, no discovering my inner child through skydiving or snowcat ski trips.

It’s all about getting by and anything I do is going to be pretty much with the kids.  There’s no extra cash to play with.  And there’s nothing in the immediate future that points to an influx of cash.  My income has declined along with the overall economy.  I’m not complaining. I’m grateful to have a job that is stable and has benefits.  But the certainty that is implicit in this legal agreement that life from a material standpoint will just keep getting better and better is more than a bit presumptuous, given current circumstances.

That seems to be a hard thing for the law to grasp.

I don’t blame the lawyers – most people make the mistake of thinking that other people live like they do.  Pretty much everybody – except for Donald Trump — thinks that they’re middle class.  Most people who you consider in poverty don’t think of themselves as poor and people who have two incomes north of $100,000 look at themselves as average (when in actuality median Canadian household income for a two parent family is actually about $65,000).

So lawyers can’t help but look at a divorce from their own perspective and of those who can afford to fight and have something worth fighting for.   A divorce agreement looks a lot like what would be givens for a couple of lawyers breaking up.

Dreams, vocations, causes, consequences, potentials and deep-seated dreams – just don’t enter it.  They aren’t a part of reality, they have no bearing or weight.

And that is particularly soul-bruising for the Leaver.  Her vision of herself – independent, driven by a higher purpose, selflessly supporting her children – is completely contradicted by her lawyer who’s mission is to secure for her the best future possible.  Her best future from her lawyer’s perspective is one secured for by my income with no financial obligations to her children.


Moral:  Don’t go looking for vindication or self-worth in the law.  Legal mechanics can’t help but make any human life small and of negligible consequence.

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The God is in the Guitar

English: Billy Bragg performing at South by So...

English: Billy Bragg performing at South by Southwest in 2008. Photographed by Kris Krug. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Living room, sofa.

What a gift the guitar.

And it really is a gift that I received, at the time when I was young much to my chagrin really. I didn’t practice much then, and not surprisingly I’m really not very good.

There really is a knack in teaching because I “taught” some people (showed them a few chords, a few tricks) who turned out to be very, very, good.  I think it’s because I have a very good musical sense.  I have a talent for knowing how to make a piece of music sound lovely within the confines of the instruments abilities.  I have a great sense of how to work within limitations.

Just no bloody skill to actually perform.  I can’t actualize anywhere near the loveliness in my head.

However, crashing out a Billy Bragg (Milkman of Human Kindness, my current personal anthem) or delicately/desperately exploring a Radiohead, and then optimistically trying to suss out Sue Jorge’s Bowie arrangements (Star Man — I can do this; Life on Mars, not in a million) and I am off on another planet.

Just sat down and talked to my ex and as a result there are so many things I do not want to think about.

And I was thinking about doing some writing, and watching TV and then I remembered, I have that guitar thing.

This is what I mean about gifts.

This is the best of that God thing.

I mean when I play it’s a miracle of release of life and also of interaction with God. That is a memento of the Holy Spirit for me.  The sheer pointless joy.  This isn’t productive.  But there is nothing destructive and it’s utterly healing.  The act holds oblivion at bay.

So why bring that whole God business into it?  Why add that layer and construction?

It is my choice, and I build a construction around that choice to believe in something external. But what the heck is wrong with that?

Our unique position on this planet depends on the creations of our mind, our conceptions — what we are able to mould and forge out of nothing.  Surely that is one of the great accomplishments of human kind and seems to separate us from other creatures on this earth.  Our abilities to conceive, to create whole worlds in the abstract from a Donne ode, to a Tolstoy novel, to Fermat’s last theorem, to a Haiku, to Miles Davis famous exhortation to all artists “it’s about the notes you don’t play.”

That’s the amazing human mind that conceives all this. So isn’t wonderful to conceive of something even greater and outside.  If we can, than that conception is intrinsically humbling.  Intrinsically, unselfish, intrinsically good and ego crushing.

Communing through art and creation (no matter how full of bum notes and just crap it is, as it is in my case) with a conception of external conscious that is utterly selfless by definition — well…. what a gift.

For  me, right now is a time of personal oblivion. The forces of oblivion have swelled and swept through my personal life, my home.  From plans and dreams and aspirations, to blank spots in the house where shared objects once stood and photos once hung.  To the days when the children aren’t in the house when they otherwise would be, because they  have adapted their lives to the oblivion.

Oblivion is not all bad.  It just is. Our universe is made up of absence and void.  The particles that shape us are made up of mostly empty space; if we venture a mere 10 km straight up (less than the distance for most daily commutes) life without mechanical supports doesn’t exist; let alone the vastness of space and the Earth’s still singular status as a place where life exists.  Down here at human level, we succumb to a helpless oblivion every night; we seek out a mental oblivion, a sublimation of our existence through films and a good read, and even through extreme physical activity, sex, and alcohol and other narcotics — an opportunity to depart our bodies, to float out into the oblivion or at least skim its dark tides.  Back to Miles — it’s the notes you don’t play, the emptiness that defines the space where the notes, the art, the creativity exist that give it space.

Deutsch: Miles Davis 1984 in Bad Segeberg

Deutsch: Miles Davis 1984 in Bad Segeberg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Creation — flawed, with many an “oh shit… what’s that chord again?” gives shape and contains the oblivion in my life, such that I cannot conceive of anything other than a benign conscious force giving shape and containing the oblivion that is the universe of humanity.

All that out of three chords and a lost dream – –  thanks mom and dad for paying for the guitar lessons.

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Separation/Divorce Agreement — Part 1

After all the schisms, projectile crockery, navel gazing eventually you have to come to a contractual agreement.  You have to break-up the partnership and put it all down on paper. You think you sign your life away to a mortgage?  T’aint nothing compared to a divorce agreement.  Image

In our contemporary world there is little that is considered real except what is measured.  And the metrics of divorce are money and – if there are kids involved – time.  Roles that may have taken years to evolve and, left to themselves, would naturally adapt to changing circumstances must now be set contractually until adulthood with the time/money parameters set to check action against commitment.

Just the act of setting the parameters is more than a bit ridiculous… but I’ll talk about that in another piece as this is already way too long. —

Typically one party is always the provider.  The other party is the supported.  Or should be supported…. again I’ll deal with that one later.

Hold it…. What about co-parenting?  The even split of parenting responsibilities between each parent?

Having two homes equally suitable for raising children is by definition an exercise in redundancy.  If there’s only one kid, it isn’t nearly as an expensive bit of redundancy but as soon as you have two or more kids and different genders then the cost and commitments escalate much more than simple doubling.

I’m in Canada but I’m pretty sure the same can be said for US, Australia, the UK and many other countries, but the system overall has been shaped as a way to guard against men being bastards.   Co-parenting is a mitigation that has been tacked on our inherently adversarial system.

Guys who leave and don’t want to pay child support — that’s what shapes the standards, the rules and the means of enforcement.  Trying to work anything else in this adversarial set up and you’re bashing square pegs into round holes and the parties to the divorce are the pegs.  Granted the peg is made of flesh and bone.  So with enough bashing you can get the couple in there – but be prepared for a lot of bits get to get painfully shaved off in the process.

So no matter how co-operative things are, in terms of a contract, things still have to be stated in the time, money context. 

In trying to make parenting fit to those crude parameters – how much damage is meted to the parties involved and how much of the genuine parenting is lost?

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Pavlov’s Dog Rips Freud A New One or On Unruly Digestion and That Thang


Pavlov (Photo credit: sclopit)

If there has been one great comfort in the trials of the past year, it’s confirming the fallacy that lies at the heart of classic psychology.

Needless to say, I have neither the resources nor the professional wherewithal to carry out research, and my mind is almost entirely uncluttered by professional or academic acumen in the field of psychology.

But I won’t let that hinder me from making broad generalizations.

Who needs sample sizes?  I’ve got the platonic ideal of the psych subject (at least from my admittedly subjective perspective) — moi!

So classic Freudian psychology — all bunk!  I declare that Jung, Adler and everyone else in chp., 1-3 of your psych 101 textbook can be sent down the chute.  Why?  Because at the heart of their treatises…

… okay I digress temporarily to all who may now accuse me of ill-informed reductionism. (those not bothered can skip this bit and go to the next paragraph).  Bluster armoured ignorance is the very meat of contemporary discourse.   There are far more life effecting systems subject to its cloggery, then psychoanalysis. eg, the governance of our land — Rush Limbaugh anyone? —  or the adjudication of our collective or individual creative output — would someone please “like” my blog or are you too busy taking a look at the highest starred of the top 5 box office grossers — or the education of our children — iPads Revolutionize Education.  So I will attempt to reductio ad absurdum with the best…

…lies the premise that by knowing rationally the reasons for one’s emotional reactions, one can then mitigate if not change them altogether.   So, understanding the irrational, can set the irrational right.


I present myself as primary research subject (and the only one I’ll ever need).

In my house (still sounds weird saying that, but you know, getting over that too) when the Leaver is at close quarters, I get the tingle.

You know, down there.

That thang that should not be named.  Because it feels more than a little gross now.  And that is not out of mere frustration and lack of sexual or intimate outlet in my life.  I actually do have that covered but I won’t get into the details here.

But in equal measures to the primordial arousal my digestive processes, get, overturned and undisciplined.

These are primary reactions.  They occur right when we are in the same space and it is regardless of how peaceable or aggressive our current interactions are.

Look it, the two should cancel each other out for one.  And I can understand, analyze and even discuss the causes to death and it still doesn’t go away.

And I don’t think “lust” or “anxiety” are relevant to this discussion.  It’s not like that.  I don’t have the emotional reactions I have the physical reactions.  We’re talking not just Pavlov’s dog, we’re talking the kennel.  Stimuli disassociated from any thought.One_of_Pavlov's_dogs

What quashes these reactions is spending the time with the Leaver.  After about 15-30 minutes of communication these things pass (well with the digestive issues they tend to take longer before as mechanisms have been set in motion and things must… well…. pass). All the issues, attitudes and myriad detractions from any intimacy come to the fore.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to confirm or remind why we broke up.  But time spent together or apart do not in of themselves mitigate or cure the physical reactions.  What does mitigate that is simply time and number of times.  Like any learning of a new skill or function — repeat activity, then rest time to recuperate and incorporate.  But it has to be relevant activity that has some value — there’s no point in straining yourself for little reward.

Illustrative Story — The Perfect Question

My niece was having her child baptized and the little party afterwards was to be at my house.  The Leaver asked me — bless her — the perfect question.  “Would you prefer I wasn’t there?”

Not “Can I come to the party?” or “Your sister invited me, is it okay with you that I come?”

Both perfectly valid and considerate questions. But nuanced.  Well rationally, morally, of course it’s okay if you’re there.  And I wouldn’t forbid you to not be there and be some sort of ogre.  But she didn’t ask those questions that have multi-dimensional answers.  She tossed me an easy one.

I have been accused in the past of on occasions like this of setting aside my own wants and needs suggesting either a tendency towards passive aggressiveness or sheer obtuseness. Not, however, on this occasion.

“Yes.  I would definitely prefer you weren’t there!”  I said with cheerful enthusiasm.  Of course I’ll have a much better time without you around.  Indeed, how could she doubt the answer, only whether or not I’d say it.

My sister, when I recounted this story, was surprised and taken aback at my bluntness. “You shouldn’t be so mean. I understand but…”

Ah but you don’t.

And I don’t.

Because it has nothing to do with understanding, it’s all about that pioneering Russian behaviourist and his pack of canine research colleagues.

And because the Leaver wasn’t there, I was not distracted by my bowels or “that thang” and any other possibilities across the spectra of raw physical reactions.  “When’s the rain going to stop?” and “did that overweight young lady from the father’s side of the family get what I meant when I erroneously enquired ‘is that your first?'” were the only internal  struggles to be dealt with by me that evening.  And I had a great time.

I don’t have to rationalize everything and I can come to terms with my instinctual reactions.  Even if it makes sense on a rational level, doesn’t mean I have to make it work.

Do I have to get used to her coming to parties at my home?  I have to get used to saying “my home,” but parties at my home to which she will be invited will occur rarely if ever.

Some things rooted deep in the core of the primordial instincts will take time to be mitigated.  And dealing with the situation repeatedly will help to get there, just like in any sort of rehabilitation process.

But to anyone out there looking for advice, don’t try to be an emotional daredevil.  Some things you never need to do in ordinary circumstances and it is okay to capitulate and just not bother to even try.

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Viv Eliot on the “Browbeaten Wife”

From the recently published The Letters of T S Eliot, Volume 3: 1926-1927
By Valerie Eliot & John Haffenden (Faber & Faber)

Vivien Eliot wrote to her brother-in-law Henry after recently separating from TS Eliot:

I just want to point out to you that of all the ‘rôles’ a woman enjoys and delights in, that of the browbeaten wife is the most delicious. Every woman hankers for it and thrives on it. There is no length to which an egoist will not go to enforce on her husband the reaction of a bully.



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