relationships

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY 2020

Every Valentine’s Day is a little special to me now, whereas for a long time it held little appeal. Possibly because it was often a painful reminder of my inadequacy as a kind and thoughtful partner. Or, maybe it was that I didn’t care, or could not care. It’s easy to throw stones at capitalism’s manipulative commercialization of human sentiment. Heck, much of that criticism is justified.

But, here we have it, and there are only so many days of the year where a man is called upon to demonstrably honour his significant other: anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Mother’s Day is for her children and less her husband, but some think it should be included. A rule could be if your mother is alive, it is she who takes precedence. With an option to honour the mother of your children once dear old ma has passed. Missus taught me that after I went to visit my mother three hours away while she stayed home with our six-week-old daughter, on her first Mother’s Day.

Of course, men love rules and this one could be debated. Debate away, I say.

Then, there’s the “I celebrate her every day!” angle. This is a fair assumption. Many men do.

I know I’m angling for any reason to show my daily appreciation for Melissa. It’s a small pastime of mine, perhaps truly a way for me to practice being prosocial. I’ve learned it’s easy to take each other for granted so I’ve made it a habit to appreciate more this time around. I’m fourteen years in.

Of course, with my background, I needed to work at being nice. Maybe, most of us do.

I was a nice kid. Nice like the fluffy white lamb-shaped cake decorated with white icing signifying purity, and ample white coconut to mimic lambswool, which my Godmother Marie Chenier had made for my First Communion. For me? Yes, for me! Over the years that followed, from altar boy and class president and cub and boy scout and neighbourhood chore entrepreneur, there was a silencing of the lamb. A fractious relationship with my father anchoring and compounding my confusion in a small house filled with frightened children, I emerged a decade later decidedly a Black Sheep.

Funny how that works. It should be no surprise I’m an extravert, scoring in the 95th percentile on the Big Five Aspects scale. Assertiveness? More than 97. You know how those glib psychopaths are, friendly, talkative, their glad-handing masking darkness.

I have some of that. It’s handy.


Where being an extravert (spelled like Jung did) has its advantages, it’s that damn French saying again: I think it’s spelled, “Ont as tous les defauts de nos qualities.” What it means is we all have the faults of our qualities. All of my qualities are tempered with faults. I know , context is everything.

Extraverts live very much in the present. Yup. Confession: I’ve never been able to read Eckart Tolle’s famous book, The Power of Now. It’s right here on my bookshelf as I type this, still unfinished after two decades. To me, it’s the most repetitiously hypnotic text and for this reason, I recommend it to my insomnia clients. Of course, there is danger in reading to go to sleep. It could mean any reading eventually makes you slumber. Cross that bridge when you come to it, I say. If you are kept awake by a ruminating brain, for now, read Tolle.

Introverts live a little more in the future. That’s not me. Thank God missus is introverted, or I’d never have an educational saving plan for my children. I never would have figured out the Riddle of Addiction because it was her nudging which prompted me to take a good hard look at the whole phenomena, its trends and implications. After practicing and tweaking my approach, I’ve been able to reach folks with this. Doesn’t seem to matter what obsession, I can help you cure any addiction in 90 days.

Which brings me back to Valentine’s Day, the one at my place. I’ve written before how when missus and I were first dating I gave her fair warning. I admitted that I would likely forget all the aforementioned days she was due my acknowledgement. She was amused at my confession. And, she was ahead of me.

She didn’t suggest but TOLD me what to do. “Here’s what you are going to do,” she said, before instructing me to head to the nearest drugstore or card shop. “You will buy up a supply of cards for my birthday and whatever else days you want, and you will keep them in that filing cabinet of yours. So, if you wake up some morning and realize you have forgotten, you can wait until my back is turned and get one of those cards, fill it out, and leave it on the kitchen table so I will know you care and thought of me.” I was dumbfounded, of course.

“Will that work?” I remember asking. “Yes, it will,” she assured me. It was at that moment that I knew she was something special. Decades of guilt and shame about forgetting birthdays and anniversaries came tumbling down at once. So, off I went to the drugstore and did exactly as she instructed.

And, it worked. In fact, it worked earlier this month as she sat on my office couch and asked me point blank, “Did you forget my birthday?” before heading out. I could have lied. I’m glib after all. If anyone could look her straight in the eye and offer her some version of bullshit, it’s me. Yet, I also know that when people are looking for bullshit, it’s much easier to find. I learned decades ago that gig is up. Honesty is my policy.  It’s not worth the time and effort nor the consequences for either to dabble in deception.

“Yup, completely,” I admitted, adding, “I thought I had this one because I’ve been thinking about it since the new year but sure enough, come the day, it’s out of my mind.” She smiled, in a sort of womanly self-satisfying way, perhaps knowing she chose long ago to not make this hill hers to die on. God, I lust after that woman. I’m just as sure her smile was deeper.

You see, when she instructed me all those years ago by offering her brilliant practicality, effectively to “let me off the hook” I’d put myself on, I’m pretty sure she knew exactly what she was doing.

Unbeknownst to me , slipped into her instructions was the element of time. So grateful was I to escape the shame of my decades of disappointing other women, that pain serving as motivation, I followed her orders blindly, I never considered the bigger picture.

She had just made me commit to years with her. Years son. Damn, she’s good. Women are closers.

So, it was this morning whilst the two of us were awakening to the sounds of children and a dog scratching in her crate, missus wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day. I promptly grabbed her ass. “Oh, that’s right,” I answered, “Happy Valentine’s Day to you too.” Forgot completely, again.

It’s not like it wasn’t mentioned in the house. Early this week, the kids were busy filling out cards for their schoolmates. Howie brought a single fake rose to each of his teaching assistants. Last year he gave one of them chocolates and said he loved her. Since her husband forgot Valentine’s Day completely that evening, Howie stole her heart. I’m not sure her husband registered the competition as she told him.

Missus went off to work for a few hours this morning. I work from home and today is the second in a row opportunistic no-school day thanks to striking teachers in the province. With Monday Canada’s Family Day (an excuse to have a long weekend in February), the teachers gave themselves a five-day holiday. Me and the kids checked the card stash. They know about the card stash because of mom’s birthday less than two weeks ago. I think that was a strike-day too.

The cool thing is my father died in November. Not that it was cool that he died, nor that November was a cold month. Although he suffered his last year as dementia ravaged his mind, it was bittersweet to see him go. The cool part is when it was decided by my sisters that dad would no longer be able to return home, it was me who took his records and old photos for safekeeping. That included his filing cabinet, old correspondence and folders chock full of carefully labeled newspaper clippings for reference.

But stashed in the back of his cabinet was a big stash of cards. Blank cards for all occasions.

They say it’s inevitable we find in our partners something of our parents. I supposed it’s easy to stretch what you like about somebody into something you appreciate in your parent or parents. It’s natural enough and this can work out well or poorly, depending.

The very first occasion where missus met my family was at Ma’s 80th birthday party. It was held at a private club downtown and I sent ma and her pals to the party in a big white limousine. Sure enough, ma and missus hit it off. Both were introverts, wall flower types, and spent the time sitting together. Missus never felt more appreciated than that day, remarking how alike her and ma were. I beamed at her happiness, oblivious to the wider implications.

Looks like dear old ma had contrived the same card hack for my father decades before missus did for me. Why haven’t I ever heard of it before then if it’s so common? Probably because dad felt the same shame I did, and ma was as introverted as is my missus. I suppose if you have too public a system for making the effort to acknowledge someone else it might also detract from the gesture somehow too.

I know this because of another thing about Valentine’s Day. It’s often not so much the private gesture but if a girl has her druthers, being singled out at work in front of peers as a box of roses arrives just for her from a romantic interest is heady stuff. It says she is loved; that despite the competition all around her she has backup. I had to own a flower shop at one point to learn that one. Women told me.

But missus went deeper and helped me understand things more clearly. After some of my antics while out with others early in our time, she summed it up this way. “I want others to look at us together and want to be me, not look at us and feel sorry for me that I’m with you.” Boom!

I was probably fifty when she told me that. This young woman from humble beginnings is in so many ways much wiser than me. Women are the primary caregivers the planet over and most of them possess a depth of understanding men often lack. That’s been my experience. She knows how to line up allies and cut loose competition. The good ones don’t have time for assholes of either sex.

Good women also make good men better. A man with a loyal woman by his side has the wind at his back; though, he better stay-out in front of her if he expects to feel it.

A lot of what holds people back in life has to do with shame. Can’t take compliments or criticism? That’s usually shame. Chronic procrastinator? Perfectionism rooted in shame. Not living the life you know you were meant to live? Look at how much shame you carry. It’s a consequence of our interdependence on each other. By itself, it is neither good nor bad except the meaning we give it. A mild corrective within a family can, with repetition and escalation, evolve into a crushing sense of unworthiness.

When we feel like there is something wrong with us, that we are “broken” on some level, shame has taken hold and acts as a burdensome filter through which life is seen. It can become like wearing heavy winter clothes at the beach on a warm summer’s day. Sometimes, it can be like trying to swim with heavy work boots on.

That’s the thing about fatherhood. It’s not a right as the Incels would suggest. Not at all. It’s a not even just an obligation though plenty of men in or from difficult marriages will unfortunately sometimes see it that way. It’s more that fatherhood is a privilege, something that can define a man. If motherhood is part of a woman’s Hero’s Journey, fatherhood is similar. More so, it’s a chance to be someone’s hero.

My father held on to his shame for most of his ninety years. His own father disowned him, despite their looking like different-aged siblings. As my grandfather’s only son, the youngest child with three older sisters, my dad needed his father. It was not to be. Grandpa spent most of my father’s early years institutionalized and didn’t reconnect with his family for decades. Grandfather was still a jerk.

My father did his best but inevitably passed along his pain to his children. He never apologized but he demonstrated his regret. For example, as an editor, he taught me to write when I was in my late forties. It started when he sent back a letter I had written home corrected with red editor’s pencil. At first put off, I quickly realized his corrections made sense.

I decided to take the high road and wrote him back in thanks. He answered. Told me if I was going to write him to make it double spaced so he could do his job. So, I did, and after several years he handed back an essay I had given him and said there was nothing to correct. I’ll never forget that day.

It was as if the more I knew myself the more I knew him. It was our unspoken understanding, and our private conversations in his last few years were honest and warm and unreservedly candid.

I realized later I had subconsciously become a gangster to protect myself from his wrath experienced in my early life.  It took years and deep dives into my subconscious to unburden the pain I held within me in exile. The tough guy was my protector.

Little Chrissie, that’s what they called me as very young boy in short pants. Well, I got you now Little Chrissie. No one will hurt you again. We are a team you and I, and I’m strong enough and tough enough for us both. Stick with me kid, I have this figured out for us both. It’s going to be OK.

Dad held his father’s hand when grandpa passed away, secretly hoping for a reconciliation that never came. With several of my siblings, in November I held my father when he died. No reconciliation required.

I’m so glad I forgot today was Valentine’s Day. I’m so happy to find this card tucked away in my father’s collection of cards. Thanks Pops. Also, grateful my children were here with me this morning so that they could participate in writing in a little something for their ma to which I added my expected flirtations for the woman I love, my Melissa.

She came home and found the card in its red envelope on the kitchen table with her name on it. I could hear her voice exclaim, “A card? For me?” She was thrilled. Oh Jiggles…

It was from all us: from where we have been and where we are going.

We exist in each other.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Christopher K Wallace
©14 February, 2020
all rights reserved

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JUST ONE THING

JUST ONE THING: re-establishing devotion
Sometimes, it gets to the point between a man and a woman where she feels she can no longer rely upon him, and this is a problem. The pact she makes with the universe to choose the right guy is put into doubt.

This is especially true when a woman has children. This is her Hero’s Journey. For a woman to go through childbirth and create life is a situation that can only be called heroic. How many men can even fathom this?

A century ago, her risks of dying during childbirth were great. My great-grandmother died at age 40 giving birth to twins. For three days the women of Truro, Nova Scotia took turns sopping up blood with towels in shifts until she died. It affected generations of Wallace men. Women still die giving birth today.

We should never take for granted their struggle. And, once the kids are born, there are countless sleepless nights and diapers and suckling and it just goes on for years! My boy was born with some challenges and I can say he would not be alive today at almost six years old without my woman. She says he’s her little bear, and for now, he’s all hers and she is his. There will be time to make him King later.

Outside of war, it can be argued her challenge is as great as any man’s, maybe far more. How many men cry when the baby comes out after witnessing the birth of a son or daughter like the modern practice calls for? I didn’t, but I would not look down on any man who did. Fact is, mothers are heroes.

And her journey, like all Hero’s Journey’s involves subjugating her own existence for the sake of another’s. It’s a sacrifice in service of a greater good. Sound familiar? All the heroes do this down through time. A man who uses his power in service of himself and others finds meaning and freedom. You and I need to seek ways to do this. She only must have a baby.

Women are way ahead of us gentleman, in the nurturance and giving departments, by far. While it’s true they are also sexual human beings, if there is a man-child in the house, expect the resentment to build over time. She needs a powerful man, not a boy as a partner. Nice guys are boys. |

I was one, admittedly, and I wish I knew then what I know now. It may not have changed anything, but it might also have made ALL the difference in the world. I regret I’ll never find out because we let trust go too far, irretrievably far.

I can tell you this go around I am all man and she is happy… and shows it. I have earned her loyalty.

How to recover? Assuming there has been no cheating, where trust is fundamentally broken on both sides, is there a way back? Maybe. All she wants is a powerful man. She takes a HUGE risk on whichever man she chooses because she has twenty good years of fertility, and she spends most of those years caring for little ones so can’t prepare for old age like a man can.

Think there is nothing to the feminist rant about these things? Think again.

I’ve had guys see success using this simple strategy I’m about to share with you to regain their wife’s trust. It doesn’t always work but it’s a wonderful exercise, nonetheless. Get this, I use this at home every so often to mid things up and everything is going great. And don’t tell me you don’t want my life because I assure you that you do (your version of it).

Here’s what I think is worth a shot:

Guys start and first ask their wives, “what’s one thing I can do for you today?” and then do it. Doesn’t matter how small a thing, just get it done. Fix a drawer that gets stuck, repair a light, tile that needs cementing, a bike tire that is flat, drop off a parcel or pick up dry cleaning, whatever it is just do it. Doesn’t matter if it takes until five minutes to midnight, get it done. Then say nothing. NOTHING. ZERO. FUCK ALL. NOT A WORD.

Next day, one more thing. ONE THING and NO expectations, NO looking for points, NO pat on the head, NO sniffing for pussy or angling for compliments. NOTHING. If she says thanks, it’s “your welcome” and NO smile, NO lingering eye contact, just GO about your business.

You ask: “what’s one thing I can do for you?” and add it into your schedule. Don’t bat an eye.

Next day, one more thing. Just one. And it’s not, “is there anything I can do for you today?” because that’s a trap. It’s always, “what’s one thing I can do for you today?” Said just like that. Matter of fact, no emotion. Like you are asking her to pass the salt. Write it in your book, phone or schedule and be on your way.

SO now, you do it. You take care of your job, your gym time, your children, and your whatever else responsibilities, AND this one thing for her. Just one thing. That’s it, that’s all—no more, no less.

DO this for as long as it takes. JUST DO IT. Stop trying to predict the future. Stop trying to weight the pros and cons. Stop trying to balance fairness and make it transactional. STOP ALL THAT.

Just do the one mother fucking thing every day and forget about it. FUHGETABOUTIT…

Do it for a month. Do it for two months. Do it for three months. If she hasn’t kicked your sorry ass out of the house and you are still there in month four, do it all that month too.

I’m not saying this will work for you. I’m saying I’ve seen it work for dozens of men in my time. Not all, but some of them probably bullshitted as to if they did it perfectly or consistently… or at all.

A man who uses his power in service of himself and others finds meaning and freedom.

What part of that don’t you understand? It’s about service. Living is giving.

And the guys who do this find that their women respond. Not right away, she’s too smart for that. She’s been gamed before by the universe, most notably when she chose you. She needs a track record of service like she has a track record of service to her children. You are not one of her children, and that was the problem.

No woman can love a man unconditionally, and it’s best to disabuse yourself of this expectation for good. Oh, maybe she can muster it for a short time, but don’t get sucked in by this, not one bit. Your mother didn’t (bless her heart) love you unconditionally and neither can your woman.

We band together as man and woman for mutual need, to shore up each others’ weaknesses while benefiting from each other’s strengths. It’s about surviving against a harsh world. No one has time for white flags.

One of your strengths is supposed to be your power.  Her archetype for love is the powerful father. It’s a gal’s first love and she will never lose this need for the masculine’s powerful love. You were gamed by your mother’s love and it left you searching for her in your partner. My missus has some of my mother’s qualities, but can she love me like my mother could? Ha! Not my missus. Can’t happen. In fact, she loves me just as my mother did, conditionally disguised as unconditional but clearly conditional.

Don’t be fool.  The boy must leave his mother to become a man.

In time, the men who have consistently applied this strategy have reported good results. Some guys save their marriages. It’s because as they get lost in the daily habit of doing just that one thing for their partner, the joy of service to each other returns to the pair bond. That’s where the sacrifice lies. Would I die to save my woman from harm? Of course, I would, I’d easily defend her to the death!

Then, why wouldn’t I do one thing for her? Each day.

Sometimes a few days or weeks or months go by before she starts to respond. “Here, I sewed that shirt you ripped last year,” she says as she hands you a bundle of material and turns and walks away. That’s a test, a shit test if you like. Or maybe it’s something else, but her nature, her very nature is to nurture, for God’s sake. You think if you give her an opportunity to do what she is best at it won’t surface? Chances are it will.

Don’t count on it. If her one thing is “sign these divorce papers giving me the house,” see a lawyer. Don’t be stupid. Don’t jump off a bridge because someone told you to. You may have heard your mother tell you that.

But if you can re-establish service, you often can re-establish why you got together in the first place.

Almost 70% of things in a marriage are not resolvable. My wife hides shit. Changes where she puts stuff. Opens something and leaves everything right where she opened it. Used to drive me nuts. She couldn’t take a picture of me and the kids worth saving. And, the house was not up to my standards. It’s not that I’m Felix from the Odd Couple, but I like stuff to go where it’s supposed to go, so I can find it again.

So, I bought her an expensive camera for Christmas one year. She’s frugal. What does she do? She opens a photography business and learns to take pictures. We live on two hundred acres and soon she has people over posing in front of our artisan well, the apple blossoms in spring, the old rail fences, etc. Her goal was to pay for the camera. She’s been at it for three years now and has added to her income every season. Camera has paid for itself twenty times over, and it was a gift! She takes great pictures of me and the kids now. She’s a whiz at photoshop.

Once the kids were in school, she searched for something she could do, yet still be able to cancel at any time. She tried having daycare kids over last summer but didn’t like it. One kid was a handful and despite my help at times when he acted up, she lost her taste for it.

She starts cleaning houses for $25-30 bucks an hour. I shut up, remembering what happened with the camera. Holy shit, wouldn’t you know it, not only was her calendar full of happy customers, it shows at home where she elevated her game and lowered her tolerance by several degrees. I just stay out of her way and never complain about her approach.

She still hides my shit though. “You can’t always get what you want,” goes the Rolling Stone’s song, “but if you try sometimes, you will find, you get what you need.” Indeed.

We train each other. And the magic is in having a little more awe for our partners. Awe, that sense of being small in front of the stars, or the majesty of a mountain, the distance of the sea. A man with a loyal woman by his side has the wind at his back… but must stay out in front of her to feel it. Holding space in your heart for awe when it comes to your partner is part of what makes it all worthwhile.

Just do one thing, selflessly. Women command, men lead. Do it because you can. Not because you have to, not for any reason other than you are a man and you can do this one thing every day for this woman.

It’s what men do.

Stay powerful, never give up
cw

CHRIS WALLACE
Advisor to Men

©CKWallace July, 2019 all rights reserved
Book time with the Advisor to Men here

INFIDELITY RECOVERY


The problem with humans is this damn memory of ours. There is no new-age or old-aged techniques that`ll make us forget what we have already experienced. We`re kind of at the mercy of our memories, for good or for bad.

What makes things worst is our feelings are based on experiences too. No matter what we do, our past follows us. And, our feelings about stuff remains prominent, at least until we can put a little time between us and a past event. This interlude allows new experiences to supersede old emotional states when we create new feelings. It gives us, the brain that is, a wider experience to draw upon.

The brain operates predictively in any situation using the body and that databank of prior emotional states to determine how you will feel in the present moment, correcting afterwards given the social reality before you. Helluva sentence to follow, I know. Well, the brain has been at this gig a while.

With classical conditioning working its power beneath the surface, we can be triggered as the brain seeks to safeguard us from danger by best-guessing emotional states in response to the environment and messages from the body. It’s good to know this so we are not totally blindsided to past fears. Knowing how it all works can take the sting out of things when circumstances catch you unawares.

As for infidelity, the subject of this essay, I’m not sure we forgive it at all. Cheating is so personal. Within the pair bond, at first glance it’s such a clear rejection of you and a preference for another. It seems to confirm every person’s worst fear: I’m not good enough and because of this, I am unlovable.

It screams at me: UNLOVABLE.

There is more… for this is our Achilles heel. It is the human condition, conjoined with a need for others and knowledge that we will one day leave this world. We have only each other as present-day salve against the inevitable wounds of time. That’s a lot to ask in the name of love.

Like most things, it is both our weakness and our strength. Find it early, find it late, but we must all find love. Giving to others is the greatest expression of your humanity. I don`t know if that`s how we start, but I`m convinced it`s where we should end up.

But what if you saw that person who cheated as just as fallible as you, suffering from the same questioning of their worth as we tend to do our own? Could it be they secretly believe they are inadequate and unlovable? Did something inside them scream UNLOVABLE as well? What if we could separate the act so it is less about me, and more about them?

What if they didn’t even think of you or me? What if you didn’t even come to mind? What if the other person was able to compartmentalize their existence and put me on a shelf, fully intending to take me down and resume life with me afterwards? It happens all the time. In part, that’s how its done. I know it`s the same for men cheating on their women as women cheating on men. Cheating is betrayal pretty much universally, no matter the gender.

What if you were not as big a factor as you believe? Attachments weaken and strengthen over time, and we hope the good times see us through the bad.

What if it’s not so much a repudiation of you but a signal the other person cannot find love even if it is staring them in the face? What if it was their blind spot, and not yours or mine, which made it so?

Everyone makes the best decisions for themselves at the time, they say. If they knew better, in that very moment of whatever they decide, if they had the wherewithal to do something differently, emotionally, physically, spiritually, they would have. For them, it was their best decision. The act is proof. This is hardly a satisfying answer. We don’t have to like it. We don’t even have to respect it. But it is what it is. Often sadly.

Gabor Mate likes to say two people in a relationship find each other at the same level of trauma resolution, quipping smartly, “only 100% of the time.”  It’s what attracts us to another, under it all, a sharing of pain rarely understood and usually unmentioned. We all carry pain; it’s just the way nature builds resilience. It is by overcoming pain that we assert much of our wisdom. My pain won’t be the same as your pain. How could it be? We each travel this internal journey alone.

Empathy? Mostly projection. We guess at what each other feel and can only use our own experiences to gauge the other’s emotional state. Don`t get too excited about mirror neurons. The saying goes, “monkey see, monkey do,” not “feel,” and that finding was based on macaques, not people.

In any case, the disconnect between us is our challenge but can be our reward as we move through pain in the normal course of living. We re-find love and compassion for each other over and over

However, it takes two to do this. Or does it? Most of us marry what we can tolerate at that moment we get together. Gottman, famed relationship scientist I’ve read since the 1980s, says 70% of issues between a couple are not resolvable. That annoying habit of hers or his? Nope, not going anywhere. We put up with them and learn to appreciate them or we don’t. Missus hides stuff, has an uneven system for putting stuff away. Used to annoy me, now I think it’s cute. Choice is ours, the agency to decide how to live.

Getting naked in front of someone requires a fair bit of trust. It encompasses safety and danger all at once. We usually reserve this for those with whom we trust the most. It’s also why infidelity is so hard to reconcile as the aggrieved and non-involved party. Because without trust, you’ve got nothing.

I don’t think forgiveness is the right word for getting over infidelity.

But can you let it go?

Perhaps by realizing you were not the right man for her. Or she the right woman for you. That your maturity and needs and experiences didn’t match up. Your trauma resolutions played out on different tracks. You would know for sure if you were playing out your own drama and living a second life, a secret one. Women know these things, more so than men I think.

We know an atom looks a lot like a solar system with its revolving planets, the billions of stars out there like the billions of neurons in here. When we look at the way a tree grows into the sky and then look at map of a river approaching the sea, or the way our veins spread out on our hand, we may notice the same mathematical fractals occur. There is a great inter-connectedness in the universe, much of it we don’t understand.

The philosopher Douglas Hofstadter says we must leave more than a little room for mystery as we move through our years, implying we might resist the need to come up with an answer for everything. I think that’s a good idea. Shit happens by surprise too often to think we’ll sail through our time unaffected by calamity. And my father had a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson handwritten in black marker upon his bookshelf, the one directly behind his reading chair where he spent most of his days: “None of us can ever know the all of anything,” it said, reminding the reader to remain humble in the face of knowing so much.

Can we view this unraveling of relationships metaphorically as two similar but different stars revolving around a sun who are in the same orbit for a while, but subtle shifts in the composition of their mass and magnetism means over time they are doomed to slowly begin to separate and edge away, eventually flying off into a different part of space?

Then, it’s not me, nor is it you, it’s just physics. It’s a form of inevitable physics beyond our control. When I imagine floating above my existence, perhaps as I move out into the space above me, high up, maybe to the clouds and beyond, I see things differently. If you could sit on the moon for a while and look at the general spot on earth where you live out your life, what would you see?

Would you notice the others all around, some dealing with the same problems? The numbers of people teeming all over the planet going to and fro, living, dying, being born, eating, running, playing, working and loving, might give us both perspective.

And, can we use this pain we feel over infidelity to grow ourselves? Was I perhaps just as unfaithful, perhaps in actual deed but if not, then of heart and mind? From this resentment, can I accept I was not meeting my partner’s needs, my weakness so entrenched only the catastrophic bomb of adultery could wake me from my stupor? The falseness blasting away my complacent attitudes about my masculinity, her femininity, our relationship expectations, and of power, loyalty, lust and love?

And, could I work hard to shore up those parts of which left me bare, exposing me to this kind of turmoil? Could I use this pain, not to be crushed by it forevermore, but rather, to be rebuilt better than before? Is this one of my hero’s journeys? Is this your challenge?

And, would I one day realize that time and new experiences, especially the work I did making myself into a more powerful man, allowed different and better feelings to prevail when I consider my ex? Can I reserve my sympathies for what could have been, knowing I disappointed her just as she disappointed me? Could I be honest enough, powerful enough, wise enough to see this?

And, might I even thank her, though through the tragic lenses of both our lives, through the anger and confusion, and instead, salvage something of great worth from our mutual suffering? When I think of how beautiful and talented and in so many ways how amazing my ex-wife was, I can only feel sadness. She failed me, I failed her; and ultimately, we failed each other.

It was Robert Brault who said, “Life becomes easier if you learn to accept an apology you never get.” Absent that small act of reconciliation, you have only you to both apologize for your shortcomings but also to accept an apology from time for the failings of others. Accept the apology you will never get. Accept it.

So, I didn’t bother with the cumbersome idea of forgiveness. It carries too great a burden, too many unanswered questions philosophical and emotional, of principals and values and beliefs. I’d constructed a world where I could live, such are the entanglements of love, and all of that was too great a chore to dismantle.

No. I reminded myself, if happiness is a decision, then so is love. And if happiness and love can be decided, so can forgiveness. What I did was I let it go. You might do the same. See it off in your mind’s eye, perhaps like a child might watch a helium balloon drift away to the clouds after an inadvertent release of the hand, knowing it was pretty while it lasted, but also that it was never ever coming back.

The experience will help you to be stronger, and a far better person than before.

But then, all of life is like that isn’t it?

Stay powerful, never give up.

CHRIS WALLACE
Advisor to Men

©CKWallace, July, 2019, all rights reserved

reach me at advisortomen@gmail.com