SCOTUS and Same-Sex Marriage

I might as well log in with my ideas of what will happen with the “same-sex marriage” cases SCOTUS will be reviewing this week, although the decisions themselves won’t be rendered until the summer… and the guiding principle here is not on the morality of same-sex marriage, but simply states rights:

1. DOMA will be declared unconstitutional, since marriage traditionally belongs to states and not to the US Congress, which was overstepping its bounds in essentially denying rulings by a number of states to honor civil unions and/or gay marriage for their own populace. This will result in the Federal government allowing tax credits and whatever other federal privileges exist for marriage to be extended to those who are legally married or in appropriate unions in their respective states. The states will individually determine who will receive these Federal benefits. If a state does not permit same-sex marriage, then obviously those people cannot file for Federal tax benefits and other privileges as a married couple.

2. Likewise, SCOTUS will likely uphold the decision by two other higher courts who declared Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional for the state of California, since they followed correct process in rendering that decision. However, I don’t see it as likely that SCOTUS will go as far as upending other states’ decisions to ban gay marriage. They will be likely to just keep a narrow scope, focused on CA, and let the growing tide of same-sex marriage supporters generate petitions and support legislators who would like to have anti-same-sex laws repealed. That could take another ten years, or another twenty, likely, before everything is said and done, but at least in that way the decision will be legislative and voter-based, not imposed on the states by SCOTUS.

Certainly I could be wrong, but this seems to make the most sense in keeping the decisions consistent with each other (i.e., letting states’ rights remain states’ rights, as they have traditionally been in regards to marriage), while creating as little overt conflict as possible and the Court avoiding inserting itself into the middle of the mess. It also reflects the makeup of the Court, which is very much on the line in terms of political leanings. It’s common ground they all could agree on, hopefully.

But as far as the future of such things go, it’s clear that the Republicans are in a huge jam on this issue (which is why we see many fleeing the sinking ship now). The problem is that they are reaping the rewards for what they sowed long ago, a kind of Faustian bargain. By wedding themselves to a strong socially conservative base years ago in order to build power and win elections, they now have no flexibility on this issue despite it being an obviously lost cause. The older generations currently holds the reins (money and influence) in the party and show no signs of flexing on this issue — especially when guys like Mike Huckabee see it as a matter of refusing to compromise with something immoral/bad just to make people happy. However, their remaining time on the planet is short, and in a game like this, the winner is the last team left standing… and in this case that would be the younger generations, who are wholeheartedly in support of same-sex marriage (at an astonishing 81%, for the 18-29 age bracket!), because to them it is not a compromise at all but actually a progressive step forward to end the unwarranted and spiteful persecution of a social minority.

With such a view, not only will the conservatives lose control over this issue in the end but will also lose much face and reputation as well, just like they have lost so much ground with the minority issue and immigration. 

So what will the Republican party continue to do? Fight a losing battle and watch their future vanish, just to hold onto their current dwindling conservative base, or ensure their loss of power for the next decade or two until the younger generations truly comprise the bulk of voters? Welding themselves to the socially conservative base leaves them paying for those “years of plenty” because their party is too inflexible to adapt to the changing tide. Even Karl Rove seems to see a shift as necessary and speculates that the next Republican presidential candidate could feasibly support gay marriage.

It’s sad that “gay marriage” has seemingly become the issue that some Republicans have chosen to stand and die on, with so many issues out there; but it’s an issue that resonates with the young in terms of idealism, as much as racial inequality dominated in the middle of the 20th century, and also has practical impact as well in terms of adoptions, taxes, families, etc. Even the Mormons have quieted their tone a bit on the topic.

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Well, That Continues to Be My Wish…

The Extended version of Contact is a better movie than the theatrical release I saw originally. (I’m assuming it’s the one on the most recent BluRay release — the 2:29 version.) Most of the weaknesses, such as the relationship between Palmer and Ellie, have been shored up a bit with additional scenes; it’s more clear why she likes him; it’s more apparent where he’s actually coming from.

Ellie’s dad Ted Arroway (played by David Morse) doesn’t get a ton of screen-time, and in some way he might seem a flat character — there’s not a lot of range to him, as he’s supposed to be a grounding figure — but I found myself wishing last night as I had watched it that he had been my dad.

I know and accept that nothing really ever changes the fact of who your birth parents are. If they stay in your life, then they play an active role in who you are. If they disappear (for whatever reason), even if you find new parents (and perhaps even more suitable ones, in the large scheme of things), it still doesn’t resolve your bio parents of their responsibility — their vacuum creates new resonances in who you are. Even with parents you cannot nor ever will find, there will typically be a haunting mystery of who you were and where you might have come from. Parents influence by their presence and by their absence, and there is no real escape for them — not even death — once a child is brought into the world. To a child, parents can be like God.

My relationship with my own father has never been good — he’s never really engaged me actively in his entire life — and the investments I’ve made and the things I’ve suffered will probably amount to little; and the silence of the last four years (based on some recent clarifications I’ve received) will probably not lift before he passes on. So I need to accept that that ship has likely sailed at this point.

Which leaves me liking the character in the movie.

He was there for Ellie, especially since her mom died during her birth; he had to play both parental roles, which can be exhausting, but he seems to have done a decent job of it. It was clear she loved him and they had a special father/daughter relationship.

He listened to Ellie. She was a real person with real feelings and thoughts that he encouraged. While he was a voice of common sense and wisdom, he never put her down or made her feel stupid. He never dismissed her questions, he took them all seriously; and he also never placated her or lied to her (such as when she wondered whether she could ever contact her mom, and he gave a thoughtful yet realistic answer). He never told her what she had to think, he just shared with her what he thought and then allowed her to make up her own mind.

He mentored her. He encouraged her in pursuits related to her interests and inclincations. He complimented her drawings. He was proud of her accomplishments (like tracking signals from so far away with her ham radio and helping her map them on the board). He took her outside and showed her the stars, the planets, the meteors. He inspired and fed her love for learning. He helped ignite that passion already in her.

It’s the model of parenting I’ve tried hard to emulate, instinctively, with my children despite our time together not being as extensive as we all might have hoped.

Although Ellie is obviously a survivor (enough to be willing to risk leaving Earth forever), it was clear that her father’s unexpected passing devatasted her and in some ways left her feeling out of control… which left her trying hard to make things happen in her life and not fail again in the future. Her love for him is palpable when she meets him on her journey to Vega; her outer shell crumbles, any bravado fades, and it’s clear she’s still always her daddy’s girl and misses him badly. It’s all mixed together for her — her love for the universe and science, her search for meaning and truth, her quest to find and communicate with with her absent parents. And he’s there for her… or at least the semblance of him, the “he” he would have been if he actually could have been there.

He just seemed to be everything a dad ought to be, including kind; and he was understated, if anything. And if there was any capacity for her to love Palmer, it existed because her dad had nurtured it in her when she was a little girl.

He kind of did everything right, even in the short time he had had with his daughter, and under the constraints he had found himself. I wish I could have been the one to sit and gaze up at the stars with him, learning their names and positions, learning the patterns of the seasons, looking at the lights and wondering together what was out there. After all, there has to be something; otherwise it would be an awful waste of space.

I wish he had been my father.

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Do You See What I See?

I hesitate to even address the Shady Hook shootings, partly because the media has covered so much of this story ever since Friday’s tragedy.

I fear I won’t even do it justice enough to warrant my joining that clamor.

But I’m reading tonight that the religious right is repeating its old stories again, which saddens me. James Dobson, a once and former “kingmaker,” has stepped out of exile so that he once again blame this kind of tragedy on pro-choice and gay right’s activism; Mike Huckabee blames it on God’s removal from American culture; Bryan Fisher blames it on mandated prayer being removed from public school, what, 50 years ago (?!); and other conservatives have even dragged scientific acceptance of evolution into the mix.

All I want to ask them is why they are so blind.

This was a horrible, horrible occurrence, although hardly a descent from “godly virtues.” The culprit was a person with psychological issues, his mother certainly wasn’t a monster (even if she might have had her own stresses in raising her son and possibly erred in some ways), and so this shooting seems far different than that occurring at Virginia Tech or others. It is not the product of the typical bugbears —  bad drug trips, or gang violence, or child prostitution, or domestic abuse.

Even the guns were not acquired illegally or through some shady back-alley deal; if there was a flaw in the system, it came through improper control of the weapons within the home and/or even the need to own assault weapons in the first place, versus conventional firearms.

But more importantly, this is the story of the work of one man. One man, who in a small portion of an hour directly and forever impacted the lives of almost thirty families, and indirectly many more.

And yet it is the story of so, SO many more people who showed the fiercest, brightest lights in the face of darkness, without preparation, without taking time to mull over options. No, their actions were instinctive and immediate; they were already shining lights unnoticed in the daytime whose radiance filled the skies once night abruptly fell.

Consider the teachers, some young, some old, who at a moment’s notice did everything they could to protect children who might not have been their own flesh and blood but who were still treated as they were – some of them dying in those spontaneous acts of courage. They were not heroes because they died, they died because they were ALREADY heroes by nature. And consider the teachers who were not killed, who kept their wits about them, did everything correctly and quickly to secure their students, and who did their best to keep the children calm and safe until help could arrive.

Consider others like Gene Rosen, who took in children who abruptly showed up on his property, bringing them inside, caring for them, and acquiring phone numbers for their parents and calling them all to let them know their loved ones were safe. ( Gene even acknowledges it wasn’t his background as a psychologist that helped steer him, it was his experience as (imagine that!) a grandfather that guided his interactions with the kids. The kind of grace that doesn’t need any kind of professional training to acquire: Just simple, transcendent, human decency at work.

And then we have the law enforcement first-call staff, the psychological support staff, the concerned community taking up donations and vigils alongside those who are grieving, the concern of the President who properly and compassionately framed the situation and attended the weekend prayer vigil. There are just too many to list, or even KNOW about; the list goes on and on.

So let us look again at this situation with new eyes.

One man who committed an evil act, for whatever reason.

Versus scores, hundreds, thousands of people — and certainly not all of them part of the “religious right,” there are agnostics and atheists and Hindi and Muslim and Jews and Christians of all denominations and gay and straight and whatever other variety of people we can imagine – who empathize deeply and doing what they can to care for those who have had their lives changed in an instant. Without complaint or concern at the cost to themselves.

I don’t know how these religious leaders can look at this situation and see evil as the dominant force, as I look at it and see transcendent grace, grace that extends beyond race and sectarian faith, grace that doesn’t even have to be brought up out of some secret hidden well, rusty and bitter with disuse, it’s grace that has always been there right under the surface and available at a moment’s notice as soon as there was a need for it.

I don’t know how these people can claim that their God is not present in this country, for if their own tradition and stories mean anything, even God has always permitted evil to occur but instead is present even amid the tears of the hurting, the ache of the stricken, the agony of the grieving. God is made manifest in loss, in the valley of the shadow of evil, to comfort the hurting and lead us to places of peace.

No, when I look at these events as they unfold, what I see is many bright burning souls reaching out to each other in a time of unexpected grief, sharing together the love that covers and cleanses the darkness, allowing us to carry on.

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Cloud Atlas

Saw Cloud Atlas tonight, and it’s left me a bit introspective. Depending on the sort of person you are (personality-wise) and what you enjoy, the movie could come off as pretentious, brilliant, boring, or perplexing.

I can’t say the movie was profound, as the themes are ones I’ve considered before, but the way they are packaged and delivered was new to me. I also felt myself inspired by it in a way I was not by artistic movies like Malick’s “Tree of Life.” (And sorry this post will be rather disjointed, I’m too tired to tie it together cohenrently.)

The movie, like the book it is based on, involves six different narratives all woven together thematically and otherwise, although the structure of the book is chiasmic whereas the movie gets all six stories initialized and whirling along, then spins through them all again and again until they reach some type of completion (which made sense for a movie vs a book).

I think part of the reason some people are dissatisfied with the movie, though, is because of an attempt to over-analyze it. The broad themes are more important to comprehend than tracing all the individual fibers of the thick ropes holding the narratives together, and the movie is also meant to be empathized with rather than deconstructed. It resonates, rather than offers explanation.

In this vein, I found the most meaningful connection with “Letters from Zedelghem” (set in the 1930’s) and “An Orison of Sonmi-451″ (set in 2144) — the first of which is about a broke young composer working as an amanuensis while trying to construct his magnus opus, called the Cloud Atlas Sextet, while the second is about a clone liberated from her cultural prison by revolutionaries.

And here is where I think the movie can either connect or fail — the philosophy isn’t complex, but there is a layer of identification that can occur between movie themes and audience members who have experienced feeling dismissed/ostracized from their home communities not by anything they have done but simply by what they are (in this case, the young composer is gay, while the clone is considered property rather than human, while in other stories people are treated as less than human because they are black, or old, or outsiders, or threatening to the establishment).

But I think what struck me is the need to speak against the voice of the oppressor, regardless of cost or consequence. Sonmi-451 falls in love with her liberator because she is the first trueblood who treats her as the same, as a person, and he exposes her to knowledge and information, liberating her mentally as well as physically. Even then, she might have chosen to remain silent and not involve herself, except she is introduced to a truth so dreadful that she cannot help but be offended and maimed by it…to the degree of being willing to speak it even when she knows it likely that her words (and her short life) will be mostly lost. And the same goes for young Frobisher, who has this song in his soul that he must express from his own fingers and pen before being content to move into the next world. But the sheer act of living so vibrantly and passionately for a short period of time — like the flash of fire in the pan — is almost better and unregretted, vs living longer but far more dully and illegitimately.

There can be such a sense of futility sometimes with standing against the establishment. Sometimes it seems like burning down your house to spite the rest of the world, leaving nothing but ash, and tomorrow no one remembers all that you’ve sacrificed. Indeed, in the movie, there are many different outcomes to resistance and fighting the inevitable — success, failure, death, life. But in the end, the outcome is almost inconsequential to the act of utterance, to resist cruelty and corruption regardless of cost (and as Somni says, death is but a door to a new world beyond). In this sense, that brief burst of flame and life is tied to uttering those words against an oppressive order.

I remember a long time ago when I was considering the cost of remaining where I was in life and spending it all to make others happy, that I only had a cup of water in a dry desert, and what happens when you pour your life out on the sand, and it disappears almost immediately? That one cup of water, that is all you have to give, and once it is poured out, it is gone. At the time, that was impetus for change, to preserve my cup of water before it was all lost.

And yet now there’s another line from the book (assigned to competing characters in the movie, in regards to the fight for abolition) that amounts to this: “My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” In this case, it’s worth pouring one’s drop into the ocean in order to create an ocean in the first place, because without the drops there is no body of water at all. Alone, we are negligible against the established order; yet together, we comprise the sea that can swallow it. It makes sense to add your drop, your cup, to the drops and cups of others, in hopes that you can be part of the sea rather than alone.

I find myself warring at times over how I should live my life, now, after transition and as a member of a minority (transsexual Americans). Not wanting to create problems, just live my life peacefully in a way I never could before, not make everything about one aspect of my identity — and yet there still tends to a kind of shame in that. Buying peace at the cost of silence. I don’t have to always be screaming at the top of my lungs about it, but I think what I hate is that I still often feel shamed into not mentioning it. Don’t talk about it, or no one will want to love you. Don’t challenge the family’s decisions, or you’ll be considered unruly. Don’t tell the church, or you’ll be excommunicated. Don’t talk about it at work, or you’ll lose your job. What should just be an aspect of natural pride of oneself, like race or nationality or personality, is instead a badge of shame and an excuse to be treated as “less than.”

And so that is the price of silence. Shame. The impossibility of social acceptance, since things do not change until they are challenged. And then comes being diminishing in stature as human, and perhaps even the death of selfhood.

And I think that is where the movie touched me, and why I understand why Lana Wachowsky called it [as well as her decision to speak openly in interviews after so many years of keeping her story under wraps] a kind of affirmation of her transsexualism, something she had to do for her gender-variant brothers and sisters and even for those people with unrelated but parallel stories. To speak without shame in the face of an order than considers itself inviolable , so that the truth might not be lost.

I think what the movie highlights is that we — humanity — is diminished by silence. We are all part of the same cycle, the same music, the same dance, spinning through time; we construct so many artificial bondaries by which to exploit, control, dismiss, and reject each other; yet we are all part of the same, sometimes playing the lover, sometimes the fool, sometimes the hero, sometimes the villain, and hopefully learning something along the way in order to improve our fate and our communities.

And sometimes we find another and love them, and that love transcends time and space — we can’t avoid finding each other again in the future, if not in this world, then in the next. I wish that was true for me. I fear it might never be, I don’t think I’ve ever found a love like that, where Somni-451 and Hae-Joo Chang (or Frobisher and Sixsmith) just see and love each other completely and unconsciously simply Because. I don’t know if that will ever happen. I wish it might, and that such love can never be lost regardless of what happens in this life.

But first, I think, one has to speak. You have to speak in order to be heard, and known as oneself.

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Unexpected Gifts

Yesterday when I left work, I had texts from my lawyer, who had finally filed the divorce papers i needed him to file a few WEEKS ago but who then informed me I owed him a large sum of money that he hadn’t clarified for me in our last conversation — where I gave him a check for some hundreds of dollars (all I had) and I thought I was in the black.

He had also said a few times he was going to send me an itemized list of expenses but never had, and then said again it was on the way. Another reason why I have no clue what’s actually left of the retainers I’ve paid.

This time when he asked, my only thought was, “Well, that’s exciting… because I honestly have no money.” I mean, I have a very small buffer in savings, but there was nothing else. Everything I’ve gotten, every dollar I’ve managed to squeeze extra from one place, has already gone out to pay something else. If it wasn’t fixing my car to pass Maryland inspection in August, it was a larger-than-expected security deposit requested by my new landlord this past month, moving van expenses, security deposits for the power company, or whatever else. As soon as money comes in, even if it’s an small unexpected windfall, something happens and it goes right back out the door. I’m just a money facilitator on its travel from here to there.

It’s just a bizarre place to be. I’m not the most thrifty in my life, but I’ve never been living so on the edge EVER. And I’ve always felt like I’ve had to take care of myself. It was that way emotionally when I was a child, since my parents weren’t much help to me (although my mother did help pay a lot of my college). It was still that way as an adult. And then with the family and the majority of my friends bailing on me when I transitioned, I’ve TRULY been on my own financially and otherwise ever since. Scared, but still staying afloat.

I’ve always still been able to pay everything. Until now.

I had one friend who told me a few months ago that if I needed money, he could give me some (he’s well aware of the details of my current predicament and how stressed I’ve been). He had volunteered, and I tucked the offer away in the back of my mind “just in case.” Well, this was a “just in case” scenario.

So I wrote to him, feeling horrible about it, and asked. I hadn’t seen him around on the ‘net for awhile, so I was afraid he wouldn’t get the letter quickly, but he responded about an hour later and volunteered to give me even more than I had asked him for.

And then he told me that I could just pay him back on my own schedule, however long it took. Or not pay him back at all, I could just help someone else out when I got the chance (which I’ve actually done at times in the past — given friends large bits of money without expecting repayment, when they really needed it).

I started crying when I read his letter.

I mean, we’re Internet friends, and have some commonalities in our lives so that we connect well (we joke about being siblings, because of our beliefs and personalities and similar life experiences — we also both used to be heavily affiliated with the Church but moved in the same directions towards a more personal spirituality/worldview), but I don’t even know for sure what he looks like, I don’t know his birthday, I don’t even know the name of his SO, there’s so much I don’t know! Yet he just gave me this money that I BADLY needed, with no strings attached and no questions or complaints or hesitation. The goodness and love of it just stunned me.

I’m not even sure how I feel. It’s a whole bunch of things. Embarrassed, that I needed the money at all. Awkward, because I asked. Foolish, for not planning better. Scared, that I might not be worthy of such a gift. And then really stupid, because all of those feelings are besides the point, the point is that I don’t know how to deal when someone presents me with a gift of simple love, as if I were visible to them as a person with real needs and valuable enough to have someone take care of me like that.

I apparently don’t know how to deal with it when someone just loves me.

I know the right response is just to do what he said. Take the money. Use it wisely. Thank him graciously. Pay him back as I can. Or help others in need, when the opportunity comes up for me later. I’m not confused on the best way to proceed. I’m just confused about why I have all these conflicting emotions, and why an act of generosity for my sake can just leave me speechless and overwhelmed.

At least I’ll make it for another month. I just want to get through the divorce and have it settled/finalized, and maybe there will be some relief financially and emotionally at that point.

Hoping that things bounce and get better and better.

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Sudden Strangers

Last week, in the middle of all the ongoing drama and stress, someone mentioned to me that it must be difficult to be experiencing this with someone I’ve laughed with, cried with, slept next to, raised a family with, made “rest of our lives” plans with, once thought that we would bury each other before being apart. So many dreams and pains and laughs and tears shared together… now all permanently overwritten with a piece of paper called a Divorce Decree and an unresolvable argument over our daughter’s unnecessary admission to this particular church program.

A week ago, I put myself at her mercy and begged her to talk to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been more vulnerable, and I let her know exactly what kind of financial crisis I was facing, how much it scared me, how unsure of my future I felt, how I had no forseeable way to overcome the difficulties, and how horrific this was after the distance I’ve already come.

We were supposed to talk (interactively, via phone); instead, she sent me an email a few nights later. I appreciated her e-mail, and was practical, but the majority of it showed she really was operating (still) under many misconceptions about what options I actually had — what convertible assets I had to my name, what I could reasonably accomplish. And it was clear that she has never once considered pulling our daughter from the program despite not having the money, despite worrying each month about where to get it, despite scrambling for funds, begging people to help, knowing how horrid my life would have to become for a prolonged time in order to try to pay for this program.

And why? Because she is informed by faith, and her faith tells her “this is what she was supposed to do” even if I didn’t happen to agree or needed a lot more time to vet this thing, and so by God she is just going to keep doing it until she either suceeds or she dies and everything collapses around her. It’s exactly the approach that was taken in our marriage, and we’ve all seen the impact that had on me as well as the outcome of that kind of strategy. (As a counterpoint, our daughter’s adoption was handled very very differently, and it worked, and our lives didn’t go to hell in the meanwhile.)

Reading that letter from her, I never felt more a stranger from her. I just realized we no longer really had any idea who each other is… or at least don’t approach life at all the same… and maybe we were always strangers but just didn’t know it. I don’t know.

I mean, obviously I changed outwardly a huge deal, so I’m sure she has also experienced this kinds of disjoints in keep things together with me; and because I don’t hide myself (emotions and thoughts) nearly as much, she is seeing many parts of me she doesn’t recognize.

But it goes both ways — we’ve been separated closing in on five years now, and I think we grew much further apart over that time on the inside, even if outwardly we tried to maintain familiarity. It’s funny that I always considered myself the one in our relationship who wasn’t open about what was happening inside, but now I feel like it’s the opposite — there are large portions of her inner workings and feelings that she never shares, until she does or says something that then I can unpack and realize how she is framing a situation (like where she insinuated, kindly of course, that since she has had to buckle down and do things she has not liked, I should simply stoicly do the same).

And she seems more extreme in that way too, at least around me… more guarded to me, more protected about her actual emotions to me, and otherwise more focused on “making life work.” No wonder. She’s hurting over things too… and perhaps she has already let go of me more than I had let go of her.

So many memories, now eroding and necrotizing, smothered by the mummy wrappings of a divorce decree…

I remember when we first met, the day I went to her and kind of upended everything in both of our lives by telling her what I felt, the first time I really ever took a risk that big. I remember the first “date” we had together under a large tree that was later cut down by the college. I remember getting married, going overseas on our honeymoon (neither of us able to speak Spanish), getting our first apartment, having our first child. I remember the chaos of a potential caesarian, then sitting confused in that empty dark room waiting for the doctor to come in and tell us what was wrong with our second child. I remember sitting outside a computer tech story praying with her whether it was “okay” for me to buy a particular soundcard for my computer to record music on (that part is surreal to me now). I remember me losing my job, the big fights we had about the trans thing the first time we had to grapple with it, our moving to Harrisburg and buying a house while working with our wacky realtor (who almost flooded her car needlessly in a huge rainstorm while we were house-shopping), adopting our daughter, worshiping together on the same team at church.

And these are not broad, vague experiences. They are very detailed, very granular memories — smells, sights, sounds, contexts, very very specific events in my life that we shared. Just like the collagen that holds our skin together, these are the narratives and retellings that hold our identities in shape.

…The crying fight we had over the stupid plugin-chargers in Beijing, the night we landed in China to get our daughter, what a STUPID fight to have (we were just stressed with the adoption, the rush, the uncertainty, the fear/anxiety of the trip);

…the stupid but endearing poems she wrote to attach to Christmas presents (something her mom also does) and how she would sometimes wrap up presents in weird ways (like wrapping ties and socks separately, in the shape of the item, and then stringing all the socks together with ribbon);

…her stubbing her toe three times and having her foot go black and blue, in the ten minutes the boys and I and her played soccer in the backyard when they were 7-9, and was both laughing and crying while lying in the grass;

…the time she picked a place for us to eat in a strange town for something different on a special day and wore this amazing red dress and when we got there the place it ended up being a dive bar, and she started crying, so I walked us aross the street and down until we found another little “hole in the wall” restaurant that was much better and we salvaged the evening;

….the night my mom called and said my dad was dying (from alcohol poisoning) and wouldn’t go to the hospital, so I got her to get him to go over the phone, we had to jump in the car, drive 80 miles south, and she stayed with the kids at my parents’ while I drove the rest of the way to the hospital to check on my father… in an emergency, we worked together as a unit without even really needing to discuss what to do.

….then my spiral into major depression, and the last vacation we went on together — the last time we were together both emotionally and intimately, our trip to the Finger Lakes wine country in NY state — I felt like a person dying of cancer and I knew it was the last time we would ever have like that, it was The End — very bittersweet for me, I don’t know if she realized it as well — and we went hiking at the state park that was entirely made of rocks and waterfalls, and we ate at a little coffee shop that also had books, before traveling around to see a few wineries. It was the last “good” time I can recall that we spent alone, together, and for me was my way of saying “goodbye,” because I knew in my heart I had nothing left after that.

…and then transition and the rocky road since.

I know we loved each other, truly, as people, even if it was mottled and marred by our differences and the underlying issues I was dealing with.

But the last five years were really hard on her too, just in different ways, even if she contributed to the problems as well. She did do the single mom thing (even if by choice) and has had to make certain sacrifices. But I guess once we were not together to influence each other, she really veered to the right and into a more severe religious experience, where I seemed to drift even further into where I am now (kind of a mystical christian/zen perspective). I feel more me than I ever did before. Maybe she is more her. I don’t know. But we are no longer an “us” — that’s become more and more clear.

I just feel like I don’t know her. Maybe that will make all this easier. So we will talk, and smile, and exchange pleasantries, when we’re not fighting in court; try to do what is right by the kids; stay on good terms. We will occasionally do holidays. We might send each other cards. And when she gets remarried, I’ll send her a card and wish her well and truly mean it; and I expected her to do the same for her. Because I really do wish her happiness. I need to let her go her own way now; she’s chosen her beliefs, and she has to follow them in order to bring meaning to her life, just as I have followed my path to where I stand now; and although it’s sad that our paths lead away from each other, there’s nothing to be done about it anymore. It is what it is, and we can just remember what once was while trying to believe that hope will come again.

It’s just hard to remember all of those things that were unique to our relationship, all those little details, and realize that that person is out there… but we don’t love each other anymore like that, we don’t share that commitment anymore, and we don’t even really know each other anymore. It might be easier (for me, in any case) if she had died. Then at least you feel like you truly knew that person, and now they’re just gone… but the memories are still valid; at this point, it’s like the ongoing changes in our lives feel like they are overwriting and negating the past, saying that whatever was there, well, it just isn’t anymore and maybe never really was.

To step backwards briefly, I’m truly happy for Jenny Boylan and others who managed to make a transitioned marriage work. They have paid a pretty horrible cost (the emotional intimacy typically takes the place of any kind of physical intimacy), but at least their lives were never completely erased. They remained committed.

I’ve taken a different road: I lost my past but gained (essentially) an unrestricted future.

Sometimes I don’t know which of those futures is better. I just miss someone who, for a long period of my life, was someone I knew better than anyone else in the world.

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A Big Mistake

Funny how things change — how one moment life can be poignant but still positive, and the next love can turn to anger, appreciation can turn to disappointment, acceptance can turn to nausea.

I won’t put many details here, this is more a response to my last entry. At the end of last month, I received the support order from the state of Pennsylvania, and for some odd reason they decided to place the tuition of my child currently attending a particular program (which is another long story in itself, and a dramatic one) into arrears and consider it as a “support” issue vs something else. [My ex submitted a claim for an astronomical sum of money at the support hearing.]

The program is one that I was not told the true amount ahead of time, and while it was mentioned on the 15 pages of documentation I had to sign, the two days I had to vet the decision (where I was doing many many things involved with that issue besides reading papers… and where I also thought I could trust my ex to accurately and fairly explain the situation) meant somehow I did not see the combined cost of the program. [I’ve gone back over my blogs and I always referred to the (far) lesser cost… until a month later when I discovered the ACTUAL cost. It’s very clear that she only told me the smaller figure on the phone and never once mentioned the full cost.]

The cost is for an amount of money that we did not have nor had the possibility of ever acquiring — not even close, it’s so high that it should never have even been seriously considered — and I had suffered a number of panic attacks when I discovered what we had committed to.

Once I stopped crying, that is.

Without going into all the subtleties of the problem, what happened is that the court dumped thousands upon thousands of dollars into my arrears account, leaving me flagged as a “deadbeat” parent despite a track record far above and beyond the call of duty for years before the Court was even involved; my passport has seemingly been revoked; any tax return credits I received will automatically be taken by the government; yada yada yada; it’s been a horrific mess… and nothing that my ex seems interested in remedying. Now I have to suffer through an appeals process and also consider in short term what I need to do about any continuing costs for this program.

I also have no money to pay the arrears off (except from probably spending what I might have received in the Asset Division part of the divorce, which I needed to use to pay off substantial credit card debt); no way to get a loan with a lack of collateral and the credit card debt I have; paying the arrears off gradually could take some years, with me creeping slowly into deeper debt on my cards even with a TIGHT budget; and I have a child preparing for college next year.

So the last month has been hell, which explains perhaps why my mind has not been on writing. And I can’t really say much more here, since the divorce is ongoing.

I guess all that I want to say, in relation to the last post, is that I just feel very betrayed and heartbroken. I tried to always do everything right and above board; my decision to permit my daughter to enter this program was actually in part out of my compassion for my ex’s health since she had gotten very sick from stress and we had no other option available in the 2-3 days I had to figure out a different solution, a ha; and my decision not to immediately pull her from the program was also compassion on my part for my ex, who had just invested some thousands of dollars on enrollment, which she would have immediately lost had I rescinded my permission and tried to remove her.

In other words, I did what I normally have done — tried to protect everyone in my family and consider their needs and find some kind of compromise, including my ex; but apparently, there are times to continue to take care of someone, and there are times when you have to accept the relationship has changed and it is no longer your job to look out for them… and that you make yourself incredibly vulnerable in doing so.

This was one of the times I held on too long again, and it has really complicated my life, brought me close to financial ruin virtually overnight, and shattered what I had once felt was a deep relationship with someone I cared about. It’s a good thing I don’t know how to roll over and die, because for at least a day, that is all I wanted to do.

Live and learn.

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