Chuang Tzu, an ancient Chinese sage and one of the inspirations for Taoism, wrote that life was about wandering through ceaseless changes.
Separation is also about wandering through changes. My journal tells the story. This happened about 18 months after my partner and I first split.
June 28, 1997
I have just finished doing something strange and normal.
A family outing. With separated parents and both children. All together. Happy. Easy. Natural. Fun. And at the end, my former partner helps me bring the kids into my house, and then drives away to sleep in what was once our family home, by herself.
It feels good even if it sounds weird. Strange progress. Different but relaxed.
We went together to a soccer match, New Zealand versus Australia. My oldest son plays soccer on Saturday mornings now, and my youngest loves to kick the ball around. I thought they'd enjoy seeing a top caliber game. And I remembered as a kid, the excitement of seeing the United States play Olympic basketball on TV, or watching an NBA game in person. So it was my treat. I invited my former partner, too. I thought she might enjoy it, and that the boys would enjoy it more if she were there. She said yes.
Now Grandpa, I know we are not one happy family. I know that technically we are two families joined at the offspring. But there's a part of me that still honors the family that once was, the family that will always be in biological terms. And it seems to me, that if we all accept the separation, then what's wrong with occasionally doing stuff together. For instance, Christmas, or the kids' birthdays, or this soccer match.
Tonight, as she left, my former partner mentioned that the boys might find such family outings confusing. It might feed the hope they might harbor of reunification. I agreed it might, but the hope exists anyway. And as long as nothing misleading happens, it will be just what it is: the four of us spending time together on some occasions... No drama, no fuss. Seems a big improvement to me.
And the trip and the match were great. New Zealand lost 3-0, but the boys were engaged the whole game. And when the national anthems were sung and my eight-year-old chimed in with the New Zealand one, and my four-year-old watched with concentration, I got tears in my eyes. I felt it was an outing they would remember, something special. And as the tears welled up, I knew it was a moment I would remember, too. The provider, the enabler, the parent, the dad. I like those roles. It's like reaching the place that's right for me, finding a spot that I've always searched for, feeling at home, feeling good because I'm helping someone I love. And when I'm there, something inside me melts and I am coherent with the moment and life.
After I gazed at my youngest boy during the anthems, I looked to my former partner. She had noticed the boys, too, and she smiled at me. They were enjoying life. And we were enjoying their enjoyment. And for the first time in months, I felt in step with my former partner. Only a moment. But it was lovely.
So much to be gained from a soccer match.
So much to be gained from wandering in life's changes.
~ ~ ~
This is part of a HuffPost series. I call it "For Men Who Have Everything, Including Separation -- Thoughts on Surviving Separation."
My goals are straightforward:
- Offer hope and humor to men who are disconsolate after a relationship has hit the rocks
- Offer a resource to women -- sisters, mothers, friends -- who care about such men
I wrote "For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart" because I would have liked a book like this when my first marriage nose-dived.
I offer it in a spirit of brotherhood and with a strong faith that once our broken hearts mend, we have the capacity to be more compassionate, wiser, more resilient and stronger than we were before.
For those interested in reading the earlier posts of this series, links are provided below:
For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart, #1 #2 -- Grieving is Healing #3 -- Beware Precipitous Action #4 -- Love Thyself #5 -- Deal with the Real #6 -- Blame is a Trap #7 -- Create Multiple Explanations #8 -- Freedom, Courage & Splitting Up