My friend Randy has had an Internet presence for several years. He started with web pages which evolved into a blog. The idea of writing a blog myself has been growing for a while. The current tools for Web logs make it easy to publish. I enjoyed creative writing and writing essays as a student, and writing for sf fanzines. I always thought I would write but I always found excuses for not writing: too busy at work; too many jobs around the house; need to spend time with the kids; need to relax and read a book; fear it will compromise career choices in law; fear it will alienate business partners or clients; need to get over the latest crisis at work. Insecurity about my voice and my talent played a part, but depression and shame played a larger part. With depression and shame came a deep fear of self-disclosure and honesty.
Over the last several months, I was working towards starting to write a Web log in the midst of many problems – a stressful workplace, a run-away son with an addiction problem and a marriage floundering in my depression and my wife’s involvement in Network marketing and Alternative spiritual and religious groups and Alternative therapies. On March 12, 2004 my wife Jan told me that she wanted a divorce. I was shaken. She had asked for a divorce a year ago but had stayed to see if I could change enough for her comfort. I had been in therapy since then, and I had learned a good deal about myself during that year. I am fundamentally healthy.
Her involvement in eclectic and eccentric therapies and groups had become central to her sense of who she was. Her involvement in these groups had left me feeling isolated in our marriage and isolated when I was with her family – who are all pretty far into New Age beliefs and practices. My firm conviction is that Jan’s involvement in fringe practices and the advice and support she received from her family and from her counsellors and friends on the fringe influenced her perception of me. I was doing my best within my emotional and intellectual resources to love her while disagreeing with her about the New Age and Network Marketing. She had come to accusing me of “disrespect” for not supporting and embracing her beliefs. She had come to regard me with anger and blame. When Jan wanted to leave a year ago, I had been shattered. This time, I was not. I am not responsible for her feelings. Her attitude to me had become intolerable. I could not stay in this marriage. I also realized that I had lost the sense of shame over Jan’s wish to end the marriage. It’s still terribly painful, and I have contributed to the breakup, but I have nothing to be ashamed of.
Jan’s announcement did not stop my desire to write. It has probably helped me to move forward and to start a blog. In the first few weeks of the this blog I held back disclosure on the subject of divorce. I had agreed with promised Jan that we would not tell our daughter Claire about our divorce until after her exams ended. I kept my promise in this blog and in my words and actions at home.
Jan does not want me talking about her New Age interests or to share my opinion that her beliefs are on the fringe with anyone, and especially with the kids. She says that this amounts to criticism of her and her family of origin. She says it is inappropriate for a divorcing parent to share his feelings about the marriage breakdown with the kids.
She is using the kids to try to avoid my criticism of her beliefs. I have become aware of the evolution of her reaction to criticism. She has reached the point that she dismisses criticism as abuse, and insists on having her own way in life. I want to support my children through the divorce, and I don’t think I can share the full and intimate history of the marriage and the break-up with them. The literature on marriage breakup is diverse and inconsistent. Most writers will support honesty in some circumstances, and silence in others and much depends on the intellect and maturity of the kids. I don’t think I have to worry about harming the kids by writing about the New Age.
Both kids were aware of their mother’s involvement in Network Marketing and New Age spirituality and of the fact that I was critical of those activities and values, and that I was withdrawn and sad and angry. I don’t know how they lived within that conflict. Claire is 19 – an adult – with a strong intellectual and critical focus herself. N. is 16, and has been out of the home for months. His comments to me when I have been in touch with him reflect, apart from his own sense of having been repressed in our home, a fairly clear appreciation of his mother’s priorities.
The real question is whether writing about the New Age is just complaining about being dumped by my wife.
I was a skeptic, a rationalist, a lapsed Catholic before I was married. I have always been skeptical of the New Age and all the self-annointed prophets of channelling, alien visitations, secret wisdom, Cosmic consciousness and private enlightenment. I had experiences with intense and eccentric beliefs at other times before I was married and outside the marriage. I had first hand exposure to the New Age during my marriage. Even though one of my wife’s criticisms of me was that she could not talk about her beliefs with me or bring her friends around, I still heard some pretty weird stuff. I had a ringside seat – hell I was part of the show – as my wife and her parents and her aunt and an assortment of people coalesced into their own unamed cult. I felt my wife draw apart from me over my attitude towards her beliefs and friends.