I have heard many other writers and musicians say over the years that artists do their best work from places of pain. I haven’t had many painful places in my life that haunt me. I have mostly been able to make it through life without stumbling into too many traps, but now I have people to hide from, emotions to try to ignore, and pain that wakes me at night. I have met so many people in the last four years since my divorce, both men and women, who have horrific stories to tell about love gone bad — mates who did the unthinkable to them. After awhile, it starts to wear on you.
When I was newly divorced and first began hearing what happened in other people’s lives, I appreciated my own story and how things ended in my own relationship. But now I see it as part of this collective pain, joined with all the terrible happenings in the lives of the lost. I can’t describe how this happened, but it’s depressing in its own right. I’m beginning to see the world for what it is: a fallen place that we can only hope to escape while causing a minimal amount of harm to the people we love — and the ones we want to, if they will let us.
Written May 8, 2014
Saved from my sin on a spring afternoon in the most common of houses in a forgotten Bethlehem. I came from nothing – from much less, actually – just to reach this point. A few months ago, I was as far away from the Lord as a human soul could be. I had renounced Him in conversation, claiming pride for being independent, a non-believer. I was boastful in my blaspheming. And a week later, He filled my body with his spirit and love. I changed overnight in the immediate sort of transformation that’s been promised to us all who truly believe. My outlook changed and the life I had before didn’t belong to me anymore. The ungodly acts that brought me pleasure suddenly didn’t. I looked at my life with more appreciation than I ever had before. My beautiful kids and even the life that led me to divorce – all those mistakes, I loved and cherished. I would have never found the path I was walking without them.
The “his and her” sinks in the master bathroom mock me. Actually, it’s only one — the one that would belong to her — if there was a “her” of the house.
When we moved into our new home in December, it didn’t occur to me that a bathroom with double sinks could cause such an annoyance. But it has. The sinks are about as subtle as a divorce decree taped to the mirror.
For no real reason in particular (or so I thought), I chose not to use both sinks, though they were both perfectly available for use. I chose instead to stick with the sink on the right: “his.” And I abandoned the one on the left: “hers.” I told myself this was to avoid needing to clean both sinks. Why dirty them both when I can keep the mess to one? But I’m beginning to believe something deeper has been ingrained in me from my years as a married man.
You see, I once lived with an identical bathroom arrangement — and it was clear that even though there are two sinks built into the counter, under no circumstances do you cross over to use the opposing sink. A man might make a mess, you see? A man should never defile a sink kept spotless by the lady of the house.
She pushed the door closed behind me and then I was alone in the winter dark, standing on the cold cement slab of her front porch. We had just been together in the most intimate way two people can be, physically. And here I was, drained, the wind catching the sweat at the roots of my hair and where my body touched my clothes, dead on the inside.
When we were finished, the feeling was gone, and so was the connection between us. Nothing. Nothing in common besides what a few minutes ago had been bodies tangled, holding on to one another … holding each other down with aggression.
The wind was blowing cold, down from the mountains and across the prairie until it slammed into these neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city — on the outskirts of everything. I had never been to this town. I had driven out to meet her — for the sole purpose of putting our bodies together. And now it was just me in all this strangeness.
This was it, I told myself. I was going to quit this. Break the string of these meaningless connections. I didn’t, of course. There were more. But that night two years ago in the frozen January air was the first time I realized the path I was on was destruction.
We were deep into the afternoon before I remembered. One of Caroline’s friends was celebrating a birthday on Saturday night – taking a group of girls to an indoor play facility and then hosting a sleepover on their farm in the town next to ours.
Caroline’s mother reminded me about it Friday when I picked the kids up for the weekend, but I had forgotten in the rush of the day. And to be truthful, part of my memory loss might have been intentional: when one of my kids has a sleepover on “my weekend,” it means about 10-12 hours of missed time together. But it has been my policy over the year last four years to let the kids keep normal schedules and not let which parent they are staying with interfere with their social lives.
Caroline was down the hall playing when I hollered to her.
“Caroline, you have a birthday party to go to.”
“I almost forgot,” she said. She quickly began putting some things together for the sleepover and in a few minutes, we were on our way, just the two of us, on a 30-minute drive toward the city where the girls would be meeting.
When I announced on Facebook that I would be re-entering the blogosphere, I mentioned I would feature an occasional blog post from my previous site or excerpt from my private journals. I’ve since found most of my blog entries have been lost. But nevertheless, there is one post that I held onto. As promised, here’s a “flashback” blog post carried over from the days when I was recently divorced. I was in a bad place when I wrote this, sometime in 2011. I was coming to grips with my new living situation and the loneliness of not being with my children everyday. I have come a long way since then. Enjoy this blog post for what’s worth – a piece of writing from a dark time that I somehow managed to escape.
Forgotten for the afternoon and likely the day, the girls sit in swings dangling legs as dark as the shadows they cast. One holds herself in the A-shaped frame, grasping the metal bars and craning her neck and head like a zoo animal to make the others laugh. Their skin is black in the overcasted clouds and their hair is somehow blacker and wild, the girls like silhouettes, their outlines yelling to each other though they are only a few feet away, screaming for today, maybe using up all the little girl before a few years now when they are forced to become women before other girls in other neighborhoods. No parents to protect them or guide their hands, they play unnoticed most days behind the apartment complexes without even a face or slightest glance from someone checking on them. And yet, they’re safe and happy, and they’ll be that way all day unless it rains.
Related Bible Verses:
And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The boy looks exactly the way I did at 10 years old, only far handsomer.
Blue eyes. Blonde hair left a little too shaggy and yet somehow managing to frame his face. And one dimple, impressed deeply in his right cheek.
We share the same loves I had at that age, too: Star Wars; superheroes, especially Batman, Superman and the entire DC comics lineup; and baseball – a true love for playing the game and also for being on the same field with the best friends he’ll ever have.
As his father, who comes from a long line of miserable failures in the realm of male role models, I have almost too carefully weighed every decision and plotted out the course of his life since he was born.
The posts appearing on this blog are written first in my notebook, and then retyped here several hours or days after they’ve been committed to paper. So, please forgive any missing words or mistypes in what you read. Something about the pen running across the pages of a spiral notebook inspires me, and sometimes feels in itself almost a spiritual release. The click-clack of a keyboard is deadening, not as lively as a typewriter, and then there’s always the reliance on electricity for the computer to work. I can carry a notebook with me, capture my thoughts as they come, and pretend to be a modern day apostle (knowing how humbling my struggles truly are) chronicling his journey and the occasional angels met, the moments of God’s truth, and the quiet, down times at home with the children that shine so much light on our existence. I love the Lord for the spiritual gifts he has given me, and I hope they enlighten you in your journey to — or alongside — Him. We never take the lead, do we? We submit and we follow, as his flock. I’ll be the sheep in the back, with the pencil behind his ear. Thank you for reading. Let’s get started.
Almost four years have passed since I went into relative seclusion as a writer. Some of you probably remember that shortly after my divorce, I took my blog down and retreated to the safety of my Spiderman spiral notebook. I wasn’t comfortable with making available to the world the level of personal writing I was composing at that time. But given some recent developments in my life, I’ve decided to step out of the shadows once again and post as frequently as I can here. Obviously a great deal has changed for the better since 2010 – I’ve rediscovered myself, deepened my relationships with my children, and met a few angels along the way who’ve helped shape me into a better man. My hope is that you will visit the site from time to time to see what I’m up to – and how I’m developing in my ability to arrange these little black squiggles against a white background. Every day is a fresh page, right? And the amount of available space on the internet is endless. I’m hoping to fill a portion of it with the same sort of honesty you might remember – and words as beautiful and accurate as I can manage them.