It's been many moons since I've posted. So much to say, the death of my father, the end of my marriage, moved myself and my art studio into a new beautiful space up in the woods on top of the Oakland Hills, with lots of joy and lots of sadness.
And leaving my girls... the end of a phase of being their dad and the birth of anew which at this moment isn't quite solidified. The girls, 15 & almost 18 are already moving out of the house. The oldest is off to college and the youngest wants to be a foreign exchange student next year for an entire school year. They are 20 minutes away and the plan is to spend Weds. night there for dinner and Sunday afternoon and evening.
Their mom and I split on excellent terms. We'd been doing therapy most of our 25 years of being together and as someone else said "there's not much more for us to work on." In the realm of divorce I suspect we are in the 1% who have worked it really well, gone 110% to own our own stuff, to be responsible for our own happiness, to respect and communicate with integrity and honesty. No lies, secrets, or affairs. We just finally understood together, we'd all be in conversation about it, the girls even said, "if you guys are staying together just for us, that's not a good idea." We let go of what didn't work and keep what does.
Still, lots O sadness for the broken illusions of the happy family together, and learning my new way of being a dad. I thought I'd post a piece I wrote for my Facebook family, so they would all know and not wonder.
The Marriage Boat
by Mark Wagner
by Mark Wagner
It’s not that our boat sunk, it’s more like it drifted to shore, we both got out, looked around, looked at each other, nodded in understanding, and went in different directions.
My wife and I were together for 24 years, we met on June 9th, 1988 and seven years later to the day our first of 2 daughters was born. I knew then that we were supposed to be together, that it was that cosmic. Up until then I had my wonderings, we both did. Even early on there were red flags, we were not qualified to be in long term relationships, and through the storms, disappointments, and broken promises, we still forged a long-term deep friendship.
I’m writing this for my personal clarity but also to share with my extended community (the brilliance of Facebook) with honesty and a desire to stay connected to the greater whole. My Facebook community is international, mostly artists, and instead of just moving into a new studio and sharing photos and not saying anything and having people wonder, I felt out of respect of the truth it would be good to share the journey, and it’s been a good one. My wife has a writing class – it’s called Telling True Stories, this is my true story.
When we first got married a friend looked at our astrology chart and said two things, first… neither of us had air in our individual charts but our combined chart was full of air and we’d do good at communicating. The second was that we weren’t here for each other in this lifetime; we were here for the world together. It took me many years to fully understand this; the best way to see was not looking into my partner’s eyes but looking somewhere else together. Road trips were perfect, driving for hours @ 70 mph, through the deserts, talking, telling the real truth, asking good questions, looking in the same direction, down the road, together.
We’ve been in therapy for most of our relationship, that’s one of the main reasons we are parting on such good terms, amazing actually…real friends, we are still connected to our girls, to the house my they live in and I will visit often, to our friends, family, and community. We’ve done such great work on ourselves and with each other that there isn’t much more to work on. It’s like we are from different tribes, not the Jewish and Christian thing, or the Mars Venus thing.
I remember getting some Tibetan prayer flags where on each flag was a different symbol, it was said that these flags were to tell spirit that there were different tribes living in the same house, and it invited spirit to bless the natural discourse that was under the same roof. Or being a visual artist (I call it at times being preverbal), being a feeling image-based person who married an intellectual word-based person. And there is lots of overlap, we both write, make art, teach, make music, very involved in community and parenting – but we often did these things separately, my wife called it parallel play.
Over the years of therapy I learned about individuating, I learned to take my partner out of the equation for my happiness. I learned to listen, to speak, to redo, to take timeouts, to not argue when someone was triggered and angry, to set up a time and space to communicate deeper things, to not take things personally, and to say I am sorry. Someone said that the 2 words that all couples should often say is – “I’m sorry.”
Sex and Money, the two great common things that all couples deal with in one way or another, we did. In the long run it’s what we choose to leave behind, what wasn’t working. We are keeping what was working which is our friendship, family, and community. We didn’t damage our relationship, no lies or affairs, we actually spoke super honestly to each other and to our friends. We just slowly kept waking up, becoming more conscious, being more empowered to see and understand and then one day we knew we were ready and able to move in different ways (this knowing took place on a recent 70 mph drive to LA).
Our lives and careers and physical bodies over time became separate and unconnected, it was the girls that really kept us together. And we were creative and buff in therapy and had excellent communications skills to work around most obstacles. The girls knew, they weren’t kids anymore, they even asked why we were still together, if it was for them that wasn’t a great idea.
I’m calling our divorce “expanding our base.” I am now moved out, found an amazing place which is mostly an art studio connected to a great house with a musician roommate with a perfect back cottage bedroom on top of the Oakland hills. There is still a good feeling of being connected, and it’s also awkward with the details of separating one’s life from a 22-year marriage, and sad… a death to a dream.
The karma has worked itself through, there is more to learn but this chapter of the book is written and illustrated well. We’ve gone the distance, put in well over 100% to really know and understand and learn. I give us both gold stars and send blessings for all involved, our girls, friends, family, and community. It’s a huge success story and a good one, and now it’s morphed into other forms and the Universe wants us to experience joy.
I know many marriages that are working, are being worked, that have a huge amount of integrity and yes they are still work. I also know marriages that are broken, not healthy, where there is suffering and many missed communications. The institution of marriage is loaded with land mines, outdated systems, old beliefs, childhood social dreams of living happily ever after, deep religious roots… it’s amazing and weird really, trying to navigate one’s own truth and then be in relationship to someone else’s truth – it’s an epic journey of the heart and spirit.
I am so grateful for the experience I have had, I’ve been with a partner who was willing to do the work, personal, and together, and I know my family is still intact, the bonds are still there, and I feel blessed with this new phase of my life. Over the last few months as this was all going down, we’d spoon at night in bed and talk about divorce during the day. There is still lots of Big Love here which will stay. I sense by taking care of ourselves this way of being big enough to part our ways that there is even more care and compassion for each other, we really want each other to have an amazing life that together we just weren’t able to create together, and we did try.
On land now, the boat drifts away, free to float down stream, my new journey is here now, in front of me, all around me, into the great mystery of life. A blessing to all of our hearts and souls – especially to the one’s who suffer now.
My Book: The Art of Being a Dad
excellent on an ipad!