The original post from the wife I mentioned, it garnered the usual amount of teeth-gnashing; mainly from those who got irritated about the therapist’s quote:
“…your phone is YOU… the stuff you interact with…the words you share…your pictures…and most people keep that hidden for a reason…and it usually has nothing to do with privacy…it’s about controlling whether people know the real you.” (“Even your partner,” it should have said.)
Reading that smacks you in the face with the truth. It’s like if your browsing history were published in the newspaper or if a list of all the people you’ve texted, DMed, or interacted with were published for the world to see. Our phones are a great reflection of the totality of us, especially when juxtaposed with our relationships.
As Dave Worthen preaches: “You share your bodies, you brush your teeth together, you have children, you spend most of your lives connected, but lord help you if someone wants to share your phone, even with the best of intentions.”
I’m not saying I have all the answers, but reading and hearing all the commentary about this anecdote really gave me further insight into just how big of a problem this is for most of the modern world. Our ancestors didn’t have to worry about this: most behaviors were direct and observable, and privacy/secrecy were not issues ideal partners had to confront.
The fool on the far right with the fluorescent ‘X” on his jacket is me. I was the flower girl when my Mom and Dad remarried each other. They remarried exactly 29 years after their first marriage. 10,483 days have passed since this picture was taken.
My parents really were experts at drinking and driving. But for this moment, no matter how terrible the road behind them, they were happy. Dad died nine months later. Mom was not charged. (That last sentence is supposed to make you laugh.)
It is the only picture I know of where everyone was smiling. Even my brother Mike was smiling with glee. I wish I could always remember him, and Carolyn and Bobby Dean, like this.
Everyone in the picture is dead now – except for me. Dad died at 49, Mike at 54, and Mom at 67.
“When consequences come knocking, intentions ring hollow.” – X
Each of us has a personal narrative in our heads, one in which events seem linear and inevitable. We impose meaning and logic on the process of our lives. The truth is often that we are fooling ourselves. Examining our decisions and what we’ve done, it is obvious that we must conclude that we’re likely clueless about what pulls our levers.
I’m 54 and found myself shocked and surprised by some of the things I didn’t know about myself. I’m fortunate, even though I broke things getting to some of the conclusions. A lot of people around me didn’t survive the discovery process of seeing just how badly (or well) they could do things. Even as I grimace in recognition of some of the consequences I’ve caused, I try to remind myself that at least I’m alive long enough to do them. Getting older usually brings that pang of “What was I thinking?” while also shouting “You can’t change the past.” I think that’s why most of us go deaf when we get older. We’ve heard it all before and often at high volume.
An example of a harsh reminder? These fourteen $1 bills, each signifying a year that I was around for Xmas after my wife Deanne died – and when my ex-wife found me again. Talk about the long game! The first year, I saved a dollar bill and told my ex-wife, “Each year, we’ll sign another one, along with the year.” The first yuletide, it was a lonely dollar hanging like a wreath. By last year, it was fourteen. Honestly, even though it was my creative idea, I think it was sublimely fabulous.
That’s how you build a life – one little increment at a time, errors and right choices mixed unequally.
And then, consequences.
I took the dollar wreath with me when I jettisoned into another life. It’s a poignant reminder to find ways to celebrate life, in small ways and large. The last year proved to me that it is possible to be successful and a failure simultaneously. My intentions to find a better way to finish my life also led me to stumble into an alternate timeline, one I hadn’t anticipated. Against the backdrop of what could have been, it is a jab. But it is also an admission that I’m sometimes stupid and incapable.
It’s a little ironic that money, dollar bills, were what I chose to mark the passage of shared time. Money is the illusion that powers so much of what we do, even though we all know that everything that lights us up is intangible and invisible.
Though I’m not sure why I wrote this post, I know someone will find value in the idea. Odds are that someone reading this has a surprising year ahead of them, one they couldn’t predict. They’ll think that they have a handle on their choices.
Life will of course notice them and roll a boulder down the hill for them to remind them that most of this isn’t predictable. If you’re lucky, you will find value in the breaking. That’s your only choice, anyway. Things ARE going to break in a long arc of surprises. Most of us are lucky enough to not have it all break consecutively; we have time between to consider and reassess.
Though I claim not to believe in karma, I also tip each time I buy lottery tickets. It’s brought me a lot of stories and surprises, so in that sense, it has already paid off. It’s a pain to hoard this wreath and it’s also a pain to let it go. But I am a minimalist and know that all these things will soon enough be left behind by me. In an optimistic nod to the universe, I’m going to put these dollars back into circulation by buying lottery tickets. If I win, my promise still stands: I will use almost all the money to surprise other people. And if I don’t win, I am left with the optimism that I could have. It tickles me to think that these dollars will be in circulation, traveling in potentially infinite directions.
Intentions do matter, but we live with consequences.
Don’t read this post and forget that, at its heart, it is optimistic. I don’t understand people who can’t hold the disparate ideas of joy and wistful loss in their hearts, entwined like twin siblings.
I’m writing this after a blissful night of sleep, something that wasn’t always easy for me. And, in theory, I could be a millionaire. 🙂
It’s about 4 a.m. so I have to answer the call of the wanderer. Maybe you’ll see me out on the streets, in the unlikely event you’re wandering, too?
By coincidence, thanks in part to Covid, my divorce was final yesterday.
I just got a call from the mover, advising me that the next phase of my life starts in 17 minutes. I hope I carry forward the enthusiasm I have for life and jettison any bitterness that might infect me. Whatever lessons I was supposed to learn, I hope they stick with me. I also hope that all my errors are new ones and not repeats.
Once you jump out of the plane, you have to hit the ground; how you hit is up to you. P.S. I just took this picture of my cat Guino, who is staying in East Springdale. ..
This is a personal post, so scroll past if you’re not interested in learning new and terrible things about me. I’m always one for transparency, even when it’s complicated. Especially when it’s difficult. I’ve not been silent out of apprehension or shame. I always feel free to tell my own story – because I own it. Being compassionate, I also realize that other people don’t want a rock dropped on their heads simply because their story overlaps with mine. I’ve waited to say anything specific out of deference to the other people involved. It’s my story now, though.
I’m getting divorced. Because people need to assign blame or frame such things in their heads, you can place the responsibility for the divorce directly on me. Of course, there’s more to the story – but it would be wrong for me to evade the finger pointed at me. Adding explanatory caveats would be equivalent to ruining an apology by offering excuses. Those who know me well know the story. When my marriage faltered, I turned my attention to another woman. While I did not consummate the relationship, I fell in love with her. That’s entirely on me. Not that anyone is entitled to know the details. But I’m not so stupid as to think that people don’t know. It’s human nature, and whispers travel faster and more loudly than headlines.
For the lurkers who are tempted to write something snarky, go ahead, but please take a moment to be creative in your attempt. I don’t mind contempt or passive-aggressive tomfoolery so long as it’s both authentic and distinctive. I can get run-of-the-mill snideness from several sources. Chance are your two cents won’t affect me. I’ve already paid the price for my choices; a few words can’t possibly inflame anything medieval lurking in my heart.
In so many ways, I failed and succeeded simultaneously over the last year. I hurt people who shouldn’t have been. I realize that my intentions are meaningless and irrelevant when compared to the consequences of my choices. I’ll try to take the successes and amplify them. Whether I’ll learn anything from my adventures and misadventures is always the critical question.
My wife is keeping the house. Evidently, homes and property should remain in the hands of responsible people. I’m not sure where I will end up. I much prefer having a roommate, but so far, that has been a bust. You wouldn’t know it, but I’m not nearly as crazy in person as you might think. (Admittedly, though, there is a disproportionate likelihood of tomfoolery.) If I move from Springdale, I’ll miss it terribly. I’ve grown to know it very well, especially during the pandemic. Barring something surprising, I will probably get an apartment in Fayetteville that’s too expensive for me, primarily because of work – and probably without a roommate or someone I know. I’d rather not live alone, even if doing so might be beneficial to me somehow. I’ve somehow managed to stay in the same job for 16 years without one of my co-workers murdering me. To be clear, I’m pretty sure there have been discussions, but luckily, no assassin has been hired, at least not that I know of.
As tough as things have been, I’m glad I had counseling. I was lucky. I put the pin back in before I made my life worse, as well as learning how to sleep again. Counseling didn’t fix all of my problems, of course, but it might have saved me.
My story isn’t particularly original and certainly not so during the pandemic.
There’s no need to react or comment if you don’t want to or don’t quite know ‘how’ to do so. This isn’t something you see on social media very frequently. It’s certainly something that happens all the time, though. By posting this, I’m removing the taboo of openly talking about it.