Peace of Mind

Two weeks ago Reiko stopped by to pick up "a few remaining things" and wound up grabbing far more than was implied. I was out for the morning to meet with a friend in town and figured my absence would give her the chance to collect the last of her clothing as well as some of the things I had packed up for her that she might need, such as an expired passport, the batteries and charger for the DSLR camera she took, the DVR with all of her recorded TV shows, and the like. When I returned home mid-afternoon I discovered that she didn't come alone, but brought her parents and sister to help out. Everything that could be taken was grabbed. Dishes, silverware, curtains, my medical and taxation records, Nozomi's medical records, plus any last reminders of the boy. It was a wholly vindictive ploy. I spoke with the lawyers about the legality of taking all of my paperwork in addition to already grabbing the title to the house and other legal ID during the first "house cleaning", and they shrugged their shoulders as if to say "What are you going to do? Have her arrested for theft?"

The thought did cross my mind, but it would require me to stoop to her level. The last thing I want to do to our son is to have him witness his parents wielding the law at each other. Instead I did the next best thing; I jumped online and bought some new locks for the doors.

When Reiko first left the house, she kept the keys which I foolishly assumed would be used responsibly. However, when I returned home two weeks ago to discover a mostly empty home, I was reminded of the time my home was robbed in Southern Ontario. Upon returning home on that day 21 years ago, a police officer escorted me into the basement apartment to ask what might have been taken. I walked around and pointed out what was missing, including a few bottles of beer from the fridge, and asked if there was any chance that anything might be returned. The officer shook her head and said that it almost never happened because anything of value would be sold within hours and tracing ownership back to me would be darn near impossible for anything that wasn't one-of-a-kind. After the officer left and my landlord came home to find that his place was also stripped of some items, I drove to the nearby Home Depot to get some replacement locks for the door.

This is what I did two weeks ago as well.

Door locks in Japan are a bit more door-specific than the ones I was familiar with in Canada, but one shop a couple of prefectures over offered to sell me the sets that fit my doors. $200 later, they were ordered and I was left to play the waiting game, wondering every time I went out whether there might be an unannounced visit. Fortunately there hasn't been a repeat of two weeks ago and today, after waiting two weeks for the locks to arrive, I was able to quickly dismantle the doors, switch the tumblers, and get everything re-assembled.

Back Door Locks

This is what peace of mind looks like for the back door, which leads into my home office.

With the locks changed, I now have one less thing to worry about when I go out for a walk or to meet with people. There is still a risk of break and entry, of course, but that is something that lawyers will not shrug off as a "mild consequence of divorce"1. It's unfortunate that this was necessary at all, but such is life.

Over the coming weeks I will continue to petition for my paperwork and access to the bank accounts in my name. I'll also aim to regain the title to the house as I'm the one paying the mortgage. Bringing Nozomi back is another priority and, if at all possible, some visitation rights with the boy … even if it's supervised visitation to ensure I don't try and leave the country with him2.

With any luck, I'll look back at these first few months of separation as a time of mild frustration that ended with an amicable agreement with Reiko. This is highly unlikely, but anything is possible.


  1. If they do, I'll find some new lawyers.

  2. Kidnapping is quite common with international divorces, I'm told. Not sure how I could smuggle the kid out of the country without anyone knowing ahead of time that it was happening, though. I don't have a private jet, let alone one that can cross an ocean.

There Is No "Delete"

Over the last couple of decades there has been a concerted effort to rewrite entire swaths of history to fit various objectives and agendas. This generally starts by examining an event completely outside of context and adding a great deal of hyperbole that is passed off as "fact", followed by mob rule attacks on the subject, followed by a retelling of events to suit the needs of those who believe they've been aggrieved. This sort of activity is often seen during and after wars as various groups seek to claim power of some sort. A family member recently asked if I would go back through the posts on this site to remove any reference of being married, effectively masking the whole reason I moved to Japan. According to their logic, doing this would allow me to "reframe" my purpose for leaving Canada and setting down roots on the other side of the planet.

In other words, would I lie in order to hide the fact that I was once married? Would I "cancel" Reiko?

The question struck me as odd, given the fact that there are plenty of other posts on this website that should probably be deleted if I wish to avoid the wrath of a history-diving activist. What possible value would removing a few hundred posts featuring my ex-wife have? She and I were married. Despite the stress, anxiety, anger, and hurt that was inflicted over the years, we had a lot of really good times together. It's because of these good times that I remained by her side for nearly 14 years of marriage. Removing her means ignoring the happy times. It means removing any posts featuring our son. Going further, it could mean removing any posts about Nozomi, as she was initially adopted into the family to offer Reiko some company in an otherwise empty house while I was working 30+ kilometres away in Tokyo.

No. There will be no rewrite; no purge of posts that might show that the early years of marriage had more ups recorded than downs. Marriage allowed me to mature into an adult. It allowed me to put someone else, and later several someones, ahead of my own wants and needs. The story of who I am today would be wholly incomplete without making reference to the responsibilities that I voluntarily accepted. John Donne said it best almost 400 years ago: No man is an island.

Some people do find it therapeutic to delete or destroy photos, burn cards, and toss possessions after a break-up, but I do not. What happened happened. Nothing will change this. By leaving the posts in place and publicly accessible, I am sharing with the world a piece of my history. More importantly, by leaving the posts in place and publicly accessible, I'm showing the world that I am not projecting a manufactured image. What you read is what I am. There are minimal filters in place to ensure things remain clean and family friendly, and that's it.

People don't visit websites like this one for fictional accounts of events.

Grandpa

My father became a grandfather almost a quarter century ago, but I've never really thought of him as being an "old man". In my mind, his voice hasn't at all changed since the 80s nor has the colour of his hair or body shape. My out-dated mental image of the man does receive small updates every so often when we have an opportunity to chat with video, but this is the exception rather than the rule. My father has remained in his late-30s for decades, and this is the way that I picture him in memories and hypothetical scenarios despite the fact that I am now in my mid-40s. That said, this morning the image was drastically altered this morning when I heard his real voice for the first time in at least six months. As one would expect from someone in their mid-60s, he does not sound like a man in his thirties. In fact, I was shocked by how old and tired he sounded.

The passage of time is inescapable. There are no medicines or creams that will allow us to hold onto the energy of our youth. Over the last couple of months I've even noticed that the reflection in the mirror is looking much older as of late. Silver and white strands of hair can be seen mixed with the brown. The lines around my eyes are more pronounced. The pores on my skin are deeper than before. My hands, which most certainly feel like mine, appear as though there's just a little too much skin to cover the muscles. Regardless of how I might feel about the matter, I most certainly look my age. It seems only natural that my father would also look – and sound – his age.

Yet there's no denying that sound of his voice this morning took me for a surprise. Because of his medical status, because of the things he has done throughout his life, his body is tired. And this is what I heard this morning during our call. A voice I will forever recognise, but aged beyond anything I've ever been willing to accept.

Not that time gives a darn of what we might be willing to accept.

After our call came to an end I wondered how my son might remember my voice. Will he imagine it as it is today? Will he imagine it some other way, as a five year old child might imagine an ideal father? Someone who is present? There is no way for me to know the answer to this question, but I do wonder. Children often look up to their parents and emulate the behaviours they see. Like a sponge, they absorb all kinds of mannerisms that we are completely unconscious of1. Has the boy absorbed enough time with me to have built a semi-static representation of a father figure?

When the situation at home calms down, I will make an effort to visit my parents again. I have not seen my father nor step-mother since the trip to Princeton four years ago, and I haven't seen my biological mother or step-father since … I can't remember. At least 22 years have passed. To say that I've failed to maintain an honourable relationship2 with these people would be an understatement, but there is still a bit of time.

The older I get, the more I see that it's not what we do with our time that is most important, but who we spend that time with. Perhaps I can say this now because I've been employed for so long and had the opportunity to make a name for myself in a narrow field. Or perhaps I can say this because, like Joni Mitchell sang in the 70s, we don't know what we've got 'till it's gone … and I've lost access to the people3 that I care most about. Regardless the reason, the one thing I can say is that hearing my father's "grandpa voice" today was like being shaken awake. I need to re-think my priorities, get things done, and selfishly set aside blocks of time to be with the people who mean the most to me.


  1. The boy used to bring a camera bag with him every time we left the house. He wore it over his shoulder like I wear my shoulder bag. It took me a while to realise that he was emulating this. He saw me carry a bag, which would contain my wallet, an iPad, some spare masks, and other supplies in the event the boy needed something. So, thinking "that's what people do", he repurposed an old camera bag to do the same. Inside he would have a magnifying glass, because he liked to pretend he was a detective, along with a notepad and a pencil. One day I should write about how the boy reflected my own behaviours in such a way that I could see what was good to emulate and what I needed to change.

  2. The fifth Commandment is "כַּבֵּד אֶת אָבִיךָ וְאֶת אִמֶּךָ לְמַעַן יַאֲרִכוּן יָמֶיךָ", which reads as "Honour thy father and thy mother" in many English translations. How a person does this is largely up to them but, no matter how I think I've honoured them, I recognise my failures. I seldom call. I have never sent gifts back for birthdays or Christmas. All in all, I've been disconnected with much of the family since leaving Ontario in the summer of 2002. While there was the stigma of shame twenty years ago that prompted the move to western Canada, there's no need for this anymore. My ego today is nowhere near as large or insufferable as it was back then … though it can still be a bit much at times.

  3. This includes Nozomi, though she is not a "person".

Twelve

Twelve years ago, somewhere in Miyagi prefecture, Nozomi was born alongside her brothers and sisters. It would be just 107 days later when she would join the family and bring a smile to my face every day since.

Nozomi in the Park

Almost a month has passed since the last time I saw her. My final act was to give her a little bit of breakfast before heading outside on the day that Reiko and I split. In retrospect, I should have brought her with me. However, in retrospect, I could have done a lot of things differently. Still, I really hope that Nozomi is doing alright despite the distance. Last weekend I cleaned up the home office and rearranged some things so that she would have a great deal more space for her bed when she returns, and there will also be fewer barriers in place to prevent her from exploring the house1.

There's no timeline for her return, nor do I know if she will return after the lawyers work out who gets what. However, I do hope that Nozomi can enjoy her 12th birthday with a nice treat and maybe a little more attention than she normally receives. In the event she can come back to this house, I'll make up for the time we lost together. She'll have a new pair of bowls, extra long leash, and her favourite dinner waiting.

Hopefully we won't have to wait too long.


  1. Nozomi has been pretty much limited to just the home office the last five years, as she's been kept separated from the boy. A few days after the house was emptied out, I removed all the barriers. Not only because they made it harder to get into and out of the office, but because they were annoying as heck.

Sixteen Years

Sixteen years ago as of this post's publication1, I landed in Japan for the first time. This was my first trip overseas and first time going to a country that did not have English as its native language. This was also the culmination of a number of efforts that were years in the making, resulting in a journey that seemed almost like deja vu at times. There were numerous points during this first trip to Japan where I thought for certain that I had done a thing before, or recognised something as being familiar from long ago rather than my first exposure, and some of these were recorded on my blog2.

The First Visit

The journey was not without its challenges, of course.

After reaching immigration & customs, my passport was given to an official and I was led to the most boring office one could imagine. Inside were several rows of grey metal desks staffed with people who looked as though they were living in purgatory – and perhaps they were. The officer who led me to the dreary place asked me to sit on a chair next to some similarly-screened individuals while they performed some background checks. In retrospect, this was probably to be expected, as I did not pre-file for a visa. Canadian citizens, I was told, could fly to Japan without first filing out paperwork and submitting it to the local Japanese embassy. This was also my first trip outside of North America. So a 26 year-old kid from Canada appearing on the other side of the planet from home with zero advance notice likely set off a couple of alarm bells. As I sat in the office, I tried to understand what people were saying. There were a few others in a similar situation as me, but we didn't speak to each other. The room was eerily silent aside from a few whispers as people spoke about the passports in front of them.

Twenty minutes passed before the official who escorted me to the office returned with three passports in his hand. He called out the names of the other people waiting with me and asked them to see another officer who was at the far end of the grey desks. Then he called my name and handed me my passport. I went to follow the other two travellers, not understanding at the time that they were being called for "additional screening". The immigrations officer stopped me and asked that I go out a different door to collect my belongings and go about my business. I looked in the passport and found a stamp saying that I was granted a 90-day visa.

Lucky me.

My bags were the only ones remaining on the carousel and I collected them without incident. My next task was to get from Narita Airport in Chiba to Gifu Station in the next four hours, where I would meet Reiko in person for the very first time.

Narita to Gifu Station

This was a time before mobile Internet was something that people could really use. One could get CompactFlash cards for PDAs to enable mobile Internet if you didn't mind paying $25 for 25MB of data3, and Reiko did arrange for a rental unit that I could use for this first trip to the country, but I wouldn't have such a luxury just yet. Instead, I had to buy train tickets with my limited Japanese, exchange money, and make my way 350-odd km using just the information that I had printed out before the flight. Oddly enough, the journey was mostly unremarkable.

I managed to get to Tokyo Station from the airport just fine. Buying a bullet-train ticket to Nagoya was also easy, though the line to speak with a person at the counter was long. On the train I had the least-desirable "middle seat" between two businessmen two ate their dinner and drank beer in relative silence. Once in Nagoya, I got on a train to Gifu Station and arrived some time around 10 o'clock at night. The only real complication was that I went to the wrong Gifu Station. There are two within about 500 metres of each other; one for the Meitetsu Line and another for Japan Rail. Despite this error, Reiko and I managed to meet up after she finished work. She drove me to the rental apartment where I would be staying the next ten days, showed me how to use some of the appliances and then pointed to the mobile Internet device that I could plug into my HP iPaq.

HP iPaq with Mobile Data

All in all, it was quite the trip. We visited castles, temples, malls, and restaurants. There were a lot of things that I had seen only in anime that became real, and a lot of things that I had never considered that turned into future considerations. I often think back to that trip and wonder What If …?

Am I glad that I came to Japan all those years ago? Yes. Am I glad that I moved to the country fifteen months later? Yes. Am I glad that I worked a job that I never thought I was good at for 9 years before returning to a development-based role? Yes. Am I glad that I met Nozomi? Absolutely. Am I glad that the boy came along? Most certainly. Would I do it all again?

That's the question, isn't it?

If I could do it all over again, I would. Despite the pain and heartache I have felt over the years, despite the challenges and low points, there has been a remarkable amount of good that has happened, too. I never would have met many of the people I consider friends today had it not been for my move to Japan. I never would have matured as a person without a marriage full of challenge. I never would have been able to bring Nozomi away from the constant earthquakes that shook eastern Japan after the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011. The boy would never have been born.

Despite whatever people might think, I do not hate nor harbour ill feelings towards Reiko. Our marriage didn't work out, and a lot of that had to do with me just as much as it did with her. We didn't marry the right person, but we both learned and gained a great deal from our 14 years together, and 16 in total. So when I think back to that first trip to Japan, when I was so young and naive, I smile and think of all the good that has happened since then. Life is not easy for most people, but it could have been a heck of a lot harder for me than it has been. Despite the heartache, this past chapter of my life is not something that I regret.


  1. This would be 5:05pm Japan Standard Time

  2. Before self-hosting my websites, I used Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces for my blog. This proved to be untenable long-term as the person I was with before Reiko would often leave comments. As one might expect, this resulted in problems. The simplest solution was to delete the blog. Unfortunately, there was no way to export the sites back then. All of the posts were lost.

  3. This price was astonishing as a Canadian, where mobile data was – and continues to be – at least five times more expensive.

Observations

The last two weeks have been quite the roller coaster, with a remarkable amount of change, stress, and relaxation taking place almost simultaneously. Being an introspective sort of person, I have been thinking about some of the patterns that have changed over this past fortnight, and some of the realisations have surprised me … while also not surprising me.

The Headaches are Gone

One of the most noticeable changes is that I no longer have headaches. This could be the result of an increase in daily exercise, but I strongly believe this is because I'm not burying thoughts or emotions anymore. Prior to the split up, I would usually consume two headache pills on Thursday and Friday, then anywhere between four and seven on weekends. Long weekends would naturally stack up to involve more pills in addition to some Chinese medicine, namely 葛根湯加川芎辛夷1 and 抑肝散加陳皮半夏2. These two, taken together and chased down with a cup of coffee, would allow me to maintain some semblance of normalcy on weekends and other days off. I would rarely get upset after taking this concoction, and would generally appear "fine" … though I did make sure to think two or three times before saying anything out loud, as that was just better for everyone if I did.

The Laughter is Back

There was a time many years ago when I could laugh until my sides hurt. That stopped being possible at some point around 2015, as any laughter was often met with anger, and all laughter generally ceased last year after something I found funny on TV turned into three days of "the silent treatment" because it apparently wasn't funny to anyone else. However, I am now able to laugh out loud. Not only can I laugh out loud, but I do so many times a day at all sorts of absurdities.

Because, seriously: life is bloody absurd at times.

The Waistline is Shrinking

Maybe this is just the result of more exercise and laughing, but my jeans are starting to slip down my hips while walking. This is despite the larger portions of food that I've been consuming at home in order to not waste the perishable items in the fridge and pantry.

Other People's Problems Aren't Mine

No explanation is needed here. My problems are mine. Other people's problems are not mine. The world is no longer on my shoulders as a result.

No Complaints

Not only do I have far fewer complaints to listen to, but I have far fewer to state. Yes, I miss my kid and dog. Yes, I miss the barely-constrained chaos that is a house with a 5 year-old. However, the incredible lack of complaints that I have had to listen to has resulted in an incredible change of attitude and likely contributed to the laughter, the shrinking waistline, and absence of headaches.

The Neighbours are Quiet

There are a lot of retired people in the vicinity and, as one would expect, many of them love to gossip. At one time I was privy to some of the conversations that were going on with regards to one household or another. However, now it seems that people are not really talking to me about others, which means that this household is the new topic of discussion. This doesn't bother me, though, as people are expected to talk. When someone asks a question, I keep the answer civilised, though I know there are people who really want to dig deeper.

There have been a number of other things I've observed about my current life that is markedly different from before, but these six I think are the most noticeable. Interestingly, there isn't one negative item in the list.


  1. カッコントウカセンキュウシンイ – pronounced kakkontoukasenkyoushinei

  2. よくかんさんかちんぴはんげ – pronounced yokukansankachinpihange

Yearling

Today marks a full year since I returned to AskUbuntu and started answering questions. This is despite "retiring" in March of 2021 in the hopes of focusing on other things. All in all, the return is no surprise as this wasn't the first time I had left Stack Exchange, deleting my account in frustration, only to return shortly later. What's different about this time, though, is that I've stuck it out and participated in some fashion on the site every day for a year; something I've wanted to do for a while but found impossible.

One Year – 365 Consecutive Days

There's no denying that being an active participant on any Stack Exchange site can be an exercise in patience, as people will often ask new questions rather than use a search engine to find an existing answer. People will claim their issue is unique despite hundreds of similar questions that all point to the same answer. Some will even become indignant and demand that the world bend to their whims because … reasons. However, despite the asininity that can persist for weeks at a time on occasion, there is a lot of good to witness on sites like AskUbuntu and elsewhere. As a result, it can be hard to stay away.

As the screenshot above illustrates, I managed to earn almost 12,000 reputation points over the course of 365 days, as well as 80 participation badges. 451 answers were left in an attempt to solve people's problems, and six questions of my own were asked with varying degrees of success. All in all, this is an achievement to be proud of and one that would be difficult to replicate over the course of a second year.

This realisation, however, raised an interesting question: Should I create a new account – not deleting the current one – and try to out-perform my past record?

Defeating the score could be done by investing more heavily in bountied questions, but what about the badges? A lot of these are earned through participation and it would likely be deemed uncouth to start over and clog up the various review boards with yet another attempt to gain reputation in order to participate more fully. The idea is certainly an interesting one, but the effort is not something I'm really keen on at the moment as there are other things that must take precedence over the next few months. Still, to beat my existing "high score" would be an interesting challenge.

Perhaps this is something I can consider at another milestone, such as 10K points or 5 years of activity. At this point, it seems unlikely that Stack Exchange, Ubuntu, or AskUbuntu will be going away anytime soon.

Two Weeks

Today marks two weeks since my marriage reached its conclusion. It was two weeks ago at six o'clock in the morning that I left the house for an uncharacteristic morning walk, and I did not return until mid-afternoon. Over these fourteen days I've given a lot of thought to that first weekend when everything fell apart. The day before saw several wholly unnecessary arguments followed by a five-hour "discussion" while the boy slept. The question of divorce came up, and I agreed that it was the most logical way forward for both of us. Regardless of the effort put into the relationship, Reiko and I have become incompatible … and I am uninterested in trying to resolve matters further. As I said on that Thursday night, "I'm absolutely exhausted."

The first few days were pretty rough. I felt incredibly uncomfortable being at the house, so would spend most of the daylight hours moving between parks or sitting in a high stairwell, out of sight and completely off the grid. My devices were all left at home to ensure that I could not be tracked. However, by Monday afternoon, I had finally come down from the anxiety and returned home. I needed to communicate with my employer and with family. I needed to regain a little bit of routine in order to bury the suicidal tendencies enough that they could be ignored once again. By Wednesday it was possible to feel somewhat normal in the house. By Friday I could comfortably interact with neighbours and answer some of their questions about the missing car and absent dog1.

Oddly enough, things feel relatively normal now. The house is much too large for a single person and I do miss Nozomi's near-constant presence in the office, not to mention the lack of playing with the boy, but still … things feel normal now. Music is openly playing for most of the day to push away the silence and there's no doubt the house is cleaner now than at any point in the last three years. Thinking about it, this is very similar to the sort of life that I lead in Vancouver … except there's less human interaction.

In Vancouver I would occasionally work from home, as a great deal of my work could be done on my trusty HP and the boss was quite accommodating so long as productivity remained steady. On those days I would walk over to the nearby coffee shop in the morning for some caffeine and walk around the neighbourhood mid-afternoon. These where short periods of exercise and human interaction in the day. Interestingly, a similar pattern is playing out now nearly 15 years later. In the mornings I head out for a power walk that is about 4 km in length then head out again around 5 o'clock in the afternoon on a shorter 3.5 km trek. During these outings neighbours will occasionally greet me and engage in some small talk. Exercise and human interaction. What's old is new again.

There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the future, but one thing is for certain: there will be a lot less sustained stress and anxiety going forward. Until recently it was necessary to forever think very carefully about what words I spoke, what body language I presented, and what requests I would make. The goal was to reduce the number of arguments and complaints that I would hear in a day. Unfortunately, this resulted in a persistent state of anxiety that would occasionally transform into passive-aggressive communication. As it's no longer necessary for me to walk on eggshells, I'm able to relax and communicate with people without worrying about listening to arguments later. It's really quite liberating. People have even commented on the change, saying that it's nice to see me relax.

The price for this state of calm is proving to be incredibly high, but not insurmountable. It's unfortunate that I cannot communicate with the boy. It's disheartening that Nozomi is not at home. If this is the cost of sanity, though, then I can bear the burden for the time being. I will continue to ask to speak to my son and for Nozomi to be returned to me. I just hope that they can be patient enough while Reiko and I reach agreements and file paperwork.


  1. The neighbours are quite accustomed to seeing me, which is not surprising given my foreignness, and Nozomi. The neighbours did not see Reiko very often and, while the boy enjoyed playing in the yard, he was generally not allowed to for "reasons" that I stopped debating long ago. As a result, people noticed that there was no car and no Nozomi; not an absence of people.

Dr. Crane

Back in the 90s, Kelsey Grammar portrayed a psychiatrist named Frasier Crane. He was smart, witty, refined, and came from humble beginnings. I was attracted to this character because he appeared to be the epitome of success and, as such, a role model for a young man who was about to enter into the world. Dr. Crane had a radio show where people would call in to seek advice to problems and, prior to this, he ran a private practice. He would have heard it all. People's highs and lows. Their fears, faults, and failures. Their innermost desires. As a psychiatrist, he would have a front-row seat to the rawest aspects of human nature. Yet, despite the level of cognitive intimacy he would have with clients and the abject horrors he would have heard, he seemed normal and generally composed.

While psychology is a subject that I find incredibly fascinating, it's not something that I could do myself. Many years ago, when I still worked in a classroom, I would be exhausted by the end of every day not because of the workload, but because of the effort I put into pretending to be a normal human being. Despite the excessive number of words that spill forth from my fingers and the machine-gun-speed technical discussions I have with some colleagues, human interaction is something that I find absolutely exhausting. There is just so much that goes into it, from the body language to the context searching to the innuendo. This is something that I can manage in short bursts of a few hours but, after four or five hours of wearing the mask of an extrovert, I feel like a cornered animal in search of escape … back into the comfortable embrace of introversion.

Allow me to observe for a while. If needs be, I may opine. Afterwards, I will be silent to allow others the opportunity to speak and explore ideas.

This is not the case in every situation, of course. There are some people who I have built a modicum of trust with that allows me to be me in front of them. No masquerades. No pre-calculated sentences. Just an unfiltered version of me; a person asking questions. So. Many. Questions.

Can a person with such a thirst for answers temper the curiosity that often results in a wiki rabbit hole situation?

At this point in a blog post a reader might wonder where the article is going, assuming there is even a destination. Oddly enough, for this specific stream of consciousness at least, there is.

The last two weeks have been rough. Because of my flaws and inadequacies, I have brought an end to my marriage. I have questioned the value of my existence. I have not seen my son nor my dog for over 10 days. I have been incredibly distracted when I should have been working. And, to top it all off, I learned that my already immuno-compromised father has caught COVID. A veritable feast of negatives! Yet at the same time, I have learned from friends that I do have value. That, despite my flaws, I am worth their time and support. That I am not alone in this empty house where I assuage the silence by asking Siri to play various albums, never forgetting to say "please" with each request.

I'm not broken, but I am off-kilter.

A friend has suggested I go see a therapist to discuss these matters. I harbour no qualms about speaking to someone about some of the things that echo inside my head, though I will admit that I'm terrified to share my true thoughts with anyone. We're all human, but some less so than others. Or so I've been led to believe. If I were to find a someone like Dr. Frasier Crane locally who I could talk to, then I would likely be just as guarded as I am when talking to friends, texting to family, and writing on here. Some things are better left unsaid. Fourteen years of marriage has proven this fact time and again. Is it possible to be completely open with a psychologist without fear of … judgement?

Wiser people have said that they fear God, not man. This is because God is eternal whereas humans are ephemeral. A person who is afraid to reveal themselves to other people would have a hard time revealing themselves to the Creator of the universe. I can do this to a certain extent, and have done so with remarkable benefits at the day job. By investing less time into thinking about what people might think of me, I am liberated to ignore convention and solve complex problems. Talking to another person about my frailties, however ….

When I was growing up, Dr. Crane was a role model. "By the time I am in my 40s," I told myself, "I will have a nice home with nice furnishing and be a well-respected, cultured individual." This goal has become incomplete. I have a nice home … though it has been emptied of love. I am respected by some and have even gained a little bit of culture on account of the books I read. I'm no role model. I'm not refined or witty. Am I successful? Career-wise, perhaps … but not with the family, which is far more important than any job most people might have. Thinking through everything that I've done over the last 20 years, have I done the right things? Have I been the best that I could be?

No. Not in the least.

Is there someone that I would like to talk to about the past, present, and future? There is.

Will they lend an ear? There's only one way to find out.

For some time now I have been re-examining my faith, seeking answers to very specific questions that seem simple, but are nothing of the sort. The person that I would like to talk to is not a psychologist, per se, but instead a priest. I have questions. I have incomplete answers. I have a deep-rooted desire for absolution. Perhaps with this, I can begin to resolve the areas of my life where I have failed others. The list is long, but it's not infinite.

50,000 Steps

This past Thursday marked the end of my marriage to Reiko. The following morning, I went out for a walk at dawn with the intention of leaping from a tall balcony while Reiko emptied the house of anything that would fit in the car. As one would expect, the boy is gone. Nozomi, too. In the space of just a few hours, several lives were completely uprooted. And it was completely my doing.

A rapidly-emptied house is an eerie thing. Echoes are different. Neighbours are easier to hear. Various detritus covers the floor and tables. Despite the amount of clean-up work ahead of me, staying just didn't seem like a viable option. For the vast majority of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I was out; sitting in parks, walking the paths, and otherwise making myself scarce. I didn't want to be seen. I didn't want to be spoken to. With headphones in my ears, I did what I could to blend into the background. Every seven or eight hours, though, I'd make the a trip back for some additional water and a little bit of cleaning.

By Sunday night the house was mostly organized. I had a small dinner consisting of rice with tuna and mayonnaise — a staple meal when I was living single in Vancouver — and a cup of coffee. I decided to get the dishes done early and get some sleep, as the weekend had been quite exhausting.

This morning I followed the same pattern as the weekend, waking up at 4:00 am and leaving the house within an hour. The main difference was that I brought with me a noose made from a rather long power cord. On the hill where I like to sit there are a number of utility poles that run through a thin forest of leaved trees. This mostly-concealed area is an excellent place to sit undisturbed for an hour or two while listening to podcasts and, because the utility poles have pegs allowing technicians to climb up, there's a strong place to mount a rope.

Sunrise took place at 5:30 and I was already sitting on the hill to see the morning light start to break through some light cloud cover. An episode of Irreverend was playing through my headphones and my mind was struggling with the weight of what was expected to come. Some messages were sent to people just to see if anyone was awake. My sister replied almost immediately.

There is a certain amount of comfort when talking to a family member that likely comes from lots of shared experiences. We exchanged messages for over an hour, talking about what had happened, what's going to happen, and when things are going to happen by. I didn't have any decent answers to offer, but my sister didn't press. She listened, offered a suggestion or two, and listened some more. Eventually she had to stop in order to get some sleep before her work shift, so we said our goodbyes with a promise to catch up later in the day.

Naturally, she didn't know about the noose.

Joggers and early-morning walkers started making their way through the park and its trails below the hill by this time. These people were in decent shape and enjoying their Monday morning far more than I. After checking on the electrical cord, I went back to the phone to see if I could get in touch with somebody else. At this point I wasn't looking for a specific person, but any person to talk to. A distraction was required.

A colleague was online. We started talking. For over an hour we discussed our weekends, possible next steps, and options. At some point, I mentioned what I was planning on doing; something that I wasn't going to burden anyone with. As one might expect, the order came that I was not to use the noose followed by a number of reasons why it would be a bad idea. It is because of his words that I am still here to write this post, nearly 12 hours later.

Despite the emptiness of the space, I am now spending more time in this house that was once a home. More cleaning has been done and I've started to tend to some of the plants in the yard. Tomorrow I don't think I'll head out to the parks unless absolutely necessary, though. Since Friday afternoon, it seems I've clocked well over 45,000 steps. Including the steps I would have recorded in the morning had the phone come with me, the total is over 50,000; approximately 40 km.

While there is still a great deal to do regarding paperwork and other necessary discussions, I hope the divorce proceedings can restore some stability in our lives.

As one would expect, this will be an ongoing topic for a while.