I have spent so much time in my life trying to convince the people who I care about that I am not as bad as they think I am. It is really a tiring and pointless exercise. It has caused a couple of reactions in myself, that have neither led me to become a better husband or a better father. If anything they have led to my failure at both. First, I put so much weight into other people's opinions that I was never able to live in the moment. When you are constantly seeking someone elses approval, then you really can't enjoy where you are. I spent a lot of time walking on egg shells, or just waiting for the other shoe to drop. When then were going well I have always been haunted by the idea that disaster waits around the corner. I not sure I can put exactly how that feels into words, but I know exactly how it feels. One of the side effects of this obsession is an over concentration on myself. It isn't a deliberate selfishness, but I spend so much time concerned about whether I am good enough or I am making the grade, that I was unable to see the people around me. I spent so much time stressing about being good enough that I miss a lot of opportunities to just enjoy and serve the people I care about. I wasn't deliberately being selfish, and so when challenged I would get defensive. I was being selfish all the same. Even if I didn't do it on purpose, the effect on the people I care about was all the same.
The second things that happened was I knew that I was just not cutting it. I obsessed about what I wanted to be, and what I was. I could not see a progression from the father and husband that I was, to the husband and father that I ought to be. In mind I wasn't and I didn't know that I ever could be. This was a devastating downward spiral. The worse I felt about the type of man I was, then the worse of a man I was. Each and every time I was called out for my failures, I would beat up myself. I came to a point where I didn't believe that I could ever be any better. I became frozen into inaction. It just seemed to hard to rebuild from where I was. I suppose it was never really about rebuilding in the first place. It was about picking myself up after my failures and trying again. I allowed myself to be swallowed up by my own weaknesses. I began to believe that the man I had been was the man who I always would be.
One of the greatest things that I have learned in this time of trial is that I am ever bit as bad as I was trying to convince everyone I wasn't. I sought affirmation from all the wrong places. It sounds cheesy and cliché, but I have found my own self-worth in God. God knows that I am just as horrible as I fear I am, and he is ok with that. I am not saying that he will settle for me to stay the same miserable husband and father. That is not the case at all. I came to realize that he is not concerned so much where I am or even where I have been. He is concerned about where I am headed. To him it is more important what you do once you have failed, than it is that you have failed in the first place. My failures as a father had hung over my head. I was trapped in continual cloud cover. When I came to this realization the clouds lifted and I was able to see the people around me again. I am not sure if that means anything for my marriage. Sometimes, the heart can only take so much disappointment. I was a miserable man. I do notice a difference in how I deal with my kids. I find myself enjoying their company. I am not stressing about how I have failed them in the past. I am just concentrating on the time that they are here. I spend less time thinking about whether or not I am good enough, and so I am able to see them. I am able to see what they need, and what they would enjoy. It really is rather freeing.
I have been doing pretty well lately. My feelings of hopelessness and desperation have passed. I know that I am in a good place, and that I am going to be ok as long as I continue to follow God. He has been my deliverer in all this. I wish that I would have had the mind to turn to him in my first divorce. If I had taken the chance to learn all this then I would not have missed so much time enjoying my kids. I definitely would not be in the situation that I am in now. One of the surprising blessings of all this is being able to mend some fences with my ex-wife. Our divorce was anything but nice, and I am pretty sure I had a lot to do with that. I have been able to apologize for my behavior, and see where I went wrong in dealing with that. I spent so much time blaming everything on her, that I never had to face my own demons. I had the opportunity to grow through that crisis, but I just skipped the class. I had a very special blessing today. My ex-wife, who I have not gotten along with for years, said that she sees a difference in the type of father that I am to our kids. She said that through this she has seen an answer to her prayers. I am becoming the father that the kids deserve. If you knew all the horrible things that I have said to her, then you could truly appreciate what it must have taken for her to say that.
The thing to remember is that this is not over yet. I thought for years that I would just have to be the greatest dad and husband. I guess I figured someone would sprinkle magic powder on me in my sleep and I would wake up all better. Life just doesn't work like that. It is a daily thing. You have to wake up everyday, and turn over the things that you just can't control to God. One of the big ones for me is other people's approval. I will never please everyone all the time. Sometimes people are not going to agree with me. That is fine. I have to start by winning my own approval. When I feel at peace that I am following what God would have me to do, then I can approve of myself. God and myself are really the only approvals that I have any control over. It is a waste of time and energy to try to win anyone elses. In time if people see that I am sincere, then perhaps they will be able to respect my decisions. Until then I just have to take comfort in feeling that I am doing what I think is best. I can't let others opinions convince me otherwise.