Separating: GenX Style

Recently I reread John Updike’s I think pretty well-known short story, Separating, in which his fictional couple the Maples, characters Updike wrote many stories about, separate. I guess I wanted to see how much of it rang true for me in my current situation. I suppose some of it did. After all a separating must have some very universal qualities, regardless of the people involved. Still, it didn’t really give me what I wanted. What did I want anyway? I’m not exactly sure. I’m not saying it isn’t a great story, because it is, one of my favorites. But my mind these days, obviously because of my situation, is about what happens after the separation, how one forms their life, and their family. Separating ends just before the actual separation takes place, practically speaking anyway — all the children have been told, not its just a matter of the physical move etc.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it strikes me that so many, probably the majority of stories/novels/movies/TV shows that have been concocted about separating and divorce are about the events leading up to. The afterwards is often relegated to the denouement. And I’m interested in is what comes next? Is what comes next so standard and expected and considered uninteresting that it isn’t worth writing about, dramatizing? Maybe not. I don’t know. But it is what I’m interested in, right now anyway. Perhaps only because Im in it.

Anyway. This kind of goes back to a comment that Colleen left on an early (the first?) post about this particular subject. She talked about how she thought this was worth writing about, ie a couple with child separating and attempting to forge a good and positive dynamic in the afterworld of marriage or whatever, unlike so many divorces, which can get so ugly and mean. We did not want ours to devolve into that. I’ve no first hand experience in such matter, although I know people and have heard stories, and I’m always just taken aback by how vicious and petty people can be. I’m not saying I don’t get, because I think I do, how a person’s pain can turn to vitriol. I’m just saying I don’t want to be that way.

I guess I associated these ugly dramatic kinds of divorces mainly Baby Boomer, unfair or not. But the time has come it seems for Generation X to take on separation and divorce. I know that suddenly it seems as if more and more people my age, of my generation, are divorced, getting divorced, and perhaps should get divorced. I freely admit that I have heeped many a harsh criticism against Baby Boomer who can’t seem to hold their marriages together. Considering my circumstances I suppose it would be hypocritical for me to continue in that vein, but you know what, I’m okay with that. Besides, I’m hardly going to feel stung by “whose high and mighty now” criticism from any Boomers, arguably the most hypocritical generation to walk the Earth.

Separating/divorce is a fact of life. I obviously can’t deny that, now can I. But I think that one can work to to forge a better dynamic in the aftermath of separating/divorce, that one can strive to retain more of one’s humanity, to not degrade one’s self along with others by allowing one’s self to slip into petty and demeaning and just plain mean behavior. That’s what I’m working toward. And I’d like to thing that other GenXers going through the same thing are more likely to strive for that as well, much more so than our ego-inflated elders in the Boomer cohort.

But who knows for sure, right? We could be even worse at it. Ba ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Yeah… I know. …that was pretty hilarious. How could any generation be worse at marriage and divorce then the Boomers?

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Say hello to the new routine, pretty much the same as the old routine.

Colleen gets Addy to school in the mornings, of course, since Addy stays at the house during the week.

I pick Addy up from school each afternoon and take her back to the house. We do homework and I get dinner started. Depending on what time Colleen gets home, we eat dinner together or Addy and I eat together and Colleen eats when she gets home. Do most families eat dinner together during the week? Is it possible. I suppose it is for some. Not all the time for us. But then it’s always pretty much been that way.

Anyhoo…after dinner and homework are dispensed with, we all hang out, watch some TV, play some games. Our current family favorites are Sorry and Rat-a-Tat-Cat. For anyone unfamiliar with Rat-a-Tat-Cat we highly recommend it. Very fun. Until it is bedtime for Addy, usually about 8pm.

Our routine is pretty much the same as before the separation, but now I give Addy a piggy back ride (while I stille can; very soon she’s going to be too big for me to carry on my back, a day I am not looking fwd to) to her bed, give her a hug and a kiss and tell her that I will see her tomorrow after school. Then I head to the apartment.

Except some nights Colleen and I will hang out and watch a movie or some TV or just talk. It depends. Does that seem strange? For a couple that has just separated to want to spend time together? Maybe it is. I don’t know. I haven’t researched it in depth. I only know the deal for Colleen and myself. And the deal is that some night we want to hang out. And some nights I want to get back to the apartment to right. And some nights Colleen needs to do some work. Etc. etc.

We’re not really interested in doing what is typical or expected. We not really considering what is typical or expected. We’re just sort of finding our own way, which is typical for the both of us.

But back to our routine, another thing that is different about it. That would be the weekend. We alternate. One weekend at the house the next weekend at the apartment. This weekend Addy’s here with me.That’s a pretty standard set up for separated/divorced couples, right. Seems to be anyway. But it’s not like we won’t see Colleen at all. In fact, usually whichever one of us has Addy will take her to swimming lessons (right now, soon it will be soccer) and the other will meet up with the other two there. Then we’ll go get some lunch together. Except this weekend Colleen’s got an appointment, so we’ll see her later at the house, where Addy and I will go after doing some grocery shopping. I need to do laundry and I do it at the house, which is cool because otherwise I’d dropping a lot of quarters at a laundry mat, which would also mean blocking out big chunks of time to sit around a laundry mat to do laundry. No fun, as I recall from my college days, although in those days I had more time on my hands, and the laundry mat was an interesting place to people watch, although not necessarily to meet, especially at 3am. Like the time this twitchy woman came up to me to tell me that the world was going to end soon and she just had to tell me because she couldn’t live with my blood on her hands.

“How soon?” I wanted to know.

“Very soon,” she said intensely.

And I said, “Like I don’t need to pay off my credit cards soon or don’t plan on having any kids soon?”

She didn’t seem quite sure what to say to that and just sort of wandered away. You spend enough time in laundry mat during the wee hours of the morning and you figure out how to deal with these people, deflect their strange behavior. In a way, it was kind of interesting, even fun sometimes. But that was year ago, now I’d just assume be left alone and have a comfy chair to kick back in while my clothes are cycling.

I don’t know what the hell that has to do with anything but…speaking of laundry, I try to cycle it and fold whatever is in the dryer while I’m at the house, before leaving for the night. Colleen tells me I don’t have to. I  know that. I do it because I want to, because it needs to be done. Things need to be done. I’m there. I can do it. So I do it.

I’m going to stop now, because I fear I’m going on too long. And I can’t help thinking that what I’m writing really tells the story of what we’re going through, what we’re doing. Maybe that isn’t even possible. I don’t know.

Anyway…I’m tired. And I want to spend some time with Addy, watching a movie.

Zombies!

What will I do when the zombies come?

Hmm. Let me see?

Grab my “in the event of zombies” emergency pack, my copy of “The Zombie Survival Guide,” by Max Brooks, and my rifle with scope and all the amo I’ve got and head for the roof of my house. I’ll take out as many as I can. After that, who knows. Life is an adventure, right, especially when it’s overrun with the undead. You got to live it.

The Big Talk…and The Even Bigger Talk

Sometimes I wonder if most, if not all, couples have a version of The Big Talk lingering just below the surface. Like an iceberg where there’s all this stuff below the water line and then at some point a kind of relationship global warming sets in and what’s hidden begins to melt and comes bubbling up. Or like a Hemingway story where what is said is pregnant with what is not said. Perahps that’s a cynical view, colored by my current situation, but still.

In any case, Colleen and I had our Big Talk between Christmas and my birthday, which I know probably sounds like me lamenting about the awful timing of it but really when would NOT be a bad time for this sort of thing. Suffice it to say, it happened. And I’m not going to indulge in a sort of exhibitionism here by detailing the discussion. That kind of thing is simply too personal and intimate to share in this kind of forum, or any other really, at least for me. If you want that kind of thing you best go some place else.

In the end, we came to conclusion that things were not right and something needed to happen, something needed to change. Our solution was to separate. As disappointing and scary as that was for both of us, it was far better than I think what too often happens, which is that people don’t talk about it and far worse things happy, thing that make the possibility of reconciliation pretty much impossible. I for one feel fortunate that things did not go that route. We can proceed without the kind of baggage that can prove debilitating to a relationship. At least, that is the hope.

As hard as our Big Talk was, the even hard task, the even Bigger Talk was telling our daughter, who is eight. On the advice of a counselor we waited until we had a plan in place and told her about two weeks before I was to move out into an apartment nearby.  Two weeks because it would give our daughter enough time to get used to the idea but not too long as to sit there like this big thing looming on the horizon. Not that that made it any easier. But then nothing would have made it easy. It isn’t the kind of thing that should be easy, in any case.

Our counselor also explained that the kids that transition through these kinds of things the best are those with parents who can manage to get along during it and afterwords. I think we’ve managed to do that, after of course some initial turbulence. The thing is that for a child our daughter’s age, eight, it goes beyond just the emotional impact.  At that age they have serious and very real concerns about their very physical survival, wondering who will take care of them, make sure they are fed and clothed and protected etc. So it is important to continue to reinforce that Mom and Dad love you, the child, and will always take care of you. All things considered, I think we’ve managed that pretty well, letting our daughter know that she is loved and taken care of and always will be, by Mom and Dad. We do it regularly without being obsessive about. Life needs to continue as normally as is possible.

We told our daughter that we are still a family, just one that is going exist in two different homes. That’s all. And home is wherever she and Mom and/or Dad is at. Of course, at first she did what the counselor said she would do. She kind of shut down and didn’t want to hear what was being said. But she since seemed to have absorbed the reality of the situation. In some ways, she’s even kind of excited, especially about having two bedrooms.

We made her part of the move, allowing her to decide which of her things she wanted to bring to her other bedroom at the apartment. She was in charge of organizing and arranging her bedroom, and she seemed to enjoy doing that.

She’s spent a full weekend with Dad at the apartment and seemed to go okay. Her biggest concern — sleeping in a bed that was different, because she thought it would be too cold.  Her bed at the house is a loft, raised up near the ceiling and warm air rises. While her bed at the apartment is a regular bed, closer to the floor and cold air sinks. That’s how she put it to us. We assured her there would be plenty of heat and blankets to keep her warm.

Also, as anyone who has lived in an apartment knows, there often strange noises because of your neighbors, especially in comparison to a house, which is much quieter, and any noises made have an identifiable source. The hope is she’ll grow more comfortable in time. We’re just getting started.

And now we move forward, with our family taking on a new shape, a different structure. And there’s no reason it can’t be okay that way.

It started with Facebook

Huh. That makes is sound like facebook is the cause for my wife and I deciding to separate. But that’s not the case. Although I’m sure that more than a few, um, strained marraige include a facebook factor or whatever. Nuff said.

I only mean that the beginning of this process (makes it sound like an office procedure in a way, doesn’t it? eh, maybe not) coincided with my dive into the facebook, which, now that I think about it, was instigated by the same “friend” that “encouraged” me to keep a blog. What are you trying to do to me anyway, John? And now you want me to get back on Twitter. I’m not falling for that one. HA!

Anyhoo…getting on facebook was cool, despite my typical GenXer resistance to joining anything. Reconnecting with old friends was great, and really easy.And I could do it from the relative comfort and safety of my computer. Ah, the computer, that sweet, sweet social buffer that helps to ease social anxiety. Not to mention you can chat with chicks while in your underwear, which has always been a fantasy of mine.

But it also had kind of down side to it. I soon found that a number of people I knew were either divorced, in process of getting a divorce, thinking about getting a divorce, or just in an unhappy marriage. It was disheartening, although I confess to certain smug superiority because of course my marriage was a good one, in tact and humming along quite nicely thank you very much. That was my pose anyway. But I think I knew, even before Wife and I had The Big Talk, that it wasn’t all strawberry jam (is that even a saying?). It certainly wasn’t a bowl of cherries, as some have felt the need to tell us, but I’ll not name names. As I indicated previously, this is not to be a forum for petty grievances and the like. It’s not going to be a bitch blog, although I could totally do that. Cuz I can bitch, I can bitch. I’m better than you. The things that I say, the thing that I do. Whoa oh oh oh!

And just today I learned that someone else that I know is getting a divorce, after trying for almost two years to try to make things work. Ugh. Will it never end? It almost seems like a sudden epidemic. Could that be possible? I wonder if there are numbers out there on this sort of thing. I need stats, tables, charts, figures. Numbers dammit! Bring me numbers!

Sorry. I’ve been a little more twitchy than usual lately.

Still, despite all the influx of marital woes, facebook has been quite helpful, especially once it became clear that Wife and I would be separating. I was amazed and quite pleased to learn how eager and willing people are to offer support, to just talk, to share their own experiences. It’s been a big help, like an ever present support system. All one need do is log on.

But it can be tricky navigate. For example, posting that your relationship has gone from “married” to “it’s complicated” can result in a mass wave of concerned emails, which is nice, don’t get me wrong, but a little overwhelming at the same time. It’s coo, though.  It’s weird too. Kind of like sending out the equivalent of the company-wide email, informing all employees that Joe Blow will no longer be with the company, as he has decided to pursue other avenues of interest blah blah blah. We wish Joe well in his future endeavors as we escort him to the door and remind him that coming within 100 feet of the building could result in his incarceration, and non one wants that, now do they.

I guess you live and you learn. Better to be less revealing in status posts. Save more personal stuff for private email messages to people. That would be my advice anway, a thing that wise people don’t need and dump people don’t heed, so, you know…

The New Deal

And by that I do NOT, I repeat DO NOT mean FDR’s New Deal. Nor do I mean Obama’s version of FDR’s New Deal.

I mean, of course, the new deal with this, my blog.  Because after a brief hiatus, and certain life-changing events, it seems appropriate that the focus of my blog shift to some degree.

I started this blog with the encouragement of a friend (so if you’re looking for someone to blame for the bloviating garbage that gets spewed out her, blame John [last name withheld to protect said friend, and to save me from culpability in the event of his untimely demise, not to mention a fraking law suit]), who no doubt did so because  he was fed up with my rambling, obnoxious emails. Also, I sent him strings from other blogs on which I got into ugly flame wars with other posters. He read those and was like, dude, you are definitely blogger material, not to mention an incredible jerk. I beamed with obnoxious pride!

At some point I started focusing on the Presidential Campaign, beginning with the Dem. Primary and then, once Obama whopped on Hilary, the General Election. After Obama won I kind of ran out of gas and decided to take a break, I guess.  Anyway, it was the Holiday Season and I wanted to enjoy it.

Turned out this Holiday wasn’t all that happy. No sense mincing words. The gist of the matter is my wife and I are separating. I’m hesitant to even write that down in such a forum as this blog. First, because I can’t help thinking who really cares. Not that I don’t think people aren’t compassionate and sensitive about such things. I’ve learned very well that they are. But still, is this something to  blog about? I guess I’ll find out.

But let me be clear. I do not, I repeat DO NOT, intend for this to be a forum to air grievances, petty, legit or otherwise. I just don’t want to engage in that kind of crap. Maybe if I were a Millennial that just assumes that everyone everywhere is interested in every last detail of my existence I would. Or if I were a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, self-obsessed Baby Boomer type that is convinced that the rest of world can only benefit from the wisdom of their experience blah blah blah I would. But I am neither. I’m a GenXer (and fucking glad to be btw) and really the very idea of exposing too much of my personal self online like that seems, well, lame, not to mention dangerous in some way, though I’m not exactly sure how. It’s just a gut feeling I have, which I hope is more in tune than W’s was because that dude totally fucked shit up, I mean…whoa, sorry, I’m off politics now…for the most part anyway.

No. What I want to focus on is how my wife (we are still married) and I and my daughter are — how do I put it? — reformulating our family. That seems more interesting to me anyway.  Maybe it won’t to other. Frank, my dear, I don’t give a shit ( I know the quote is “damn” but I like “shit” better; it’s got more, I don’t know, bite).

Why do I want to do this? I’ve been asking myself that for some time now. And I guess I have to say that I’m not exactly sure that I do. I may cop out on this tomorrow. I just don’t know yet. But I’ve got an inkling that there might be something worth writing about here, something more than the typical idea of separation. I’m not sure exactly what it is. And I may be complete wrong, but I’m going to scratch the itch and see what happens.

Did you miss me?

You did, didn’t you?

It’s okay. You can admit it.

I often create feeling in others that they themselves don’t understand. It can be a terrible burden sometimes, but I’m not one to shirk responsibility, unless of course there’s something good on TV Land. There isn’t right now, is there? Whew. Good.

Anyway. I’m back. At least, I think I am.

Stay tuned!