Parenting when you’re bad at it.
Hit a trigger this morning.
Things got shitty when I turned 30. Life became a work slog just to survive. We needed me to work and work and work to pay rent and bills and buy food … normal stuff, sure, but 30 started my run of bad luck scenarios. I missed all but one vacation, I missed school events and performances … nearly everything because I was burning off decades elevating other people. Every single success was greeted with a couple of disasters.
I spent my 20’s finding myself, I guess. I worked jobs that were fun or because I needed to prove myself to myself. I was a barista for a bit, and that was awesome. I taught myself how to fix espresso machines so I could do get a job with an amazing company. I was a political operative. I was a bouncer and a bodyguard, and after I recovered, as it were, from a broken neck, I worked at more and more dangerous and violent jobs to prove to myself that I wasn’t “less a man” after being proved fragile, and almost dying. I was, no shit, a singing lead guitarist for a band that had a chance until karaoke devastated the Denver live music scene in the 90’s.
Life was that simple. I was responsible to … me.
I got married and had kids.
I love my kids more than anything else in this world.
So, I really, really tried to make sure everything I could afford to do for them, I did – and that was work. Yes, there were stretches of crippling unemployment. When you make the huge mistake of working in politics, you’re unemployed every November, making Christmas a fucking tragedy. There were a lot of Dollar Store holidays and birthdays.
These years were especially unfair to my oldest. He was 8 when I got him, and he knew things were rough. I was a shit parent to him because I didn’t parent like my father did. I was reactionary, tough, and kind of a dick. I was lost and confused, scared and intimidated by the responsibility I had to care for this brilliant little man. I was an awful dad.
My younger children went through the worst years in the blissful ignorance of youth. When they were a little older, we were doing better and they had access to things that my oldest wasn’t at that age. It was, unintentionally, yet another set of slights and insults to my oldest.
I tried, and I failed.
There were noises made about sacrifice and the need for me to skip events, vacations, and outings to work. There were a few great people sprinkled over a stack of shitty bosses. When I worked for a certain ex-mayor on his non-profit, I was pulling 16-18 hours days, constantly put down and insulted for not doing enough. One time, around 8pm the night of a wedding anniversary, he actually told me that I had his permission to stop working for the day to go to dinner, as long as I started work the next day at 4am instead of 5am. The money was good, and I needed to support my family – I did it for two years. When Republican Bernie Madoff destroyed half the economy, it wiped out the trust that was paying me, and the ex-mayor asked me to work for free … I declined and he talked shit leading to another round of unemployment.
When unemployment wasn’t kicking my ass, I always picked up spare work, or second jobs, desperate to make things better and happier.
The noises about sacrifice and understanding got angry and insulting as the years ground on and, among many other things and issues, led to divorce. She took the house, the kids, the truck, and the dog.
I like work. I like to work.
So, here I am, years later, struggling and not surviving. Between divorce and COVID, I’m wiped out, in debt, in the hole every paycheck, and working two jobs to just keep falling further and further behind. I KNOW I’m not alone in this. I know that multitudes are in much the same sinking boats. The only difference is: I’m in this particular boat so the immediacy is RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW.
As seems to be the case with this Not-A-Blog, I have no ending. This is now, and now is terrible. I started this damn thing to chronicle adventures in podcasting and instead I seem to be searching for catharsis by whining about myself.
The thing is … I’m sad. It is overwhelming and ever present. Things should be joyous and carefree and there are moments when they are. I’m lucky in my relationship. Happy with my partner and cared for like I never have been before. Instead, I’m cheating her of my best self because my baggage and the damage I’ve done (with the best of intentions) is still a present set of issues.
There is a meaningful quote that I like …
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.” -JLP
It’s a beautiful statement that has no relevance to my life right now.
My version is most certainly: when you make mistakes, no matter how well intentioned, you’re fucked.