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Hard time falling asleep

posted at 12:01 pm
on May. 14, 2002

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I have a hard time falling asleep often.

Sometimes I have no idea the cause of my sleeplessness.

Other times, I know why, but that doesn’t help.

Lately, I know why.

The reason is the same reason that I’m writing this boring introduction to this journal entry.  It’s the same reason that I haven’t been writing as many journal entries lately, because there’s something I don’t want to write about that’s taking up a large portion of my mind share.

And when you’re trying hard not to write about one thing, it becomes much harder to write about another thing.  Like isometric exercises where you stand in a doorway and try to lift your arms, you end up feeling very tired but other folks don’t notice much in the way of progress.

Can I be any more obtuse?  Probably not.  Can I stall any longer? Probably not.

Fuck it, here goes.

I’ve become a child of divorced parents.  Or to put it in the passive form.  My parents are getting divorced.

“Golly!” you say. ” In this day and age?! Well, that’s a unique tragedy.”

Yeah, OK, so it’s happened before and will happen again.  I bet that even if you limited the universe to “Smiths” there were probably hundreds of papers served yesterday from one spouse to another.

When did this happen?  On March 29,  my Mom told my Dad she’d filed the papers, and he went down to the lawyer to pick them up on his way out of town.

***

I asked my Mom why she’d told him on that day.  Was it an anniversary?  Had he finally done something to push her over the edge?  Was there some statute of limitations?

She said no, she didn’t really know why then.  Just that it couldn’t wait any longer.  She didn’t say it felt right.  She said she couldn’t get a quote out of her head, a quote that helped a lot.  The quote she told me is “Today is a good day to die.”  She thought it was from an old Western movie, but didn’t really know why it was stuck in her head.

I did some Internet digging, and discovered it was actually part of a longer quote from Crazy Horse, who was a Native American warrior who faced off against the American Cavalry led by General Custer at the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn in eastern Montana.  Little Big Horn was the one of the greatest American military disasters, and an infamous episode in the history of American imperialism and domination.

If you know my family, you know how appropriate this quote is—my father is from Montana, and lives there now.

The longer quote, though, is even more revealing.  The quote doesn’t describe a suicidal or psychotic Indian. Crazy Horse said, according to one translation,

“It is a good day to fight! It is a good day to die! Strong hearts, brave hearts to the front! Weak hearts and cowards to the rear!” - Crazy Horse, 25 June 1876

I think a lot of decisions in life are like that.  It’s not that you know the time is right—you just know the time is now.  This day is as likely to end badly as any other, and therefore, it’s as good a day to try your hardest as any.

When Crazy Horse got up that morning, he didn’t know if today was going to be his last, or if the day was going to be his tribe’s most memorable triumph.

***

I’m now in the difficult position of all children of divorce—trying to stay friends with everyone.  This is the third breakup of people I’m close to recently—two other couples that got married at the same time as Susie and I have split up.

One couple, we’re in the position of having to schedule at opposite social events.  The other couple, we’re not in the same city with, but there’s still the question of “whose friend are you?” especially when they start talking about the other person.

One thing that’s been really interesting is how our friends try to tell us about their new dates.  Like, asking if it would be OK to bring someone along on a vacation or a dinner.  As if Susie or I would somehow disapprove of “the new s.o.” and tusk tusk under our breaths.

I would just like to state categorically for the record that I am in favor of the happiness of my friends and my parents, and that if you have split up or will split up and are going to start frequenting the company of a new person who makes you happy, I fully support that.  What I don’t support is any actions intended to be cruel towards your previous partner (even if that makes you happy—gotta draw the line somewhere).  Other than that, I’m Mr. Easy-going.  Oh, also, don’t date losers and/or jerks.  But you know that already.

***

I think the reason I put off writing this journal for so long is that I have, frankly, so little to say, so little to add, so little that I understand about the whole process.  There’s no beginning and no end, no quick laughs, no keen insights.  I’m just a dung beetle cutting off a piece of the elephant dropping and doing my best to roll it into a ball.

I was telling a friend recently that the difference about being married is that when you run into a dispute or a problem, you start your attempts to solve it from a completely different place.  If you’re not married, you start it from “OK, we have two choices: work this out, or break up.”  If you’re married, you start it from “OK, how are we going to work this out?” Because you know you have to.

For individual problems, that logic holds up.  But it can also be a crutch, I think. YOu can say “Well, we’re married, so this one problem’s proper solution is not going to matter as much.” “Well, I could do something different, but hey, we’re still going to be married.” “Since we’re married, I bet I can get away with it this once…”—and over time, all the other reasons you can use to solve something can kind of shrivel and weaken, like a muscle in a cast.  But you’ve still got the cast there, holding everything together.

And sometimes the couple uses that cast to build up the relationship again and heal over time, like you do when a bone is broken or a trust is violated.  And other times, the relationship atrophies, and then one day, the cast is removed by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in the Judicial District of Calgary, and then all the strength in the relationship is gone and with nothing to bind it, there’s no civility, no respect, no energy.  And that’s why divorces get so nasty.  Because without the “bonds” of a marriage, it’s like the people involved have forgotten all the other reasons you might have for wanting to be nice to each other and the people around them.

It’s hard to work that underused and forgotten “friendship” muscle and that “fellow human” muscle and that “parent of my child” muscle because for so long you had wrapped that person in the “spouse” cocoon, and now they’ve emerged as something different.

***

California has this thing called a “no-fault” divorce.  They invented it.  It was signed into law in 1969 by then governor Ronald Reagan (himself divorced (by fault, I guess) in 1949). Since then, it has expanded to nearly every state and around the globe.

I think a “no-fault” divorce is a little like a “no-fault” pregnancy.  Sure, maybe there’s no abuse or insanity involved in a “no-fault” case, but I still can point to two people who are directly responsible, and who ought to take on some responsibility.  I guess no-fault should really be called “equal blame” but how many people would like to admit that in court?  “Yeah, I think we’re about equally bad—let’s call it quits.” Right.  In fact, how many people like to admit that they have done anything wrong in the first place?

***

For many years, growing up, I hung out with a close group of guy friends.  We were tight friends all through high school.  We still stay in touch.  We were in a Boy Scout Troop together, but the bond was deeper than even most high school friends.  We’d camp together, sometimes on long trips lasting a week or even a month.  We’ve been in each other’s wedding parties.

One thing that held the 10 of us together was that all of our parents were still together.  No one, not a single kid, had divorced parents.

It was always something that I was pretty proud of, that my parents managed to hold it together despite their differences.  Lately, I knew it was pretty bad between them (around them? outside of them?).  I eventually knew or saw or guessed that there was basically no reason (or at least no emotion) for them to stay together, but I felt a certain sense of pride in the simple fact of their marriage, and a certain comfort in being a family—I’m not close to any other relatives, so it’s just the 6 of us pretty much as far as the Smiths go; only now, it’s just 4 siblings, and a mom, and a dad, and we’re not likely to all be in the same room together for quite some time, if ever.

My parents were married for 35 years and 4 months.



 
 

 

Previous entry:
London Trip

Next entry:
The RTP (Road Trip Plan)

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