1 Year Later

One year ago, I sat down to type out my Closing Chapters post, my way of announcing the finalization of my divorce to my world. It seems only fitting to look back on this last year and take stock of the growth and challenges from it.

Over the last year, I’ve contemplated a scene from the pilot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Emissary”. The clip is below and worth watching, but I’ll give you the gist of it and try not to be too Trekie:

Commander Sisko is trying to explain linear time to these wormhole aliens that exist outside of time. Throughout his dialog, the aliens manifest people and moments of Sisko’s life. However, there’s one moment – his wife’s death during a ship attack – that is too painful a memory for Sisko, yet he keeps being brought back there by the aliens.

Their response: “… but you exist here.

At that moment, Sisko realizes that he never really left the pain of that traumatic moment, and let it dictate his life from that point. He lived, existed, there.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “Emissary”

While my ex-wife is very much alive, this scene resonates with me in the way I grieved the end of my marriage, and I often asked myself contemplating questions like, “Do I exist here? Do I keep returning to this moment? How does this trauma define who I am today?

Watching movies like Across The Spiderverse and The Flash has left me wondering how we often use trauma and tragedy in our own lives to shape the future we’re trying to build. I’ve done a lot of contemplating, praying, and feeling over the last year, channeling my emotions towards healthy growth and development of wisdom as I’m writing my next chapter.

Today also marks the day that I finally finished the most painful book I ever read. It was over a year ago when my therapist recommended I read The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel to better understand the choices my wife made, leading her to abandon our marriage. I purchased the audiobook and figured it would be a relatively quick read*, like the other books on marriage and divorce I read throughout this process. I quickly found out that this book was the equivalent of eating raw Brussels sprouts: it would ultimately be good for my health, but it was a matter of dealing with the very bitter taste.

* Yes, I consider listening to an audiobook “reading” and consider “reading” and “listening” synonymous terms.

Every chapter forced me painfully reenact the events of my divorce. I found it harrowing, filling me with painful emotions that ultimately soured upon every read. I quickly learned that I couldn’t bear to read it while my kids were with me, and when they were gone, I somehow found ways to avoid reading this book.

However, after getting through the initial flood of emotions, this book ultimately provided insight and helped me reflect on the choices that my wife made at the end of our marriage, and the impacts they had on me, both then and now. I also thought a lot about the ways I contributed to setting the conditions to allow this trauma to take place. By no means did I agree with everything Perel wrote, but I found this book a painfully necessary read and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone else that has experienced infidelity in their relationship.

In the same vein, I would like to offer an empathic ear and supportive shoulder for anyone else who had this happen in their own relationship. This feels like an embarrassing subject to discuss with your friends, but I’ve found so much strength through the establishment of my support system. I’m here, in large part, through the kindness of my family, old friends, and new friends that have grown through this experience. I’m so grateful and hope that I can continue to pay it forward.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this last year has been sheer misery – it’s been far from it. Over this year, I’ve learned so much about myself, my strength and abilities, as well as my deficiencies – learning when and how to ask for help. As someone who is pridefully self-sufficient, humility and asking for help has been the toughest and most rewarding lesson that I’ve learned.

I’ve also learned more about the strength of my daughters, which inspires me to no end. I previously detailed some of my struggles as a single father and prevent me from being physically present at all times. Christmas this year, without them there, was a particularly harrowing experience, and I’ll admit that I didn’t even get out of bed until the day was half over. I’ve also been awed by the ways we form new memories with my family of three, unlocking laughter and joy out of normalcy and everyday tasks. My girls are such a blessing in my life.

I’ve also been lucky to share love and affection with Shannon, through our relationship which continues to flourish and blossom. Also victimized by infidelity in her marriage, Shannon and I connected through the darkness of shared grief and have cultivated that into something that has been very life-giving for both of us. I’m lucky to share this journey with her and am blessed to have her in my life.

Looking back, one year later, the word would have to be “building”. I’m incredibly blessed and have experienced amazing growth as a father, in my work life, in my passions, and in my relationships. I’ve had my share of tough days and setbacks, but ultimately am so very lucky to lead the life I’ve been given and look forward to existing in new spaces.

Father’s Day Reflections

Happy Father’s Day, to all of my fellow dads! Today I’m reflecting on my 10th time being honored on this day and my second as a single dad after an unexpected divorce.

In the last 18 months of being a single dad, I’ve had to grapple with the fact that I’m now prevented from keeping my original promise when they were born: I would always be there for them. I’ve had to adjust that promise from always being physically present to being emotionally and spiritually present in their lives. Often I feel guilty about the situation they’re in, and the ways they’ve been asked to adjust, in some ways, grow up more quickly than I would have hoped. I never asked to be a co-parent, and they never asked to split time between homes, yet here we all are.

Shannon and I were talking about Father’s Day and how ironic that many celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days by the spouse giving the honoree the day off, away from parental duties. However, now being a single father, the parental duties are what made it an incredible Father’s Day. While it was still jarring to wake up without my daughters, with no Father’s Day snuggles, having them over in the morning and cooking breakfast together was a blessing. It touched my heart to get handwritten cards from them with beautiful messages. I loved playing Just Dance with them and having them make fun of my dancing abilities. I loved helping Clara make the Banana Ice Cream she had been wanting to make for weeks, then making them lunch. In the morning that we spent together, I had no downtime – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As a single parent, I’ve really come to appreciate the love conveyed through the mundane tasks of each day, and how everyday activities become opportunities for learning and expressing love. I’ve learned that my love language is doing nice things for others, and I relish every opportunity to express it for my daughters.

It wasn’t easy when 12:30 rolled around and I realized that my allotted “Father’s Day” time was over, and now they return to the normal co-parenting schedule: my weekend without them. These long stretches, when I’m without my kids, try my soul. I’ve managed to fill the void with a lot of healthy outlets, relationships, and activities, but it still feels like a big part of my heart is missing until my girls are back home.

It goes without saying that I realize I’ll always be their Father, and my girls know that I’m only a video call away – but there is no replacing the joy I experience when I get to share the same space with them. I’m grateful that I got to spend Father’s Day parenting my daughters and relish every chance I get.

Closing Chapters

Today marks a significant date in the story of my life, as it closes one of the best and most momentous chapters, with a bookend that has been the darkest and most challenging period in my life.

Today my divorce has been finalized.

This wasn’t something I ever imagined, and frankly was the last thing I wanted. However, I painfully have learned that while two people choose to get married, it only takes one person to want a divorce. These last few months have been a struggle, filled with grief, I have nothing but compassion and tenderness for those who have endured a similar experience.

Now begins my next chapter, one of adjustment, growth, and perseverance. My daughters and I are ok. Some of our days are still hard, filled with resurfacing stages of grief, triggered by the most unassuming – those days are difficult. Lately, however, the number and consistency of good days are increasing. I’ve been putting effort where I can: my physical and mental health, as well as loving my children relentlessly, and learning to give myself grace and love.

I’m healing, and am eternally grateful to all the family and friends that have journeyed with me during this difficult time. As my next chapter begins, I’m blessed to have you amidst its pages.