Wondering out loud.

2 11 2009

Over the last few days the posts, real and virtual, of various friends has left me thinking. From many different backgrounds and widely varying circumstances we come, but one thread connects us all. We all are divorced. We all have children we happily devote our lives to. And to a person, not one of us has found the new relationship that we have sought and expected since taking our first new steps out into the world, newly single.

I’m not pessimistic by nature, but after almost as many years divorced as I was married, my perspective has evolved somewhat. My own experience has showed me that either the person I’m with may have trouble understanding their role (or lack thereof) in my children’s lives, or I may not be willing to give enough of myself to them. See, to give yourself to another person, another adult, at least in my mind, means you have to hold something in reserve from your children. They can’t have everything you have to give if you’re giving it to someone else. I’m not referring to some kind of codependent relationship between parents and children, either. All of the people I know—myself included—have healthy, well-developed personalities and independent aspects to the self, separate from their role and self-image as parents and caregivers to their children (don’t try the Dr. Phil junk here, I’ve got a degree in this—literally).

Sometimes it’s not you, though. Sometimes it’s them. In that case I find friends with partners (and I use that term loosely, in some cases) who are unwilling or unable to act in an adult manner becoming of a parent. It’s not always their fault. Being a parent is no easy task, and many people (most?) are ill-equipped for it. If you happen to be in a relationship with a partner who has children, you even lack the benefit of having been there from the beginning. It’s a hard road to walk. Of course, some of you just make crappy choices in partners and it is their fault. But let’s not cast aspersions.

What does all this boil down to? Well, apart from my rambling and inability to structure a clear thought here, it leaves me with the question “is it possible?” Is it possible to start again? Really? I want to believe it is, I really do. I think deep down I do believe it. But I can’t believe it is as easy or as natural or—let’s be honest—as likely as conventional wisdom would have us believe. The Brady Bunch gave everyone of my generation some thoroughly silly ideas about marrying families, and the only time it becomes really clear just how silly that was, is when you look at how twisted all the cast members were and are.

Disclaimer: I never really liked The Brady Bunch much, nor do I have many clear memories of watching it, including the Marsha-Football episode. But it’s part of my collective childhood consciousness, like molded plastic chairs and the color Harvest Orange. For those of you born after 1980, skip this part. You had to be there.

I still believe in the fantasy of starting over (at least in my personal relationships) with someone new, reaping the benefit of my knowledge, perspective and experience gleaned from years of work, triumph and failure. At least I want to. But more and more I find myself asking questions about what else I will have to give up, what more sacrifice will be needed to keep the ship afloat and on course. Is there really another chance on the horizon? Or has that opportunity passed me by? Has it passed us all by? I don’t envision a life of solitude and melancholy, and I’m not preparing myself to start a new career as a hermit (right now). I am, however, questioning the dream I have been sold about how second chances will largely resemble first chances but with fewer painful lessons to learn this time around.

With any luck, time and fate will prove my fears largely unfounded, and we’ll all find ourselves standing around a lavishly appointed kitchen in expensive clothing, a perfect ethnically diverse group reflecting the precise demographics of the nation, sipping wine and trading bon mots as we cook dinner for our trendy adults-night-in, drowning in our own witty reparté, just like a wine commercial. But at the moment I’m having a little trouble seeing how we’re all supposed to get there.