Archive for category Teenagers

My 2nd Divorce

Every young man loves his mother. I wanted very much to make her happy. But I learned two important lessons from the long process of leaving her.

Background
My feeling of ownership over my mom probably happened when my dad started traveling a lot. I was “man of the house” (or so they said), and I would feel protective over my mom. We didn’t have an alarm system in the house, so while my dad was away I would prop our bar stools against the doors of the house. Then, I would take the pots and pans and balance them on top of the stools. In the morning, I’d take the pots, pans and stools down.

Side story: When I was about 11 we got our first cat. Cats are no good for keeping things in balanced places throughout the house, and periodically our alarm would go off.

When the divorce happened, I helped my mother with the divorce agreement. As I said in a previous post, I’m the one who pointed out to her that Dad was paying her child support (and not alimony). I liked the idea of getting rid of my brothers, but when there’s truth that others haven’t discovered I have to be the one to reveal it! (It’s just part of who I am.)

Here are a few things I did for my mom:
–>From the age of 5, I massaged her back and neck daily. She had a parasailing accident in her teens that gave her whiplash; she was in and out of acupuncturists’ offices.
–>I always helped set up chairs and tables at the hotel meeting rooms where my mother would have her multi-level marketing meetings.
–>I helped pitch her business to strangers at street fairs. At one hot, summery street fair I gave free five-minute massages to every slimy, fat person who was sweating like an unwashed hog who wanted my hands on them for five minutes, during which time I pitched them my mom’s business.
–>I already mentioned typing out her love letters.

It was like being married. (To answer one commenter: no, this is nothing Oedipal. I wanted motherly love, nothing else.) I helped with the business, I helped watching the kids, I cleaned the house since I was 5, everything I could. And only recently did I liken leaving my mother’s house to marriage.

The End is Near…or is it?
But then it started to unravel. In about February of 1994, I decided I needed to leave home. When I’d complaint to my friends, such as David D. and Brooke B., they’d tell me I needed to get out of there. At first, I was insulted by the suggestion. Then I realized I wasn’t actually in a healthy situation and needed to leave. I was estranged from my father (and he was probably out of town), so I knew I couldn’t go there.

Malachi
I had a friend named Malachi. He offered to get me out of there. So I arranged a time he could come by before my mother would wake up (she never came downstairs before 9 on the weekends). I loaded all my things into trash bags and put them in his car, and then I made him wait. I put my shoes just inside the front door (I remember; they were my snakeskin Doc Martins). When my mother came downstairs, I told her I was leaving. It had all the same feelings as a breakup; the uncomfortable, the bitter woman, everything. She told me goodbye, and as I leaned down to pick up my shoes, she lashed out in her meanest voice, “You can’t take those; you didn’t pay for them.”

Suddenly a thousand thoughts flew through my head. I knew exactly how she viewed me, and my worth in this world as long as I was in her world.

Side note: Fast forward 17 years, and I had all those same feelings when I divorced my ex-wife. I’ll return to this side-note in a moment.

I ran out to Malachi’s car, and he took me to his Dad’s house. Malachi lived in a detached garage. He had a ton of THINGS piled into that garage. And I couldn’t just sleep in his place; I had to make nice with his dad, Martin.

Martin was a postal service worker who smoked more pot than anyone I’ve ever even heard of. He would smoke out his kids, daily. He agreed I could stay at his house but that I needed to find a permanent solution, quickly.

The first thing I did was call my friend David D. I told him proudly that I’d run away and I needed a place to stay. He said, in his laughing-at-you-because-you’re-an-idiot voice, that I couldn’t stay there.

Another thousand thoughts flew through my head. I knew right then I’d eventually have to crawl back to my mother’s house, because I had no options.

I had three days at Malachi’s house. One night, Malachi and I went to a party with a bunch of mutual friends. The guy who hosted that party is now dead (as a 30-year-old man, he mainly used these parties to sleep with 16-18 year old girls). I am pretty sure this party was the first one where I ever drank alcohol. As a Mormon, you can see that the road to apostasy was directly beneath my feet.

While at Malachi’s, I sat in the circle as Martin got his fill of his joint, his sons did, and they passed it to me. I took it and tried to get some out, and it was already spent – no pot left! By sheer chance, my one attempt to smoke pot was a failure. Thank goodness. For you skeptics, there was actually no smoke – it was dead. In 1997 I spent most of the year casually smoking cigarettes, so I know what it’s like to have smoke in my lungs. There was simply nothing there. Saved by happenstance!

Martin spoke ill of his wife, and I didn’t like that. He said he was full of energy and youth, and she was all used up, but that she was good to him so he wasn’t going to leave her (I just learned that he did in fact leave her in later years for a much younger woman). He also said he had a bad back, and thought I really needed to have my a__ kicked, but that he couldn’t do it on account of his back.

The Wisdom of Martin
I learned one important lesson from Martin. He told me to earn my keep I needed to dig out a tree stump in his front yard. It was a hot day and I dug and dug and didn’t get it out. I sweat a lot, spent an hour or so working on it, and told him I was giving up. He and his other son, Micah (I really liked his kids’ names), went out and dug the stump from the ground. He then lectured me about how I had an opportunity to do something good and failed. Then he and his son had a great father-son bonding moment. He said I failed because I stopped before I was done, and that one big lesson I needed to learn was to finish what I started. More to come on that in a moment, too.

The End is Not Near
On the third day, Martin made me call my mother. I knew the jig was up, and that I needed to humble myself. I cried, and she told me to come home. Martin spoke to her as well.

Lesson #1: Finish What you Start
Martin was right. I didn’t finish what I started. So I resolved from that point onward to finish anything I started. It didn’t work at first. I went to work at the Sony plant and quit the first job they gave me. Then I got assigned to watch old TV tubes come out of a 100-yard-long oven for 12 hours per day. I lasted two days. But each time I quit something like that, I kicked myself for not finishing what I started.

This motivation helped me finish college. It helped me finish law school too (because I hated so much of it, it was hard to do!). It helped me finish projects, and really continues to push me to this day. I recommend assuming that motivation if you can; it helps. However, it can also make you finish something that perhaps you weren’t meant to. But </I.I'd rather be a mediocre finisher than an excellent quitter.

Lesson #2: Parallels with Real Divorce
I now knew I had to get all of my ducks in a row if I was ever going to successfully leave that house. I knew I needed to get out; but how do you do it? It’s the same thought process you go through when it’s time to actually get a divorce from a spouse.

Fast forward to 2007, and I asked my ex-wife for a divorce without having anything planned out, and found my feet stuck in quicksand. Once again, I had to humble myself and not go anywhere, but had to get every duck in a row. I had to take her list of complaints, and fulfill them so I would have clean hands when I left. Whether or not she felt satisfied in her complaints, I had to feel I had satisfied my duty to her complaints.

Also concerning my actual divorce, I really don’t care that I have consternation from about a dozen people who think I’m horrible for doing so. I tried to leave and was stuck like a duck.

The moral of the story: It’s not enough to know you need a divorce; you need to work out a whole lot of the how of divorce too. I had to figure out how I could feel I had clean hands. That was important for me.

I am not saying you should put together a wad of cash you’ve withheld from your family (my uncle actually tried to tell me I was irresponsible because I went into divorce without any money to pay for it). I am saying you need your emotional and spiritual ducks in a row. You need to have God on your side because you will need His strength to do such a terrible deed. You need to realize that God wants to hear your prayers, asking for anything you need, and that includes the support to leave your spouse and continue being a good parent.

A month or two later, I leaned on my father and got out of my mother’s house. He came to my rescue when I needed him the most. I stayed with him for six months and then plunged into the world alone. And about 15 sideways years began.

Post-Script
I haven’t had any meaningful relationship with my mother since 1994. I do not hold anything against her. I forgive her, but I will not forget. As a result of “breaking up” with my mother, two of my brothers will likely never speak to me again. I cannot control whether they are under her thumb.

When I chose my ex-wife, I chose the person I thought would be least like her. Ironically, that ended up being the one thing I got in many respects. With my new bride, I have looked for some of those positive qualities which my mother did have, and then looked to avoid the negative.

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