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Category Archives: Alone

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It is Sunday morning. There’s a light rain falling outside my window as I’m typing this and I’m about to start on my second cup of coffee (Tim Horton’s home brew if you’re a stickler for details). The occasional thunderclap has the dogs lying at my feet which makes me feel a bit like a setting for a Normal Rockwell painting. The kids are at their mom’s today so it’s a chance for me to catch up on some work, do some laundry and take advantage of a quiet house, although I must admit sometimes I find it difficult topickerimage focus when it’s this quiet.

Last night was my first full night’s sleep in a while. As I’ve written before, life seems more manageable when you’re rested. There’s something about sleep deprivation that makes every issue in your life bigger and less conquerable. Even if the pile of issues lying before you still seems insurmountable, there’s something about rest that allows you to look at them a little more objectively and with a little less sense of overwhelmed panic. And so I sit here, preparing to tackle some of the smaller items on my list one at a time. Knowing that progress of any kind will bring about a sense of calm knowing I’m moving forward and addressing things.

Really no heavy point to this particular post other than to wish you a good morning and encourage you to enjoy the moments when life gives you a respite from the mountain of chaos that may be your world on any given day. Savor the victories no matter how small. And try to remember, you’re never alone on this journey.

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2014 in Alone, Daily Life

 

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On-Line Dating

Those who read LAADD know that I tend to avoid the topic of dating. It’s a tough one. And honestly I have limited experience in that area. But recently I’ve received several questions about on-line dating services so I thought I would break down and share my own, albeit brief, story and thoughts on the subject.

One day, not very long after my wife and I had established separate addresses and our divorce was final, my daughters started to promote the idea that I should get a girlfriend. The eldest then sent me a link to Match.com and both encouraged me to sign up. And of course as soon as you change your relationship status on Facebook, within minutes you’re inundated with ads encouraging you to find someone special along with links that can accommodate your heavy heart.

When your world has been shattered and the love of your life has grown to be, let’s just say, not so much the love of your life, the ability to search for new love on line is a tempting one. An irrational one, but a tempting one none the less. And of course, like many of you, I signed up for one of these services and gave it a shot. Forked over a good chunk of change and eventually went on a lunch date or two. I managed to meet one or two interesting people through the process, but for the most part I found the experience remarkably disappointing and disheartening.

I left with an opinion that on-line dating services were really just preying on lonely people. People who were searching for a sense of feeling attractive and loved. I personally have a problem with companies that take advantage of people who are vulnerable. And truthfully, my initial experience did nothing to change my mind, in fact it only reenforced it. Then, of course someone suggested the big daddy, e-Harmony. “They’ve got it down to a science” I was told. “They’re commercials are awesome!” And so, somewhat reluctantly, and against my better judgement I gave it a shot. Shelled out $60 for a month and gave it a look. And within 4 days I felt the same sense of being taken advantage of and quickly called for a refund. That’s when the fun started.

“Unfortunately sir you’re outside the 3 day trial period and therefore a refund is not an option for you.” I heard this not once, but about 50 times through four calls with six service representatives. I explained the circumstances and that I hadn’t noticed the three day requirement and eventually offered to pay for the time I was on, but felt $60 for 4 days was a bit ridiculous, thinking any rational individual would see that truth. But to no avail. They just kept selling and selling and sticking to their policy with no wiggle room. Their script was well rehearsed and their reps very well trained to refute any rebuttal. They had my cash and weren’t letting go. If I didn’t have a bad taste in my mouth before, I certainly did now. For me this just confirmed my belief that, while it may work for some and there are likely success stories, for the most part they’re just a business that preys upon the lonely.

Obviously, this was just my own experience and obviously I was skeptical to begin with. But then I looked around on line and started to find story upon story from people of all walks of life that sounded very similar. You may find success with these on-line companies, but my honest opinion is that they’re more song and dance than substance. It’s a game of percentages and for them apparently every penny is sacred. It’s a business after all and whether you find success or just spend a few days (more than three anyway) on the site looking around; don’t expect to get any money back if you’re not thrilled with the product.

When your marriage is in turmoil or when it falls apart completely, it’s natural to look to others for a sense of feeling attractive, worthy and wanted. There’s comfort in that. And perhaps these on-line dating services help in some way to provide that confidence again as you receive “winks” from other members who want to get to know you better. But before you pull out your credit card, first take a look on line to read about other people’s experiences. Then take a good hard look at where you’re at in your personal rebirth. Are you seriously ready for a new relationship? Are you prepared to move forward? Is your heart truly healed and your head prepared to focus on someone new? And by all means, be prepared for what you’re getting into and keep your expectations realistic. The dating scene is a tough one whether off line or on.

Personally I’ve come to believe you really need to first focus on being comfortable with yourself and feel good about being alone. Get to know who you are and how great it can be to be self sufficient. That’s not to say you shouldn’t lean on others. It just means the more you can be OK being alone, the less likely you are to put too much pressure on a relationship, which in turn will make it healthier and balanced.

Remember, there are people out there who see your vulnerability as a chance to make a quick buck. They’ll promise you love, riches, lower interest rates, a free i-pad, even hair if they think they can tap that insecurity of yours and get you to pull out your credit card. Am I cynical? Yup. I’m also a hopeless romantic. But experience has taught me that all good things take a lot of time, a significant amount of effort a little luck and most important of all, the right state of mind. That last one is key. I’m a passionate person, but have learned the hard way more than once, that a decision based on emotion can really bite you in the ass (and the pocket book).

Have you had any experience with on-line dating services? Would love to hear about it good or bad.

 

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Rise Above

Those of you who regularly read my blog know that from the beginning, as difficult as it was (and still can be) my ex-wife and I have both done our best to put our differences aside and continue to work together as we raise our three kids. As much of a struggle my own situation can be, I am not blind to the fact that my circumstances are a bed of roses compared to some. So I make a point of reading other blogs about divorce and what other fathers experience as they transition into single parentdom.

When I do I’m often struck by what is sometimes and unimaginable amount of anger, frustration, fear and
discourse. The stories are chilling and sometimes unimaginable. It is such a tremendous wake up call for some men as they discover just how cold the world can be. And it’s not just an ex-spouse that can provide you with a punch to the gut. The world in general can suddenly become very cold, unfeeling and relentless. You become a number, a cliche’, a statistic. Neighbors, friends, family, banking institutions; everyone has the potential to blind side you and demonstrate a sense of judgement that in many cases can create additional hardship and stress.

So this one is for those dads who feel abandoned by good fortune, trust and support. For those who feel burned and left to their own devices to clean up shop and start over. For those who had a divorce thrust upon them and were left with nothing more than a pillow and a credit card statement. Somehow, somewhere deep inside, you manage to find the strength to get up in the morning and fight your way through the negativity.

To those dads who see their kids once a month or less. To those of you who battle the depression that can come with the separation. I wish for you peace. I wish for you a moment of contentment and acknowledgement that you’re strong and worthy. I wish for you acknowledgement for what you’ve been through. I hope, that if you haven’t already done so, you can surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you. People who, whether they fully comprehend or understand your predicament or not, demonstrate apathy and offer encouragement. Encouragement through doing nothing more than listening and telling you how great you are.

Every human needs validation. You owe it to yourself to find someone or maybe two or three someones who get you and appreciate you for who you are. Who understand your strengths and forgive your weaknesses. People who let you be you. I wish this for you. I encourage you to find these people and bring them closer. Invite them to take this walk with you as you will both benefit. Don’t close out the world simply because you hit a streak of negativity that’s got you down. It’s not worth it.

You’re angry. You’re bitter. You’re hurt. But don’t let those feelings define who you are. Don’t allow it to dictate how you view the world. Find within you forgiveness. Acknowledge the crap, as there’s plenty of it to go around. Embrace your battle scars and let it go. You can rise above it all. You may not be able to control the world or those around you. But you can control how you respond. Blow their minds by rising above it all. The more you do, the more you’ll recognize what you’re capable of enduring.

You can do this. You can become the poster child for calm cool and collected regardless of what the world throws at you. And when it becomes too much, or you get slapped in the face; go pump some iron, go for a run, go punch a fence (not a face). Get it out. Then take a deeeeep breathe and allow yourself a moment to put it all behind you and relax. Or as Scott Larose, a comedian I once had the distinct pleasure of working with once said; “Acknowledge and move on.”

 

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I’m So BORED!!!

I recently reposted a newspaper clipping on the LAADD facebook page that spoke to a child’s inability to deal with boredom and not knowing what to do or where to go when they had down time. It seemed appropriate to me only because I had just endured a summer in which my kids required a lot of hands on management as my ex-wife and I juggled life and child care.

When you’re a parent I think it’s natural to feel like you need to provide your children with plenty of different experiences. I know my ex and I make a point of exposing our kids to a lot of different places and activities. Our first born was out of the house and introduced to the outdoors and the community no more than a week or so after being born. We’ve always done everything we can to give the kids a sense that the world is a place to explore and enjoy and make a point of providing them with opportunities to experience people, places and nature first hand. And yet, as freelancers, our lives and budgets sometimes dictate that responsibilities are what they are and the kids are required to entertain themselves.

And so comes summer. Life for a parent doesn’t stop when school lets out. We still have jobs and deadlines. There’s no final bell ringing and you never see staffs running out of the building throwing their employee manuals to the side dancing ala High School Musical. (Although that would be pretty awesome). But the reality for most people is, we have to figure out what to do with our kids for a span of 8-10 weeks. When I was a kid it meant playing with friends in the neighborhood, riding bikes, pick up baseball games and watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. But that was 35 years ago. Our society today seems hell bent on making a parent feel guilty if their kid isn’t involved in at least 5 extra curricular activities at a time and playing soccer or in their first dance recital by age three. And of course for summer, there may be a plethora of camps to choose from that are supposed to help provide parents with child care while offering kids something fun do to. But the truth is they’re typically scheduled mid day requiring us to drop the kids off at 9 and pick them up at 1 or 2 which is REAL convenient when you have a real job, but then that’s a whole nother post.

Getting back to summer. As the summer was coming to a close, I myself marveled at all that the kids and we as a family had done. There were horse camps, fashion camps, soccer camps and school summer rec camps which included field trips to a water park, the zoo and public pools. We also made a few road trips to go tubing, fishing, swimming, and smoring, (um … it’s a word.) And yet, as the out of school fiasco came to a close, there were rumblings of discontent with summer being labeled as a boring uneventful 8-10 weeks.

Um, what?

My mental, emotional, financial and physical exhaustion would suggest otherwise. OK. So did we go to Disneyland? No. Did we take a 2 week road trip to Yosemite? No. Did we break bread with the Dalai Lama? Did we swim with dolphins? Nope. (A lot of Carp maybe, but sadly not dolphins). Regardless, from my perspective, all things considered it had been a pretty cool summer break filled with a lot of cool experiences, plenty of diverse activities and most of all a lot of family time. And to me that’s what was most important; especially now that we were fully entrenched in a two home family, the fact that the kids had a lot of time with both their mom and me.

I was so taken aback by some of it and the fact that, even after all of the efforts my ex-wife and I had put in to ensuring our kids had a great summer, there were still those who felt it wasn’t enough. My response? I suggested we all go out for dinner to celebrate the end of summer. But before we did, everyone had to write down their top 10 favorite moments of their vacation. We all then sat down together, including my ex-wife, at what has become our “celebratory restauran,” and recanted all of the events that shaped the summer.

My goal was to refresh everyone’s memories. By reminiscing and laughing as we thought about different things we did and reminding each other of certain moments many of us forgot about; perhaps we could refocus on all of the great family time we shared. We’d be able to recognize the efforts that went in to making sure everyone got to their camps on time and realize just how much was accomplished during the past few months. I also wanted to have a chance to remind the kids how fortunate they were to have the opportunities they were provided.

Once we’d gone through our lists and began remembering all of the events that had taken place in a the span of a couple of months, my ex then suggested the kids pick out one or two things that we’d like to try and do NEXT summer. So everyone thought a bit and wrote down a couple of summer vacation goals. So rather than them being things we didn’t get to do THIS year, they became things we’ll get to do NEXT year.

And it all seemed to work. As everyone read through their lists, it was obvious we had each forgotten about a few things. By the end of it our middle child had amended her own list which was now her top “25” favorite moments. Even our oldest, who came to the table with an attitude about the “lamest summer ever,” left laughing about some of her favorite moments from the summer and excited about next year’s break.

So let’s think a second about what it mean to entertain our kids. Do we hold some amount of responsibility to provide our kids with activities and experiences? I think to some extent we do. But I also think we have just as much of a responsibility to make them aware of what it takes to create those opportunities. That life isn’t just a
big carnival every day. As Laurie Helgoe Ph.D. writes in her book, “Introvert Power,” we as parents have just as much of responsibility to teach our kids how to enjoy solitude and down time. That we need to teach them the joy of quiet and the ability to sit alone in a room and read a book and feel as much enjoyment and
fulfillment as when they’re out on the lake tubing. I agree with that. Life is about balance and understanding that we work hard, play hard and should also relax hard.

Whether you’re married or divorced, you have a life. A life filled with responsibilities, pressures and deadlines. Keeping our kids entertained should not be one of those pressures. After all, we aren’t cruise directors. At the same time we should show our kids that despite the negative aspects of life, it can be fun and we owe it to them to show them the value of cutting loose once in a while. And of course we owe it to ourselves to take a
break and enjoy this time with them as well.

Is it easy to go overboard in our attempt to keep up with the Jones’s? Yup. Do we occasionally let guilt push us over the limit sometimes? U-huh. Do we suffer from our own peer pressure to entertain our kids with a trip to Disneyland? Sure. I think that’s a lesson for all parents. At some point, we need to recognize that it’s o.k. to say no and teach our kids the art of not only entertaining themselves but by making a point to add responsibilities to the list of summer “fun” things to do. Again, it’s about balance. Easier said than done sometimes, especially when your kid is proclaiming out of sheer agony how “BORED” they are. But that’s an opportunity for us to teach them how to become “UN-bored.” Give a man a fish, teach a man TO fish, yadda yadda yadda; Go mow the neighborhood lawns to help pay for our trip to Florida.

I can only hope that as they get back to school and share their summer experiences with their friends that they’ll realize even more just how amazing the past several weeks have been and be reminded of how fortunate  we are to, above all, still be a family.

 

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Someone’s Ringin’ A Bell

When I started this blog several months ago I had no idea the range of emotions I would endure. Nor was I prepared for the continued ebbs and flows my life would encounter as every corner of my life would be turned upside down. It’s easy to sit down and tell readers to stay positive and profess “you can do it!” with some days being easier than others. But practicing what you preach, as you’re well aware, is a real battle some times.

Some days it’s not as easy to project a positive energy and cheer people on, especially when you see important life sustaining pillars within your own world starting to crumble. I say this to you because I don’t want you to feel that I’m here to preach about staying positive from a mountain top I’ve managed to climb. I’m not an expert. Like you, I battle daily, sometimes hourly, with the stresses that come from this incredible life transformation. The truth is I’m still climbing. And some days rocks knock me back down. Hell some days it’s more like an avalanche. My point is, as much as I’m here to share the victories and encourage you, I’m also continuing to go through my own journey. And as you well know, it’s no cake walk.

Those who know me, know that I’m not one to ask for help. My pride is pretty damn strong. I do things the way I want to and when life immerses me in negativity I tend to shutter up the windows and wait until I’ve managed to fix things before I let people in again. Pretty sad huh? For some reason I’m finding that in this instance perhaps I’m taking the wrong approach. Perhaps it’s time to start letting people come in and help with the renovation. I keep getting beat over the head by people telling me I shouldn’t walk this journey alone. But that’s easier said than done. When that’s all you’ve ever done, it’s difficult to clear off the passenger seat and let someone ride shotgun let alone drive when you can’t go another mile.

Which is why I’m starting to open myself up a bit and invite more people in. And I encourage you to do the same. I’ve learned something these past few months thanks to some old friends as well as some fairly new ones. Confining yourself to your home and watching a part of your world fall to ruin by yourself is not only counter productive, it’s incredibly unhealthy and potentially dangerous.

I recently had the distinct honor of meeting with several war veterans. Regardless of their age or time of active duty, they all spoke to one very important detail about transitioning to civilian life after they retired from the military, whether because of injury or they simply retired. They all told me the most important aspect of transitioning back into civilian life was to ensure that you create a support group around you. As service members, they were accustomed to being part of a team that helped each other through every battle. They grew to rely on the safety net provided by the team that surrounded them. But once their tour of duty was finished, sitting alone in their home made them feel incredibly isolated and vulnerable. They stressed the importance of not going it alone and that it’s impossible to win a war by yourself.

Now, I’m not about to compare living day to day on the front line with the end of a relationship. But as someone who has routinely tackled life on my own, I couldn’t help but be taken by their personal stories and the lessons they came away with. Transitioning from one life to another can be incredibly daunting and overwhelming. You’re filled with insecurities and fears of judgement that you somehow failed and that you’re unworthy of friendship or love. And don’t even get me started on the financial burdens that come with turning your life 180 degrees, regardless of the reason. Everyone has been telling me the same thing; you need to find the strength within to open up to someone if not multiple someones. And they WANT to be there for you. Just as I want to be there for you, to help you see that you’re not alone and you’re not the only one experiencing this. Make that effort to confide in someone or better yet find someone who may be dealing with the same life altering experience. My new military friends stressed the importance of finding people who can relate to what you’re going through. Not only can people be there for YOU, but in turn YOU can be there for them and walk away with a sense of self worth. And after all, isn’t that what we’re all looking for in the first place?

So I thank you for walking this journey with me and encourage you to not only continue but invite others to join us. In the words of Paul McCartney, “Someone’s knockin’ at the door, Somebody’s ringin’ a bell. Do me a favor, open the door and let’m in.”

Perhaps together we can help each other find our way to the top of that mountain.

 

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