As you can tell from my earlier writing I wasn’t a nice guy. My interaction with my daughter’s mom, Betty, was a continuous list of harms done. Which is why the universe gave me a daughter. From the moment, she was born I wanted better for her and I knew I wasn’t going to be much of a role model if I continued on my wandering and destructive path.
Even Slim Shady knows he is slim…and shady. Of course, Betty dated me willingly so it certainly calls into questions her judgement and character. The former I’m sure she would acknowledge; I doubt the latter.
It is for this reason fathers lock up their daughters. We realize our little girls will eventually be alone with a man-child…on a prom date…in a car…at a frat party…on a vacation…or a honeymoon. I think daughters make fathers realize just how depraved men can be. Men think about sex every six seconds. So while a women is thinking about what to wear, a man is thinking about how to get her out of what she is wearing.
For all my faults, and I have a few, I love my daughter and believe if our relationship existed in a vacuum, I would have been a great father. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, relationships are inherently dynamic and I was unable to move past a deep and entrenched soul sickness that clouded my judgment and undermined all my relationships. Sadly, it was a while before I learned the truth.
I would like to say the truth was presented in the form of a burning bush, a flaming sword or a bolt of lightning throwing this ass from my ass to my ass. Instead, I was presented something much more spiritually moving – a daughter. She has been the catalyst for a fundamental change in who I am and what I want to become. The result is a desire, a willingness, and a passion to improve my character: to change my spots. This has been, and is, a slow, deliberate, trudge uphill. I’ve been caught in small slips and complete mudslides. The evolution of my character and attitude has been an ongoing and gradual twenty-year remodeling. As a friend says, “Sometimes quickly. Sometimes slowly”.
What is the truth?
Basically, I had no idea what love looks like. I know “love” as an expression such as, “I love Greater’s Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream,” or, “I love blues music”. In either case, I order the ice cream and then eat it. Or I sit in the living room and listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan wail on his guitar. Sometimes, I listen to Stevie’s “Chitlins Con Carne” while eating ice cream. That’s heaven. I love that.
Unfortunately, saying “I love you” screws up everything. It’s when I have to do something “loving” I struggle. It is much easier to say I love you then to show you I love you. “Love” as an action becomes a quandary. “Love” as a verb reveals my Achilles Heel. Thank God for my daughter. She is an angel giving me an opportunity to “love”. She made me want to be a man who acted lovingly.
If my daughter, Cassie, is the catalyst that drove my desire to be a better man, than my my first wife, Rachel, is the instrument by which I learned. Our marriage ended for a number of reasons shortly after the incident in Chicago. Upon reflection, it may have ended because it is frustrating to love someone who doesn’t love them self. Perhaps, it ended because it is difficult to respect someone who is unable to look you in the eyes. Maybe amazing sex isn’t the best foundation on which to build a marriage. Maybe it really was because I selfishly ate the last piece of pizza.
Perhaps it is more selfishness to think I had anything to do with Rachel leaving at all. People are attracted to people at the same spiritual level. Maybe our marriage was just one step on her spiritual journey and it was time for her to move on. Perhaps it was a little bit of all these things. I don’t know and can only speculate but the bottom line is she didn’t want to be married to me.
Honestly, can you blame her?
Looking on my life it is obvious that my selfishness was a sword that cut deeply the people I care about. But if it is a sword, it cuts both ways. My selfishness cut me off from people, from love, from the community, from my daughter and from my family.
Naturally, being a selfish and immature individual I didn’t want the divorce and fought it. I fooled myself into thinking if she saw what a great guy I was she would change her mind. I wasn’t and she didn’t. And in truth, in the end, it was the “best” thing for both of us. It taught me two life altering lessons.
First of all, letting go stinks. I made the pain worse for both of us by hanging on. I hung on because I thought when a man loves a woman he stays and fights.
Let me repeat that.
Letting go stinks. I made the pain worse for both of us by hanging on. I hung on because I thought when a man loves a woman he stays and fights. Of course, I was wrong. Fighting is how you win a battle. Sometimes letting someone go, when he or she is ready to go, is how to love.
But it was a long and painful eighteen months before I realized nothing I did was going to make her want to stay. In reality, practically everything I did made it impossible for her to stay. “Sometimes a man’s own angry pride is cap and bells for a fool,” wrote the poet Tennyson. I was definitely a fool. A friend even bought me the fool’s cap with bells. I let angry male pride make my decisions. My pride was telling me that she was leaving me because I was unlovable so I needed to prove my love. That if she left no one would ever love me. And truthfully, more than anything else I wanted someone to love me. It was simply cover for more self-centeredness.
In hindsight, I acted as if Rachel were a possession and not a human being. It never occurred to me the universe is structured in a way that constantly moves people in and out of my life. Because relationships are inherently dynamic, grandparents, parents, lovers, children, friends, enemies and complete strangers constantly move through our lives teaching us and learning from us. Rachel showed me I needed to treat each individual as an individual and not as my possession.
As soon as I saw Rachel as something other than “my wife” I began to gain some peace about the divorce and learned to act lovingly. To genuinely want for them what I want for myself: to love and be loved. In the end, all of my wailing and scheming resulted in a difficult situation becoming insufferable. I hurt the woman I loved because I didn’t love her enough to want her to be where she could be happy, doing what made her happy. That is selfish and self-seeking behavior. I’m working to make amends for this behavior by supporting the dreams and desires of the people in my life today.
The second lesson came in four parts and is more pragmatic and less abstract. In my zeal to make, manage, manipulate, maneuver and maintain my marriage I learned a great deal about the court system.
1.) It means well, but generally it doesn’t care about anything other than the law. That is as it should be.
2.) The interpretation and application of the law appears to be directly proportional to the hourly rate of the lawyers. I’m not sure that is “right” but it is reality.
3.) Lastly, the administration of the law is never intended to be personal unless I make it personal.
4.) Legal decisions are based on the quality of the legal argument (See Lesson #2), while the extent of the legal consequences is usually measured against the intensity of the self-centered choices.
These are hard truth to face when you have lived your life selfishly while taking everything personally.
In the end, when the judge did for me what I could not do for myself and granted our divorce, I was emotionally, spiritually and financially broken.
There was no place to go but up…