Monday, November 07, 2005

From Fires to Friends

I lit the first log of the season in my fireplace tonight.

Sacramento isn't exactly known for it's freezing weather, and I feel almost guilty having a fire when it's 72 degrees in the apartment without even turning on the heater (I'm upstairs, so I think I benefit from the heat generated in the apartment below me, which is a showcase model so no one lives there, but it's always kept heated). But tonight is a cool evening, with the skies trying their best to rain, and a fire just seemed like a good idea.

I slept in late this morning, then got a call from a dear friend of mine. She's having some family and marital problems, and because of that, I've been keeping my distance. It's so uncomfortable to be around or visit a family where you just know there's all this strife simmering below the surface. I was her friend long before she met her husband, and I'm still her friend, but to be honest, I hadn't talked to her in several weeks, exactly because it's just so uncomfortable. This, by the way, is the dear friend I wrote to back on February 18th, here in my blog, on the eve of her marriage, with my concerns, most of which have sadly come true exactly as I predicted.

I also understand just how sensitive things get when the marriage is rocky, and I don't want to be an additional source of irritation (the "guy friend" that comes between the wife and her husband, that's just wrong). I remember back when I was struggling to keep my marriage together, my wife-at-the-time had a couple of male friends, and just the fact of the friendship used to drive me nuts. I don't want to be the one to inflict upon my friend's husband the kind of pain and frustration I felt.

But (and there's always a but, isn't' there?), my friend needs a friend, and I am that. Don't misunderstand, dear reader, there isn't and never was any intimate relationship between this woman and I. We talked about the possibility of such things long ago, and I made it clear that I'm not looking for that type of relationship. I don't want a girlfriend or significant other at this point, and she completely respects that. I just don't have the energy or desire to do what it would take to make the kind of relationship I eventually want to have.

So, she called and I met her and her daughter for lunch. We had a good talk (2-1/2 hours worth), and I felt that I let her vent as much as I could, without judging or say "I told you so" too many times. She left and took her daughter back home to continue her day.

I was struck by the similarities that occur in just about all broken marriages. The resentments. The anger. The depression and frustration. That sad resolve, realized when one comes to the point where the desire to stay is outweighed by the relief that will come by leaving.

I remember so vividly going through the exact same emotions. The strange thing now is, I can really see both sides of the relationship, and how they feed off each other, and until one or the other really steps back and is willing to take a step or two in the other person's shoes, nothing changes, and the downward spiral continues.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons I'm in no hurry to get into another relationship. Although I'm well past the emotional upheaval that comes with separations, I know in my heart I'm still healing; still a bit sensitive to some things. It has nothing to do with missing the marriage, because that was and always will be irretrievably broken. I guess I feel like I failed at something. Not everything in life can be conquered or fixed, and I sure gave my marriage the ol' college try (actually, to be fair, my x-wife did, too), and neither of us gave up easily. But, whatever I tried, it didn't work, and eventually, it failed.

I guess that's why I'm in no hurry to return to a relationship. I look forward with anticipation, one day, to meeting someone that will kindle in me the desire to put my energy into a relationship. I know she's out there, and God's timing will dictate when we bump into each other.

But right now I'm happy being a Dad. Truly happy.

I just wouldn't feel right giving anything less to my kids than all I have, especially right now. They are still so young, and need so much guidance.

My eldest is spreading her wings, working fulltime, and although my relationship is nowhere as close as I'd like it to be, I think she and I have developed a respect for each other - a genuine liking of who each other is. I think that is a good base to build a father/daughter relationship not as father/child, but as friends.

My other two are still in high school, and I think it would be a crime if I were to put time into a relationship when right now is one of the most important times in their lives that I be here for them. The time I've spent with them in the past two years since their mother and I broke up have paid off wonderfully. My relationship with them is very close, and again, we have a healthy respect for each other. I can't see doing anything to harm that.

So... it's a choice.

My friend asks me "I've worked so hard all my life, being a single mom, raising my daughter, working hard to make a life... when is it my time to trust someone, and let someone else do the heavy lifting?" An understandable question.

I tell her "You might never get that time."

There's no guarantee that any of us will ever get "our time". Life is what it is, and you have to make the very best of what you have; not constantly looking over the horizon, waiting for something better to come along. That leads to frustration and resentment at what you don't have.

Live life today.

Work hard for tomorrow, yes, but live life today.

Enjoy today.

Hug your kids today. If you don't have kids, hug you parents. Or a friend. Or a neighbor. You get the idea.

I find my Christian faith gives me a lot of comfort in this arena, too.

Matthew 6:27 could be my life's motto: "Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not."

Then on down in Matthew 6:33-34, "Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today."

Live today, love today, and enjoy today.

Which I will do in front of my fireplace, with my little guilt-free fire.

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