Seemingly Dichotomous Psychological Substates

For the first time in my adult life I find myself grateful to not be in a relationship. It has become apparent through her behaviour that my ex – who, the poor thing, suffered greatly through anxiety and general being-fucking-crazy – is trying desperately to reverse our roles. She got a job, shirking her responsibility as “primary caregiver” to our son (a title she has been beating me over the head with for years, despite him being in care for four days of the week) and for no good reason, as I left the money tap on full tilt. And while we’re talking about money, she is trying to take all of ours for herself. In fact, all my contributions to the family she is trying to claim or steal now. While she attempts to take my roles and contributions on, one by one, she is handing hers over to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no idiot – I’m taking them on consciously as it serves the highest good. My boy will get better care with me and be happier once he adjusts. I believe she is doing this because she is very lost, very jealous, very hurt and actually holds me in remarkably high regard. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. She also wants me to suffer, I believe. To walk in her shoes so that I can truly understand her pain.

The funny thing is that all these roles I’ve assumed that were apparently “so difficult” that I “don’t understand” are either so easy that I can do them in amongst my normal (normal! Ha!) life with zero disruption (even though I’m presently of no fixed address), or are joyous, or both: like playing zany instruments with my boy until he tells me sincerely “remember to love your heart daddy!” Or dancing hard with him to Head That I Hold by Electric Guest until everything fades but our ecstasy of movement and music and he beams at me and flings himself into my arms saying “you make me happy, daddy!” I’ve never witnessed it as clearly as I have in the last couple of months what a little mirror/sponge he is. He perfectly reflects back what he sees. And he sees very clearly.

Now the dichotomy. Despite “the dreaded ex” and this whole situation being so horrible that I feel like I never want a relationship again, there’s this deep heart ache and this trench-weary exhaustion. I’m so tired of being attacked, being under threat, I just want to rest and melt in some gentle, loving arms. To hold and be held. To give and receive the nonverbal message “everything is ok” that only a loving opposite can provide. But I can’t. And that is fucking hard.

RE: A letter to my son upon your parents’ decision to get a divorce.

Dear C,

As I write this, you’re three years old.  You have already demonstrated a sensitivity and intelligence far beyond anything I’ve seen in most adults, let alone other kids.  You are cheeky, irreverent, hilarious. I trust by the time you read this, over the years those of us who are raising you have augmented your natural attributes with an instilled sense of self-love, self-worth, a love of life and all things in it (good and bad), and protected and nurtured your inherent joy of simply being here. And you may not have realised, but you are being raised and taught by so many people – obvious and concealed – who love you just as much as your parents. Watching you grow into the beautiful man you are becoming has been the single greatest joy of my life.

For a few years prior to meeting your mother, I had been going through the difficult transformation from childhood to manhood.  A transformation I hope I am around to help you through when it is time. Many “men” never truly leave their childhood, never assume the awesome power and responsibility of wielding the flow of love inherent in manhood. When I first saw your mother, standing outside the pizza shop on Avenue Road in Mosman as I drove past and parked across the road, it was like she was backlit, glowing.  I hadn’t been in a great state of mind and thought to myself, tongue in cheek and smiling, “I don’t want to talk to this girl.”  Note that I already knew I was going to, and that she would be significant. I was thirty-two.  It was winter.  I was dressed in my worst clothes.  She was too, having cleaned her new apartment a few blocks down the road with your Grandma all day.

We started dating and found our relationship effortless.  Within a fortnight, we were inseparable.  Our love for each other was so easy. Within six months we were living together.  Within eighteen months we were engaged – asking your Poppy’s permission for her hand in marriage marked the only time I’ve ever seen him cry.  I proposed to her on the same spot that I had met her, outside the pizza shop again. A year later and we were married.  It was a perfect weekend – the ceremony by the water down near Spit Bridge on the Saturday and the reception with all our friends on the Sunday. Despite neither of us having seriously considered becoming parents, our love was so big, so overflowing, that it was unthinkable not to try for a baby.  We fell pregnant with you very quickly.

I have known for a while now that the quality of an outcome is based upon the purity of love and context of its initial intention. You were conceived in love, born of love, and have been loved ever since by everyone who has had the great good fortune to cross your path.  You are loved simply for being.  It is not now, nor will it ever be, conditional.

It is with a quiet desperation that a man assumes the awesome privilege of fatherhood. When you were born, I took you into the nurse’s station as you had gunk in your lungs and needed to be under supervision.  I sat with you quietly and cried as you looked up at me.  My first words to you were “Welcome back,” (because you have clearly been here before), and, “we’re going to have an amazing life together, you and I.  This world is a wonderful place.”  With a single glance, you ripped past the detritus that surrounds all human hearts and exposed mine so completely, opened it into a state of such perfect vulnerability I never knew was possible.  It is in this way that children expand and amplify the love in the world: you pin us down and force us to acknowledge the love that is in us all and binds us together.

During our first meeting, I made a solemn commitment to my own personal growth in order to be the best father I could.  We parents fuck up routinely, but development of ourselves affords us perspective to reframe past events and clear the obstacles between us and that perfect, unconditional love of our true nature.

As you no doubt know by now, there are many kinds of love.  It is clichéd, but clichés exist for a reason: people grow at different rates and as such can ultimately grow apart.  This is what happened with your mother and I.  I trust I will have told you this a million times by now, but I will repeat it here: this was not your fault.  We simply fell out of romantic love.  Since I met her and forever more, know that I love your mother deeply. Along the way, it stopped being the love that keeps a couple together when they cannot reconcile, cannot get on the same page, because they are too distant from one another.  Know that we fought long and hard to try to convince each other to change for what we believed was the better, to fit in the amorphous boxes we had designed for each other.  Know that it was in a state of exhaustion and compassion that we realised it was impossible and we decided to end the romantic component of our relationship.  It was not an easy decision.  It was not your fault.  It was NOT your fault.  We refused to let you grow up believing that dispassionate, pragmatic relationships were all you could expect.  We did the research, we weighed it up, we tuned in to you, we talked to experts, we fought ourselves and each other so hard to work out the best outcome for all of us.  At the moment of the final decision, there was relief and a relaxation into mutual respect and a redoubled commitment to our individual relationships with you.  We believe we have made the right choice, and I hope that you can see this also.

Know that you are the physical embodiment of everything good and all the love that your mother and I have in us.  We have both done and will continue to do our absolute best to protect you, nurture and encourage you.  Where we have let you fall, it has been with the goal of having you learn the vital skill of picking yourself up again.  Every move we have made has been with the intention of leading you to your own truth, training you into your own strength and letting you illuminate the world with your beautiful spirit.  And you are beautiful.  Beyond what I or anyone else could ever have dreamt up.

I will do my best to ensure that you foster self-love such that you generate your own peace and joy, and I want you to always remember that I love you completely. I hope that despite whatever may have happened between me writing this and you reading it, you have never felt otherwise.

With all the love that ever was and ever will be,
Dad