The Obstacle Is The Path

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“Sometimes our walls exist just to see who has the strength to knock them down.” – Darnell Lamont Walker

Every night this week, except one, I have tossed and turned to the point that I had to get up, and when I wandered into the kitchen to check the time it was consistently 1:20 am.  I never got back to sleep.

String a week of sleepless nights like that together and you’re not operating from a place of rationality by about Day Three.

So it was no surprise to me that my husband and I got into a huge fight last night, the night before he arrives for a two week visit.

Here’s the thing with patterns and people – sometimes you can’t break them.  They will persist in aggravating you to the point of despair.  You want to heal the problem and the cycle, but it’s as if there is a force within your dynamic that insists you act like this, and you both keep playing that role even though you’d both like to stop.

It started with him waking me from an afternoon nap to tell me that he had just encountered a frustrating situation that made him lose his temper in a big display.

Maybe I was dreaming of him, but something about the moment catapulted me back in time to when he lived here with us and he’d call me from the road or the jobsite with that same story.

It felt like nothing had changed, there was no divorce, and he was calling me for support.  I told him I was sorry that he had a bad experience, but that I had to laugh because his reaction to the situation was…so Him.

Unfortunately we segued into a discussion about the children.  He had thrown them out of the Clan in a video game they play together.

That is when I pointed out that the kids are already feeling abandoned by their Dad, who lives in another country, and exacerbating it by mirroring that experience in the video game, to teach a lesson, was not going to win over little hearts and minds and to me felt simply cruel.

We moved on to why he rarely Skyped with them anymore and, long story short, it brought up him not listening to me at all but, in typical contradiction, stating that he was “following my rules.”  He said it had to do with his girlfriend, and me not wanting our children to have anything to do with his girlfriend.  He had moved in with her and given up his room at the hotel, but had neglected to tell me that because he didn’t want to hear my reaction.  Somehow his not calling the kids was my fault.

Since I am the one who lives with the kids and I know how hard they take not hearing from their Dad, this made me absolutely wild.

Hence the argument.

He always has what sounds like a rational reason for his actions or non-actions.  For twenty years I accepted blame or reeled around in a sense that something was off, that I shouldn’t accept what was being handed to me or placed in my lap.  Now, with time and distance, I can see the pattern.

The In-Between Or, The Negotiation

He called me early this morning to apologize, and it again gave me the opportunity to observe that I always get very upset after these encounters but since they happen so rarely anymore I’d forgotten that generally an apology does follow and in that moment, it’s as if the slate gets wiped clean and all is forgiven.  Until the next time.

Immovable force meets mutable force.  He shoves, I wobble.

The part of me that wants Peace above all just cannot get it anymore…unless I change.

I have to stand my ground and remind him of the goals – the happiness of the kids and our continued path toward figuring out who and what we are to each other anymore, for their sake if not for our own.

Call it what you will, but sometimes our best conversations where we really connect, laugh, and relate are the worst ones for me because I remember a person exists who knows me inside and out and that I have lost him.  We are no longer a family.

It’s confused by the fact that we act like a family when he is here.  We cooperate and get things done.  Everything is exactly as it used to be.

He could come for a visit and take the kids away to a hotel, and maybe someday he will.  When he’s remarried, I suppose it is inevitable.

For now, we do everything together. That makes it harder on the kids when he goes, because Mom and Dad don’t act angry with each other, they do exactly what they always did, they cooperate, they help each other, and it doesn’t look like divorce to them or anyone else.

Maybe that means we are both in some level of denial.  Maybe it means that instead of hitting each other over the head with a brick, we are gradually moving on in stages.

I do know that I am not ready to see him with his girlfriend.  I’d rather he’d chosen someone else instead of the one who played a huge role in the divorce.

That’s what makes it so hard for me to say yes to visiting over the summer for my son’s 12th birthday.

I don’t want to go two months without seeing my kids, but apart from the very real practical issues like me simply needing to save my days off for when they are sick or the myriad of school breaks when there is no longer anyone else to cover, I just don’t want to have to look at my husband with the girlfriend.

I’m afraid of being overly upset.  I’m afraid of being unable to stop myself from retaliating and telling her the truth.  I’m afraid of losing control and potentially ruining their relationship on the spot.

I’d like to think that a day will come when these things won’t bother me.  It’s entirely possible that I could see them together right now and find that it doesn’t bother me much or at all.  I just don’t know.

Lately I’m finding that I surprise myself.  I expect to do certain things and feel certain ways, but I don’t.  It’s like a friend said to me yesterday, our systems don’t lie.  Do we know when we are lying to ourselves?

Someone said to me, a woman once told him that you never really know someone until you sleep with them.

I laughed, because I’ve been sleeping with my husband for twenty years, and he still surprises me all the time.  I’m not so sure we ever really know ourselves, let alone someone else.  We lie to ourselves sometimes, we obfuscate, we use subterfuge and then we surprise ourselves by the things we say and do, as a result.

We like to think that we tell ourselves the truth, but there is no one subjective truth.  There’s the way I see it, through my perspective, filter, and lens, and the way the other person saw it, through theirs…but we both had the same experience.  We were both there, same place and same time.

Now the big decisions get made.  Please pray for me that I make the right ones – ones I can live with, and decisions that serve the greater good of all involved.

“The obstacle can either be a boundary or a horizon.

It can either be something we run from or something we learn from.

It’s our choice which.

It can either be something that trumps us or something we figure out how to trump.

And even if it does happen to trump us, making the obstacle the path means learning from mistakes, adapting to unfortunate circumstances, and transforming setbacks into steppingstones.”

– Fractal Enightenment

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  1. Mary Stephenson says:

    Hi Julie

    My heart goes out to you.
    It seems you have changed but ex has not, he obviously feels he can manipulate you as usual. It will be hard to undo that strength and force that has been going on for all those years. Probably it is time you decide by what rules you are going to play by and set the boundaries. If he really cares about his kids he will abide by what you decide, after all he is the one that up and left. The other question might be, did he have those intentions from the beginning when he first left, was he not coming back. It seems as he made a lot of decisions without you and I know what it feels like to be manipulated…somewhere you lose yourself. It takes awhile to stand alone or as in my case stand up to. The respect will happen if you demand it, but it can be an ongoing battle until they can see it from your point of view.
    Good luck and will be thinking about you…be strong.


    • Hi Mary, Thank you for the thoughts. He is not a bad guy – he will admit that he manipulates…but like all of us, he’d just like to get his way 🙂 I don’t think he consciously left planning to dump the family, it came about a little way in, when he got very sick with something that would throw anyone into a mid-life crisis, and just decided to go another way.

  2. Just an idea – Is there any possible way that you could stay somewhere (a friend or relative’s house) while he’s there visiting the kids? That way he cannot rely on you to be his listening ear when he feels the need to get something off his chest, risking the conversation could lead into arguments over personal things. Also, you would get some much needed time for yourself (all us mom’s need it), it wouldn’t confuse the kids as much (possibly), and he would have to be the full time parent…. :D. I know it’s all super hard, been there… I’ll be praying for you and wishing you blessings. <3

    • Hi Lorin, He is very good with the kids, in fact he is better at getting things done and teaching them things along the way. They come back from summers with him like they have been to boot camp. If he had to do “the whole nine yards” of raising them and all that it entails, well…he never had to do that because he had me. But he could, and maybe would even prefer it. I don’t think he wanted to take everything from me. He probably realized that for everyday schooling Mom was best, but they still need his influence. I like your idea and I am sure I will employ it one fine day!

  3. Hi Julie,
    I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. I honestly don’t know how I would handle it 🙁
    I think the beginning of wisdom is what you said in the beginning of the post–in the title– The obstacle is the path. Nasty and inconvenient but true.
    Lori Gosselin recently posted..Community Building Starts With This Crucial FactorMy Profile

  4. First thanks for sharing what you can bits of it will catch and resonate with many readers (probably even more who aren’t commenting but taking away lessons) that’s karmic payola for what it’s worth. Also, considering the situation you are handling it with aplomb. Singlehandedly raising the kids while he was away and now continuing to hold your kids’ lives together is no mean feat. Take a moment to remember how bad ass that is. Also, it’s raw now. With time those edges will get less sharp and painful. And the kids will remember a mother who is there for them regardless of what’s happening and you will reap the rewards of that when they are grown and still want to be close and involved in your life not just out of obligation to check in but because you were there for them when it counted.

    For me, when things get ridiculous and patterns of annoying and hurtful behavior emerge (or hit me on the head!) I remind myself this is probably as it was supposed to be’; all involved are fulfilling their soul contracts and yes, even ignoring logic to do some sh$t the hard way because apparently SOME SOULS ROLL LIKE THAT. ha. Ditto for your soon to be ex husband and his gf; their contract who knows what the deal is but it’s unfolding and if his immaturity or shortsightedness grates now he’s doing what he needs to learn. Ahem- whatever lesson that might be.

    Sending hugs and good juju and yes, most definitely keeping you and your kids in my thoughts. You are admired for your honesty and strenght and YES, your sense of humor about it all as well.

    (excuse typos rushing to get ready for work)

    • Anony, That was a beautiful comment and it made me smile when I read it the day you posted it. I hope my kids grow up and feel that way about me.

      As far as the soul contract part, I have felt that since the beginning. I was told that I couldn’t go with him, where he was going…and vice versa. It’s funny to think that my husband has a soul contract with another woman, but of course that must be true too, if any of it is, right? And the funnier part is to think…if we really do make soul agreements in the ether before we arrive here, then it’s possible I know her on a soul level and she and I agreed to this, in addition to the two of them agreeing to it.

  5. P.S.
    What Anony said above! 👍 😇 ❤

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