Incompatible Lives

“It’s time for you to be a father, not chase tail all over the country.”

The voice cracked on my cell phone.

Angrily pacing in the airport, waiting on my return flight, with the phone clutched tightly in my hand, I countered, “It’s about me at this point in my life, my focusing on myself is not wrong. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

My daughter had been crying in the background when my mother spoke next.

“You’re a shitty father. Your kids need you and you’re flying around chasing pussy.”

I had never heard my mother speak this way to me, and it shocked me greatly.

“Has everyone lost their damn minds up there? Do I get time to myself to travel, date, and sleep with women? What business is it of yours what the hell I do when I don’t have my kids?”

“It doesn’t matter. What matters is that your kids need you and you’re not here”, she said.

I had this happen before. It was clear as day to me.

Back in my marriage, my miserable dead end marriage, my ex used to call me at work with kids crying and guilt me into trying to come home, saying “they miss you”.

She would leverage my job against my family and she knew she was doing it. And here was my mother, another women in my life, trying to guilt and shame me into coming home because my daughter was a mess.

My daughter had been suffering from anxiety, a curse that I passed down to her, and she wasn’t coping very well. And as her screams and cries harangued in the background of my phone call that day, I wasn’t having another woman in my life try to tell me what I needed to do, leveraging my lifestyle with my kids.

I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was just going out on my time that I didn’t have my kids, traveling and meeting new people, and yes, I was having sex with women. So? “What the fuck?” was going through my head big time as I tried and failed several times to calm down. So there I was, in an airport in Pensacola, yelling at the phone.

Before this altercation, I had spent the better part of 2 years traveling all over the United States, by car and by plane, visiting places I’d never been, meeting people from Twitter and other walks of life, and yes, sleeping with women.

I had spent the majority of my 20’s working, not dating, and being terrible with women. My 30’s were spent with marriage and kids. And after I jettisoned my marriage after 10 years at 40 years old, it was time, albeit late, for me to sow my oats. I hadn’t had this kind of power with women in my life and I wanted to try it out for a spin. I was doing it within the rules of my divorce.

There were weekends I didn’t have my kids, so what harm was it for me to go and enjoy my life?

“I really thought I had thought this through” was running through my head.

Conundrum

Why wasn’t I able to pull this off? I thought I had done my homework. Why in the hell was I dealing with this?

I wanted to continue to travel. I wanted to continue to date all over the country. I wanted to continue having fun with my free time.

But what I didn’t understand? With my particular circumstances, with who I was, and with what I was doing, I couldn’t pull it off.

Some men can and do.

My kids were suffering from my absence, even if I didn’t believe it.

Yes, when I was there, I was there for my kids. But, I wasn’t really there. Between work, hotels, flights, rental cars, date nights, and all the other stuff that was piling up, I was missing from my kids lives. My mind wasn’t where it needed to be. With pussy, dinner plans, and travel getting the lion’s share of my attention, I was mailing it in with my kids.

They needed a strong, grounded father who had built a foundation of strength and stability. They were getting neither from me. And when the inevitable blowups occurred, they (and the women in their lives) needed a strong, masculine calm to break the tension, something that I could not provide at that moment.

And I knew it. Damn I was having fun doing this life. But in a round about way, even if my mom was wrong for calling me a shitty father, she was right about one thing. This wasn’t me, and I wasn’t there.

I couldn’t pull it off. Some other dude could. I couldn’t.

So, as I left the airport bound for home that day, I had to rethink my entire strategy and if it was even possible to have these incompatible lives.

My mother had said very hurtful things to me. Things that I knew weren’t true, but things she had never said to me before. I had to grasp why she felt this way.

The women in my life (mother, sister, and ex) were losing control of the situation because I never had it under control. I took off week after week for a new destination, all while leaving these women in charge of a situation that I figured they had control over. But the minute I left, the shit hit. Why?

Because I wasn’t there. Not necessarily there physically. But there. My presence. My infrastructure. My frame. My setup. My processes.

I had done none of it to help offset any issues that I was hoping wouldn’t come up. I knew about my daughter and her volatility. I still did nothing. I blindly let myself get away with it, and now the check had come due.

She wasn’t getting her dad. She was getting a dude mailing it in on the days he was around and passing it off to others on the days he wasn’t.

The one thing I had wanted in life was to be good with women, and here I was, better than I’d ever been, and I was being asked to give it up for my kids?

Yes. Yes I was.

My kids needed me.

Putting It To Bed

Did I have to give it up?

The thought and question raced through my mind as I flew back home.

The flights lasted longer than any other I’ve ever taken, because I was being asked to let go of something I like doing, but it was becoming detrimental to my home life.

I understood, finally, that I could travel and do some of the things I wanted to do, but just not to the scale of how I was doing them.

I had to get back home and plant firm ground to give my kids the foundation and frame they needed to thrive, even when I wasn’t around. So I did just that and established myself firmly.

And as if by magic, my kids improved dramatically.

As Zac Small says, “Presence is greater than presents.”

And it was proven after my flight landed that night.

A year later, I went back to my mom.

I went up to her, gave her a hug, and told her I forgave her for calling me a shitty father.

She apologized for calling me that as well.

She understood that I had improved as a father, by simply being there for my kids, as opposed to being there for unnamed women.

No amount of pussy is worth jeopardizing your family over.

The women in my life that were the most important to me were getting the full me, finally.

Daughters, mother, sister were getting me, but also, the real me. I wouldn’t put up with any shit, but I would respectfully acknowledge that I was lacking in certain areas as a father, and that was more important to me to correct than any other issue at that time.

And my job was to make sure that my kids got me first and often. I needed to be there for them, even if it meant sacrificing my short term goals, I had to focus on the long term of my kids.

My lives, for just me, were at the moment and for the foreseeable future, incompatible. I couldn’t be the single dad who picked up girls any more. I had to just be the dad. And be a good one, which I knew I was.

But I also had to come to the realization that a long term relationship is what I wanted.

I just had to come home.

A Letter to My Ex-Wife

Jill,

I know this letter is a long time in the making. I know that I haven’t explained fully what I decided to file for divorce against you. I know that there are many unanswered questions. I’m hoping to help answer some of those in this letter. This is a letter explaining it all.

It explains why I left.

It explains what I’ve learned.

It explains what I now believe.

It explains my new life and your place in it.

Let’s begin.

When I woke up almost 5 years ago, on a cold February night, and told you I wanted a divorce, it wasn’t because of you. True, you had your faults, I won’t go into them in this letter, but I will at least give you one token.

The man you married wasn’t the man I am now.

You were sold a bill of goods that wasn’t what you signed up for.

The man you thought you married was a man created by all the people in my life. It was a fictitious character, one invented by family, friends, and acquaintances, a robot designed to be a happiness machine.

It wasn’t me. I was a timid yes man. Someone who was trying to gain approval from everyone by doing everything they wanted and nothing for himself. I was playing a role that was designated by my family as something that I “had” to do. Something I was “supposed” to be.

That man you married who was all smiles the day I said “I do” was not real. He was all parts of all people who he had determined was the best of all worlds. He was trying to put himself into a mold that would never fit him, all because he was trying to act out on the stage of life, starring as the happily married, oafish husband who was a good man and did what everyone told him.

You see, men like me have lost their way. My generation, including my countless friends and acquaintances, were told by the generation before us that we had to play this role. We were told to be family men. We were told to get a job, buy a car, have kids, have a wife, and live the white picket fence dream that they did. However, they aren’t living that dream either. It’s a farce.

Many want the dream. Many don’t. I wanted something more. I wanted “me” back.

We can be all these things, but if it’s not on our terms, then it isn’t real. We let others decide our paths in life, we don’t stand up and say “STOP!” as soon as possible. We are just herded into the life that others want.

5 years ago, I decided to say “STOP!”

This wasn’t the life I wanted. It was the life they wanted. It was the life you, my ex-wife wanted.

I failed you. I didn’t keep my promises. And I know that deeply hurt you. And for that, I am eternally sorry.

But that man that you saw on your wedding day wasn’t the real Tim. The real Tim had to emerge through 3 years of therapy. The real Tim wanted his life back because this wasn’t what he signed up for. This is what he was TOLD he was supposed to do.

And, rather than possibly let down all the people in my life, I played the role.

I played it so well, I forgot who the hell I was. I needed a jolt to get me back to my senses. All of this life was a lie and unfortunately, you were a part of it.

I’m not taking the fall for the bad marriage. I’m taking the fall for the man I was when we got married because he wasn’t real. Just like you have told me that the person I married wasn’t the real you, the same thing applies to me.

I’m not taking the fall for the sexlessness in our marriage. I’m taking the fall for the man who didn’t know shit about what he was doing.

I’m not taking the fall for the listlessness of our kids and our unhappiness. I’m taking the fall for not discovering who I really was sooner and being a real, unapologetic version of Tim Beckett.

You’ll read this and debate in your head what truly could’ve been if we’d both been the real versions of ourselves, I know. But we can’t change the past, so we must change our presents and forge ahead to a good future, knowing now that we have finally accepted who we really are and the fantastic relationship that has emerged from accepting this reality.

Our kids are happier, we are happier, our families have finally accepted our decisions and they are happier for us, regardless of their personal feelings.

I couldn’t have asked for a better co-parent. Instead of taking feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment out of me and our kids, you instead took the whole thing in stride, decided to be an adult, and worked with me on raising two beautiful daughters. You’re an amazing mother and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

Photo credit: Verywell Family

I decided on that fateful February day to change my life because that life wasn’t mine. Nor was it yours. It was like a painting that everyone enjoyed except those that were in it. We were the picture of happiness but when life was applied to it, it was anything but happy.

So I broke us out. I did us a favor. Instead of a journey of unhappiness, depression, and the problems that would arise from it, I decided to take back control. In the short term, it promised some issues, but in the long term, as you have witnessed first-hand, it’s blossoming into an amazing situation.

Selfish? Probably. Thoughtless? Hardly. Three years of taking stock, thinking about the direction of my life, and the consequences of my actions boiled up inside me and blasted out on the cold, winter night. I know you didn’t understand it then.

I know you understand it now.

Many in our family were and now are supportive. Many aren’t. To those that aren’t, there’s a reason you aren’t apart of our lives anymore. You refused to accept the real me. You wanted me to be apart of your ideals. I refuse to live by anyone’s terms except my own.

And that’s where I am now, Jill. I’m living on my own. I’m living the life I want to live in. I’m creating great opportunities and decisions that I will own. They are mine.

You know now that instead of trying to lead a hapless family by default because I didn’t care, you now have a MAN, a LEADER, a DECISION MAKER, and a FATHER who loves his kids and will do anything for them.

You know now that you can count on me at any time to support you, whereas before you weren’t sure and doubted me all the time.

You know now my STRENGTH is unwavering. And you also know that I am taking good care of myself so that I will be there as a ROCK for as long as I can stand, walk, run, lift, and fight. My dying breath will be there as the foundation of this new family unit, not as the doting, do nothing complainer who never took action during our nuptials.

You know now that this Tim is the REAL, UNAPOLOGETIC Tim, one that makes the rules of his life, has boundaries, and does things not because of hopeful acceptance, but because he demands it of himself and chooses these paths for the betterment of himself and by association, his family.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. My cup is no longer empty. It contains ENERGY for years to help our family grow, sustain, and thrive.

So, enjoy the fruits of my acceptance of the real me. The real Tim will continue to provide and lead this family into the future. The past is in the past, my mistakes are mine and I own them. You may never own yours, but it doesn’t matter now. What matters is that we are both on the road that WE choose. Our paths now walk beside our kids in seeing them grow to be amazing, well-adjusted adults, all while making decisions based on what WE want in OUR lives.

The man you’ve met and who is proposing to you on your cruise is a good man. He’s an amazing father and Mike will be a great step-father to our kids. He’s become a great friend as well to me. I welcome him and his kids to our family with open arms. It takes all kinds to make a world, and we are a very special, very diverse family that I am proud to be associated with.

You are very special to me and you will always be a part of my life as the mother of my children. Know that I will be there to make sure they are LED by a masculine, strong, proud man who is honored to be their father.

I will always love you,

Tim