My summer long trip is a celebration, and a tragedy, and the responsibility rests solely with my own hands. As you read about my journey of discovery, of growth, of change; remember that it is all predicated upon my separation and divorce from our marriage of nearly 40 years. It is impossible to be excited about anything positive from these changes without recognizing the pain created by this rending and dissolution.
Let there be no dispute that the separation and divorce were at my hand, by my decision, and paid for by my lifetime of work. I have spent my life as a computer programmer, a project planner, a team leader, a supervisor and a technical trainer. These skills I use whether it is creating a website, facilitating a meeting, or selling a used car. After five plus decades they are my very nature. So I took on the process of separation and divorce with the cold calculation of an engineer, but felt the pain and empathy of a trainer, tried to create the best possible win-win solution using team building skills and completed the process quickly and efficiently using my project delivery skills. Don’t mistake being skilled for feeling no pain. We used the money saved from not hiring lawyers to buy new cars.
I do not “blame” anyone for this situation. I take full responsibility. “The buck stops here”, squarely with me. As does the joy, the excitement, the new horizons. I had reached a point of terminal unhappiness in life. Several recent unexpected deaths brought my own mortality into crisp focus.
My parents were married over 50 years and my in-laws nearly 50 before their deaths. Of our close circle of friends, over half are still in their original marriages after decades together. It was simply expected that you “work things out” and that separation and divorce represented a personal failure.
I had over 25 years of personal and marriage counseling under my belt before I pulled this most difficult plug. This wasn’t the result of some drunken week-end in Tijuana with a nameless sales clerk. There were decades of work, thousands of hours of plans and exercises and visioning to make things “work”. Only then did I take responsibility for ending four decades of commitment to my wife; the only woman I have dated, loved, or shared intimacy.
And I will not be casting the first stone. I was a good provider, and did my level best in all things as a father, husband, and spouse. I tried to bring my analytic skills to help each of us be our best, without ever giving up hope that tomorrow would be better than today. But there is a dark story.
I am publicly on record as having, and addressing, a history of being bipolar. I had long bouts of depression and overpowering events of dysphoric mania. I was not the manic guy dancing till dawn with a lampshade on his head. I was the one losing his temper, stomping, swearing, and acting incoherently … well, insane. To recall and relive those various dysphoric events is one of the only ways, at my current age, that I feel shame.
I took responsibility for those days. I sought treatment, both medical and behavioral. I spent years learning skills and balancing a cocktail of meds. I have worked those pills down, replaced with diet, exercise, and healthy living. I worked on my behavioral and medical problems single mindedly, and asked forgiveness repeatedly. In the end, my past outrageous behaviors have overshadowed my current efforts to atone and make amends. I simply poisoned the well. And now I reap what I sow.
Given that I ruined that relationship, what shall I do? Throw myself from a bridge? Live as a hermit or wanderer? Spend my days crawling for impossible forgiveness?
In the end I said no. I will distribute my lifetime of assets, doing my best to be more than generous. I will try to be “the best ex-husband ever” by sharing the skills I have always brought to the marriage (ideas, organization, project planning) and when my earnings continue to exceed hers (white, male privilege) continue to help voluntarily. In this way, let her see my intentions were honorable, but the lifetime commitment impossible.
This is the very definition of “amicable”.
Once you reach that conclusion: that you are responsible and you will bear the burden of your responsibility, what then? My conclusion is you go on with life. This becomes tricky. I should mourn, and be sad, and be inconsolable. But I firmly believe in repentance and penance. When a criminal has “done his time”, he deserves to return to society with all the rights and privileges given to anyone never jailed. To do otherwise means the sentence is double, yet unstated. When we know that released felons are denied jobs, voting, housing, and relationships it is incumbent that we state those penalties at the time they are sentenced to serving years. Let the judge hit his gavel and say “10-15 years in prison, jail rape, constant fear of death by shiv, random periods of solitary confinement; followed by a lifetime of joblessness and hopelessness, while the unthinking sycophants chant You Are Free to Succeed”. Thats crap.
So tell the responsible and honorable ex-husband that he owes half his assets PLUS his entire future lifetime of joy, socializing, relationships, or companionship. He must be miserable until the minute of his death? Shall I require a governor’s pardon to date again? I say not.
I’m responsible, and I take that responsibility. That responsibility is to be fair and decent and pay the bills. In layman’s terms “don’t be a dick to your ex-wife”. But in exchange I get to move on. I get to go on a summer-long trip of self-discovery, figure out who I am, decide if I want to date, or even remarry.
That’s the engineer speaking. The social activist. Fair is fair. Own your debts, pay your bills, square your accounts … and restart your life.