Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Gap

Me: Alright kids. Tonight there's going to be something fantastic. Let me give you a hint. It starts with "p" and ends with "orn."
Evelyn: (blank face)
Owen: Ha ha you said pee.
Me: That's right kids - popcorn.

"Mmmm salty..."

Quite often I have this moment where I want to describe something about growing up in England to my kids, but it's actually quite inappropriate at the same time. For example watching the footy and having the impulse to tell them that yes the crowd are singing, "the referee's a wanker." Or when having my son help me look at stuff to make for lunches while I'm at work and him asking me what I'd do for lunch when I lived in England. And instantly remembering how I'd pop out of the office across to the pub across the street. Which in the US sounds mental. And while perfectly innocent and normal would sound deeply odd if my son mentioned it out loud in school here.

My son then asked me, "so you lived in England until Mommy was in charge of you?" Interesting analysis there. Then he quickly thought to himself and said, "she's in charge of someone else now." Quite. At which point my son said that when he's older he'd like to marry someone from England. I asked him why and he said he doesn't like the way his teacher sounds. And that he does like the way my friend does on the phone. Which is somewhat fair enough. Except his teacher is Vietnamese. Of course being five meant his brain rocketed off to an entirely different tangent and he enthusiastically asked me, "remember when that fly went in your ear and it tried to eat your brain daddy?" Which tweaked his sister's attention and she offered, "yeah and it stole all your information." Then she randomly veered onto a joke I made eight months ago that I moved to the desert not just for them. But because I can't swim that the desert seemed like a good place to be - and now ironically everyone spends five months out of the year living in a swimming pool.

And then something very odd happened. My daughter made the face and body language of someone with something on their mind. And she asked me if I would ever get married again. I told her maybe. Didn't give her any details or anything like that. But told her I'd very much like to. Then she told me she didn't want me to be lonely. It's moments like that when you aren't sure whether to explain a complex situation. About how when I was married I was extremely lonely. Or that I'm not now, most of the time. And that sometimes you can be with someone in some capacity not even doing anything and it fills up your whole soul. The nuance of the two situations is not easy to explain. Still it's a bit odd to have an eight year old say they're concerned you might be lonely. So I had to do that thing where you quickly decide as a parent whether this is something you need to sit down and have a ten minute talk about it. Or breezily chat so that the situation seems easy and not a big deal. I opted for the second because you can easily transition from that into the first.

After asking her why she told me her mother has been talking about getting remarried. So I told her that sounded like a good idea. That her mother seems pretty happy and her boyfriend seems like a really good guy. And that they've been together for a few years so why not. Then I left it hang there while she figured out her thoughts. And she said out of the blue, "I don't really like living here." She went on to say she really likes my new apartment. And that she can tell where she is relative to her school and friends at this place. That she likes her school very much. And being able to swim. But that Arizona is too hot. That she can't do anything because it's so hot it makes you tired. I asked her in the lightest way possible if she actually was worried about me being lonely or if it was something else. And she said no, she was just sad sometimes that Arizona is too hot and she doesn't like it. Because it means she doesn't get to go see anyone or do certain things. And that makes her feel lonely sometimes. So surely I feel lonely too.

It's very interesting to me that people have intense emotional feelings that seem to be rooted in something. But without really analyzing it it's sort of missed that it's rooted somewhere else entirely. And therefore you can't really understand or fix the issue. So here was my daughter asking me an emotional question about how I feel. When what she really meant was she was holding a feeling of her own she didn't really know how to fix. I talk a lot about how in the midst of my own divorce that I realized I held a lot of conclusions to things without really looking to see if I was actually answering the actual questions. And then had a small epiphany that revealed that I absolutely was not. Coincidentally after my kids left New York I went to chat with a counselor. And they underlined that perfectly. That most people keep repeating themselves and feeling a sense of emptiness or unhappiness about an issue. Just hoping it'll change. A lingering frustration that things aren't feeling right, or better. And it's because they haven't really looked at the actual question they've been asking themselves and determined it's the wrong question to ask. It's the wrong starting point. And that you need to address that. And until you do honestly you can't resolve so many things beyond that point.

The irony of my own situation was I went to school specifically to learn about what defines men and women and how that's presented in culture. But more so how there's a gap between what people identify themselves as and how that is acted upon or shown. Specifically that the bedrock of relationships is that everyone is seeking true intimacy. Not sex. That's a common error. Not a partner to share a lifetime with. That's what a lot of people end up doing. While shared experience is valuable it's not something that makes you feel whole. The fundamental thing that people crave is an actual shared intimacy. The knowing that there is an openness that is nurtured by an other person. That they take genuine pleasure in what makes you happy - whatever that is. Simply - that they love you for who you actually are. In all the ways that you innately feel happiness from.

I say this a lot too. You own your own sense of happiness. You decide if you're happy. You decide if you're attractive. You own you. But when you enter into a relationship the contract you essentially enter into is to let someone into your heart and soul and allow them to impact it in lots of different ways. And that there is a responsibility then not to abuse that. But that what so many people confuse is that it's hurtful to not take up that offer when it's offered. And that creates a giant, gaping hole. People attempt to fill that gaping hole with all kinds of things. But the hole is still there and they can't figure out why it feels like something is just wrong. Not letting someone in is at least a choice. The other person not even wanting to come in and share is infinitely more painful. I knew that's what my marriage was from very early on. And yet we kept avoiding that. Papering over the hole with moving house. With kids. With stuff. One of us closed off. The other not even interested in the first place. Doomed to failure is how people might read that. And that's sort of wrong. Not supposed to succeed in the first place might be more apt.

My son is five. He gets upset, mad, confused and sad about things - and then forgets why. But he still feels those things lingering afterwards. Hence why after he moved 2000 miles away and then I arrived that he carried around a fear that his dad might move away again. My daughter is eight. And she spent part of today expressing concern that I might be lonely because sometimes she feels that way. And my ex wife and I spent just under fifteen years feeling emotions that we couldn't/wouldn't fix because we didn't want to address the actual causes in the first place.

So today - even though it's currently 104 degrees - I'm whisking the kids off to wander around a pet store. Get out and about and do things. Then later my daughter has a pool party. During which my son and I will pop off home and hang out together while she eats pizza and shows people the dance to Watch Me Whip that she's been doing constantly for three days. And I'll attempt to show my son the footy highlights and see if he doesn't get instantly bored by them. Maybe I'll let him put on an old England shirt that's so big it looks like a 19th century nightgown. That might persuade him. Although like me he seems quite happy to plow through Pinterest and Etsy and window shop. And eat some popcorn even though I'm not a fan.

Seems like a decent Sunday afternoon.

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