Δευτέρα, 24 Απριλίου 2017

Writing about difficult things

Prologue
I've been writing since I went to school. Putting letters in sequence, to make words, stringing words along to make a sentence, adding another one and another one, in a continuous effort to make some sense. I'll be 50 this year and it was only a few years ago when someone quite close me, who was trying to help me, remarked that it seemed to him like my writing was my way of thinking.

I am a disorganised person. Constantly trying to be organised, maybe even achieving the impression of being organised, disorganised nonetheless.

Writing is my way of organising my thoughts. In fact, not even that, writing IS my thoughts. More often than not, what you read is the process of thinking about something. Of course not every piece of writing is the same, some are simple presentations of a simple thought or a memory, a series of memories even. Other times it may be more convoluted, and often it is these difficult ones that end up in my evergrowing backlog of unfinished articles...essentially unfinished thoughts.

Sometimes a phrase will stick in my mind, wanting to be put down on "paper" or rather "screen" or "bytes"... As often as not I will not get the opportunity and the thought will fly away just as quickly as it arrived.

I like to believe I am offering something. An insight maybe to the way of life, the history of my country, my thoughts, my feelings. I hope that these may be of some value. In the past I have written of things that hurt me, of difficult moments, of trials in life, and because really these experiences are not all that different to every other human beings maybe an insight might be helpful to someone, someday, somewhere...

Since I started blogging almost 10 years ago, I have written a fair amount. I've had my ups and downs, with my more productive years averaging over an article a week, and then others again , very low, a few all year...

I dream of writing a book one day. But it is a kind of far off dream... As most writers I think I would like to write a story. About some guy and his interesting life, and all the women in it. I've had a few false starts, an intial draft maybe of a first chapter, but that is as far as I have got. One of my stumbling blocks is that I tend to immediately think of myself as the "hero", which makes it difficult for me to escape certain autobiographical parts in the plot. If not all. And that won't do...

Of course I have my articles, for want of another description, which are mostly thoughts, feelings, observations on life, politics, the world, they way we think and behave, what we do, why...

Reading back through some of my articles I realise that not only are they some kind of thought organisation, but in many cases they can be a glimpse into the actual process of thought itself.

Once upon a time when people had problems, mainly marital or emotional or even existential, they would go to the local parish, meet the priest, holy man, shaman, vicar or mufti and talk about it with him. Religion played a big part in calming people down, giving them a reason for all their woes, a pacifier of kinds.

In our times and in the developed western world, in many cases the role once played by the representatives of God (or Allah, or whoever...) is now played by therapists. In fact I think Alain de Botton, the noted modern philosopher once said that there should be a therapist in every neighborhood, and it should be compulsory for people to visit them every two weeks or so, especially couples, who could be trained and given exercises in coping with one another... and not breaking up!!

As some of my "constant readers" may know or may have noticed, the issue of divorce is one that has troubled me for a while. and when I say "troubled" I mean it in both ways!... I've been through two of my own, and before that my parents too.

And of course when I hang out with divorced friends often conversation revolves around the issue, sharing experiences, advice etc...

Bringing up children in a "divorce" environment is a particularly prickly issue. Let's face it bringing up children is difficult as it is, let alone in a divorce situation, and even more so if it is a messy one.

Unfortunately more often than not, the parents, supposed to be adults, behave in a very immature way, lumbering their kids with extr baggage to sort out later in life... It is bad enough going through adolescence and puberty what with all the hormones raging, you don't need your parents raging too!!!

I had this thought recently about writing a guide for kids. How to understand all the idiotic things your parents do, say, the way they behave...

When parents split up, inevitably there is some conflict, enmity, bad feeling in the air. There is a very popular saying that you don't know who you were married to until you have to break up with them.

It is so true.

Imagine how difficult it must be for the kids to understand why the people they knew to be a unit "the parents" , the "family unit", suddenly become two enemies, seemingly hating each other, nothing in common, in the worst cases using the kids as a weapon or a shield between them...

I toyed with the idea of writing a little funny guide on parents behaviour post-divorce.

Say for example a dad who now sees his ex with someone else, the new person in his kid's life, who cannot accept that he was inadequate as a husband and prefers to lay the blame on the new man who took his woman away...

He won't miss a chance to show he despises him , hating even a mention of the "other's" name, hating the car he drives, cringing when his kid accidentally calls him with the "other's" name.

How do you explain this to a kid without him getting the wrong idea? Your dad hates my guts because he thinks I took your mother away from him. He thinks I ruined your family, I came between him and her...

How do you explain to a child that affairs of the heart tend to draw out the immature in us, how egos that are traumatised react so badly, so unfairly. How do you explain without making the other party seem unfair, immature or childish?

Somehow I think it can't be done. If you have the balls to try and do the best, you take in your stride and hope that one day they will understand.

To try and explain while a child is still that, a Child, is to risk greater misunderstandings...

In a parallel to my problem of writing some kind of fiction that would be way too autobiographical to write without hurting others feelings, so it would be with my "Guide to Divorce for kids".

Can't be done.

I think you just have to do the best you can and hope they get a good enough job to afford the therapy later on in life... and to find a good therapist too!!



Δευτέρα, 30 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The D.I.V.O.R.C.E. Gene

In August 1987, I was transferred from the training center of Avlona, where I had spent the first 6 months of my national service, to the 26th Medium Armored Regiment in Litochoro. At some point I needed a haircut, and so I made a visit to the village barber.


Village barber nothing like the one I went too...
He sat me down, a snip here, a snip there and started grilling me. What's my name, where am I from, did I study anything and what, do I have any property (!). At that point he kindly explained that except for being the village barber he was also the village matchmaker, and had often "matched" young men doing their national service in one of the areas many army units, to one of the local girls! So he was always on the lookout for a good "catch". During our conversation it came out that my parents were divorced, at which he glumly said, Aaaa leave it, you won't do..." and stopped the interrogation...I was curious as to why, so I asked and got the following piece of popular wisdom: "Children of divorced parents get divorced too!" So they are no good for an arranged marriage...




I may not have paid particular attention at the time, but it would be a lie to say I didn't ponder a little on it. My parents divorce was fairly fresh, only 2-3 years before. I was 17 when it happened, at an age when you tend to doubt many things, and to which another doubt was added, a doubt about the institution of marriage...
What was quite interesting was that my grandmother on my dad's side (the greek side) had also divorced and remarried, which was quite unusual for that age (the '40s)

Some years later it was my turn to marry. Given my doubts on the whole idea of marriage it was not an easy decision. Also my wife to be was not pregnant, a fact which made a lot of my friends ask "Well, why are you getting married then?" I had the answer ready then. I just could not imagine my life without her. At 24 which I was at the time, that was enough of a good reason, I had no doubt.

Can not.
A year and a half later came the arrival of our first child. The seal of a happy marriage....
At the same time my dad was in his second marriage. My mother had not remarried and would never do so. 

Our marriage lasted officially just over 15 years, add to that the 5 we had been together already, that made it 20. We had a second child too, so I found myself in 2006 divorced with two kids.Like many people we had entered into a steady relationship early on, making what we felt was a mature decision, without being mature ourselves. That is one of the points where I think marriages suffer today, the maturity of the partners.

When I say it lasted officially 15 years I say so because in reality it had finished a while before, but I chose to turn a blind eye to this.
There were problems but I tended to gloss them over, in an attempt to keep my marriage going, to keep it strong. I created a story, a little fairytale which I told others, about how well we were together, a story which I believed too. Rather selfishly I did not want to break up, and so I would not allow it to happen! I also did not want my kids to go through the trauma of divorce. Finally one of us made the first step...

not on a jet plane...
As my marriage fell apart, so did I, almost... the only thing that kept me going was the fact I had the girls to look after.

So the barber/matchmaker/geneticist was right!! All was pre-determined, destiny was rushing headlong towards me like a freight train out of control...
As all this was going down, my father had already divorced his 3rd wife...

Six months later, a few days after I had decided I absolutely would NOT pursue any other women or another relationship, I met her. My second wife to be. Six months after meeting her, we were pregnant and 9 months after that I was married again and a proud dad of a lovely son...
Actually just before my second marriage/wedding, I would come up against this "divorcee racism" in another way... For this time I was considered "damaged goods" and not good enough for my new wife, according to my mother-in-law. Sort of like a used car. She obviously kinda hoped her daughter would opt for "new" and not "used"... She told me very clearly she believed I had destroyed her life, and shattered all her dreams for both of her girls..not sure how that could be I was only marrying one of them, but maybe in her world view having a brother-i-law who had been previously married was also a shame...

It didn't matter, we married anyway.

Only to divorce 5 years later.


yup!
I realise now, after two divorces, and spending most of my life married, that I made a number of very common mistakes. I got married too early on and for the wrong reasons. I failed to realise and also to accept that first marriage was a mistake, until it was way too late. 
Interestingly, and this is something I have spent a lot of time dwelling on, my inability to accept that first marriage as a "mistake" was tied to two things. One was this. I somehow felt that to dismiss my marriage as a mistake would make my children a mistake, which of course is totally stupid. Yet it is not an uncommon feeling, although I do fear it is a rather childish one... Children often deny the possibility that their parents were mistakenly together because somehow they feel this would negate the reason for their existence, but this is not so.
The other thing my inabiity was tied to, was the fact that I had this deep subconscious wish to NOT divorce, to NOT do what my parents did. Another mistake, is that I went into a very similar relationship as my first one, through some bizzare subconscious wish to achieve the unachievable. To have a succesful relationship with someone obviously unsuited to me... 
Yet another mistake, to not have a few "learning" relationships. I jumped into the first one, and the second one, without giving myself some time to find out more about myself. And how do we find out more about our wants and needs? By trial and error.. only I was intent on error...

After all these experiences, I have to say that I find it interesting that more or less, all of us have similar reactions to these matters. There is a cycle of emotions that one goes through. To a certain extent it depends a little on whether you are the one who is "leaving" or the one "staying". Usually the one "leaving" doesn't say much unless he is feeling so guilty and is so immature as to want to cover up his mess and decision by laying blame on the other side in as vocal a way as possible. More often it is the one "staying" who will be "advertising his or her woes and how much they were wrongdone... The hurt one then turns to hate, as a reaction to the pain, while the other usually takes a quick turn for the better, losing weight, changing hairstyle...

Then some time passes and the bitterness sweetens a little or at least so it should...

In every divorce a measure of responsibility lies with each of the divorcees. Ideally then at some point a mutual understanding should be achieved. All of this is way , way more important if there are kids involved. The worst thing you can do to children is to make them feel as if they have to chose a side. Remember they had no choice as to who their parents are, and they have both of you...

As a child of a divorced couple I can say that children usually understand all too well what is going on, but there is no need for hate, nothing becomes better by allowing hate in... (and when I mentioned hate further up as a step in the circle of emotions, I meant it only as something that must pass, and that must be kept inside or between the ex-couple alone, not allowed "out") In fact all of the emotions in the circle must be allowed their space and then must pass, if you linger too long, you and others will suffer.

I want to take this "article" a little further here on the subject of kids. 

Do you know that as a species, ours is the one whose infant is looked after by its parents for the longest period?

There is a reason for this. As a species we are reliant on this time that it takes to reach maturity, in order to acquire the knowledge required to survive and continue the species. No lowly instincts alone for us. No plopping out and rushing to stand on little spindly legs in order to rush of into the woods a few months later...

Instead years and years of human interaction teaches all we need to survive. Or at least it should.

How many parents have not wished that included in the little sack with the placenta, there were a little cellophane package with a full set of multilingual instructions? It is after all a requirement of EU law...

But even though we have tried to find a way around this by writing our own, still for the majority of kids, whose parents may not have access to some book by Dr Spock or whoever, the manual is the PARENTS. 

It is by our interaction with our parents that we learn to interact with other people , with the world... Ever wondered why boys seem to get on better with their mothers and girls with their fathers? It is a form of training. 
Little boys and little girls need both ther parents in order to interact with them in preparation. A preparation to face life. To face relationships to cope, to love, to nurture, to survive, to make it...


What's going on?
That is why it is important for couples with kids to stay together at least for a certain amount of time. That is why it is important for those couples who know they are going to be having kids, to know what they are getting into...
Jorge Bucay the Argentinian psychologist and writer, is adamant when he says that a couple about to have a child must be prepared to absolutely be together until the child reaches the age of  two, to do everything possible to stay together until it reaches the age of four, and then as the years pass it becomes just slightly less important, but that is always expecting that even if divorced the parents will do the right thing and continue to be just that, parents and active ones at that.

Only too often you see divorced couples, where the father slowly fades out of his child's life... or maintains an almost decorative role seeing his kids every other weekend... Eventually he may remarry and contact will slowly be lost... or the other thing that happens is when a father is scarce and he becomes the hero, as the mother is the one that has to take care of all the daily tiring stuff, and her relaltionship with the children often suffers for this...
Right, enough...

More soon...

Enjoy the song!