The Beginning And End Of A Survival Blog

I began blogging about five years ago.  At the time, my oldest daughter was married to a man while stationed at a US Naval base in Japan.  It didn’t last long.  As they split up, he was relocated to the U.S. and she was forced to move back into the barracks, where their little dog Champ was not allowed.  In desperation, she flew him to the U.S. just before their split. My wife and I drove to Sea-Tac airport near Seattle to pick him up. He was understandably disoriented and unhappy when we opened his crate and wanting out of the car.  I completely understood his confusion and and gave him a lot of time to adjust to his new surroundings. Before long he settled in, enthusiastic to begin his training regimen.

Both daughters had left home, and I began blogging as a means stay in touch with them and to document Champ’s new life with us.  My daughter in Japan enthusiastically followed my progress in training the unruly little dog and commented on every post, whether it pertained to her beloved pet or not.  I had him well-trained in no time.  He’s a great little dog and it was a fun time.

I’ve got to admit that becoming an empty-nester and reconnecting with my wife was better that what I had expected.  For the first time in years, could enjoy the freedom that parents experience when the house is no longer filled with the drama that accompanies raising teenage girls.  The future was looking bright for us and little Champ, who had become our new adopted child.

But very suddenly, and for reasons I still don’t understand, things changed overnight.  Many couples struggle during this new phase and some never adjust. Suffice it to say our marriage began to deteriorate.  After months of tension and almost no communication, we finally ended up separating. Champ and I found ourselves in a very quiet house together.

In the beginning of this new arrangement I found myself writing for hours at night, processing the intense shock and fallout from my failing marriage.  I suppose it was a healthy coping mechanism, but I found no answers.  Within a short time I began a new blog and spent a lot of time at the computer, mostly writing about life in the first stages of my divorce.  Very quickly, people began to engage and follow.  Almost all of them were people in the same situation.

I still remember the constant sick feeling in my stomach that dragged on for weeks.  Other people wrote about having similar physical symptoms.  I began to lose weight due to what I referred to in my blog as “The Divorce Diet”.  I knew it wasn’t good.  It would take action to redirect my energy, to remain positive.

Cooking better meals and engaging in more physical activity was the easy part. I joined a gym and worked out every morning before work.  That was a nice distraction which really improved my mental state.  But I felt very isolated, and admitted to myself that I needed to be around people.  I knew very few people outside the couples we socialized with.  After doing a little research, I decided to join a walking club.  Our first walk was on New Year’s Day and we walked six miles.  A few people had their dogs, so I brought Champ on our next walk. People were amazing and I began to really look forward to our long outings.

I enjoyed the walking group so much that I soon joined a mountaineering club as well.  I began to play in Thursday night pool tournaments.  Then I signed up for a night class in outdoor survival. Anything to get me out of the house.

On the nights I was home, I spent more and more time writing.  I renamed my blog “A Divorce Survival Guide”, detailing my journey back to a single, solitary life after 23 years of marriage.  I attempted to put some humor into my writing and to some extent, keep things light.  My goal was to never preach, but to try to set an example.  Staying busy, being around people, and just accepting that divorce as a painful process that must be endured. I began to feel thankful for the relatively good state of mind I managed to keep, considering some of the daily misery I was reading about.  Things could be worse for me, that’s for sure.

I shared with my readers that, although I’m not a horribly outgoing person by nature, I made a pact with myself that I would not again refuse any invitation or opportunity during this phase of my life.  I made it a point to always say “Yeah, I’ll go!”  It didn’t fix all my problems, but it was a big help to stay busy and find myself around supportive people.  I got to know a different side of myself, a more outgoing and compassionate person.

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My younger daughter didn’t know when she joined our walking group that day that Champ doesn’t do well in the heat.

Although it was a miserable place to be, I must admit it was an incredibly interesting experience. There were bitter moments for sure, but at times I found a lot of humor in my own situation.  I really like what I was writing back then as I tried to stay focused on the good things and make fun of the bad.  Personally, I felt that the anger and hurt provided a lot of motivation for me to get creative in my writing.  I didn’t zero in on my soon-to-be-ex; I concentrated on my new approach to life, somewhat downplaying my own misery.

Lots of people made me both cringe and laugh as well with their hyper-negative commentary on their STBX’s.  It may dark place, but there’s no denying it’s there.  I personally embraced the comedy in my own suffering, which I felt was an honest way to express what I was really feeling without sounding too pitiful.

Champ and I bonded closely during that time, just the two of us living at the house.  One night we went out to the barn in the rain and snow and took some self-portraits.  What else do you do late at night in the middle of winter?  I wanted to remember what a good little friend he was to have around.  I often thought of my daughter in Japan when I looked at him.  In fact, I still do.  I’ll never forget how comforting it was to have him there.

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In the rain with “The Divorce Dog” Champ, back in his early “leashed” days.

During those tough times I remained faithful to my wife, and I believe she did the same.  I was especially unwilling to create any hard feelings with my daughters, who were also affected with what was going on.  It was the right thing to do.  Just as unexpected as our split had been, we somehow reconciled within two weeks of our final divorce court date. Resuming our married life together, we were a little bit poorer, but even more appreciative and respectful of our marriage than before. We are very open about it, maybe even a little proud to have beat the odds.

Once she moved back, my divorce blog became irrelevant.  Although I tried for a while, I simply needed to move on with my life. and eventually abandoned it altogether.  I literally spent a couple of years in social media limbo, hardly ever posting.  It’s taken a long time, but I’ve gradually come back to blogging for an entirely different reason.

I’m probably at the point right now where I enjoy reading other people thoughts more than putting mine out there, but I go back and forth.  Plus, I don’t have the driving emotions that come with getting a divorce to inspire me.  When I retired, I began to write a lot more.  But now that I’m a worker bee again, it’s harder to find the time. But I still make time most days to see what my blogging peeps are up to.

If I really wanted some inspiration, all I’d have to do is create a little drama at home and I’d have plenty of fuel for some creative writing, which might also afford me some real “alone time”.  But I know I’ll be happier and live longer not going down that road again.  I’ll settle for documenting my daily walks with Roxy and Champ and the occasional thought or memory that strikes me as we’re heading down the hill.

 

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25 thoughts on “The Beginning And End Of A Survival Blog

  1. I was glad to read of this back story. Of course, I didn’t follow you then since I hadn’t started my blogging journey. I think that the separation gave you a chance–however not desired–to learn more ways of being in the world as an introvert. Always glad to hear from you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You picked up on a point that I didn’t really get into, the way our separation prompted me to start interacting more with people. I’m glad you liked it, and thank-you, Elizabeth, for your perceptive insights!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I can really relate to your story in this post Des. I have seen the film, read the book and could have filled a blog like you did. I do have two children (in their 40s) who were turned against me by their mum after the divorce in the mid-1980s (I was devastated and depressed for ages). I have not contacted them for years as I was fed up with their abuse and at the same time expecting me to be the Bank Of Dad. I know that all hell would be let loose if they knew that I had left Spain and am now married to a lovely woman younger than them. They know my email address and I am leaving it up to them to contact me when they are ready. I am so pleased that you and your wife are back together with your lovely family in the background. I am happy for you. Ralph 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ralph, thanks much for sharing that with me. I know other people whose kids have have been turned against a parent just out of spite during a divorce. That easily could have happened to me as well. What happened with your kids is such a shame, and I’m sorry that they are missing out on spending time with you and Natascha, who I’m sure they would love. It really is their loss as well. I was lucky to have married a woman who would never try to turn her children against me. I guess that throughout this ordeal, we both realized one day that the other one wasn’t really all that bad after all.
      I hope for both you and your kids that they come around, Ralph. Thanks for reading my story and for your kind words. Des

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Dear Des,
    I never had a chance to read your divorce-blog. Perhaps it was a good thing. I would have found it too depressing to read about your problems and being unable to help.
    I am so glad that you experienced the one-in-a-thousand miracle to be reunited with your wife and avoided the turmoil of the post-divorce stress and agony.
    Now about your creativity when under extreme duress! You may understand now how the emotional roller coaster as described on the klopp-family blog has engendered a veritable outpour of creativity, which I can hardly match during these placid sunset years I am now enjoying.
    May more happy moments be in store for you, Des!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Peter, I think you would have enjoyed my divorce blog. Yeah, it was a bit depressing, but it also explored the lighter side of emotional devastation. I’m really glad you understand how rejection, anger or depression can sometimes be a good motivator towards creativity. I really struggle now to be creative, living in this cushy, happy life of mine. Thanks as always Peter for the kind thoughts. Des

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Des, thank you for sharing this, it was very moving and so lovely to read that you and your wife reconciled at the eleventh hour. You had said in a post about friendship that you’d had a six month separation but I hadn’t known more than that. It was so interesting to read about all the things you did to keep yourself going whilst accepting the emotional pain. So many wouldn’t have been able to do this. I love the picture of you and Champ in the barn.
    I’ve sometimes experienced that when I accept things and cope I suddenly find that I don’t need to after all, that whatever it was is over, almost like a test. Not on such a big scale though mind you.

    ‘the lighter side of emotional devastation,’ love that!

    I used to think I was more creative when unhappy. Now I am mostly happy I notice everyday beauty. Okay I’m travelling so lots to see but I notice it everywhere even somewhere quiet or dusty or nondescript. Everyday beauty, moments of awareness, day to day happiness and so on, and the everyday things that happen, are all worth reading and writing about. I enjoy your blogs and am grateful to you for being a reader as well. I too really enjoy reading posts and keeping in touch with my blog people.
    And a few nights ago in Pushkar, India, the restaurant played a whole Beatles album (Help) then a whole REM album (Automatic for the people), just after I’d read your post, I told my husband about it. (We’d been talking about people skipping songs a few days before that)
    Patterns and ‘coincidences’ everywhere!
    Best wishes from (relatively to India) chilly Nepal.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Rachel, and thank-you for your thoughtful reply. I would love it if I was anywhere and a whole Beatle or REM album played. If I owned an eating or drinking establishment, I would only play entire albums! It’s cool to know that you shared thoughts on song skipping with your husband.
      I appreciate what you pointed out about your own happiness, and I’m especially glad to read that you feel a creative spark without being driven by negative emotion. I also do, but it’s not as intense, but maybe it could be if I had the right passion behind it. This is actually could be an important message for me to hear right now, Rachel. I need think more about creative motivation. Maybe that would be a good topic for a blog post.
      Regarding our separation, I now realize what a learning experience it was for me and my wife as well. As you point out, acceptance (or even resignation) is critical in order to move on. Getting to that point was the hardest part for me. I started hanging out with many people who had divorced and still had not accepted that fact in their own minds. To me, it seemed self-destructive. I didn’t mention in the post how difficult reconciliation actually was, having already mentally checked out of the marriage. But putting the effort back into our relationship really did make us stronger than before (kind of a cliché, but very true in our case). The whole cycle involved a lot of emotional turmoil and work, but it all was worth it.
      Like you, I very much enjoy comments on what I’ve written, and I find that certain people are quite good at filling in the blanks. You have a really nice way of presenting an additional view to the conversation in a positive way. Thank-you for doing that! Stay warm and enjoy your time in Nepal. Looking forward to reading about it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I started reading your blog after you were reconciled with you wife, so I didn’t read your divorce blog either. But I think it was a healthy way for you to deal with the stress and pain of divorce, and glad that you were wise enough to keep it real but also positive, and not as a vehicle for attacking your wife. That probably helped with the reconciliation, I would think!
    Now that you won’t be blogging as much I’ll miss your posts, but completely understand. Blogging does take time, and yes, when things are going badly, we are more motivated to write about our feelings! So in that small sense, I’m glad you won’t be writing as much, if you know what I mean. Take care, Des!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Ann! Glad you understood my points about blogging being a good outlet/processing vehicle for negative emotions. I found it was not only possible, but also healthier to document most situations without having to go on the attack. Not just the writing, but the interactions as well, were helpful to me to get through a difficult period of my life.
      For the most part, I see blogging here as a positive thing, different than most other social media. I plan to post as much as I can, but weekends are now pretty full with another grandson, not to mention chores and projects that are piling up! I hope that within a year or so I can really retire for good and then I’ll probably post more. I always appreciate you reading my posts and your thoughtful comments, Ann.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Des, I am glad you had Champ, & your attitude as you did. I am pleased to hear you reconciled with your wife. I was confused as I was reading your post, having discussed things like your wife’s request for the prom photo shoot.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Nik, yes the reconciliation took place about five years ago, and the photo shoot was much more recent. We’ve now been married 28 years! I’m a lucky man to still have her. Thanks for reading, Nik!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I wasn’t aware it had been 23 years for you and your wife before your divorce. That’s a very, very long time. I have so much admiration for your ability to keep your sense of humor during that time. I certainly lost mine after the break-up and am only just recovering it. It sounds like you have recovered so much more. It’s so rare for two people to be able to overcome a separation and not just that, start anew. I assume it’s also a testament to how graciously both of you must have managed the divorce. Wishing the two of you (and Champ) many more happy years together!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A few of your posts remind me of how difficult those times were in my own life. I would say that our divorce process was more amicable than most, although it didn’t start out that way. The sudden loss of our marriage was huge shock. In the beginning I struggled hour by hour, until I finally resigned myself to the reality that it was over. After that, I really did start with small steps, just like what you describe in your blog.
      If you’ve lost your sense of humor, it’s not obvious from many of your posts. I do think it’s important to try to keep it, no matter how bad things get. If nothing else, it seems that my sunny outlook aggravated my wife at times, which was an unforeseen bonus! I was too stubborn to allow her to see me in a dejected state, always trying to keep it straightforward, but friendly. I could go on and on, but you get the point. It’s still pretty amazing to me that we dropped the divorce in the home stretch, but I’m so glad we did. Thank-you for your kind wishes, and I wish the same for you! It will get easier.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Des. I’m truly happy for you. I feel it’s a sign of supreme emotional maturity to manage what the two of you did. Unfortunately, we didn’t. It took me well over three years to get over the ferocious pain I went through after our break-up.
        Only now am I really ready to leave it alone. In fact, I truly want to get out of the marriage now. Now, ironically, it’s the divorce dragging on, not me. We are on good terms, my ex and I, given the circumstances and I sincerely hope it will stay this way as we work our way through the thorny financial issues. A good sense of humor certainly wouldn’t help. I’m glad you found traces in my posts. Phew. That gives me hope.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s is funny. I caught that! I knew what you meant 🙂
    BTW, attributing anything to my emotional maturity is beyond generous! Thanks for probably being the first person in the world to ever say that. I take it as a huge compliment!

    Like

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