Thursday, February 17, 2011

Losing the Forest for the Trees

In the past month and a half, I have had an amazing amount of feedback on the book. It has been really rewarding for me to hear how much the book has touched people. But, I must say, there is one piece of feedback that is interesting to me. I haven't heard it much. But I've heard it a few times from people close enough to me to know my life. People have wondered how I told my story without mentioning my marriage in any significant way. I suppose I understand the question, but I must admit I don't understand the purpose of the question. Still, in an attempt to quiet my own inner demons, I will answer it.

The short answer is, the book wasn't about my relationship with my wife. In all fairness, that relationship spanned far more of my life than the 4 years I was married. In fact, much of what I talked about in the book happened while I was with her. Then again, there isn't much of my life that DIDN'T happen while I was either with her or about to be back with her or recovering from the latest break up. But, the book I wrote wasn't about that part of my life. It wasn't my memoir, so to speak. It was a book about my internal struggles with manhood, fatherhood, and missing my father. That's the short answer.

The long answer is not so simple. See, my relationship with my ex used to be one of the things that defined me. I judged myself, in large part, based on the state of that relationship. That relationship wasn't always healthy. It wasn't always productive. And defining my identity based on another person proved to be extremely problematic. Whether that person was my father, my high school sweetheart, or anyone else, defining myself in external terms left me powerless to create my own happiness and strength. When I realized that, my life changed. One of those changes was that my marriage had to end. I wasn't the man I wanted to be while I was in it. I couldn't be. So, as painful as it was, ending that relationship allowed me to be who I am today.

When I first decided to write a book, it was going to be my life story. It was full of stories about meeting her in the 7th grade, falling in love, and all that good stuff. But, at some point in that writing process, I came to realize that the story I was telling had no purpose. It had no message. It was just a story of pain and suffering. I knew my life had purpose. I knew my life wasn't only about the pain. But the book felt sad. So, I thought about what mattered most to me. I thought about what I hoped to do with it. And I realized that the only thing I could speak clearly on, at this point, was fatherhood. So, I removed the rest. My love affair with music....gone. My new found career in psychology....gone. My marriage.....all but erased from the pages. Why? Because I didn't want my purpose to be lost in the details. And there are just so many details. Sometimes in painting a picture of a forest, one can get caught up in the details of every single tree. What happens is that the forest stops looking like a forest. It starts looking like a mess of tree like objects. But when you gloss over some of the trees and focus on the beauty and color and feel of the forest, that painting conveys the sentiment of that forest. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to paint a forest. Accurately painting the tree that was my marriage would have stopped me from getting the rest of the forest onto the canvas.

Perhaps one day, when I am far enough removed from that tree, I will paint another picture, one that gives a bit more detail. For now, I am happy to have given myself permission to not be tied to that or any other tree ever again.

No comments:

Post a Comment