Chapter 12 of my First book: Another shoe falls. Yikes! Good thing that things are better on the career front
CHAPTER 12: Another shoe falls. Yikes! Good thing that things are better on the career front
This picture is of what I refer to as;
MY Personal and Professional Balanced Scorecard.
It usually has 4 LIFE Quadrants.
But at this stage of my life journey,
there was going to be a Vacancy in one of the quadrants. ☹
“All relationships have one law. Never make the one you love feel alone,
Especially if you‘re there” – Unknown
Speaking of partners. We don’t spend a lot of time together. Is that really the norm?
I had been spending a lot of time recently with the partners at my place of work. My place of work was a partnership, as previously mentioned, one of largest professional services firms in the world, so there were a lot of partners to spend time with. But there was also another partner in my life at that time of my life, and I was not spending a whole lot of time with her. That partner, was my life partner, a.k.a. my wife.
Ever since the get-go, ever since we decided to start a life together, my away days (a.k.a. business travel days) were part of the routine but I seemed to be AWAY even more these days. I seemed to be away more, even when I was not travelling. In hindsight, the routine really started to take hold when the kids were born. It was tough enough finding the time to spend as a couple when you were both working, and trying to maintain the house, and trying to keep up with all the weekly run of the mill to-do’s, but add on a couple of kids, and something has to give. Or so, I thought. Or so, I believed.
In our case, what seems to have had to give, was our time together. It started when my son was born and really took hold when my daughter joined our family a couple of years later. All of a sudden, our idea of a balanced lifestyle, or at least my idea of one, was a divide and conquer approach to conquering all the tasks that we had before us. I would tackle some with my son and my wife would tackle some of the others with my daughter. And then we would switch kids. That was how we seemed to be balancing our time among work, our chores and spending time with the kids. We would also throw in some family time with all four of us together and some more time with our extended family members as well. And then, once all of that TIME was taken care of, we then had whatever quality time was left for the TWO of us. And that was not a whole lot. And most of it was, of the end of day variety, when we were both tired. At the end of the day when we were both tired soon turned into a ritual of watching a DVD or TV show together. A lot of watching but not much talking.
The word tired also pretty much summed up how I felt on our sporadic date nights. Sporadic because I was tasked with making them, and when that task came up on my to-do list, I was so tired that just booking one seemed like a monumental task. So often, I did not book them, and they became even more sporadic. And when I did book them, I was so tired, that they often ended sooner then planned. “O.k. we have eaten, should we get going now? Big day tomorrow and we still need to put the kids to bed!” Yikes! In hindsight, not much of a date night.
Throw in my bout with depression in those days and my isolationist, non-conversational behaviour that came along with those feelings of being depressed, and our quality time together really dried up. And by dried up, it got to the point where it no longer existed. Hopefully her love language was not quality time or we were in trouble. Hopefully mine was not quality time either because it had gotten to the point where there no longer was any. It no longer existed, yet I was in such a far-off place that I did not even notice it.
I was not even aware of the neglect and pain that I was causing. I was not even aware of the pain that I was feeling. That is part of the problem that comes from trying to ignore your feelings, you no longer feel them. Eventually you no longer feel and that is where I had ended up.
I was not aware, and/or did not care to be, despite my wife occasionally bringing up the subject. It was often put forward as a question. “Is it just me, or does it seem like we really are not spending a lot of time together?”. To that, I would always answer. “Don’t worry. It is normal. We both have demanding jobs time wise, we have the kids, the house and all the to-do’s that come with those responsibilities. Hang in there. Freedom 55 is not that far away. We will have lots of time to spend together then”.
I would then remind her of the advertisement on television that talks about the boat cruises in Europe. “We will be able to catch up then, on one of those cruises”, I would tell her. Catch up while having a glass of wine in our cabin on the boat. Her retort to that far off event was to ask. “Aren’t those boats the ones with all the old people in them?” Humm. I guess they were. We will just have to wait until we are old, to spend quality time together. Oh! and our marriage vows, to love, honour and cherish one another. I guess that will have to wait as well. Wait until we have more time, more quality time.
Well after numerous inquiries from my wife on the subject of our spending less and less time together, I decided to ask someone else to share their thoughts on the subject. Yes, my wife had been so persistent that I would try and expand my lens. But just this once. My approach at the time was that I would ask another man, or as James Gray refers to us men in his book on gender differences, “Men are from Mars and Women from Venus”, another “Martian”. In hindsight, it might have been prudent to connect with a few citizens from the planet Venus as well. Well, I did not. And the feedback from my fellow Martian? It went something like this, “That is normal. Me and my wife, we also rarely see each other. Our jobs. School for the kids, sports for the kids etc. etc. That does not leave much time for the couple.”
O.k. I guess things were not that bad after all, or at least, others were also going through it as well. I guess I will have a lot of company on the European canal cruises. Sounds like a lot of people have a lot of catching up to do once their careers wind down and the kids move out. Until then, I guess we will just have to bite the bullet. Or so I thought. Or so I thought, until the night another shoe fell. That was the night that my marriage ended.
A Friday night in February, 2013. Another shoe falls.
It was a good thing that I had finally decided to make some change on the career front in those days. It was a good thing that I was feeling better in those days. And by feeling better, I mean, not feeling depressed. Luckily for me I had overcome my period of depression and was moving forward on the job front and I was gaining energy from that positive momentum. That was a good thing because things were going to take another turn for the nasty. Another type of nasty.
After a little over 10 years of marriage, I was about to become a single parent. So much for the Freedom 55 plan. I guess the periodic date nights did not work out after all. Time to update my financial spreadsheet. Time to drop by the bank and see if I can take out a mortgage on a house. Time to figure out how to tell the kids. Time to figure out how to tell the family. And let’s not forget, it was time for me to figure out what had happened. Was that what marriage was supposed to be all about? It sounded like everyone else and everything else took priority over the couple. At least that seemed to be how I seemed to be trying to make it work. Yikes. And that, apparently, was not working out all that well for me, and not to mention, my wife, my soon to be, ex-wife.
Well that period of contemplation would have to wait until a later time. As I will explain in the next chapter, I soon realized that I had some other priorities to deal with. Not dying was one of them. Not dying was going to take most of my focus and energy for the next couple of years and until I had that one under control, I would put a hold on tackling what I am now referring to as my soulmate quadrant.
My “Soulmate Quadrant” is one of the 4 life quadrants in what I refer to as “MY Personal Balanced Scorecard”. Apparently, it was not all that balanced in those days. But, that balance would have to wait until later, because TWO more shoes were soon going to drop with the result that I would soon shift most of my focus to TWO of my other life quadrants, My “Me, Myself and I Quadrant” and my “Family and Friends Quadrant”, with the main focus being on my kids.
And remember, I still had to keep my eye on the ball in my “Career Quadrant” so as not to lose my new-found momentum there. I would be juggling three balls (a.k.a. quadrants) at once. I did not want to push my juggling skills too far by taking on a fourth. Not yet anyways. My soulmate would have to wait.
My children were nine and seven years old at the time. Their lives and routines were about to undertake a lot of change and I wanted to spend more time with them during that transition. Finding or re-finding love would have to wait until later on. Finding my soulmate would have to wait until later on. Who knows, maybe I will meet her on one of those European canal cruises? But that might be a bit late in the game, but I guess, better late than never. I have other priorities now.
Another Transition. Two actually. To Single Parent and Co-Parent
Good thing that I was in no rush on the soulmate front because I had my hands full on the parenting transition front. I did not realize it at first but I was about to undertake 2 transitions and not just one. Two transitions for the price of one. Two new roles to take on. Two new changes to make in my life. That was a tall order for anyone to take on, but I was not just anyone, I was still Captain Comfort Zone, and I already had enough change going on in my career quadrant to keep me busy thank you very much. And now, seemingly out of the blue, I had two more changes to make. Yikes.
The first transition was my transition to a single parent, and given my physical appearance and feelings of negative self-esteem in those days, I felt like I was likely to remain single for quite some time. This transition was an obvious one. One day I was married and living with my wife and mother of my children and the next day I was not. I was single. I was a single parent.
Well long story short. It took some getting used to by all of those affected but we managed to move on with our lives. But looking back on those days. Those sad days. What really made a difference was just how supportive my family and friends were during those times. As it turned out, my divorce was one of the catalysts that allowed me to reconnect with my family and friends. Reconnect after that dark period of shutting them and everyone else out. Talk about being blessed. Remind me not to shut them out again. Lesson learned. I should be connecting with people during tough times and not shutting them out.
The second transition was not as obvious, not at first, anyways. The second transition was a transition in my role as a parent. I was now becoming a co-parent. At first, I thought that co-parent meant two parents so I took on the role of being Super Dad. Not only was Super Dad able to do the things that a dad could and should do, he could also do the things that a Mom could and should do. As it turns out, the Dad things were easier than the Mom things, and I never did figure out how to braid hair, but before long, I realized that I did not have to.
Luckily for me, and the kids, I soon realized that there was a role and a need for a Mom in their lives and there was a role and a need for a Dad in their lives. So instead of trying to be both of them, my time would be better spent working on my skills as a super Co-Parent. Easier said than done. It takes courage and confidence, by both co-parents, and as you know, courage was not one of my strong points in those days, but my motivator was and still is, my two beautiful children, and it does not get any more motivating than that.
So, What did I learn?
How did I make change EASYer on myself 😊 (or not ☹)
Why is it that when it comes to maintaining work life balance, the couple always seems to come last? Or is that just my impression? We read a lot these days of the importance of taking care of oneself, which, as I will explain shortly, is not only very important, but crucial, but I rarely see or hear anyone advocating how important it is to make time for the couple. Real quality couple time! Come hell or high water! They say that 50% of marriages end in divorce. The statistics are even worse for second marriages. And don’t forget all of the couples who are legally married but for all intents and purposes, their relationships has already ended.
In his book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts”, author Gary Chapman, makes a case for, not only being aware of your partners love language, but actually making the time to play to it. Wow, so not only should I be making things EASYer on myself by honouring and playing to my strengths, but I should also be doing the same thing when it comes to my love language and that of my soulmate. Or, at this time of my life. My future soulmate. ☹
What is your love language?
What is your love’s love language?
Are you speaking each other’s love language?
And, if so, are you both speaking it often enough?
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