Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Wait, something must be askew here! Another post within hours of my last post? After months and months of nothing from me? What gives?

In a word, Inspiration!

I just finished reading all of the posts in my sister-in-law's blog. Well that's what she used to be, but I guess now that I'm no longer married to her husband's sister, she's not an in-law anymore. But she is still special to me. Actually, both she and her husband, my former brother-in-law, are very special to me, and I admire them greatly.

While there are many reasons for my admiration, the primary reason is for how they are raising their two children. Their examples as parents is exemplary and I admire them because I know how difficult being a parent is. Frankly, I was not very good at being a dad. I don't mean to give the impression that reading the blog tonight made me realize that fact. To the contrary, I already knew that I was not that great of a father, and I am ashamed at having been only fractionally as good a parent to my two kids as they are to their amazing two children. 

No, reading the blog helped me realize that I have actually been doing a much better job at being a father of late, especially to my daughter, and that made me feel good.

Anyway, the blog very beautifully relates many milestones in my niece and nephew's lives through anecdotes and stories told in a warm and loving style that warms the heart and cheers the soul. It was like I was there visiting for a while! I was surprised at how much I miss them all and, frankly astonished at how much the two kids have grown!

I was compelled to write.

So these folks who I have known for so long, who are no longer related to me but are so important to me and who I still consider family - What do I call them? I think Brother and Sister will do. (I hope they agree!)

My parents didn't have a daughter, so in many ways Happy Blogger, you have been like the sister I never had - So thank you, Sister, for sharing your thoughts and stories for they reminded me of how special your family is, especially your two precious little ones. 
And thank you, Happy Blogger's Husband, Brother, for setting such a great example for all the fathers out there; For being a much better father to your children than your father was to you. The world would be a much better place if all fathers followed in even a few of your formidable footsteps.
And thank you Niece and Nephew for being a most excellent example of the potential that the next generation has to offer. I hope we who have come before you haven't totally messed it up before you get a chance at the world.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Moving forward, looking back

Blogger's note: This post has taken several months to write with countless starts, stops, edits and revisions. You'll probably understand why it was so difficult once you read it. Even though I feel that it is not as cohesive as I'd like, it's going to be posted as is.  So bear with me if you find it difficult to read.

There are many things to think about and an ocean of extreme emotions to deal with when one is preparing to be "single again", and without a doubt each persons experience is unique to them. For me, there were two very distinct and competing emotions with which to deal with.

Fortunately, early on, I was actually pretty excited about living on my own. After 23 years of living with someone who really wasn't fully invested in my emotional well being, and indeed in the later years actually tended to suck much of the life out of life for me, the prospect of being rid of that burden was extremely attractive. I would be able to pass my time doing what I loved to do but had given up for one reason or another over the years - bicycling, watching movies, playing video games, reading and ... well, you get the idea. Before any of that could occur though, I would have to find a place to live.

I started looking at apartments and soon noticed that there were a handful of places along the same street as my daughter's school. I called a couple of the posted numbers and lined up a couple showings. Now my daughter's school is also my Alma mater, and is located in my old neighborhood. When I made arrangements with one landlord she immediately recognized my name - she had known my mother and we soon worked out that her daughter and I were classmates! Small world story, yes, but their apartment was the best one available in the area, the price was right, and my daughter would be able to get herself to and from school as it was literally right across the street. I found it comforting to live in my old neighborhood and be renting from people that new my mother and who would occasionally stop by and chat about how things were when she was alive.

It was soon after securing my apartment that I stumbled upon another very unexpected source of excitement and distraction - shopping! I hadn't expected it at all, and actually had assumed I would hate having to do it. But I found I really enjoyed picking out new things for my new place. Perhaps it was the spending of a bunch of money, knowing that my soon to be Ex was essentially paying for half of everything, or perhaps it was being totally free to get what I wanted without having to answer to anyone else. Whatever the reason, I got through many of what otherwise would surely have been very tough days by shopping. It's not like I was buying crazy stuff either - dishes, glasses, silverware, sheets, food - pretty normal stuff actually. But each purchase was mine to make and only had to please me. It helped me move closer to being me again.

Earlier I mentioned several pastimes that I was eager to get back into now that I would have the chance, but there was one in particular I was really anticipating:  Bicycling! Now that I think about it, having stopped in 1991 I had forgone it for the longest time. That was the year we had our house built and our son was born - As I recall, it just seemed like there wasn't enough time for riding anymore. Anyway, my new apartment was within a short ride of my favorite bike trail - another huge benefit of the place cause I would not have to pack up the bike and drive to a place I felt safe riding, being unsure how steady I would be in the cleats after almost twenty years - but as fate would have it I would have to wait even more to find out. I moved in January and since I am not a year round cyclist, biking would have to wait longer yet! So I found my old gear packed up in a box, got my old bike tuned up, and bought a new helmet. Everything was made ready for the spring and I couldn't wait!

On my first ride, everything was perfect! The weather was beautiful - just a little bit on the cool side, but sunny with no wind. My bike was tuned up, the tires were at full pressure and all my gear was ready to go. Eagerly I donned the full bike garb and stepped into the cleats - I was off! Oh, I was a little unsteady at first, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my confidence grew. Soon I was cruising down the trail, reveling in the sense of freedom and enjoying the weather just like I remembered from so long ago. But as is often the case, reality quickly proved to be much different than the expectation. It had been a loooong time since I had last been on a bike, and even longer since I had set out on the bike trail. My enjoyment had turned to pain! My legs hurt, my arms hurt, my neck hurt, and I was sucking wind like one might high in the mountains. It about killed me, and I don't mean in the physical sense but more in the emotional sense. I was devastated. I was sure this activity would be my salvation but the awful reality of the moment was that I was hating every crank of the pedals, and cursed every gentle slope.  Like an idiot I pressed onward as I always went the end of the trail before turning back.  Of course the trail had gotten longer in the intervening years, but that didn't matter at the time, I had set out to make it, and I was determined to do it.

By the time I had turned around and headed back, every sort of rider, from the youngest to the oldest were blowing by me like I was standing still... and I had to stop several times to stretch, catch my breath and get a drink... not at all like what I imagined. But the worst was looming at the very end of my ride: The last mile - the mile from the trail to my place - was up a very steep, relentlessly long hill...

I walked it.

That night I was in tears. I was disappointed, I had embarrassed myself, I hurt, and I was alone...I hated my favorite pastime. I swore I would never do it again.

But I realized the day after that first ride, even though my sore muscles wouldn't let me forget the ordeal they had endured, that I was not a quitter. This was not going to turn out to be just another bad thing that was happening to me. This was a challenge, sure, but one that I could overcome. It was something that I could do to work out the frustrations of dealing with divorce in a constructive manner. Something that would improve my health, raise my spirits, and occupy my time.  

Somehow I forced myself to go out again. Then again.

And steadily I got better.

I got better at riding - improving my speed and endurance - but even more importantly, got better emotionally as well. And that is no small thing.

Bicycling saved me.

And I mean that more literally than perhaps is comfortable to admit. Remember that other emotion I alluded to way up at the top of this post? The excitement of being single again very, very often let down directly into a deep, soul crushing depression the likes of which I never could have imagined.

It nearly killed me.

And not in the figurative sense like overdoing a bike ride nearly killed me. This was more sinister, and really could have resulted in my early demise...

One day I came home from work totally spent. It had been a difficult day - work was frustrating and I was depressed about it because I had no one to talk to about it. So I got depressed about why I had no one to talk to, and that depressed me more, and there was no one to talk to about that either and... well, that's the vicious death spiral of depression.

So I arrived at my apartment, pulled into the garage, closed the door, leaned my head back in my seat and let out a huge sigh. It was a moment of resignation, of giving up trying to deal with everything, of succumbing to the weighty burdens that had overwhelmed me. It was a moment of realization that I had somehow made it through the roughest day thus far, but I was still faced with a long evening alone with my thoughts. I took a deep breath and as I let it slowly out again, I sort of shut down. My eyes closed....

I have no memories of what I thought about or even how long I was there, but there I was, in a closed garage, sitting in my car

...with the engine running...

What is that sound? What do I smell?


I was furious! What the hell was I doing!

I turned off the car and got out of that garage as fast as I could. Once inside I got a drink of cold water and calmed my nerves. Then I grinned! I think I laughed a little actually - cause I knew then and there that I was not about to give up on myself. I had to much to look forward to! And one of those things was riding. I quickly changed into my riding gear and set off on one of the best rides ever. I had reserves of strength and endurance that made me feel 20 again! I worked out my frustrations, leaving everything on the trail.

I arrived back home totally spent, but totally content as well. I understood then that, because I had been going through a tough stretch at work I had not bothered to go out riding in the past couple weeks. That meant that I was missing out on the benefits of exercise, one of which is elevating the mood.

That was the ride of my life. And not because I made it up that hill at the end in record time, (I really did!) But because I knew that, just like taking up biking again, I could work through being divorced - I would survive.

Biking saved me.