It’s a damp, chilly morning. Rain falling in the nation’s capital and Donald J. Trump is going to be the barely-United States’ next president. A lyrical poet like Tennyson, might suggest the skies are weeping over the election results.
Doing so would send the bones of John Ruskin, a 19th century critic, whirling. Ruskin railed against writers personifying nature. He coined the literary device, “pathetic fallacy,” to describe the phenomena.
Leaving my apartment this morning my gaze fell on a framed picture of my three daughters, above the narrow hall table where I keep my keys, sunglasses and wallet. In the photo the girls are beaming with joy. They’re wearing black cocktail dresses, looking so sophisticated it is difficult to believe how rapidly twenty-six years can pass.
“Long nights, short years” – some clichés are clichés for good reasons.
My middle and youngest daughters have no interest in seeing my apartment. When I moved in, I described my reaction as “heartbreaking.” When my therapist, Allie, asked me why, I said, “because I want them to see I’m okay.”
I now understand I was scared they were feeling pity for me. That’s such a raw, miserable feeling.
Now I appreciate my daughters’ struggles. Their world turned as topsy-turvy as mine when my marriage ended. I didn’t have compassion to appreciate how difficult the transition was for them.
I see their pain. Their confusion following a family conversation around the dining room table. The sudden recognition there is no stability in any institution, regardless of the depth of the foundation.
I finally see my apartment through their eyes, tangible proof the world they inhabited all their lives is no more.
Personally, I don’t want that world anymore. I am relishing my new world too much.
I think the wisest thing Caroline, my ex, said on the subject was, “I am not my best with you and you’re not your best with me.”
It is difficult to acknowledge, much less accept. I do take comfort there’s no finger pointing. While I can’t speak to Caroline’s journey, I have mentioned her lack of introspection. Caroline seems to think she’s fine. Her logic’s based on her healthy, happy relationships with everyone in her life. Expect me.
Before I found inward compassion, I took that logic as a not-so-tacit accusation, that I was the whole problem. I know now, I was not. The nature of a marriage, like fatherhood is unlike any other relationship.
I now look forward to new relationships I am forging. Re-forging old relationships. I look ahead, striving to be authentic. Connecting in ways shame never permitted in the past.
One day, I hope my daughters see me as I now am, not who I was. I think at that moment all our worlds will begin to feel stable once again.
Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. This is a tad obscure and the clip is long (3 minutes!). If you’ve never seen, My Favorite Year, watch it. I beg of you.