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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hidden bottles, magical thinking and the part-time parent

Sometimes, I wonder if I am impacting anyone by my thoughts, my musings about human nature?I'd like to think that one day someone will say, yeah, this did help me out.  But, in the meantime, I will write for that time... So, last Saturday (May 27, 2017),  I went to a family wedding without my daughter.  It had a nice outdoor area that was very kid friendly.  Family relatives of her age were playing there.  I couldn't help but to think that she would have loved to play too.  My wife felt the same thing too.  While I enjoyed the wedding and am happy for the couple, there was a bittersweet nature to the situation without my daughter there.

Anyone who has the short end of a custody agreement can related to this: Short of a close death in the family, one of the hardest things I've had to face is limited time with my daughter and giving her up when I feel like I just got her again.   There's been times in which I've had to go the better part of a week or more without seeing her due to the custody schedule. Holidays/vacation when she's not with me can be rough too.  I think to myself, she should be there enjoying that time with us.  In some ways, it's bittersweet knowing that I have her now (when I have her), but tomorrow or in a day or two, I'll have to give her back to Mom.  When I drop her off for the better part of a week or so, my mood sometimes tanks.  I have forced myself to cry at that point by putting on the most melancholy music I know.  Doing so to me feels like I am bloodletting from a blood blister or removing the poison from my system.   I guess the overarching feeling is that I feel like I'm missing out on huge parts of her fleeting childhood.

Through her time with me, my wife indicated to me, she has a little bit better understanding of what parents who have lessor custody go through in that regard.  She said that she used to view all guys who walked away from their kid(s) as heartless, but now she believes that at least in some cases, it is a matter of the bittersweet nature of secondary custody being too hard on some.  I said to her, yeah, it's hard, but she--my daughter--needs me, so I have to deal.

Which brings me to a point.  In AA or Alcoholics Anonymous, people literally hide their alcohol or places that they get it from.  They call this "hidden bottles".  In other words, it is a secret place where they can get their fix without another knowing (or at least so they think).  How this applies to my situation with my daughter is this: I fought hard for my rights with her and I've been told I did well in that regard, but even so, I feel cheated out by the system.  So, there is a part of me that actively contemplates how to see her more.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, except that I focus too much on not having her and pondering 'my options for getting her more' rather than appreciating the time I do have with her.  While it isn't a bad thing to consider how I can maximize my time with her, I know I shouldn't let it consume me.  I shouldn't let dread of 'losing her again'  (for days at a time) interfere with my time with her.   On the outside, I 'accept' the current limitation, but like a hidden bottle in my mind, I reach for how can I change things or for indulging my dread in "losing her again".

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(Mental) hidden bottles can be in their extreme, magical thinking.  I call them mental hidden bottles, because we know if we openly hold out hope or indulge them, we are likely to be judged and told that they are absurd.  To illustrate, I will give a few examples and comment a bit more: 
  • Believing you still have a chance to be with someone who broke up with you--especially if it wasn't a good breakup--if you just let them know how much you mean to them.  
    • Showing up unannounced for example aka ambushing them.
    • Getting them elaborate an expensive gifts, etc.
  • Having a close loved one pass away and waking up day after day, expecting to see them again in this life, though outwardly expressing to others you know they are gone.
    • A kid expecting to see a lost sibling,  parent, aunt/uncle.
    • A grown-up expecting to see their late spouse.
  • Believing that you if you buy hundreds of ticket after tickets, you will hit the right number.  Believing that if you keep dumping in dollar after dollar, the right slot machine will reward us with a big payout. Believing that if you wait long enough, the right rich distant (and likely unknown) relative who passes away, will leave you enough money that your troubles will go away.
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I'd venture to guess by the time we are into adulthood, we've given up most if not all of the truly magical thinking.  I don't mean that we give up on our dreams or goals, but we give up on the things that are truly impossible or that which is so near to it (and destructive to focus on).  Anyway, we come to realize that reality doesn't change just because we don't like it.  Our late loved ones just don't come back to life after seeing them deceased.  While we may not believe in "magic", I think sometimes, we still indulge in holding onto our mental hidden bottles. That is thoughts, feelings and desired outcomes which get in the way of our living with the current reality.

In the case of missing my daughter, it's a fact that short of tragedy or bad circumstances, I will never see her everyday.  (At least until she is old enough to decide at the end of her childhood).  I don't like it, but I can't quietly focus on that like a mental hidden bottle.  I see there is room for me and her mom to split time a little more evenly (and we have), but I can't focus on my feelings of getting 'cheated' by the system.  The fact is that there are some parents who are (unfairly) kept from their kids though manipulation from vindictive ex-partner.  

I guess my takeaway from this is not to give up on goals, hopes, dreams or justice, but to keep things in perspective.  That is to say, do you what you can and should but at the end of the day realize that sometimes you have to turn it over the Almighty and trust that He will work towards what is best for you.  As this is a sinful, fallen world, we may not get what we want, but maybe we need to understand that the Almighty works for the best for those who follow Him.

I struggle with faith in matters of this sort, but I know that when I've tried to play God in my own life, I have fallen way short and need to learn better to let go.  I guess the advice that I'd give for others is to realize that while our Higher Power wants us to participate in the betterment of us and our situation, that He also wants us to lean on him and not just our own ways and understanding.

Just my 1/50th of a dollar,
Rich