Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | March 23, 2011

Self-esteem, part I

So many threads in my life recently; so many from the same cloth. Where to begin?

***

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of an interesting stretch: 10 days out of 12 where I’m the custodial parent. We need to flip weekends in order to accommodate some weirdness in my work schedule, and the way we decided to handle that flip was for me to take two weekends in a row, and then resume the every-other-weekend pattern. Ergo, our 2-2-3 weekly pattern (which is really a 2-2-5-5 fortnightly pattern) is temporarily a 2-5-2-5 pattern, with me being the fives.

There were many reasons to do it this way, but truth be told, one of the reasons is because Penny has been overwhelmed lately, and the business that is the primary source of her income is falling further behind as a result. Not good. Not good for anybody. So, this theoretically gives her a chance to start catching up.

In the meantime, the Chicago client for whom I’ve been doing free-lance work (and whom I had told I would be backing off from such work) has encountered a problem that may originate with my code, so now I need to be the one to fix it. Which is a fancy way of saying, to the extent that these two weeks are supposed to help Penny catch up, they are helping me to fall further behind, at least work-wise. And blog-wise. And personal life (what’s that?) -wise. And so on.

***

The second of my three sons is going to turn six-years-old soon.

The three boys and I went to the park by my house, and each wanted to do something different. The youngest (two-going-on-three) wanted to go to the jungle gym, so I went there with him, while the oldest (eight-going-on-nine) was playing imaginary battles with jedi knights and sith bad guys using plastic light sabres and sticks.

But the middle child was riding his bicycle around the slopy park; walking it up the hill and then careening down the path. He wears a bike helmet, as is required by law, but that’s pretty much it as far as safety equipment goes. While supervising the baby, I’m keeping an eye on my daredevil middle child. It’s only a matter of time before he wipes out at the bottom of the hill. But every time I think he’s going to waver out of control, he just barely manages to catch himself, slow down, and turn just in time to avoid crashing off the path and into the fence of a neighbor’s house.

I don’t want to raise him to be afraid of the world, so I stifle the urge to shout out warnings. I don’t want him to hurt himself either, but then… isn’t that how you learn to bicycle? By testing the limits, and adjusting accordingly?

He has the confidence of one who has not yet wiped out. And the recklessness, as well.

Or so it seems, anyway.

***

Saw an old friend on the Monday before my 10-out-of-12-day-stretch with the kids. A friend I’ve not seen in years. We knew each other in grade school (so, as I tell my children, this was back when I used to ride a dinosaur to school). We’ve both come a long way since those days; we haven’t seen each other since high school, although we’ve lived in the same town now for something like eight years.

My friend is beautiful and smart. She has a solid, reputable career that seems to be going well, and appears to have the comforts that one would associate with all that; a decent place to live in a decent neighborhood, occasional world travel, and so on.

I say “appear” because, well, how the hell do I know? During our brief outing, we didn’t talk about whether she likes her job, or how she is faring office-politics-wise within her work environment, how her mortgage payments are going, or the like. I did manage to ask a lot of intrusive questions (hey… it’s me!), but I didn’t stray into that territory. 

And as I’ve learned all to well of late, you can’t assume you know all there is to know about a person based upon their field of work and the car they drive. (Well, okay, you can in my case: I drive a beat-up mini-van that’s older than my first born child. What does that tell you? Right.)

I enjoyed our time together, although I foolishly failed to get out of a parenting obligation that evening. As a result, when dinner was over, I had to leave without much time for chatting. (On the plus side, I suppose this prevented me from over-staying my welcome….)

The thing is — and this is the impetus behind tonight’s post — I took several opportunities during the evening to make self-desparaging remarks over dinner. I’ve posted on this subject previously; self-deprecating humor is a coping mechanism that I’ve fallen into the (bad) habit of using when I’m feeling self-conscious. The last time I saw my friend, I was a lean student athlete. I’ve since grown to become a kind of Jabba the Computer Nerd. Conversely, my friend has grown up to carry herself with grace and elegance. I felt clumsy and vulgar by comparison.

Now, it’s not like I all of a sudden forgot that I can hold my own intellectually or that I have some talent with, um… word usings. Rather, I simply became self-conscious about my more obvious shortcomings, and made just a wee bit more negative remarks about myself than I should have. In hindsight, of course, that just makes me more self-conscious. Oh, the irony.

We talked some about challenges she is facing, and it brought to mind a quote that several fellow bloggers of mine have been “retweeting” of late:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

–Plato. Or, maybe, Dick Van Patten.

It didn’t occur to me until days later that it was possible I wasn’t the only one who felt a little self-conscious.

The day after our visit, I e-mailed her and (gasp!) included a link to this site. Hey, she’s an old friend from high school, what could possibly be the harm? As long as I don’t mention her here anywh–

Um. Never mind.

***

Yesterday, another friend of mine helped me move some furniture that I’d recently bought for the boys, and my friend remarked that Penny and I still seemed to be amicable in our divorce-in-progress.

And here’s the funny thing. I surprised myself by saying: “You know, it’s pretty much the same as when we were married. We don’t fight, we coordinate the kids’ schedules, we take turns putting the kids to bed….”

“So,” he replied, “your marriage had really deteriorated that much, huh?”

And I realized that it was all true. With the exception that I now have (theoretically) every other Saturday left to my own devices, my emerging divorced life is, so far, pretty much the same as my married life was. It speaks to how well we’re handling the divorce, but also to how barren our marriage was.

All that said, it also makes me more intent to start building a better life for myself as the marriage comes to a formal end. We are getting divorced because that life wasn’t working. It’s time to start trying for something better.

***

Divorce. Liberating and devastating, both at the same time. In general, I find my life is improving. Slowly. But it’s interesting to discover that the blows to my self-confidence that I now need to repair are not the result of the divorce. They are the result of a bad marriage.

I’m lucky, in that I’m having help along the way. Friends, both “in real life” and among my blog family, are there for me. They are helping me to re-connect. I’m making new friends, and that feels wonderful. Reconnecting with old friends, and meeting bloggy friends in person, are helping to remind me of who I am.

And for all that I realize I need to work on my self-confidence, it’s reassuring to discover that I’m still here. I’m still whole and intact. I am not damaged goods. Rather, I’m a work-in-progress.

I suppose my marriage tested some boundaries, and I discovered that there are some places I simply ought not go. And now it’s time to adjust. And that’s okay.

Time to brush myself off, and get ready to get back on that bicycle.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. liberating and devastating. such a fantastic way to sum it up. even though i am so happy and so free, every so often something happens that knocks my legs out from under me. but most of the time, it’s been so incredibly freeing…

  2. We’re all just a work in progress 🙂

    I love that quote, by the way. I’m going to write it down in my office to remind me of tolerance.

    On the bright side, you are making negative comments towards yourself less than you used to, so that’s good, right? Unless of course you’re thinking it and just not saying it… in which case, smarten up!

    I promise to virtually bitch slap you every time you try to tear yourself down. That should solve the problem. (Heh, and they say violence isn’t the answer.)

  3. I love how you see the “now” is not much different from your marriage. I’ve seen that in myself with Dustin as well. It is such an eye opener but it makes you want to work harder at becoming better. I also think it does make divorce easier, although technically, isn’t that what we went through the latter part of our marriage? The hard divorce part, we just wore ourselves down enough for the real divorce to be amicable.
    Sounds like you are doing well though my friend! Progress:)

  4. That’s an amazing revelation– that your divorced life is not much different than your married one, and what it says about both states. Very interesting insight.

  5. I concur with IntrigueMe. I will virtually bitch slap you for too many self-deprecating comments…you, my friend, are your own worst enemy in some cases (as we all are). You should see you as we all see you, a loving, devoted father, a ‘work in progress’ like the rest of us and a gem to the special someone that will deserve you and recognize you for who you are, not who you aren’t.

  6. Funny, as I was reading about your dinner with your old friend, I thought of that Plato quote. Great minds, eh.

    I like seeing you dust yourself off and keep on growing. We’re ALL doing it. ALL the time.

    Good stuff. Thanks for keeping us up with things.

  7. You know what everyone keeps telling me. “Be gentle with yourself.” It’s annoying because it’s true.

  8. I’m really glad you’re finding comfort in the blog world. It is a super supportive place full of great advice and some morons… but mostly good peeps. I enjoyed this post as much as one can based on this topic.

  9. What you may not realize is that the biggest turn on to most women is a BRAIN. In that regard, you have most men beat! Please never forget that.

    Second thing I hope you will remember is that feeling good about yourself, mentally, will produce the “automatic” behavior that creates the physical improvements you desire.
    In other words, walk around telling yourself what a hottie you are and pretty soon, other people will be telling you that…because it will be true. If you were in great shape, for example, you would do things that you’re not doing now, and you would NOT do things that you probably are doing now. And you certainly would not be making disparaging comments about yourself.

    It’s all in the mind…and yours is well equipped for the job, my friend!

  10. This was a good post (as always), and full of good news. If she is your HS friend don’t be afraid to be yourself with her, or show your “adult” self.

    A friend of mine from HS (outside US) and I finally had a chance to chat online a few weeks back. She sent me an email afterward expressing how she was so glad I was still the “same”. I “was right about you” she said. You (we) were special. We have not seen each other in 20+ years, and although attracted we never dated.

    During our chats, She shared everything she felt and thought of us back then[the opposite of what she showed me then]. I was too naive, too innocent, afraid of what could happen between us she said…and “I knew you were going to live abroad”.

    She was very conservative and religious back in HS [which was the “issue”]. She is now divorced with three adult kids [She did the traditional thing and married early]

    Continue to befriend this classmate of yours, it is one of the few people that can help you take stock of how much you’ve grown as a human being, for better or for worse. Be yourself. I bet she is itching to do the same.

    As for the realization of your married / divorced life being the same, it is only confirmation that you’ve made the right decision. Congratulations.

  11. Glad to see that you and Penny are able to be flexible with the custody schedule – it’ll happen lots and the better able the two of you can handle it, the better off your kids will be.

    mmm … the comment about being pretty much the same as being married struck a chord. I hadn’t thought of my situation that way before but it’s a good way to put it.

  12. I love that quote. I think so many people fail to remember that. I actually have a long drawn out post written and unpublished about the exact same thing. We all have battles no matter how perfect our lives look to the outside observer.

  13. I’ve never heard that quote before and love it. I’ve written it down and will carry it with me.

  14. I share your pain about the software. I used to build custom PCs for people, and had one client who cost me seven weeks to work out a problem with a vendor’s software. All for $400! It wasn’t too much longer after that PC prices dropped so low I couldn’t compete anymore.

    Biking: He sounds like a normal kid, Dad! You’re only being a parent worrying about his skills while he’s developing them. You’re doing well to sit back and watch the show, for these are the memories you’ll remember later when he’s grown.

    Old Friends: You had a dinosaur also? We had to eat ours! But seriously, a little self-deprecation isn’t itself a bad thing. And at least with this woman you have a bit of a past so that you aren’t total strangers. She thus has that to gauge your deprecation against rather than maybe mistake it for your real self. You emailed her, so if she emails you back things went well. If not, what have you lost? You at least have a clue what to do -and not to do- next time!

    The ‘nother friend: Imagine for a moment what things would have been like if this friend had made this observation a few years ago. Would you have become defensive over his realizing the truth? You weren’t there yourself yet, and maybe you wouldn’t have wanted to be there. I know of long-term friendships that ended badly due to a friend attempting to expose the truth, or doing so inadvertently. It’s one reason why we all need friends. to provide that objective and emotionless social feedback that modern society does its best to quell. Few of us have more than acquaintances, and for them to reveal the truth like that would be rude and intrusive, for their would not have earned the necessary level of trust to do so. There is also a right time to do so, and you already being divorced may have seemed like the green light to say something which you may well have taken badly.

    How did you feel when this was said? You don’t say, and what you do say is very logical and clinical. What did you FEEL? It might make a good follow-up to this post. It might also help you to sort out a few things.

    I am shocked that you have discovered bad marriages cause divorce! Who could have guessed? But seriously, one’s self-confidence will take a hit with anything that doesn’t go well, even professional setbacks as you cite at the beginning of this post. You certainly will survive all these troubles, and you won’t let yourself get so deeply into future ones that you again lose yourself. It’s other’s troubles that are your weakness.

    Penny is getting herself into just such a situation, and she will turn to you first for rescue. The time for planning your response to this expectation is now. If it wasn’t for your sons, I’d suggest being hard and let her learn a difficult life lesson on her own. But your sons are a part of the equation, and a good parent will see to it that a co-parent doesn’t fail completely since it will affect offspring. Deciding what you are and are not willing to do to help is something you will have to think about in your spare time. the time for knowing these things will come all too soon. I’m sure you will rise to the challenge as you always have.

    Funny that you have so many offers of virtual bitch-slapping! You’re going to be very virtually sore if you slip up! (You won’t!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: