Thursday, October 26, 2017

Meeting Someone New aka I Am A Nerd

Today a Facebook friend linked to this article, "13 Questions To Ask Before Getting Married" and I clicked through to read it.  I honestly thought it was a really great list of important ideas to discuss before two people shared vows and joined in a committed partnership intended to be life long. Really, the article has nothing to do with this blog post at all, except it was the catalyst for reminding me that I had compiled a question list myself a few months back.  Although, my list is more about getting to know a person you have newly met and have romantic interest in.

The list started when a woman I had been chatting online with asked me to send her any questions I had about her.  The questions I sent to her were slightly different than these as they were inspired by our conversation up to that point, but those questions I sent her became the skeleton which I would refine into this list.  She never did respond to the questions and that at first got me wondering if the questions we bad, or if the medium was bad.  Obviously, I decided it was the medium and worked hard to refine the questions to where I have them today.

Truth be told, because I am a total nerd, I would use this list with anyone new I met whether there was romantic interest or not.  In my ideal world, meeting someone new I would ask them to a coffee shop and we would go over this list together. The medium of answering these together in a dialog would work much better and not feel like an assignment as I think the original emailed list did when . Going through the entire list together the other party and myself would both have a good idea of whether or not we were going to be compatible.

So here is my nerdy list of "First Date Questions" which can be used for both new friendship or new romantic prospect.

1. What are your favorites of all time and why?
A. Novels
B. Authors
C. Television Show
D. Movies
E. Philosophers
F. Stage Plays
G. Musicals
H. Albums
I. Songs
J. Board Games
K. Card Games
L. Role Playing Games

2. Famous fictional duos, marry one murder the other.
A. Kirk and Spock
B. Batman and Robin
C. Hermoine and Harry
D. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck
E. Rachel and Monica
F. Buffy and Angel
G. Ted and Barney
H. Frodo and Sam
I. Arya and Sansa
J. (Bonus since they're real) Lennon and McCartney

3. What is your type on each of these personality scales?
A. Meyers-Brigg
B. Enneagram
C. Jungian Archetypes
D. World's Smallest Political Test
E. Dawkins Test
F. Chakra Center
G: Kinsey Scale
H. Locus of Control
I. Hogwarts House

4. If you were to receive a call tomorrow letting you know a distant relative had set up a $10,000 a month endowment in your honor how would your life change?

5. If you were invited to be the keynote speaker at a TED event what would the title of your talk be, and what thesis would you want to communicate to the audience with your 18 minutes?

6. Do you have one or more artistic outlets? How do you use these outlets to contribute to shaping the world around you? How have these outlets changed over the course of life events?

7.  Looking at your last major romantic relationship; When measured in the narrative arc of your life story would you consider the relationship beneficial or not?

8. What is your relationship with intoxicants? Legal and illegal?

9. What is your relationship with spirituality? How has your spirituality changed you? How has your spirituality changed because of changes to who you were?

10. What is a story that exemplifies the transition that defines who you are now?

I have never actually used this list explicitly and I am intrigued to know what other people would think if they had met someone new and there first time going out socially that person pulled out a list of questions for discussions.  I personally would be intrigued to learn more about the person with the list and to see what the list questions were.  But I am a self confessed socially awkward nerd and geek, so I also acknowledge I am not the best measuring stick.  I can definitely see where another person would find this intimidating or invasive. If you like the list idea and have other questions that would improve it let me know what you are thinking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Reflection On Mental Labor

My friend Scot Moore on his blog 21st Century men started a conversation about “Mental Labor” and the stress its disproportionate distribution on women adds into a marriage. As a divorced man man myself, who was very surprised when my “good marriage” ended this post has really had the wheels churching in my head today as I processed his post and my thoughts resulting from the post.

At that time I honestly thought I was an extremely good husband. I worked a full time job and made a comfortable income. I made sure the kids got to their extra-curricular activities. I did my share of chores. I honestly always thought I was emotionally supportive and loving. I was a good man with a good marriage; if you asked me my wife was doing alright.

This was not her perspective however. In the tense conversations that occour when a relationship is ending I was both called controlling and also accused of ignoring of our family’s needs. Understandably, by a person who feels controlled and ignored, she found the freedom and attention she was desiring in the affections of an old flame. We tried counseling, tried polyamory, tried everything we could to save our “good marriage.” In the end it was too late.

I have spent many hours in self reflection over these three years, looking for that golden arrow that would slice through and explain her, myself, and our breakdown in such a way where I would not repeat the same mistakes. I want to be a good male partner, and that means honest acknowledgement of my failures so that I can be intentional about my actions in future relationships.

There is an oddity in our culture. When you separate from a relationship encouraging friends want to assure you that it is all your partner’s fault. You become surrounded by people, all of whom assure you that you are the victim. I was never one to entertain these platitudes. Yes, my ex played her part in our split, but I also played my part. The principle goal of my self reflection has been on understanding that role I played.

Social scientist talk about the four forms of labor present in a bonded pair relationship. These labors consist of economic, physical, mental, and emotional. Although we were never anything above comfortable middle class I always provide it sufficiently in the economic labor.

Emotional vulnerability was definitely a skill I desperately lacked early in our relationship, it was also something I was progressively working on in the years we were together. Though I struggled to be open about my own emotional needs, I was very responsive to listening and responding to her emotional needs. If I were attempting to be as self actualized as possible about my role in bearing be emotional labor of our relationship I would not paint myself as a shining knight, but I do believe it is fair to say I bore a near equal role in this load.

The physical labor of our relationship was never equal. Do not get me wrong, I did my part when my part came up. I was never the kind of guy who sat on the couch and expected my dinner and beer after work. I helped prepare meals and assisted with other chores when those chores needed my assistance. Laundry, dishes, picking up, dirty diapers, and shopping were rarely ever performed by me while the children were small. Naturally, I could defensively explain that in those years I was working outside the family and my wife was working within the family; therefore the discrepancy in physical labor was to be expected.

That arrangement worked very well for our family until the youngest child was starting school and my ex wife was returning to the workforce. At this same time, she was going back to work out side the family my work situation had changed and I was working from home the majority of the time. Working from home I picked up more of the chore load. and if you had asked me at the time, I would have swore I was performing an equal contribution to the chores.
It is three years later now. I have been the custodial parent since our split. It is only in these couple years as a single custodial parent that I realize what a minimal portion of the household labor I was performing.

Which brings me back to my friend Scot’s blog post this morning on “mental labor.” Perhaps more accurately to the comic by French feminist comic artist Emma. Please, stop reading this post now and return after you have read all the panels of Emma’s comic on mental labor. This comic strip is my Golden arrow. I never in our 16 years together carried any more than the most negligible portion of the mental labor.

I have learned about mental labor in the years since our break up just from the practical results of having to learn to effectively manage a household of children. We have implemented systems together to make sure people have the food and other shopping needs they require. I have learned to recognize what tasks need to be completed and assign them out to the best family member for completion. I laughed out loud at the portion of the comic strip where the female partner started to complete one chore, which led to stumbling across and needing to complete the other fifteen chores: as this is now a regular occurrence in my life.

My complete lack of an acknowledgment of an entire quadrant of household management was the ticking time bomb of our relationship. This ignored quadrant was acceptably balanced when my ex was a stay at home parent and neither of us felt the impending strain of roles which would eventually be our undoing. However after her return to the workforce the strain increased till the bough broke and the unravelling multiplied exponentially.

This week has been an interesting primer for me to be open to hearing this lesson. I have recently finished two novels by Meg Elison which each took place in a dystopian future where a plague had killed well moire than 90% of the world's women. This week, I have been reading Stephen and Owen King’s new book "Sleeping Beauties" which is a fantasy moral story about a world where all the women have fallen asleep. On Monday, when the #metoo hash tag was trending I also read a short story by author Carmen Maria Machado about the unrelenting demands of being a woman in the world. That same day a female friend posted a meme asking men for one tangible step they would take to end rape culture. Tuesday, I read another article about the rising phenomenon of the female midlife crisis. All of this prepared me to see and understand the answer I have been looking for,. Women are feeling scared, broken, and trapped in our culture primarily because men are not bearing their load of the work in changing the world for the better.

I leave this with two concluding thoughts for myself going forward. Thought one, in my possibly future existing pair bonded relationship I will be intentional to take regular inventory to ensure all four quadrants of household maintenance our shared equitably. More currently actionable, is I will work to bear my load of mental labor to seeing the practical work of crushing misogyny and patriarchy.

I recognize that this has been a rambling self reflective post. However, my hope is that it will inspire the same kind of rambling reflective journey in your thoughts as well. My wish for my fellow males is that we will together commit to bearing the economic, emotional, physical, and mental loads of both our relationships and also our society within the spheres of influence that we live within.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

She Will Be The Sun My Universe Orbits

I saw this image about three days ago now, and I have not been able to move on from it since I first stumbled across it. I would say anyone who knows me, knows that my ADHD is a pretty defining quality of my personality, so it is not surprising that my relationship history would be impacted by this condition which I live with every day.
It was about two years and eleven months ago now that my ex-wife and I split. We had been having a lot of issues for a good two years before that, but the official split was about three years ago now. I emotionally dealt with the fall out of the relationship in the way any ADHD person would react, I hyperfocused on something else. Between theatre, the kids, and work there was a lot to hyperfocus on, and being that at the time I really did not believe that her complaints were justifiable reasons to end the marriage I for the most part felt there was no urgency to self reflect on how I would be a better partner in a future relationship.
Fast forward these past three years and a lot of my thinking on the subject has changed. I have come to believe that her complaints were absolutely justifiable, and that I will in the future sabotage future relationships in the same manner. Hence, the picture that has been on my mind for days now. That image could be the exact illustration of my perspective on my marriage. In my view she was always the center point of my life, and the ten thousand other things, were just bodies in orbit around that center. The image of my perspective is a solar system with her as the sun; her perspective of living with me looks more like the birth of a universe where I am the singularity with everything around me exploding in chaotic energy and being propelled outward.
Now after three years I have met a person worth investing new energy into. I have met a woman who is passionate about the arts, desires to be a positive force in the world, is a reader, a thinker, and someone who challenges me in our conversations. I have a met woman whom I adore. When she and I are in a room, she makes my heart pound. I genuinely enjoy being with her, and our conversations make me proud to be a person who would even be on her romantic radar. She makes me happy, and I want to be the person who she says makes her happy too. I am not inclined to romantic vulnerability, yet she is a bright light and I am the moth drawn to her risks be damned. From the time we have spent together so far I hope we blossom together. She is a firework and I want her to become my best friend and my romantic partner.
Yet, here I am, the same ADHD person I was in my marriage, and the same ADHD person I will be till they spread my ashes. I want a centerpoint again, but there will ALWAYS be 10,000 other things in that orbit too. I can no more stop the barrage of ideas to be considered, plans to be made, and problems to be solved than a flood wall can stop a hurricane. Being all over the place with my hands in a thousand pies is me, and the only real me I can be. I can no more stop being infatuated by a world of sparkly ideas and plans than I can stop breathing.
I have no silver lining for myself, no magic spell that will fix the problem that vexed my marriage. I will always be excited about the possibility of 10,000 potentialities; I ask myself every day, "Am I the seed of my own relational destruction?" I am left to self reflect on the nuts and bolts of never again letting the sun at the center feel like she is less than every reason the entire system orbits.