For a long time my choices tied my life into a seemingly inescapable Gordian Knot: a knot inadvertently binding those I love (and hated) to a life of chaos and confusion. I tried everything I could think of to untie the knot. Often my best thinking made it worse. “The significant problems we face cannot be solved,” said Albert Einstein, “at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
I needed a new solution on a different level. Most of my life I made choices based on my “rights” and the “easiest” way to gain them. As my divorce from Rachel progressed I began to see that if I focused on giving the “best” instead of taking what was my “right” life might change for the better. It would change because I’d be making choices at a different level. My amends are an attempt to give compensation for my wrongs. It is the process of thinking – and acting – on life based on a new foundation. On a different level. It has unraveled the knot binding me.
The Gordian Knot is a story from antiquity. When Alexander the Great arrived in the city of Gordium he learned of a prophecy pertaining to a great knot. Whoever could untie the knot would conquer all of Asia. Of course, the knot seemed hopelessly tangled and he could find no ends to begin untying it. So the future conqueror of Asia took his sword and sliced the knot in two. He found a solution by thinking at a level different from everyone else. My amends are an attempt to cut through the knot in my life. As I said earlier, my change in behavior is an attempt at making the amends that can be made.
I know there are some wrongs that can never be fully righted but I want to do as much as I can.
First, there is the man who is on the verge of repeating my mistakes. I hope he will learn from my experiences and stop to reconsider his choices before they adversely affect his life and the lives of the people around him. He will seek what is “best” instead of what is “easiest”. Embrace his “responsibilities” as opposed to engaging his “rights”. If you are unsure what that means, write to me and we will talk.
Then of course, there is the man who is sitting on the edge of the bed thinking about pulling the trigger. Everyone has a life worth living. You just have to find it. For me it had to begin by seeking the “best” solution instead of choosing the “easiest” and for a time suicide seemed the “easiest”. It had to begin by being honest about the past, coupled to a willingness to start living for the future. I want the man on the bed to know that no matter how bad the situation it can be turned around. There is always hope. Please, write to me and we will talk. Your life matters.
Most importantly it is an attempt to mend my relationship with both Betty (my daughter’s mother) and our daughter, Cassandra. These are the hardest amends. Of all the harms I committed, the one I would most like to untangle is giving Betty someone to hate – someone to resent and fear. I know I made some poor choices. I know I was wrong. I know it is easier for her to blame and hate than take responsibility for her part in our melodrama. But I also know from personal experience, that resentment, bitterness and suspicion contribute to a soul sickness as destructive as cancer or alcoholism. When, and if, you want to talk, I am here.
I deeply wish Betty could find some peace about our entangled past. By taking responsibility for my choices, paying my past due support, trying to help other men not repeat my mistakes, and by not hating her back, I am trying to do what I can to free her from the pain of the being bound by the part of the knot I tied.
Unfortunately, making amends to my daughter is a bit more complicated. I have seen my daughter only once since she was six. It was in the lobby of the courthouse.
In July of 1999, when she turned ten, I allowed her to be adopted by her stepfather. As I left the court room Betty stepped between me an the door, joyously threw her arms out and in tears, thanked me for letting her husband adopt our daughter. It is the closest I have ever come to killing another human being. When she finally pulled back to make eye contact, I think she knew. I said something profound like, “Get the fuck away from me.” I’m sure she thought I was being disrespectful…in reality I was trying to save her life.
I intentionally went to the bathroom to gather my wits and pray. I did not want to ride down in the elevator with her and her husband. After some time passed I went to the lobby of the court house. As I went through the lobby Betty, Betty’s parents, Betty’s husband and our daughter, Cassie, stood in the hectic lobby of the County Courthouse. They were gathering to celebrate.
I saw my daughter; they saw me. As I approached, grandma wrapped her pressed her hands down on Cassie’s shoulders and pulled her against her. That one act validated what I’d known she was being taught. There are no written words to elegantly – or appropriately – describe what I witnessed. The body language was as readable as a pop-up picture book.
I looked my daughter in the eyes for what I knew was the last time and without a word to any of them and chose to keep walking. I didn’t want her to be subjected to more insanity.
Walking past is my only regret because I have no reason to believe I will see her again.
I know adoption isn’t the “right” way for everyone. It isn’t even the “right” way for me. Rather it is the “best” for our daughter. At least it is the “best” as I saw it in July 1999. I couldn’t bring myself to drag her into court in order to assert my “right” as a father. I couldn’t continue to fight a war where the main casualty was going to be a little girl.
As her father it is my job to protect her, not hers to protect me. I’m the adult…