Category Archives: Life in General

General thoughts and commentary on life, family, personal experiences, and some of the things we think about.

Aftermath of an Affair

This will be the final post I write about the affair my wife had on me late last year. Honestly, I’m pretty tired of thinking about it, but figure I’ve already divulged so much thus far, I might as well round the story out in case someone else in my shoes stumbles across it someday.

Personally, I found a lot of comfort hearing  from others who had been in my shoes when I was dealing with my marriage tearing apart and my wife leaving me for another man.

So, here goes nothing.

The 50/50 Blame Theory

When I first visited a counselor, she told me it was her opinion that affairs always start with a 50/50 blame. Typically, a spouse won’t cheat unless the other isn’t meeting some sort of need. From there, she starts assessing the couple as individuals and the 50/50 split starts to shift.

I liked this approach and took on the challenge myself of honestly assessing my situation. I started by immediately placing all the blame on myself. I thought of the years of working too much, harboring too much anger, throwing childish tantrums at times. The years of impatience. My blame immediately shot up in my mind to 80%.

But then the details of the affair started to unfold, most of which you can dig up on this blog if you really care to. In short, I realized that my wife was really using me more as an excuse and justification to cheat than anything. Not to say all the things I did wrong were not true. They absolutely were.

What made me shift the blame away from myself was the depths of perception and selfishness my wife exhibited. She persuaded me to move out under the guise of “taking a break” when really it was a ploy just to remove me, but have me still pay the bills while having her guy around. She talked me into taking our children for entire days and nights also under the guise of “I need alone time!” when in reality she was about as far from being alone as is possible.

My point is, it really wasn’t me, it was her. Yes I neglected her and justified the affair in her mind, but she made the decision to take it to the level it went. This wasn’t getting laid, this wasn’t getting drunk and fucking an old college flame, this was a full blown second relationship. This was not all my fault.

Today, I lay the blame at about 25/75 split. 25% my fault, 75% hers.

Thoughts on Telling Your Business to Everyone

One of the biggest mistakes I made during the affair was letting my emotions get the best of me. I told WAY too many people my business. I caution others about this. The reason I caution is twofold. First, when everyone knows your business, you suddenly start to feel foolish. You initially share your woes looking for release and comfort but soon you feel like a laughing stock. You feel weak and inadequate. I am certain that most of the people who know about my affair don’t think that about me… but then again maybe they do.

Since my wife and I worked things out, now I feel like a lot of people think less of me as a man. I feel like they maybe think I’m a pushover or a chump. This is probably my own feelings of myself being projected, but the thoughts still persist with me.

Second, when you spread your business to everyone, you humiliate and damage the reputation of your spouse. I’ve destroyed my wife’s reputation, which is partially my reputation by extension. And now, many people know what she did, while she doesn’t even realize they know. I can’t let her know that they all know because she’d never leave the house again!

It was a mistake. I should have just kept the news to my inner circle.

Thoughts on Making up and Reconciling

On almost a whim, my wife decided she didn’t want to leave me anymore. I talked extensively to Atticus and my counselor, and thought about it endlessly. This sums up why I honestly believe she changed her mind:

  • Jealousy- Once I thought the split was imminent, I started chatting with other women and to my surprise (and probably hers), they chatted back. My wife went crazy.
  • Financial Stability- My wife’s boyfriend is 8 years older than me, makes half the money and can’t even support his own children (he has three between two other women…). Once the infatuation wore off a bit, he became less appealing.
  • Mental Stimulation- My wife alluded to the fact that the other guy wasn’t quite as sharp as she’d like several times. In fact, it is the one negative trait about him she has mentioned most.

Why Did I Take Her Back?

I took my wife back because I have two little girls and I couldn’t stand the idea of another man entering their lives. I also couldn’t stand to see them suffer the hardship of a broken home. I also do love my wife very much, but I admit that was secondary to me.

How can I forgive her?

I don’t know. It’s hard. It is damn hard. I have good days and bad days. Being intimate is also challenging for me sometimes. I also think my wife has some serious issues that go beyond me and I feel it is my duty as her husband and best friend to help her through them

Conclusion

I under estimated the amount of guilt my wife would feel after the affair. I think deep down inside my wife hates herself for what she did to me and our children. I can see it in her eyes sometimes.

I also think that she is now in self-preservation mode. She knows she has nothing left. Between her and I, we burned every bridge she’s got during the affair. I think she’s also looking for redemption.

I was at Freedom Church a few weeks ago. The preacher, J.R. Lee, is one of the most amazing public speakers I have ever seen in my life. At one point in the sermon he picked up a huge bundle of chains and said something to the effect of:

“Forgiveness isn’t about the other person, it is about you! It is about taking the weight off YOUR BACK! It is not about letting the offender off the hook.”

The he followed up with:

“No one could EVER offend you as much as YOU have OFFENDED GOD. No one if beyond forgiveness”.

Those words moved me.  Forgiveness = Freedom.  Forgiveness = Liberation.

Regardless of faith, philosophy or walk of life, these things are truth.

-Holden

Thoughts on Anger VS Pacifism

Sometimes, I daydream about walking into the office of the man who my wife had an affair with late last year. In this fantasy, I turn his desk over. I puff my chest out like a baboon, scream, and glare at him with bulging eyes then beg him to come at me.

He foolishly does come at me and I overpower him, bringing him to the ground. He struggles and slowly I tighten my grip until I have my legs wrapped firmly around his waist and my arms firmly around his neck in an unbreakable chokehold… then slowly I begin to apply pressure.

As he struggled for air, he smacks the ground violently, he gasps, his face turns red, he kicks and squirms but I hold him down tight, now completely calm and collected, until he passes out.

Then I simply walk away. He wakes up a few moments later disoriented but unharmed apart from his ego and pride.

Next, I image that he has nightmares about me. He regrets the day he ever fucked a married woman, especially MY woman, a mother of two little girls, who he insisted he cared deeply for yet had never met them and didn’t care that he was on a mission to assist in tearing their little worlds apart. He vows to never mess with a married woman again, out of fear of the angry man on the other side of the equation.

The deep truth of the matter is that I train for this asshole. Yet, ironically, I train at the same time to find the courage to never act out my fantasy. I so badly want to act on this fantasy. I crave it. I crave not to destroy him physically, but mentally and emotionally.

For the past few months I’ve been fighting with/alongside with Atticus instead in some capacity or another. Either fighting myself, running up and down the streets of Historic Atlanta, GA with him, boxing with him in his garage, or more recently, venturing into Brazilian Jui Jitsu.

Ironically, martial arts are more an exercise in inner peace and a great source of release. Sometimes I find myself craving that physical contact. Sometimes, I feel the need for that full body exhaustion and release.

I’m a fucking angry man pretending not to be angry. I’m “faking it ‘til I make it” as we like to say in the consulting business.

Today, on Martin Luther King Jr day, I was thinking about pacifism. I believe pacifism might be the greatest weapon of all, but the problem with pacifism is that it is such a long ball game. There are no immediate wins by being a pacifist, and sometimes the victory presents itself in ways that maybe you never suspected.

For example, say I decide to forgive and forget what my wife and this other man did. This other man continues to live the life he lives- that of a coward, of a shit head, of weak integrity. I do believe he will ultimately reap what he sows. Not because of some cosmic justice at work, but because he simply is his own worst enemy.

And that will be my victory. I will win by living a life of honesty and integrity while he ultimately undoes himself and lives a life of un-fulfillment.

The real question is, do I have the strength to take the higher ground and tap into that higher game?

-Holden

Recuperation, Mindfulness and Humility

Yesterday morning I took my youngest daughter to her first day at daycare. Up until now she’s stayed at home with my wife and never had to deal with the stress of being left all day with strangers.

She sat in a little chair with her lip quivering, angry and welling up with tears. She refused to take her jacket off, gripped her little kitty cat stuffed animal tightly and hugged her blanket. Heart broken, I consoled her and kissed her then said goodbye and headed to work.

She made me think about how just a few months earlier I felt the same way when my wife had decided she was leaving me for another man- scared to death of being alone, afraid of the unfamiliar, new experience that I was being forced to undertake against my will.

Since then, my wife and I have reconciled. She started a new job yesterday and seemed truly up beat for the first time in years to be honest. I am happy that she feels like she is accomplishing something and even more pleased that even though my daughter was left sitting crying in a little chair this morning, at least tonight she’d be coming home to both mommy and daddy, and at least I would be the one tucking her into bed at night and waking her up in the morning.

A lot of people seem shocked that I’ve decided to reconcile with my wife after what we had been through. Over the course of three months my wife had cultivated a relationship with another man out in the open, unabashedly. She defended it as “just friends”, then she proceeded to have a full blown sexual and emotional affair with him in the background.

Like most people who bear a guilty conscience, she firmly placed all the blames for our failing marriage solely on me. I took on all that blame whole heartedly, in a very personal way.

A full gamut of emotions.

A few months back when my marriage woes were at their worse, Atty (my co-author on this blog) made a point that I probably wanted my wife more than I ever had before, just at the time she was most distant to me. He was right. At the point in time, I’d have given almost anything just to fix the problem. The emotions were unnerving and they entangled me like a wad of bubblegum in a little girl’s head of hair.

Last night my wife and I laid in bed and she insisted that I lay my head on her chest. She rubbed my back and neck, caressed my head. I thought about how mixed my feelings for her had become. Her affection for me seems so genuine at this time. I want to reciprocate but after the extreme betrayal, I have a hard time going back 100%.

Other times, I find myself being strangely indifferent. I think it is a defense mechanism. I love my wife, I want to trust her, I want to be a better husband and have an amazing relationship, but my heart simply refuses to let down the drawbridge and open the gates back up.

Instead I find myself more caught up in moments now. Emotions are now fleeting.

In the past, I might make love to my wife and the affection and love I feel afterword stick with me all day and into the next morning. Now, it seems I have been jarred more so into living moment by moment, taking an experience in for what it is but mostly leaving it behind as it passes. I think this is because I have come to realize that all experiences in life truly are transitory and temporary. All things will pass and eventually fade, including my happy little family and marriage.

I realized recently that maybe there is a name for this. It is “Mindfulness”.

Ironically, Atticus has stumbled across this idea as well as he faces great fears of his own very soon. This idea of Mindfulness has become a topic of conversation as of late.

It will be interesting to see where we go next. It’ll be interesting to see a couple guys coping with the universe knocking us down a few pegs and forcing some humility on us.

-Holden

Pillars of Self Improvement

As I alluded to in the previous post I am undergoing a personal transformation. Moving forward I have identified three pillars in which I want to focus my efforts. The Physical, the Mental, and the Emotional & Spiritual.

In my personal journal I broke it down like this:

Pillars of Consciousness

I know that each of these elements are tied together – meaning that you cannot be successful, say mentally and emotionally, if you are not also making an effort physically. For example, one thing I am trying to do is bring mindfulness to my diet. Not just by eating healthy, but by taking a methodical approach to choosing and preparing my food.

For example:

This evening I prepared Salmon with my wife.

We searched for the perfect fillet. We settled on one with a great silver skin and beautiful deep red flesh. We chose peppers and spices for our sauce. Smelling each ingredient and holding it directly to my nose. I could almost see what the sauce was going to look like. Red and creamy with small flakes of chili’s – delicious. (I normally run through this process without thought.)

Then while preparing the meal I took time to appreciate each component. We spent over an hour dressing the meat, preparing the vegetables, and cooking. Coating every inch of the salmon in an even coating of sauce before carefully separating the collard from their stem. Each time I took time to appreciate the direction and speed I separated the vegetables – in clean symmetrical lines running perpendicular to the leaf’s veins. The stems in one pile and the leaves in another.

The Result:

Taking time to be mindful of meal preparation meant I spent more time with the family, enjoyed the food a lot more (it was the best salmon I’ve ever prepared), and ate something very nutritious. In this way I combined physical (diet), mental (researching meal preparation), and spiritual/emotional (zen – enjoying the moment).

I hope to share these efforts a little more often going forward.

Thoughts on Brotherhood and Friendship

For about a month now I’ve been consciously meditating. I don’t really meditate the way you might imagine though. Sometimes meditation happens on a spin bike in my garage. A few songs go by, I get warm and I set into deep quad work. Heavy, repetitive music thumps in my ears, I clamp my eyes shut tight and my mind wonders as my legs begin to resemble two large pieces of oak a blaze over a camp fire…

Other times meditation in fact happens around a fire. I recently bought a fire pit for my back patio, and I find myself lighting fires almost nightly over the last couple weeks, sitting for extended periods of time staring deep into the coals, long after my wife and kids have grown tired of roasting marshmallows and the cold became too much for them.

And finally, meditation happens early in the mornings, over coffee. I open the bay windows in my kitchen and stare into the dark, watching streaks of sunlight and they gradually bathe over the tops of the trees. That was my experience this morning… coffee and sunlight.

My meditation this morning took me to brotherhood…

Atty’s post about our jogs, coffee time together and the “iphone” generation a few days ago made a huge impression on me. I’ve thought deeply on it and its implications quite extensively now. I have rolled this idea over in my mind like a stone made smooth by water rapids in a river bed, this important idea of the “long game” and putting in the time to really form something great in your life. It does take time and effort to create anything great- be that a nice piece of furniture, an awe inspiring oil painting, or a friendship.

There are basic tenants that are most important to forming the type of friendship that becomes more a work of art than a relationship over time. It requires deep trust and honesty, but also quite a bit of courage.

Atty and I cross the lines with each other sometimes. Sometimes we say and do things that we probably don’t realize might hurt or offend the other. Where we excel is having the trust, honesty and most of all, courage to speak up. Wounds are not allowed to form and fester between us.

Further, this friendship takes courage as you are forced to defend it time and time again. I don’t know whether or not Atty has had to defend his friendship with me, but mine has been under attack more than a few times. My own wife, my mother, and other past friends I have since let go have all outright attacked my friendship with Atticus.

I get the impression that it offends them. I suspect that they feel jealous of this bond I have formed with Atty that I have not formed with them.

Further, I think it bothers them that I will defend it so quietly yet vehemently. In the case of my wife, I see that it troubles her. I think she hurts that she has destroyed these bonds not only with me, but with most of the people around her, yet my bonds grow stronger than ever.

I think both my wife and my mother are troubled because they suspect that perhaps deep inside, I love this man more than either of them.

Maybe I do. I certainly trust him more than either of them.

Atticus and my friendship are not perfect and neither of us are. No person is perfect and expecting that anyone will never let you down is a serious miscalculation. People will always let you down sometime or other. The key is having the courage to face and admit it when you do.

There are other important elements, such as learning to not covet the possessions, talents and other things your best friend has. Learning to accept each other’s negatives while celebrating their strengths, and so forth. But I do think at the core, courage and trust are the two most important elements.

Cheers.

-Holden

A Christmas Testimony

I’ve wrote pretty extensively about my marital problems of late. Unfortunately, what I share on this blog is only the tip of a larger iceberg, but somehow I’ve seemingly changed the course of what I thought was the Titanic on an irreversible path with the iceberg called divorce.

Over the course of the last month I’ve gone through some outright peculiar emotional trials and tribulations. In the midst of perhaps some of the greatest pain I have ever felt in my life, I have walked away not unscathed, not without harm, not without emotional scarring, but definitely a stronger, mature man.

As I’ve confided in some of my closest friends and allies, I’ve been filled with encouragement and love. I owe my friends everything I could ever possibly offer. I am one of the wealthiest men in the universe because I am so rich in love and friendship from so many.

Still, all the love and encouragement in the world would mean nothing without meaningful change. Only, I didn’t change because I wanted to. I changed because I had to, or I quite possibly might have lost my mind, freedom, or worse, my life.

My wife, the person who was supposed to be the closest person to me in my entire life, but who I had admittedly neglected for so long through anger, mismanagement of emotions, and simple immaturity had waged nuclear warfare on not only me, but my entire family.

This person, who I still love more deeply than perhaps anything else on Earth, and in fact more than ever now that we have walked through these trials together, drove me to extreme desires and plans that I don’t care to share or admit out of deep shame.

To be frank. I nearly lost my shit and I didn’t care how many people’s lives I was to destroy in the process of losing it. My goal was to become a kamikaze hell bent on not only destroying my life, her life and the life of her lover, but also the life of my children and her lover’s children by extension.

Then something happened.

One day I woke up and I wasn’t mad anymore. I’d love to say that I was brought back from the brink by friends, family, counseling, medication, meditation, exercise… whatever! But that wouldn’t be true. Yes, those are all tools I have utilized, and they continue to help me on my journey, but I promise you, they are not what stopped me from doing things I would not ever be able to take back.

I’m not going to lecture you today, on Christmas of all days, about the power of God, or tell you to go to church or tell you to pray. I’m just going to say, I said a prayer out of extreme desperation and I woke up the next day calm and collected and ready to own my problems.

I listen to a lot of “religious” people who frankly, I think are delusional and perhaps even mentally ill. Others I see as great manipulators and control freaks. And others, I may even simply view as small minded, uneducated and ignorant.

For me, my personal experience with God is just that. It is personal. Sometimes as I mediate or workout, my mind drifts and I wonder if I didn’t create these ideas as a crutch to deal with my problems. I wonder if a lot of the things that have seemingly happened to me aren’t coincidence or maybe I am simply connecting the dots in such a way that makes it convenient for me to attribute it to God or Jesus or whatever.

In fact, I can’t even believe I write or feel this today. Me, a well educated, worldly man who has experienced and seen so much, met so many people of different faiths, studied history and is so well aware of the dangers of religion- writing about God.

But I do attribute my happiness and well being today to God and especially the people he has put in my path. I am but a single man floating around on a rock which circles a star at a thousand miles per hour, in a galaxy that is yet just a small satellite itself in a sea of other galaxies, in a universe too enigmatic and expansive for me to ever dream of comprehending…  I’ve decided writing off God is arrogant.

So, take that as you will. That is my testimony. I am not ashamed and I feel no need to defend it or prove anything to anyone.

Merry Christmas.

-Holden

iPhone Generation and The Long Game

Run 4.2 miles. Immediately following Holden and I get coffee at the local coffee house that is a half mile walk from my house. We don’t buy anything fancy, just a strong cup of coffee. It cost $2.00 even.

The coffee shop is  trendy (call it hipster-esque) with local art hanging on the walls, a starry night themed study room, and a barrister with a handle-bar mustache. One painting always makes me shake my head because it looks like a beautiful painting of a young girl that someone scribbled over top with purple crayon. Art.

My community is a pretty interesting mix. There are lesbian couples, a mysterious guy in great shape that curls rocks in his front yard, a few veterans, accountants, religious, atheists, old people, and young. There are antebellum homes, American flags, and an art/farmers market every weekend.

Holden and I sit in the trendy little coffee shop – mostly empty on a rainy morning. We still have our workout clothes on and talk a little too loudly for a near-empty coffee house. We feel free to speak our mind and pay no attention to the patrons at the next table. They pay no attention to us either.

These are my favorite kind of mornings. Holden and I chat and boost each other’s ego then laugh about it. Casually praising the other, but in a natural and healthy sort of way. We talk about personal growth, family, travel, and life. Our talks are, in many ways, an extension of this blog.

Even as we finish our coffee I enjoy the thought of the half mile walk back to my house.

Holden and I have been friends for nearly a decade. We have traveled to the third world, helped each other through relationship problems, and personal growth. In fact, this is the longest friendship I’ve had to date (I’m 27). It has taken a lot of work for both of us, but like any craftsman, the result (and journey) has been worth the effort.

Which brings me to my point:

I want to teach my daughter (and anyone else who will listen) the value of time well spent. I feel like most people want instant gratification. Holden and I call it the “iPhone generation” (a term we coined over coffee). The value of the “long game” (also coined over coffee) has been lost.

Everything I value in life was developed over years and decades. None of it was given to me. And everything I worked for and continue to work for I appreciate on a different level than those things that were handed to me. It is a unique type of appreciation that is only privy to those who have the experience of having done it. (Which is also why I’m beginning to realize the value of experience and age.)

It’s like reading a good book rather than watching the movie. It took a few days or weeks to get through the book. You spent time with it, developed a relationship with it. You can watch 6 movies in a day on Netflix and forget which before you go to bed. The “long game” is a good book.

These are the differences between sitting in a coffee shop talking about life with your best friend and liking a photo on Facebook.

The Value of Time Alone

For the past five years I have spent time writing everyday. A lot of that writing happens here on this blog and a lot of it happens in a personal journal I keep on a bookshelf at home. My journal is a small black leather bound notebook I bought for myself a few years back. I’ve since filled two or three of these little notebooks and always purchased the same one.

About a year ago I wrote in my journal that I was concerned that my wife and I were not communicating enough. I wrote down the reasons I thought we didn’t communicate and the places in life we were missing the opportunity to have an intimate conversation.

I remember writing in my journal:

“We sit in front of the TV at dinner and we play on our phones before bed. We don’t try to ignore each other, but after a few shows it’s suddenly time for bed. We check our emails then go to sleep. I wonder what she’s thinking…maybe nothing…I’m pretty much brain dead the whole time. We should talk more.”

After that my wife and I decided to have “No tech” dinners and evenings. Instead we sit around and talk, clean the house together, cook, and eat dinner. Just opening up a couple of hours to communicate with each other made a positive difference in our relationship.

It is interesting how small changes in your daily habits can change your life. All because of little time alone with myself.

Cornerstone

As a youngster I remember my great uncle. I still see his face now. Clean shaved with a shadow of beard that he can never fully rid himself. He has deep wrinkles from a calm smile that never totally leaves his face. I remember the sincerity in his voice that always struck me.

“Papa” on my wife’s side of the family was the same type of man. Though he died years before my wife and I became a couple not a holiday goes by that I do not hear fond stories about Papa’s role in their lives.

On Thanksgiving day 2014 -at age 27 and my house full of family – after my mother-in-law and aunt-in-law hugged me and thanked me for “taking care of the family”, my nephews asked how to be successful, and my father-in-law asked for advice – I realized I had become a Cornerstone too.

For me, there are more questions than answers about this journey. About the type of man I want to be. How to do what’s right. What is right anyway? And how to lead.

I think conscious effort is a good first step. Here I am.

Live That Way

At least three times a week I run 5 miles. I live in a historic area of Atlanta, GA so the scenery is quite charming. The path is full of historic homes from the early 1900s and the occasional plantation home – now surrounded by urban development instead of farmland.

My run happens in stages.

For the first mile my brain is disconnected. This is the most congested part of my run. I focus on avoiding traffic, crossing intersections, a train track, and clearing my mind.

Miles 2-5 are where the magic happens. I’m in the zone. My mind drills deep into itself. My thoughts follow through no particular path, create hypothetical situations, and eventually lands in some place I find enjoyable or helpful.

Sometime I relive college wresting matches in painstaking detail. I shoot – take the opponents leg – circle, circle, circle – head in leg, finish the takedown!

Other times I walk through scenarios at work or home. How to treat my family better. How to be successful at work. Always in great detail. I visualize body movements, voice inflection, outcomes, and various alternatives. I see myself sitting behind a desk at work. Moving my arms confidently as I discuss a project. Remember to smile. Listen, head nod, courtesy.

Sometimes I think about my death bed too, but not because I’m afraid of dying. Because I want to be at peace with death when I get there. By thinking about my death bed I’m really contemplating life.

I see myself lying back with oxygen running to my nose. There is always natural sunlight hitting my face because my bed is near a window. In my vision I know my family is there, but I always focus on my face as if I am a camera man staring from the foot of the bed. Maybe the view a small grandchild would have.

In my final moments I close my eyes and smile. I smile.

Two phrases have become quite important to me over the years:

1. On my death bed I want to close my eyes and smile knowing that I have given life everything I have.

2. We are given one life, one chance, we should live that way.

Neither of these ideas are unique or original, but I take them seriously as part of my vision of life and death. Instead of being a cliche’ quote I’ve consciously tried to put these ideas into action. I can’t tell you how many trips I’ve booked immediately following a long run. Or how many times I’ve come home and been a better father or husband.

For me, very little happens by accident. Most things I have been truly successful with have come from hours of deep thought and mental preparation. Long runs or laying in bed at night – just thinking. Then taking those thoughts and putting them to action.

You are given one life, so you should live that way.