There's Got to Be a (Good) Lesson There Somewhere

It’s gotten to the point where even my adolescent children tell me to buck up, to put on a happy face even if I’m all busted up inside. If you can’t be happy, at least act happy in front of us. Don’t do it for yourself, my sixteen year old son says, do it for me.

The gruesome process of divorce has presented me with countless such paradoxical situations. For example; it is the destructive present and future effects of divorce on my children that causes me great pain. But, it is in the best interests of my children that I act like I’m doing fine.

So, Dad, how you doing? Oh, I’m fine, thanks, son. You’re fine, you say? How could you be fine when your children’s family is falling apart, when emotional scripts are being laid down that will take generations to play out? When I, your much loved son, has already learned that trusting another human being, even someone who has sworn their lifelong loyalty to you, is an exercise for imbeciles and fools who are not bright enough to understand that beneath every amorous statement, beneath every declaration of devotion, is a granite hard substrate of primal greed and naked self interest? It that what you’re proposing as “fine”? Well, sure, son, that may be true – but besides that, let’s say, everything is fine.

Yes, the circus of divorce is aswarm with flipping, flying paradoxes. Another example; you have spent the better part of your life worrying about, working at, and in your sometimes pathetic but always strenuous ways attempting to control the financial survival of your family, but from the moment that you receive legal fair notice that your almost ex-wife demands for her own support considerably more than you actually earn, you come to realize that divorce means you cannot and will not protect your children from the financial wolf at the door, no, not ever again.

So, dad, how about if we go out to dinner? Well, son, I think we’d better not. But then, how about we just grab some fast food and a movie? Well, to tell you the truth, son, I do have half a can of this left over marked down puppy chow, and the church loaned me this damaged Jerry Lewis tape. So, dad, you’re telling me that I’m going to need about a quarter of a million dollars to attend the college of my choice, from which I cannot receive a scholarship because you make too much money, and you’re spooning Purina into a plastic bowl? Well, yes – but it’s not half bad if you add some of this hamburger helper.

Another divorce paradox is that, normally, halfway moral humans believe that honesty is good, and deception is bad. However, once you enter the never-never land of divorce, you rapidly realize that honesty is for dolts, and deception is the measure of success. Court appearances, where a black robed stranger in five minutes familiarizes herself with the decades long history of your family and decides its fate, requires that all parties distort their realities to maximum advantage and punishes truth telling with consequences both financial and legal. And children, even if they happen to be old enough to have begotten five children of their own, must be protected from the factual realities of their parents squabble because to know that mommy deliberately lied in court about daddy’s actions so that she could get more money would potentially impair their fragile egos. Thus, once again, it is not the act but the description of it that evokes a punitive response. Did I hear somebody say that the emperor is naked?

Perhaps the lesson of divorce is that reality is that if you want something, take it, then lie about it, and stick to the lie forever because reality is, after all, a matter of consensus and a past that was once honored as sacred can be rendered profane with a snap of the fingers. Oh, is that not a good lesson? Excuse me, it’s the only one I can think of at the moment, for my mind is confused by the paradoxes of divorce.