anniversaries

Blessed and fortunate: I'm a man!

My first blog post was a short one, and included this: 

my 40th birthday will not be spent in the same way any other (of mine) has been. It won’t even be spent in the same hemisphere.

One way ticket. New priorities.

Boy it looks profound in those big italics, doesn't it? [no]

Back then I was looking at 40. Now I'm seeing it inside parallax just before it hits me in the nose.

my occupational hazard being my occupation's just not around

And I say "back then" because even though I posted that just 10 months ago, my life has gone down a completely new path--yet again. I traded the stability of golden handcuffs to bet on myself, I waved goodbye to a relationship that breathed like oxygen but ultimately sustained like cyanide, and I learned how much I love and miss my family and a handful of dear friends.

I also set out on a truly once in my lifetime experience, to see parts of the world I'd only dreamed of. In the 5 months since I left, I've seen stunning natural beauty in Cambodia and Chiang Mai and Vang Vieng; breathtaking works of manmade art in Bangkok and Chiang Rai and Vientiane. I've also seen man's inhumanity to man in Kanchanaburi and Saigon.

I got soaked with strangers during Songkran, knew joy with old friends and family over coffee and beer, and made new friends and relationships I'll forever treasure.

And I have written, because that's what, above all, I came here to do. 

 

On my 25th birthday I was working in the coolest job ever with the coolest people ever. I thought I'd found my path. But I also wanted love, and I'd reconnected with the woman I was supposed to be with. Three months later I would move to Washington, D.C., and we would forge a new path together.

On my 30th birthday I was in a job I hated, but using it as a stepping stone on the new path for more. The woman and I had been through a lot together (and at times apart), but we had made it through. We were on the same path. And I was starting to taste a bit of the good life she promised--we were even making plans for my first trip outside the U.S.

On my 35th birthday I was a freshly minted MBA, stressed out in a lucrative job with a massive learning curve, but excited for the challenge. I was newly hitched to that woman: we'd been through so much, and now all the hard work and stress and struggling was paying off. We'd had a lovely wedding and honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, sparing no expense. Living the dream that we had built. We'd built me into something more than I ever could've imagined. I even thought I was happy.

On my 39th birthday, that path was gone. The job had become even more lucrative, but it led down a path I wasn't willing to walk much longer. I'd survived a divorce, and was in a beautiful, intense entanglement with a Girl who happened to have a boyfriend. I'd given The Ultimatum, trying to convert myself from ho to housewife (so to speak).

I didn't act right

And it was around that 39th birthday that I realized this new path I'd imagined, walking hand in happy hand with this new Girl while figuring out the next stop in my six-figure professional tour was destined to be like those before--not a dead end, per se, but one from which I would have to turn in order to continue my journey.

I don't regret any of these twists or detours or dead ends, just as I don't regret my childhood plans for being a pro baseball player or POTUS not panning out, nor when at age 14 the first girl I really fell for LYLAB'ed me, or when at age 18 my first real girlfriend cheated on me with my then-best friend and his girlfriend ("Dear Penthouse Forum, you'll never believe how I got cuckolded").

Far from regret, I am thankful for all of them. Because without the love, the loss, the opportunities, the rejections, the false promises, and my own personal failings and "mistakes", I wouldn't be right here, right now--exactly where I am supposed to be. Doing exactly what I am supposed to be: writing and traveling.

Now I know what happy is. Because I Am Happy.

 

Rudyard Kipling wrote a lot about what it takes to be a man. His words, along with a few others, helped sustain me during my divorce. In leaving everything behind on this Next Episode of my journey, I drew on those words and inspiration from sources diverse as fuckable friends and Stewie Griffin and the Rocky movies.

 

And now, as the days between me and four decades on earth reduce to single digits, this path that I have walked has led me, not only to deep gratitude and appreciation for all I have become, but to a sincere understanding of what the great philosopher-king Gundy the First said:

One year ago

I'd just returned from Paris: my second European business trip, my second transatlantic fight with Girl. But this one felt different: I felt 99.44% over her now.  When it was Brussels I'd said Those Three Words three weeks before and she had not, one of several reasons tensions further strained while I was away. So when her texts were distant I called her that girl who signs your yearbook 'Have a great summer!' and she called me the person who could hurt her more than anyone.

But that was then and this was a year later, couple months more than. So this time when she inflamed my texts ran cold. She asked to meet and I insisted on a public place.

In a bar near my Happy Meal McMansion we sat diametric at a circular booth. After drinks arrived she said, like only she could, "I guess I've known for a while that I love-d you."

And my head spun.

One year later she would be engaged and I'd have a REALTOR(tm)-brand listing agent. But we had a good chat today.

One year ago

My d-i-v-o-r-c-e became final one year ago today. I use passive voice here not just to echo Ms. Wynette but because the actual event was an anti-climax. After exceeding the one year minimum for parties to be separately domiciled and developing an "optional but highly recommended" Mediation Agreement.

Not the first time she came complaining.

Not the first time she came complaining.

Then came the Complaint in language boilerplate enough to be downloaded. Then the Motion for Summary Judgment and then the judge, having verified the court's determination of no genuine issue of material fact remaining, granted the mutually agreed Absolute Divorce.

Documentary proof I suck at future-predicting

Documentary proof I suck at future-predicting

Doing things amicably was right--spend a little save a lot nobody wins but nobody should, not financially. I still believe in the power of penance. By the time we reached the paper trail's end our raw edges had sanded down. We'd learned to be civil and even playful.

"I can't imagine wanting to divorce someone more than you."

"Aww! I feel the same way!"

It sounds like a Ben Folds Mashup:

We lived together as husband and wife for two years and three-ish months. She moved out that long ago and more. And obscured by all the reasoned, detached, measured words was a crushing load of conflict anger and guilt that caused (and was further created by) the wreckage I created. Because the end result had to be better.

She's remarried now, I think. Haven't seen her since the day before our Absolute Divorce was decreed. One of her early worries--one she repeated that last Sunday--was that I would erase her from my life. I assured her otherwise, and added I was looking forward to it being finalized, so she could be around me if she wanted to, not due to legal requirements or because she still had stuff in my house.

One year ago

One year ago the excellent literary journal Gravel published The Shooting Star and the Fatal Funnel, a flash fiction piece that housed some thoughts on race and police.

Putting aside politics (best left to others), I think of a dear friend who, after another black man was shot by a peace officer, said "if they kill me don’t let the media make me a thug."

It haunts.

I thought what we always think: that'll never happen. My friend is smart and caring and law-abiding. Works a good job, lives in a good community. But some of those qualities were true of blue bullet recipients. All of them in at least one.

So his fear is reasonable. And there’s nothing reasonable about that.

There’s a lot of fear out there today. Blacks are scared of cops. Cops are scared of blacks. Whites are scared of blacks. Some whites are scared of blacks, browns of many forms, and pinks. Other whites are scared of those whites.

So long as we lack understanding for one another, or at least basic tolerance, these fears will spray more blood under streetlight and none will know peace.