Three Sides to An Issue

This is a brief post, but I will try and be somewhat more eloquent as we head into this three-day weekend.

On the homeward bus this afternoon, I took off my wedding ring.  It’s now in a cup on my desk, sharing space with some pencils and some thumb tacks.

Someone once said there were three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.  There’s definitely quite a bit of truth in this.  In the interests of showing some balance, I will here provide the link to It’s Complicated, the blog that Steph began this morning.  I do not intend for this blog to become my “Divorce Diary,” and the split will not be my sole topic of blogging from now on.  (Nor, I don’t think, does Steph intend her blog to be focused on this to the exclusion of all else.)

"It’s Complicated" Doesn’t Sum It Up

Facebook’s choices of “Relationship Status” are quite limited.  In addition to “Married,” “Single,” “Widowed,” etc., it lists “It’s Complicated” as one of the choices.  Several people I have known–from Ohio University, from college, from former jobs–have listed their statuses that way.  Many times, I didn’t feel I was close enough to them to ask them to elaborate.

I now list my status as “It’s complicated.”  It will be complicated for some time to come, but I already know the outcome.
>Steph and I decided, calmly, without tears, raised voices, or words spoken only to be regretted later, that we will end our 14-year marriage as soon as it is practically possible.  Neither of us have been happy for some time, and what will ultimately constitute happiness in our eyes differs so radically that remaining together will ultimately breed only resentment.

I wish I had the answer to when this will come to pass.  In 1975, the group Tavares released a song that said, “It only takes a minute, girl, to fall in love.”  That is true, but to fall out of love takes many years and, in many cases, a few thousand dollars.  This will be an amicable divorce.  After we sign the paperwork, I can see Steph and me going out to lunch together.  We are not going to enrich lawyers, because we come to the table in full agreement regarding custody for Susie (Steph will retain full custody, but I will have very liberal visitation rights and will still have a voice in decisions that affect her life and well-being).  There isn’t that much joint marital property, since we don’t co-own a home, boat, or vehicle.

During the next few months, we will be settling financial matters, as well as making decisions regarding health and insurance.  We need to satisfactorily resolve these be for we set foot in the Clerk of Courts’ office to ask for the divorce paperwork.  No-fault divorce is the law of the land in all 50 states (except New York, but no-fault divorce will go into effect there next month), so we can end the marriage without any finger-pointing or negativity.

Indeed, no one is the villain here.  I have long realized that I would make a terrible spouse for anyone.  I married Steph because I held a glimmer of hope that maybe I was wrong about that, and I was shaken by the idea of spending the rest of my life wondering.  However, 14 years of marriage has proven to me that I am a person who should not be partnered.  I am also coming to wonder if partnered, not-partnered is hard-wired genetically, like being left- or right-handed.  When Steph and I married, many of the guests whom I invited came to the ceremony with a “This I’ve gotta see!” attitude.  When I made a visit to Cincinnati a month or two after my marriage, I stopped in a bar I used to frequent.  My former across-the-street neighbor was tending bar, and he said, “Paul, you’ll never believe this.  The craziest rumor’s been going around Clifton about you…”  He stopped in mid-sentence, glanced at the ring on my left hand, and said, “Oh, Jesus!  It’s true.”

Surely, I had no positive role models of marriage growing up.  My parents were monsters, people who had no business marrying, and even less business parenting.  I tried to take into consideration that not all marriages are like theirs, but they were so unavailable to me emotionally and spiritually that I learned to draw on my own resources, maybe to the point that I am either unwilling or unable to fully ask or receive that from anyone else.

The entries I post after this one will not all focus on the divorce.  Both Steph and I are maintaining our lives and our interests.  Steph is returning to the choir at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, singing at the 9:15 a.m. services.  I will continue to habituate the Sporeprint Infoshop and the events that interest me when I see them posted on the Columbus DIY message board.  We remain living together, although my office is now my bedroom.  (I have a twin mattress on the floor, which I upend when I am not sleeping.  Or at least I will upend it once I buckle down and clean this room–I’ve taken a page from Oscar Madison at his worst lately.)

While mustering the words to describe this turn of events, I went and pulled down my diary from the summer of 1996, the year we married.  Scotch-taped inside one of the pages, after an entry a week before the wedding itself, was a paragraph I clipped from The Discoverer, First UU’s newsletter.  We had mailed about a hundred invitations already, but in case we missed anyone from the church, we submitted this to the newsletter:

A similar announcement ran in the newsletter of 

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which Steph also 

attended at the time.  We had an Episcatarian service worthy of King’s Chapel in Boston.

We mailed out many wedding invitations, and people learned the date and time as soon as the next day, or a week to 10 days later, depending on the vagaries of the U.S. Postal Service and how far away from Columbus they lived.  But the news of the end of our marriage, because of the Internet, traveled to people we love at the speed of light.  This afternoon, Steph and I sat down, each of us in front of a laptop, and wrote the following Google Document, which we emailed to friends in our address books:

Dear Friends and Family,

It is with some sadness and some relief that we share news that we are ending our marriage as soon as it is feasible to do so, most likely within the next 18 months.  We will be sorting out some financial, health, and insurance matters before we even file for the divorce and expect THAT may take upwards of six months.  In the meantime, we consider ourselves to be single, simply roommates who happen to be co-parenting.  

 We have decided that our priorities are Susie and our respective roads to happiness.  That means there will be major changes ahead for all of us, but that we will try to keep things as level as possible for Su as we can, though, at some point, we will stop sharing the same home and that will mean huge changes in her life as well.  Luckily, we are all resilient as hell and will get through this just fine.  

 Before you all start guessing at the whys and wherefores, we will tell you that no one here has done anything really wrong.  Over many years together, we have grown apart and gone our separate ways, so much so that we now find our paths lead in opposite directions.  If you want to know more specific details than that, you are welcome to ask.  We will tell you whatever you want to know within the boundaries of our own abilities to know.  We do, however, ask that you not question Susie about any of these matters.  If she wants to talk to you, she will let you know and we would be glad she has reached out to someone.  But, please let her be the one to open the discussion.  

 One thing we can tell you for sure is that our daughter will be in Steph’s fulltime custody throughout these months and into the future.  Paul will remain her loving and devoted father with all the responsibilities and rights so accorded.  

 The divorce will be an amicable one.  While the marriage may be ending, the friendship and deep respect we have for each other is intact, if not stronger, for having made this decision.  We leave the marriage with no animosity toward each other.  We do not feel that our many mutual friends need to “choose sides”.  We will always be a part of each other’s lives.  We do ask that everyone show Susie the support and love that she will need during this difficult time to come.

 Peace to All and Blessed Be!

Steph & Paul

 That is about all there is to report at the moment.  There is a financial morass to sort out, because both of us want to emerge from this as unblemished as we can.  I would like to think we will sail through that, but reality is much more different.

Someone Remind Me Why I Wanted to Be a Union Steward

The Ohio Civil Service Employees’ Association (OCSEA) is my third labor union.  (The first was the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers when I worked at Medco–the union later became the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union; and the second was the National Treasury Employees Union.)  I knew straight out of the gate that I wanted to be a steward, heavily influenced by Norma Rae and with visions of carrying out some type of Atticus Finch-type role while waxing eloquent at arbitration hearings à la Al Pacino in …And Justice For All.  Reality has come at me with lights and sirens blaring once again.

I had the misfortune today (it’s still Tuesday night, in my eyes) of having to escort a terminated employee from the building today.  I learned about this during the last hour and a half of the work day.  No union officers were available, so the task fell to me.  I had an immediate “Please let this cup pass” gut reaction, but agreed to do it.  A manager from Human Resources came and got me, and I waited in a supervisor’s office while he and the supervisor broke the news to the employee.

After that, it was my turn.  I went into the conference room and sat down across from the shaken, sullen man. I offered my sympathy, told him what his options were about grievance procedures, etc., and jotted down his contact information, so I could mail him grievance forms, etc.  The head of security and I walked with him back to his cubicle so he could gather up some personal effects (enough to fill a small bag; he’ll get the rest later, he said) and take him to the elevator.

The three of us were silent as we walked across Spring St. over to the employees’ garage.  It was almost like the last mile on Death Row, minus a chaplain bringing up the rear reading the Bible aloud.  The security head and I had to come with him so he could give back his magnetic card for the garage.  He would need it to raise the wooden arm on the gate to leave, so he couldn’t hand it in at the same time as his badge.

While he went up to the deck where he parked his car, the security officer and I waited at the foot of the exit ramp for his car.  I began to get worried after a few minutes, and I had an irrational fear when I saw his car coming down the incline.  The driver-side window slid down as he drew up to us, and all I could think as I saw him handing the card to us was Please, God, let that be the only thing that he sticks out that window at us.  (This was not rampant paranoia.  I was a casual clerk and rescue clerk at the Cincinnati post office from 1992 to 1995, and during that time four postal workers in several cities died at the hands of their co-workers, including those killers who turned the weapons on themselves.  Among these were two separate incidents on the same day, in post offices 2300 miles apart.)

This didn’t happen, there were no veiled threats along the lines of “This isn’t over!” or “You haven’t heard the last of me!”  Sadly, I watched him roll out of the garage and turn the corner.  I took my photocopy of his dismissal letter and left a copy under the chapter vice president’s computer keyboard, and typed her and the president of the local an email describing what went down.  (I felt like I was learning to swim by being thrown out in the middle, so I included everything I said, heard, and did during this unhappy business.)

I’m thankful the day was nearly over.  My concentration was too shaken to focus on the task I had stopped when H.R. called me, so I began closing up shop for the night.  Susie was in the lobby waiting for me, so we could go shoe-shopping after work, and that was a balm to my mood.