Hello my Fledglings!
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve sat down and blogged. I feel some guilt that I haven’t kept up on my writing. My blog has been a way for me to process what’s going on in my life; a way to take me out of my story, instead of sitting in it.
Old habits die hard and through all the changes and loss these past 12 months, I’ve sat in my story for much too long.
Five years ago, my wife asked for separation. Four years ago, she asked for divorce. After all this time and energy, we will be signing papers tomorrow.
It’s time to become the observer and process what’s been going on so I can, once again, Rise from the Ashes.
November 22, 2019
I woke up on the 22nd with a gif from my soon-to-be ex-wife; a hummingbird drinking nectar from a beautiful yellow flower.
To me, the hummingbird represents how my wife flutters from flower to flower, experiencing all life has to offer, symbolizing that she never quite stays on one thing, and yet, pollinates everything she touches. We need people like this in our lives, just as much as we need the golden retrievers of love and those who have the tenacity and drive of a pit bull.
Life is a balance of all different types of people.
I love who my wife is with all her imperfections. That is what makes her perfect to me.
The gif she sent said, “You are in my thoughts today.”
I recently learned that if “quality time” is your love language, you can still receive love when you are miles away. A text, phone call, or video chat is enough to fill the love bucket of someone who’s on the road.
That was all I longed for in my marriage; connection.
My career took me away from home most the month. A hello in the morning, a good night in the evening, and just to be known that I was in my wife’s thoughts was all I craved and desired when I was out of town. I would throw out those Bids for Connection again and again, which, unfortunately, many times fell on deaf ears.
To wake up to that one simple picture and the few words that were included, meant the world to me. It was all I ever wanted in our marriage.
And yet, I felt a dagger being stabbed deep into my heart.
You see, November 22nd is our anniversary. This year was 16 years since we tied the knot. And, seven days later, we would be signing papers to cut the knot that we had promised until “death do us part.”
In many ways, my fear of my wife leaving became my belief. I believed that since I was not worthy of her love, it was only a matter of time, like everyone else who has left before, that she would leave me. This belief caused me to distract and numb, to medicate my pain with an addiction that eventually sabotaged my marriage.
My actions made my fear become reality.
The Past Six Months
These past six months I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions. I haven’t fallen into the crippling physical and emotional pain I experienced prior to starting this blog. However, I’ve noticed that I’m not motivated to do anything lately. I’ve lost that zest of life. I’ve felt the fire within dim and fade.
There’s been so much change lately, that at times, I’ve felt paralyzed and have not had the energy to do anything.
The last thing I’ve wanted to do was face everything once again.
Here’s just some of the stress and struggles that continued to run around in my head like that Hamster on its Wheel:
- Searching for a rental that will accept animals.
- Finding a rental and having the only time available to move was while they were pouring concrete in the backyard. Also, due to my schedule, feeling guilt that my roommates were doing all the work.
- The stress of getting landscapers to finish the backyard and get a back fence up for our dogs. It took almost two months for them to finish.
- Getting my wife and my house prepped to put on the market for sale as part of the divorce. I put an average of 12-15 hours a day for 11 days straight to get it all done.
- The shift in the friendship with my wife as we started moving closer towards finalizing divorce.
- Battling the shame of my addiction and my past actions.
- Battling the childhood wounding coming up again of feeling not worthy, unimportant, and that no matter what I do, it is never enough.
- The distance my older daughter had for three months and managing the emotional feeling of abandonment from her by using my tools to not place my issues upon her, and yet feeling anger that she wasn’t empathetic with what Dad was going through.
- Having my wife’s family disown me and the inability to celebrate her grandmother’s 100th birthday; a woman who became closer to me than my own grandmother when we had all lived together. Once again, another loved one pushed me aside and I felt abandoned and not worthy.
- Taking a month and a half before I was able to get more than two boxes unpacked and the overwhelming feeling that there’s too much to be done and not enough time to do it.
- The fear and deep triggers to once again be evacuated from our homes. This time my wife needed to stay behind because of her career and that added an element of fear and abandonment that not only I was dealing with, my daughters were dealing with as well.
- Wanting so much to have connection with my wife while being evacuated and yet feeling the deep void between us taking me back to the coldness I felt three years ago when I had moved out of the house.
- Having the holiday season upon us and no longer feeling included as a family.
- Working with my therapist and sponsor about a relapse and battling the perfectionist piece that I once again screwed up.
- Turning 50 years old and having many people want to celebrate it, and yet, realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to follow in my grandparent’s footsteps and celebrate over 50 years of marriage, a goal that has been as important to me as my career.
- Managing the countdown before signing the divorce papers.
- And the fear that a week after signing we’ll be taking our girls and nephews to Disneyland, not knowing what to expect, how to act, and worrying that I will once again screw everything up.
As I look at all that has gone on, I feel so much sadness and pain. It’s hard to look at the screen of my computer as I type. My tears are pouring down my face. Why don’t our eyes have windshield wipers?
I have an SAA meeting and a peer walk that’s necessary for me to go to, and yet, I just want to sit. I have no desire to interact with others in program. I have no desire to meditate. I have no desire to finish my day with a list of gratitude.
In fact, I have no desire to continue writing right now.
I don’t want to do all the things that kept me strong over the past three years. Lately, it feels like a chore.
<Breathe, Phoenix, breathe. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Just breathe.>
On a positive note, I don’t feel the physical pain like I did when I wrote my first blog Rafiki Didn’t Hit Me Over the Head three years ago. Back then, my body, from my head to my toes, ached. Today, it’s like a superficial cut on the surface of my skin. There’s pain, but I don’t feel it in the gut like I used to.
In fact, just by writing this down, by acknowledging and accepting my emotions of pain, and by learning to control my breathing, I’ve allowed that sadness and pain to wash over me, like the cleansing tear drop of a Phoenix. Like a wave that has finished crashing upon the shore, only to slowly subside and roll back out to sea. I did not feel as if I was Sucked into the Undertow like a Tsunami, but more a gentle lapping that grinds hard rock into soft sand.
I think I’ll go to my meeting after all.
Making an Amends
I love my SAA men’s group. This past weekend we had over 40 men sitting together sharing their deepest emotional struggles. Just to be a fly on the wall and listen to men open up and become vulnerable, to feel the safety and security of allowing themselves to cry or rage with ones that would never judge them, is something I wish the world could experience.
See, men can be in touch with their emotions!!!
Today’s reading started off with the 9th step amends and how forgiveness is such a blessing.
“In taking the Ninth Step, we act on the knowledge that what we do really matters – that our actions have consequences in the world, for good or ill. The damage we did in our addiction is cleared away not only by honestly admitting what we have done, but by committing to setting things right. Reaching out to others to acknowledge and heal the wrongs of the past brings us freedom and serenity in the present. We call this process making direct amends.
In Step Nine we make our best effort to contact the people we have harmed, admit the wrongs we have done them, express our remorse, and offer some kind of reparation. Most importantly, we change how we behave today. We do our utmost not to repeat the behavior that caused harm in the past, and we communicate this resolve to those we’ve hurt.”
As I was listened to this reading, I started thinking about recent conversations I’ve had with an ex-girlfriend of mine. We had only talked once since we broke up in 1999, and that was like ten years ago.
My last image of our relationship was seeing her rage as she walked away telling me we were done and to make sure all my stuff was out of her place before she returned. The good in our connection had been erased, while I’ve held onto that image, including the pain, guilt, and shame of my destructive patterns for the past 20 years.
I’d been hanging onto a lot of past regrets and I felt I needed to let her know how truly sorry I was about the things that happened when we had been together for over three years.
I acknowledged and apologized for the mistakes I had made (many of which were due to my addiction). I apologized for always putting her 2nd behind my career. And I acknowledged my controlling, crazy behavior that used to be my norm prior to recovery.
What she said next blew me away, “Phoenix, I forgave you soooo looong ago. Thank you! Thank you for letting me know that you are aware of the things you did. And I’m so happy to see how much you’ve worked on yourself and how open and vulnerable you’ve now become.”
Later in our conversations she pointed out how much I hold onto the toxic memories, the bad. How I need to let those go and learn to forgive myself. She told me to stop holding onto all of the blame in the deterioration of our relationship because she held 50% of the responsibility.
I never realized how releasing it would be to hear someone say that. The past guilt, shame, and pain seemed to just dissolve away. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt light and free. I realized that I had blocked enjoying all the joy of my past because I focused so much on my mistakes and my pain.
Back to the meeting.
You see, our reading didn’t stop there…
The gentleman who had done the reading added another during his personal share. He explained that he was searching to find a reference about “how to forgive”, and there was very little in the SAA library of books that talked about forgiving someone else. Everything was focused on giving amends, not forgiveness.
Here’s a reading from December 28th, Answers in the Heart:
“All of us have struggled to find the best way to forgive ourselves and others. Forgiving isn’t easy. In fact, when we’ve been deeply hurt of victimized by someone else, we may feel we can’t forgive. Yet, for our own peace of mind and in order to let go, we may finally try. It’s been suggested that forgiveness is easier under certain conditions: a positive connection with the person we want to forgive, a deep relationship with God as we understand God, and lots of time.
Forgiveness is often preceded by grieving fully; we must first heal from the harm that was done to us. In their honesty, power, and wisdom, the Twelve Steps lead us gently through the process of forgiving ourselves and others. Many of us have also experienced our Higher Power’s unconditional forgiveness, which gives us a model. We acknowledge our responsibility for our actions, we let go of resentment, we grieve, and, finally, we forgive.”
Today I will Let Go and Let God.
In his share, this program peer explained how hard it was to forgive his father for the abuse he received as a child. He explained how the anger and rage towards his dad would not subside. He struggled immensely with letting go. As his eyes stared at the ceiling, his body shook with rage, and he yelled, “How can I fucking forgive him for the shit he put me through!”
He knew it was something he needed to do, and yet, the more he thought about it, the more painful his memories became.
My friend knew that to forgive someone was not to let them off the hook, but to release oneself from the personal demons that shackled them. Just like adult elephants that won’t break free from a small rope. He knew the toxic emotions of anger and resentment kept him in a bubbling pit of anguish.
And yet, how do you forgive an injustice that was done to you? How do you forgive when someone refuses to see the harm they caused? How do you forgive when your entire identity has been squashed and destroyed by someone else?
Our shares that day were focused on either the struggle of giving amends, the gift of receiving forgiveness from another, and the release of emotions that happens when we truly learn how to forgive those that had hurt us.
Much of these men’s shares focused on the painful relationships they had with their fathers. Either the grace some had when they truly forgave the past or the pain they experienced as they struggled learning how to forgive.
As I listened to these shares, I thought about the relationship I had with both my fathers, my biological father and my stepfather.
And then, I also thought about the death of my marriage and struggling to forgive my wife for her decision to let go rather than to work on us.
I recently attended a conference where Dr. Meg Meeker was one of the speakers. Her talk focused around the importance of a father in a child’s life. She explained how media, both in movies, tv, and advertisements (such as Big Daddy, The Simpsons, Daddy’s Home, etc…) make fun at the expense of fathers. She explains how this creates a culture where men are expected to act a certain way, they are void of being able to show emotion, fatherhood is dismissed, and how this confuses children.
Dr. Meeker also pointed out how a mother’s love is non-negotiable. A child knows that a mother’s love will always be there. However, a father’s love is negotiable. And children need to grow up knowing that their father is always there by having a father who’s present and makes an effort to connect with them.
Here’s a condensed version of what she talked about that day.
Good Dads – The Real Game Changer
~ Dr. Meg Meeker
As I listened to her talk, I thought about myself as a father. I saw how much I’d grown over the years and how I’ve always done my best to be there for my girls. It was a checklist that I was checking off. “I do that. I did that. Oh, I need to work a little on that.”
I felt pride that I was doing it “right” (damn perfectionist piece).
Then I watched the last video that she showed the 10,000 people at the conference. “This is how a child sees their father,” she explained.
In the following video it showed fathers that were doing something with their kids. The military dad who came home after leave, the father who gave his son a medal, throwing a ball with a dad, dressing up and going to a daughter/father dance.
And what was portrayed was the utmost, unconditional love and joy that a child had being connected to their dad. The long, deep hugs between father and child. Having a grown man wrap his muscular arms around his little baby with nothing but unconditional love.
As the images played on the large screen before me, tears streamed down my face. I never had that with either dad. Ok, one time, my biological father tried to teach me how to ride a bike. And yet, one hour could never erase the abandonment I have because he disappeared for years of my childhood.
I didn’t get hugs from either of my fathers. I didn’t go to the park with them. My stepfather didn’t join me on camp outs, preferring to drop me off at scouting events, rather than being a part of them. It felt like this was a way to get rid of me, rather than finding a way to connect with me.
I think my stepfather only told me that he loved me once. I was but a shadow in the excitement and pride he had towards his own daughter and her kids when they were born. It felt as if my girls were also never enough in his eyes.
No wonder I felt like a burden, like I was invisible, like I was not worthy. My worth was tied to achievement, and even then, that was still never enough.
I am proud I’m not the father I had. And yet, watching this video I had such a huge feeling of loss. I realized I had missed out on so much.
I realized that my wife, too, had even more abandonment father issues than I did. Her dad left as a little girl and she never connected with him until her early twenties. And when she finally did, he told her she wasn’t his. I will never forget the pain I saw on her face the day he said those words. He denies he had ever said it, and yet, a piece of her died the day he did.
I know first hand how damaging it is to not have present fathers in the lives of children.
It’s no wonder why these men in my meetings hold onto the anger they have at their dads. And it’s no wonder why those deep scars have caused their world to turn upside down.
I will never condone the actions of an addict; however, I understand why one would find that medicating and numbing the pain from childhood wounds could be easier than feeling them.
As I thought about my wife and her relationship with her father, I thought about my struggle with forgiving her for her decision to divorce. I thought about how my addiction and my actions hurt her as much, if not more, than her father’s comment did to her.
A part of her died when I fully disclosed my indiscretions. And that wasn’t the first time. She got back up, time and time again, only to be knocked back down by my actions and my words.
I hold onto so much anger and resentment. My thoughts go back to all the work I did to save our marriage. At times, I feel like it was for nil.
I know that’s not true.
I’m a better man and a better father because of the journey I’ve taken. I’m blessed to have these skills to bring into my next relationship. And if, or when, that happens, I will be able to make that one grow and shine brightly.
But I keep falling back to the questions, “Why did it have to end like this? Why couldn’t we have learned to heal together? Why did she give up on us and our family?”
I hold onto the what coulda been, instead of looking at what I’m grateful for. I hold onto the toxic, painful beliefs and memories, repeating them in my head, instead of letting those go.
I try and hold an impenetrable wall with her, so I don’t get hurt again, not realizing that by holding it so tightly with anger and resentment, I only hurt myself, my girls, and her. I hurt the ones I love.
And then, I remember all the pain I put her through.
Four years ago, my previous sponsor said, “Phoenix, I wouldn’t want to be married to you either.”
There is so much stuff inside of me that is stewing and boiling. Both at her and at myself. This is what I need to release. This is what I need to let go of.
And I need to forgive myself for everything that has happened.
I was able to do this two and a half years ago when my ex made the decision to become emotionally connected with another man.
I have done it once and I can do it again.
I need to pray daily to help grieve and forgive the death of our marriage, so I can help us both heal from the past.
Grateful Six Months
I have a choice.
I have a choice to either stay stuck in what didn’t happen and make that my story, my narrative, that I tell the world.
Or instead, I can be grateful for the gifts I have, the joyful memories of the past, and embrace how far I’ve come.
I started this blog looking at my struggles for the past six months. It’s time to see what I’m grateful for (interesting to note that the grateful log I did in 2019 was either nonexistent or something I back dated “after the fact” because I wasn’t motivated to do it weekly when my wife made the decision last Christmas to continue with the divorce):
- I found a beautiful brand-new rental with a large backyard that flows better than the house we sold. It has such a homey feeling without the baggage from the past. A home rebirth.
- We have unpacked our rental. There’re still some things to organize and yet, the stress of living out of boxes is no longer prevalent. The sacrifice my roommate did to help with the move allowed me to focus on what was important, getting our house on fixed up and sold as quickly as possible.
- My rental has the most beautiful landscaping and I’ve had the time to keep up on it. I love the flowers that attract the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that give my backyard a calm, relaxing atmosphere. After almost 12 years, I have a yard again!!
- The amount of work I put into selling our home netted $70,000 over the listing price. My hard work paid off.
- My ex and I have an amazing ability to co-parent well together. Our daughters are well loved, we work together with changing work schedules, and the needs of our daughters are being met.
- I’ve come a long way of understanding the “why” behind my actions, changed past behaviors, and I’m working on forgiving myself for my indiscretions.
- I have so many close peers in program, an extremely tight friend group, an incredible group of co-workers (new and old), and extended family that disproves my past beliefs I received as a child. I am loved. I am worthy. I am enough.
- My older daughter and I have reconnected. I gave her the space she needed to feel safe when Dad was stressed over selling a house and I’ve been there for her when she’s been struggling. I’m proud of the woman she’s becoming and I’m so grateful I no longer have the expectation that she has to be more than who she is in order to make me happy.
- I have an incredible roommate who’s lived with me for three years. Coupled with her one-year old little boy, my household is a “family” of its own. We have a dynamic with my girls and her boy that makes our place truly feel like home.
- My time has freed up as I have unpacked my stuff and gotten into a normal routine. In fact, my new job has increased the time I’m at home tenfold, allowing me to get more done and connect with friends, unlike anything I’ve been able to do for almost 12 years.
- My family was safe from the fires. Both our houses were ok. My power stayed on, so I didn’t lose any food. And my daughters, roommate, her son, and I enjoyed a mini vacation in Tahoe.
- The distance that has come between my wife and I is a necessary change in our relationship. This will allow her and myself to let go of our ties together so we can be more fully available to someone else when the timing is right.
- My family is my two girls and me. My roommate and her son are included in this modern version of a family. Together we all have the opportunity to start new traditions and memories that will last a lifetime.
- When it comes to my marriage, I did not screw up. I gave recovery 150%. I never turned my back on my ex or our daughters. I did not talk poorly of her to my girls, setting the example of how I pray a man will treat them in their lives. I learned how not to be as reactive to situations as I had been in the past. I did most of the grunt work to finalize the divorce. In doing so, I have shown my ex unconditional love so she can finally be free. I have treated my ex with the utmost respect and when my actions have been less than stellar, when I have been perfectly imperfect, I’ve acknowledged my mistakes and made amends to her.
- Hey, I’m only 50. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. Since I plan to make it well past 100, I still have the opportunity to celebrate 50 years of marriage.
- Signing the divorce papers tomorrow will be the rebirth that is needed for both my ex and I so we can Rise from the Ashes of a burned-out marriage.
- I have the opportunity to be the first to take my nephews to Disneyland and I have the great honor to do it with the three women I love. This will be the start of a new adventure and, it will be the first time I get to stretch my wings and fly once again as a single man.
Just by changing the narrative of my story, I see how much I have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
2019 was not without its struggles and yet, I now see there is so much to be grateful for. Life is only just beginning.
Hero Dad Revisited
I may not have had the father in my life that I so very much needed. However, I can be that father to myself.
I can Love Me the way I deserve to be loved.
I can nurture Little Phoenix when he’s hurting. I know what I need to comfort myself, and I can allow my adult to take care of the child inside.
I can play with Little Phoenix, especially with music and dance.
I can challenge him, laugh with him, cry with him.
I can even just sit with my Sweet Child when he needs it.
Sweet Child O’ Mine
~ Guns and Roses
We need to take care our inner children. We need to give our inner children the nurturing they crave and desire. This is necessary for our emotional health and well-being.
We need to integrate our adult with the child that resides within us.
For it is then, that we can truly heal.
Together We Can Heal.
The Great Purge
I have a choice.
I can either continue to sit in the fire and get burned.
Or I can transform, rise out of the flames, and fly like a Phoenix reborn.
That choice is mine.
It’s ironic that the very last Motivational Monday I had written over six months ago was that very quote. It’s also quite ironic that I had chosen to sit in the fire after posting that.
Tomorrow, I will demonstrate my love not by holding on tightly to the fragile dove in my hand but by opening my palms and allowing my wife the freedom to once again fly.
Tomorrow, I will stop fighting the current.
Tomorrow, I will go around, fly the missed approach procedure and land at my alternate airport.
Tomorrow, I will pull out my paint brushes and start life with a new canvas.
Tomorrow, I will purge the old to make way for the new.
Tomorrow, I will transform and grow stronger.
Tomorrow, the sun will once again rise, symbolizing its rebirth.
Tomorrow, I will truly Rise from the Ashes!
My hope is that my Fledglings can also one day find the strength to purge their past, Rise from the Ashes, and Soar with Eagles.
Let’s all learn to fly together.
Together We Can Heal
PS: I went downstairs to see what the Thanksgiving Buffet looked like at our hotel. The captain was enjoying his 2nd plate of food. I ended up joining him and…HOLY COW!!
The spread was amazing! Probably the best Thanksgiving meal I have ever eaten.
I’m so grateful for allowing myself to blog once again. I’m grateful for working through the deep fear, pain, and anger that has been plaguing me this year. I’m grateful for an amazing meal with music playing in the background.
I’m most grateful that instead of sitting in toxic emotions and worrying about what tomorrow will bring, today I have found peace. I pray I will be able to give peace to my wife when we celebrate the beginning of a new life, whatever that may end up looking like.
Thank you, God, my Higher Power, the Universe. For when I open my eyes, I can truly see the gifts you give me.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!!