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A Short Story About Turning an 8 Year Long Divorce Into a Ten Minute Process – Learnings in Life
I’d watched Mohamed Ali knock boxers out. I’d seen bombs explode in movies. I’d been in gang fights and I’d crashed cars in rally trials. I’d chopped down trees and shot rabbits for dinner. But I never knew how far a human being could fall until I actually experienced it.
It’s a simple matter. One day the discomfort is there, the fake identities are in place, the double life exists and everybody seems happy (even though at some level they are not). The next day, the children were crying, my wife was crying, I was crying. It’s a simple matter, just crack the ego shell, find the truth, move on.
If a the drama of a divorce happened to me now, it’d take ten minutes to process. Twenty years ago, for me it took eight years to heal myself and for most people, that’s about the average time it takes to heal the wounds and become friendly with the ex again.
Back then, when the crack happened between my nicely constructed life, or what is best called “Brand Chris Walker” the mask I loved people to identify me with, and my real life, I really thought death would be a nicer place to be.
I was given plenty of chances to sort that GAP out long before the proverbial hit the fan, but, being a good ol Aussie bloke, and totally not wanting to get caught up in fluff, I didn’t.
I didn’t read one single book, attend one seminar, question my doctor, seek a therapist, watch a DVD movie or speak to someone about the Gap between Brand Walker and Real Walker until I needed to. That was mistake number one.
So, nothing prepared me for the fall. I thought I was bullet proof, and to the extent that I could lie, sneak off behind my wife’s back, afford the fancy clothes and cars, and entertain friends with good jokes and wine, I was bullet proof. Gee, I’d come from street thug, shy kid, broken violent home to multi millionaire success story, why would I want to mess that up with honesty. The thought of it made my blood curdle.
But the gap between authenticity and my life had grown wider and wider, it was deeper than a mountain crevasse, and faking it was becoming harder and more gut wrenching. My lover wanted all of me, my wife deserved all of me. It was bound to unravel.
Brand Walker, the me I presented to the world, my turtle shell was concrete, and yet, in one snap, it was in crumbs and it took eight more years before I was able to say, with honesty, “thank goodness.”
The thought of living that life I had for the whole of my life, deluded, is beyond my comprehension. On one hand I lost the dream of a united family, one that I’d lied, cheated and manipulated to sustain, but really, I gained so much more.
My children, in the long run benefited: What sort of role model was I? They had a Dad living a fake life only deluding himself because children’s intuition, especially my own young children, see through the masks, even if they don’t want to know what they see and feel, they see through the Brand of Walker.
The break up day was the greatest day of my life. I lost everything that I’d considered important, and found everything that was important. And that was the second mistake, waiting for stuff to happen before acting on it. There are a million softer ways to deal with the Gap, to make this shift instead of lawyers, therapists and new age guru’s.
Sure, I’d wish those softer ways on others, but, if like me, a person is so invested in their Brand – being someone – providing the fake before the make, then the crash is as clear, harsh and confronting as it will need to be. At least nature doesn’t give up on us, all the way to the grave, we have a chance to learn, let go, evolve and enjoy the journey. Once hit between the eyes like this, life will never be compromised again.
The third mistake I made during this eight long year drama called divorce, was denying reality. I believed or wanted to believe there was hope for reconciliation, and did everything corruptly trying to get back together again. The reality was, if we had got back together, within a short time, everything would have gone back to how it was. Yuk….
As it turned out, I got compassionate leave from the University where I was mid way through my MBA, begged my now ex-wife to take me back, faked the change, promised to be good, sought help from half trained “relationship guru’s” and basically tried to put the eggshell back together again.
It nearly worked. My ex-wife was as shattered as me, so the mix of her guilt and fear of the future combined with my tricks and promises of redemption nearly got us back together. Thank goodness her family held her safe, and her friends protected her from my games – she held tight to her convictions, the lawyers protected her from my games and I was left to deal with reality.
Without some healthy process to take me to a finality in this journey, without a coach to guide me, my middle ground – half life is ok drama could have lasted 25 years as it does for most people. Instead, even with the discomfort, it took eight long years to sort out the fallout.
To clean cement from a cement mixer you hose it out as soon as you’re finished. Leave it for a day, and it becomes concrete and then instead of a hose you need a hammer and chisel. Life’s little challenges are best dealt with while they’re soft, as they happen. In my case, I’d cemented 34 years of unwashed concrete against the walls of my brain. It was going to take more than a jack-hammer – dynamite was required.
My ideas, beliefs, patterns, values and habits that made up my ego nature, were set hard for years.
The process of personal change is so easy. It takes a few minutes at most to deal with a divorce, but the concrete is thick, the process is ego dependent, we resist without knowing it and take side tracks in self-help that add years and years.
All I needed to do was to get REAL and that can take very little time, however, in the process of struggling with things, I actually made them worse.
First I found my Myer Brigg behavioural profile and used it as just another way of creating a legitimising Brand Bubble around my ego. At some stage I became Buddhist which conveniently wrapped another Brand Bubble over the top of my ego. Then Yoga Brand Bubble and the list goes on and on.
I’d lacked real authenticity in my marriage, so why would I look for authenticity in my self-help? What I did, in the name of self-help and healing was, instead of giving up my ego was to find as many ways to reinvent it as possible.
The fifth mistake was in taking a self-determined path to sort myself out. It’s like tickling yourself. I began by looking for people to agree with me, to reinforce my “story” about how things should be and shouldn’t be in the world. I merged with like minded people, read like minded books, protested about like minded issues and rejected anything that disagreed with me. I used blame to strengthen my ideology, publicised my social conscience at every opportunity, found women who liked the new Brand Walker and made money, dancing for people who liked what they saw.
As a professional speaker you get paid to tell people what they want to hear. At the end of any speech people are asked to rate speakers on speaker feedback forms. What’s the question? Did you enjoy this, did you get something out of it? Really the question could be put, “Did this speaker lie enough to make you feel comfortable with what you already thought?”
A highly rated professional speaker tells you what you want to hear and charges you for it. The more you hear what you want to hear, the more they charge. It’s positive reinforcement, but it’s not personal change.
My inauthentic life and the thinking around it was reinforced by the speakers I chose, the doctors I chose, supported by workshops I chose, constructed out of intellectual ideals that came from books I chose, moulded by groups I joined, endorsed by Eastern Teachings I twisted, backed by the Yoga I half practiced and worked on by therapists I played with. I’d worked on the streets since I was 14, I knew people, and most important to this inauthentic circumstance, and my naivety around changing it, I knew how to play people. No therapist with a psych degree from a text book university could, under any circumstance, get under my radar. I was from the jungle, I knew how to survive, which, in self awareness may not be the ideal model.
But those are just the bricks that the wall is made of. The mortar, the glue that holds those identity bricks in place are the everyday habits, the substitutes that were a normal, invisible part of my life. The habits I had like going for a morning jog, doing yoga, eating fast, enjoying coffee, lying to be kind, pleasing clients and doing what corporate trainers often called good leadership.
These habits that are hard to break are the mortar that hold the bricks that make our ego strong. Habits of thinking, doing, behaving, analysing, reading, interpreting – second guessing the world and people around me. It’s a survival instinct that created a dependence that kept me from real honesty. And I had plenty of them.
I am still intrigued about the gap between what I was willing to question and my intention. I was hurting and so I read hundreds of self-help books – but I do remember flicking through them in the book shop to see whether I’d enjoy it or not – automatically pre-filtering challenging information.
But my favourite mirror of my deluded sense of self-help are the notes I took at conferences and workshops. You see, what the speaker said, what the speaker intended me to hear, and what I wrote down as my interpretation of what I heard were totally different topics. I managed to “pre select” information, filter out things I probably needed to hear, spin them and turn those things into what I WANTED to hear. My lack of authenticity, although purely innocent and accidental, screwed with the journey that I’d set out on to become authentic.
So, for a few years I questioned only what I wanted to question, and went on suffering when, after a week of elation post seminar, post book, post meditation retreat, post yoga ashram program, I’d be dealing with the reality of a divorce, my ex-wife being happy without me, and the truth of my miserable life.
What I didn’t agree with, I didn’t like. What I didn’t enjoy hearing in those challenges I’d ignore, what I didn’t enjoy reading that questioned my identity I’d discard as rubbish. The things I really needed to change remained untouched because I filtered out the challenges to them.
As the self-help bills went up, and the “filtering” increased with every new piece of “alternative” awareness, my health declined. Kidney stones, sinusitis, lung infections, cold sores, cholesterol increases, blood pressure, nervous system weakness – all the signs of a man living in his own deluded world were there, nature was saying, “hey mate, get REAL.” Of course, that’s easy to see in hindsight, and sad to think about.
Sad because it was like living with a broken leg and going to healers who just did what I told them to do. In the meantime, the leg continues to get worse, the healers get paid (their main concern) and I am in pain, dumping my emotional garbage on all those around me at work and home, but in particular, those I love most. To hell to the world of self help and amateur healing. Damn to the nice therapist, the sweet meditation teachers and the agreeable speakers. To Hell with the nice herbalist dishing me up what I wanted. Damn to the books that are written to sell.
One or two people challenged my process. My doctor had mentioned in my visits that maybe I needed to see a psychologist and get some therapy, but before the words had left her mouth, I’d discounted the idea and considered changing the doctor. I was interested in getting better, not worse which in my language meant, legitimising what I already thought, and how I thought about life.
Bit by bit my “SELF-HELP” which was primarily based on deluding myself by surrounding myself with things that agreed with me, went through a process of elimination. I read the books and still felt bad, I became the Zen master, and still couldn’t deal with reality for more than a few days at a time. I because the Yogi and stuck my head up my backside, but that didn’t change much, just who I slept with.
Conferences came and went, workshops drained my bank account, writing hundreds of thousands of pages of journals didn’t help. I was still Chris, and I was still divorced and I was still a loser. Nothing had changed it, only given me nice places to hide from reality. Hiding in meditation rooms, yoga rooms, book rooms, and plenty of new age girlfriends, who promised they were happy to have unattached sex, but who, like me, were totally inauthentic, just wearing masks.
Therapy was out of the question. As I said before, I could manipulate any therapist or psychologist. I was more clever than that. Thirty odd years of street cunning, doesn’t come unstuck in some fancy office with an intellectual. I was a mud wrestling business guy who had mastered the art of business in Asia. I knew more than any psychologist or therapist could throw at me. In other words, my ego was really well barricaded. It was a fortress.
I did go to therapy because I found an amazing therapist, a woman and she was attractive. I took her flowers on the second appointment, thinking all the while, “here’s my next relationship – I’ll marry emotional balance instead of finding it.” I can’t begin to tell you how stupid that sounds to me now, but at the time, health by association was a fantastic shortcut and, of course, the basis of the choices I made to marry my first wife.
After five years walking around in pain with a virtual broken leg, feeling suicidal and depressed, hating my life but “loving everyone unconditionally” (please speak those words in a soft smooth ashram tone of sincerity) – I was still ready to get into another marriage based on the same deluded definition of love and relationship that caused the first calamity.
When I presented the flowers and gave my therapist a kiss on both cheeks (suave eh?) she sat me down politely and told me, “Chris, you’re an attractive, seductive man, but you’ll never ever be romantically involved with me. You’ll never bridge the gap between being a client and a relationship.” She couldn’t have made it clearer. And, with my old responses to success still firmly running my life I thought, “yeah, right!”
After six months of sparing twice a week with her, wasting her time and mine, I noticed that she’d started renovating the back of the house her counselling rooms were in, I want a plaque on that with my name on it. “Donated by the EGO of CW” At least it forced me to take this time more seriously.
My therapist’s classic question was “Chris, how do you feel?” – at first I’d recall the text of some book I was reading or some workshop I’d just attended and then share how I should feel, which was how I wanted to impress the world and her, (art of seduction is my next book – smile please) – I’d say, “at peace” or “thankful” or “unconditionally loving.” And at some surface and ambitious level I meant it. But my therapist was smarter than me, she didn’t buy it and would ask, “and?” Man that used to annoy me, but as I saw her as my last desperate possibility for happiness, I tolerated the discomfort and, at last in my journey, went below the surface.
“What else do I feel – you ask? – What else? Well I’m angry at the money I’m wasting, and angry about this and that and this, and I’m sad about this and….. ” then I’d cry. Damn it, then I’d cry and she’d sit and hold me.
So, suddenly I was aware of two worlds – the one I mastered in order to cope with life – to get what I wanted in life and the other world below the surface… “What the hell am I doing here?” I’d spring out of that vulnerable space – the Inner Space like a jack-in-a box – shocked and ashamed, embarrassed, “what’s she going to think of me?” I’d ask, soon coming to the realisation that any hopes of a relationship were now dead.
Eventually I got over the discomfort, she helped me dive deep below the surface that I’d called reality, down into the inner workings of my heart and mind, into beauty of feelings I’d never felt. She held me close to her, something, as a boy who lost his mother at three years old, I’d never trusted.
It took time, years in fact. I had to cut through my own walls, and then my family culture of toughness, and then my masculine perceptions of manhood and so many other layers.
So, getting familiar with this other side of life was like carving marble with a tooth pick. My ego pushed back and in between sessions, I’d meet a new girlfriend, read another book, attend another seminar or end up in a court case with my ex. She had me by the balls and could, with a single phone call, squeeze as hard as she liked. And that’s what needed to change more than anything else.
Three more years, making a total of eight since my fake world had started to crumble, I sort of made it to daylight. The therapy, some workshops that I allowed to challenge me, some relationships that I allowed to take me deeper than I’d previously dreamed possible. I now accepted that I felt things different to what the books and seminars proposed as “best” practice. I made love differently, thought about my ex-wife differently, loved my children unconditionally.
Eight years to do ten minutes work. Who wants that?
So, from all this came a mission. A purpose to my life, a reason to wake up and kick ass – to compress eight years of ego placating, identity fraudulence, pleasure seeking therapy and self-help into ten minutes of life change.
So far, I’ve got it down to a month, 30 days, in which I can take most people down that rabbit hole of self awareness, clear the debris, chip out the old set concrete and find the real happiness that can only come from the inside out. I’m still learning, each client brings somethings special and with that, I discover something new, something magic, a question, a process, an idea that tricks the ego into allowing real, permanent, sustainable, love filled, humanising change.
The eleven books I’ve published have been a process of distillation. Books are clumsy because they are made from words and words are not the short cut to truth. Words fart around the truth, they dance around the ego, they feed what we want to read and somehow drop in comprehension and interest when they stray into truth.
What could have made my journey easier was a book written by some guy who’d gone to hell and back and who came out the other side of it, happier and more connected to those he loves than before it. A story of a journey from the plastic façade of a constructed set of expectations that cannot be achieved to a real, simple honest acknowledgement of what it looks like to be Real.
Respect the Ego: It’s hard to do good if you don’t feel good
Don’t follow Your Ego: Lose authenticity, lose everything.
Do the right thing: Love your work and it’ll love you back
Live inside-out: Relationships and family don’t solve personal problems.
Self-Honesty: The simplest life is the most transparent – to you.
Trust something bigger than you: Don’t argue with nature, no matter what people say, it doesn’t work in the long term.
The law of lesser pissers: Piss others off or piss yourself off – you can’t do both at the same time.
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