One Small part of my life

View in September 2013I was talking to my best friend the other day.  Actually, I think I told both of them this.  More about the 2nd of my best friends later — but the important part is this:  All of this pain and difficulty and frustration I have with my kids and being an alienated dad.  All of that is one small part of my life.  Of the 168 hours in a given week, I maybe spend 1-2 of them thinking about and processing through stuff with the kids.  Much of that is in writing or in conversations with friends and family.  Even then, I might spend a small portion of that conversation on the ex and the kids, but then we get on to other more interesting and happier topics.  

I’m telling you this, because I’m fairly certain if you are reading this site, you are in the middle of a similar battle for your children, or you may be a friend of mine.  In either case, I don’t want you to get the idea that you live, breathe, eat and sleep this life of alienation.  Yes, it’s constantly in the back of my mind and comes up at times when I don’t expect it.  Watching TV yesterday, I got a bit, uh, verklempt, when I saw a dad on CSI talking about his son and how close they were.  Just hearing the word Dad in a song can prove difficult at times.  So there is pain and its fairly close to top of mind.

But at the same time, I’ve got a ton of very positive things happening in my life right now.

  • I have a great job
  • I have good prospects for advancement and promotion there (and fairly soon, too).
  • I have a girlfriend.  There, I said it.  First time I’ve really used that word in 25 years.  But it’s true.  She’s an incredible breath of fresh air and wicked smart and, well, she really gets me.  In a way that I don’t know many other people do.  She has 4 kids, three of them younger and one teenager.  I’ve spent a bit of time with them, too, amid the chaos and happiness that is pre-school and elementary age kids’ existence.  The joy and contentment that I’ve experienced from that relationship has been so different from past experiences.  And so good for me.
  • I have a phenomenal church where I serve each Sunday on a team of greeters and ushers.  This weekend I helped with the 3-5th grade class.  44 whirling dervishes in one room with 8 adults and an hour of loud and action.  Great for my heart.  I honestly can say that each time I leave church, I have this inner contentedness and strength to face whatever comes my way each week.  It’s a beautiful thing.
  • I bought a new truck this past week.  It’s kind of silly to throw in a “thing” in the pile of all this relational stuff, but the truck is something I’ve wanted for 20 years and it’s finally something I can afford to get and incorporate into my life.
  • I’m working on purchasing some rental property to live in and rent out.  It’s a way to use my “rent” costs to actually bring in more money and plan for my future.
  • I’m getting out of debt and concentrating on what to do for that future.
  • I’m writing music, blog entries, poetry, etc.
  • I’m working out regularly and playing a lot of volleyball still.
  • I’m travelling both for business and to re-connect with old friends and family.

But honestly, I’m not “covering” over the pain with busy-ness.  I’m not trying to ignore the problem.  I’m doing something very consciously and deliberately.  I’m living my new life.  I’m becoming the man that God wants me to be — that man began to finally emerge from a dark cave late last summer and smelled the sweet fragrance of freedom and peace earlier in this year.

In spite of all the bad I hear from the kids and their mom about me, I’m going on with my life and living it the best way I know how.  I’m not saying I don’t struggle or feel beaten down at times.  I do.  Almost every week.  But it doesn’t last near as long as it used to, and I get off the couch or walk in from the patio and turn to write it down or talk to a brother or a friend.  Then I set down that milestone where I walked past it in the road and keep focused on what’s ahead.

I’m not bitter.  I’m not angry.   I’m sad.  I’m often disappointed.  But at the end of the day, what I am more than anything else is hopeful and steadfast.  I’m not looking back in defeat, I’m looking forward.  And I’m enjoying the journey I’m on.  With all of the pain, all of the hurt, all of the joys, the peace, the contentedness.  I don’t want to rush it to get out of it.  I want to emerge from this with wisdom, with experience and with honest integrity.

So, thanks for reading and praying for me, those friends who see this.  For those of you who are alienated and are struggling to stand up under it.  Know that there’s hope.  That you are not alone and that it gets better.  Maybe the alienation will get better, maybe not.  But YOU get better, regardless.

Jim

A Long Road

In the middle of the drama this week with my 18 year old, I got a text from her Grandpa (my exwife’s dad).  Having been through a divorce with her mom when my ex was in junior high and having been aggressively alienated from his kids by his ex-wife, he is intimately aware of how difficult the process is.  Keep in mind, this would be the very first time that I have heard from anyone on her side of the family since the separation, with the exception of a couple of hellos as they walked past.

English: The long and winding road
English: The long and winding road (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I texted him back and thanked him for reaching out to me and told him he had been a great example to me over the years of how to reach out and love in spite of the negative that would be returned.  I said I realized it took 10 years or more for him to have a fairly decent relationship with his daughter (my ex) and that I knew it would likely take that long as well for me.

I broke into a cold sweat when he texted back:  “Be prepared for it to take a lifetime.  I’m serious.”

I spoke with him on the phone a bit this morning to try to get some advice on how to go forward with my daughter after the debacle at the hospital this week.  He apologized for not having any good strong advice.  Said the only time he really heard from his daughter was when there were money issues or medical situations, as he is a doctor.  He said that his ex and his kids have never accepted his 2nd wife (though they have been married 25+ years) or his daughter through that marriage and continue to speak derogatorily about and to them.

Sobering.

I think I began this blog as a way to channel my hurt and pain and anger into something constructive for other dads and moms struggling with alienation.  I thought it was going to be a fairly short time-frame in dealing with this — like 1-2 years or something.  Hadn’t planned on struggling like this the rest of my life.  But I’m beginning to think that is the reality.

That’s pretty hard to swallow, you know?  I’m torn between feelings of how unfair it is, how frustrated I am, how angry I am and how hurt I feel about being constantly and vehemently rejected.  It feels like I’m in Junior High again, only the bullies are meaner and crueler and you can’t get away from them.

It’s truly a long and winding road that I will be on forever to some degree.  There will be hillsides where I can see hope and peace and relationship in the distance and there will be dark valleys where I just feel desperate and lost.

I sat for a moment after the conversation with my ex father in law and thought.  Then I broke out the book of Psalms.  That book alone got me through the first month of separation.

Psalm 4:4-8

“In your anger, do not sin;
when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent… and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking “Who can show us any good?”
Let the Light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

You have filled my heart with greater joy…
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
For you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Jim

Postscript to Bitterness

Got a text today from the Exwife saying that my 18 year old had once again gone into the ER with stomach pains and was admitted.  This happened nine months ago right as the divorce proceedings were starting.  She was in for two nights and they couldn’t find anything wrong.

I don’t believe she’s a hypochondriac or making any of the pains up.  I’m sure they are excruciating.  Last I heard she was on morphine.  I do think they are what most doctors would call “stress-induced.”  I would call them “direct result of swallowing bitterness whole continually for years.”  I don’t believe that humans can live a lifestyle where they are continually denigrating and belittling and hating another human without having a resulting medical condition.

When people say “That left a bad taste in my mouth.”  It’s usually about something they are angry or bitter about .  It is an often used statement, literally because it is physically true.  We do literally get a bad taste in our mouth from swallowing and speaking bitterness.  I don’t know what chemical make up is behind that bad taste (maybe a good thesis for your budding scientists out there), but I do know that if you live in that world too long, you will sow what you reap.  Call it Kharma, call it fate, call it irony, whatever — the solution is not medical.  The solution is psychological and spiritual.

So many of you alienated moms and dads are bitter.  I get that.  It’s only human nature.  A friend of mine asked me today this question:  When I get a negative text/response from one of the kids, does that give me a reason to be bitter toward their mom.  The answer was “sure it does.”  It’s a linear truth.  She spouts negative about me to the kids, and then in turn, don’t want anything to do with me.  It would be easy to get extremely bitter about her.

So let me ask you a simple question about that:  What good does that do?  Seriously — if bitterness only hurts the one feeling bitter, why waste the time?  It doesn’t build up relationship, it only can hurt them.  So for that reason alone, I have to control bitterness or it will rise up and kill.

Note to kids: Bitterness hurts you, not who you are bitter at…

My daughter’s 18th birthday today.  As with most alienated parents, I did not get to see her on her birthday.  I was hoping her present would arrive today.  It did, but Fedex didn’t leave it because they delivered it after I left for my son’s soccer game — 5:15 PM).  So I wasn’t able to bring it by her mom’s house for her yet.  I had already left one gift at the house the week before and was told in no uncertain terms by her mom that I was not welcome on their property.  Her reasoning was she “can’t trust what will happen.”  Interesting choice of words — as if I had ever done anything in the last year or so to make her not be able to trust what I would do.  Maybe she was more concerned about how she would react?

So tonight I elected to call around 9 PM to just leave her a voicemail

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

wishing her a happy birthday.  My son answered the phone and spent the next 20 minutes or so railing on me for everything from the clothes I wore to his soccer game to the fact that I was on a conference call.  Mind you, I was off to the side, away from everyone else — because it’s 4th quarter at my work and i literally had to leave a conference call to go to the game and needed to be on two others during the game.  No one heard me talking and I was behind and away from the rest of the crowd, but could see the game easily.  I was also chastised for my parents not sending a present to his sister, for him having to be the grown up in the house and for abandoning the family in the divorce and not giving them any money and the fact that I had gone to some concerts this summer and (this was strange to hear) he was upset because he said I didn’t want a relationship with him…

It was very hard to get in a  word edge-wise throughout the conversation.  Most of it was yelling from his side.  However, I worked very hard to interject when he would pause to take a breath.  Stuff like — “Do you even know how much money I gave your mother every month?” and things like  “There’s very few things in the world I want more than a relationship with you and your sister.”  I decided early in the conversation that he could rant and rave all he wanted, but when he told I lie I was going to call him on it.

I also agreed with him when he said that I’d never gone through a divorce as a kid and had no idea what he was dealing with.  “I would love to know what you’re dealing with — in fact, I’d love to help you through it. You’re right I have no idea what you’re dealing with. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you.  But I want to be there with you all the way through it…”

I told my Dad later (who had a similar conversation with my son — he’d called his grandpa just to rant at him — first time he’d ever called him…) that I actually felt at one point that he was re-thinking some things — seeing things in a different view for the first time.  He eventually hung up on me, I’m fairly certain that this was something that he felt he had to do for his mom and sister.  He texted me afterward and said, “I am just so frustrated cuz at 15 it’s hard to raise a household all by myself.”

I actually thought that was pretty interesting.  Why would he feel like he is raising the household?  He’s got an older sister and a mother there.  Granted he may feel like he’s the man of the house, but there must be some pretty difficult stuff happening over there for him to feel like he’s running things.

My reply was pretty quick and clear:  “You don’t have to buddy.  You just have to be a 15 year old.  Let the adults take care of the others stuff.”  No reply after that.

So I got some very angry and bitter texts from my daughter after that.  She threatened to call the police and have me arrested for trespassing if I brought her birthday present over.  Then I was called stupid and a dumb butt.  She’s 18 today.

So I wrote her a note back talking about how much love and kindness there used to be within her.  I told her that I know she thinks I’m to blame for all of her unhappiness right now and that at some point she would realize that her bitterness and hate and anger isn’t affecting me all that much, but it is tearing her apart.  I asked her to read back what she’d written and see if she thinks that is what a strong and intelligent woman writes, or is it more like the thrashing anger of a hurt young girl?  I told her that love is the way to find healing from that hurt, not anger.  And that I loved her.

I don’t write all of this to you so you see how good a dad I am.  This is an anonymous blog, I frankly don’t care if you think I’m a good dad or not.  I write this, because I think those of us in an alienated position need to hear this as well.  It’s very very easy to become very bitter as we go through this experience.  I had a friend ask me this past week if I was bitter.  I honestly thought about it and said, no, I was not.  That may be more of just a personal thing from my personality.  I’ve never been a bitter person — always have been quick to forgive (though there are some marked examples that I’ve recently corrected in my life where I haven’t forgiven so quickly).

But what I wrote to my daughter is so true.  How often have you seen divorcees 30 years later still hate their ex?  Meanwhile the ex has gone on to have a pretty strong life.  Ironically, that is exactly what happened to my ex’s mom and dad.  Her mom still hates her dad almost 40 years later and has let that bitterness eat her up.  He’s dealt with his mistakes and moved on and been married for 30 years or so.  I think that is the road that my ex is now on as well and she’s trying to take along my son and daughter for the ride.

It’s sad.  It’s difficult to watch.  It would be very very easy to get bitter.  But who does that hurt?  I think I would so much rather move on with my life and make it extraordinary then live in that world.

My prayer is that all you reading this would also see that in spite of the bitterness I’m receiving from the kids and the ex, there’s strong hope.

There’s hope in the fact that I didn’t get the least bit emotional about this little interaction tonight.  I did feel a bit alone (though my cat helped that a bit).

There’s hope in the fact that both kids actually heard me speak truth to the lies they have believed for months.

There’s hope in the new life I’m creating.  I have plans for moving, investing in rental property, travelling, acting, working, getting promoted, dating, etc.  I’m not sitting back waiting for my kids to lose their bitterness and come back to daddy.  I’m aggressively going forward in my life.  It’s different, it’s new, it’s lonely at times, it can be hard to understand — but there is hope there.

My prayer is that you will look in every one of these situations for a similar hope.

God Bless you all.

Jim