Mac Musings

Life Beyond Low End Mac

Dan Knight - 2005.05.16 - Tip Jar

One year ago I shared the story of my marriage and impending divorce (A Wrinkle in Life: Difference and Divorce). A lot has happened since then, and several readers have asked for updates.

For a while, Low End Mac moved to a three-day-a-week publishing schedule because life was too overwhelming for me to do more than that. Although we resumed to that publishing schedule last week, it's for different reasons - the primary one is so I can invest more time in some new online projects dealing with frugal living and facing abandonment issues.

During the past year, I've sold my eMac 700 and bought a pair of 1.25 GHz eMacs, one for use at the house and one for use at the apartment. And I'm still using my PowerBook G4/400 as my field computer, upgraded from 512 MB to 768 MB of RAM - and I have a 40 GB hard drive that I need to install before I can put Tiger on it.

On the business side, site traffic is steady, ad rates are up, and things haven't looked this good since I left my full-time IT job to publish LEM full time in January 2001. (Low End Mac is eight years old.)

On the personal side, life is good. I survived the trauma of abandonment, separation, and divorce. I've faced down a lifetime of personal issues, worked through them, and rebuilt my life. I've rediscovered my faith and resumed going to church regularly. I'm no longer primarily a geek.

My life had become a Gordonian knot of issues, and the death of my marriage was the impetus for cutting through the whole thing at once instead of trying to untie it a bit at a time.

During one early session, my therapist used the abandonment label, and it stopped me short. That was it! I discovered the best resource for working through abandonment issues, The Journey from Abandonment to Healing< by Susan Anderson, and I learned to stop letting my marriage and my ex-wife define me.

At the same time she was pulling out of the marriage, our church began working through The Purpose Driven Life. It was exactly what I needed - to learn that God had planned me and made me, that God knew everything about me, that God loved me, and that I could find my identity in relationship to One who will never abandon me.

It was tough going. I had my abandonment issues, I was seriously depressed, and I had anxiety attacks. Even with the therapy and the self-help books, it would have been much harder without medication. I've been on Wellbutrin for over a year now, and it's made a world of difference. It helps with my anxiety, my depression, and my ADHD. It gave me the focus and helped lifted the despair enough for me to work through my problems.

I'm still sorting out a lot of things. I'd been married for 22 years before things came crashing down, and I loved my wife, was in love with her, and respected her. I trusted her assessment of the problems in our relationship - most of which she seemed to be putting on me - and it took a long time to discover that I couldn't trust that. She had her own agenda, and everything she said or did was shaped by it.

Deliberately manipulative? I don't know. Desperate, though. For whatever reason, she believed that she could only be happy outside of our marriage, and she did whatever it took to get there. She stopped being the kind of person who could give and receive in a relationship and turned into one who would no longer accept my love, not care about my pain, and take what she wanted.

It hurt. It cut to the core of my being. It forced me to face all the issues in my life, discover myself, and rebuild. Although good came of it, I can't forget what she did to me. I have learned to forgive her (hate, anger, and resentment are self-destructive and nonproductive), but I will never trust her like I once did.

The Divorce

It takes six months to finalize a divorce in Michigan when there are children in the home. If my ex had done things the way some women do, she would have served papers in October 2003, and we might have been done with the marriage by April or May 2004.

Instead, we didn't file until we reached the point where we both understood that the marriage was over and that nothing was going to change her mind. We spent weeks working together on the terms of our divorce (no lawyers!), filed at the start of May, and finalized in early November.

As I've mentioned here a few times, we have four sons, three of whom are still living at home. Rather than make them move back and forth, we chose to go with "bird's nest" custody, where the children remain in the family home and the parents alternate time at home with them.

We did that every two weeks for quite a while, but that was more than I could handle in the long run. Single parenting is stressful, and two weeks at a time was very hard on me. We changed that a few months ago, and at this point we're generally trading places each Monday evening. My stress level is greatly reduced, and I think that's better for the boys as well.

Neither of us pays child support since we have joint custody. Instead, we have a joint budget that we use for housing expenses (that includes both the family home and the two-bedroom apartment we use when we're not at home) and the like. When our youngest finishes high school in two years, we'll sell the house and be able to go our separate ways.

Mortgages

Speaking of the house, our budget was very tight between household expenses and the apartment. We refinanced our mortgage just before my ex told me she wanted out. She had worked up a budget and determined that the only way she could afford to divorce me was if she had no car payment, so when we got the money at close, she paid off her car.

Then she told me the marriage was done.

That was a 15 year mortgage at 6-3/8%, and we were on a biweekly payment plan so it would be paid off years early. That fit our budget, but only because I had no idea that a divorce and that the cost of maintaining an apartment would enter the picture.

I lived on my own for six months, spending every other weekend with the boys. We switched to "bird's nest" custody a year ago, about the same time we filed for divorce, and began using a joint household budget.

With two incomes, we were putting over 75% of our take home pay into the joint budget each week. What little was left was for personal use - things like putting gas in the car, medications, and doctor visits. It was tight.

We refinanced again earlier this year. Knowing how tight the budget was and that we plan on selling the home in two years, we went with a 30 year mortgage, monthly payments, and got a fixed rate of 5-3/8% for three years. That cut nearly $200 from our monthly budget.

Sometimes it makes sense to pay your house down quickly, which is what we tried to do with our previous mortgage, and sometimes it makes more sense to keep housing costs from breaking the budget.

Dating

I had lost myself and found myself again. I understood the issues that had shaped my life, and I had started reinventing myself. After all, there was a good chance I'd end up "on the market" again.

That's a weird thought after 24 years dating and married to the same woman.

I signed up for Yahoo! Personals and spent months working on my profile and looking for someone to connect with. (You knew I had to get to my computer somewhere in this story.) Although I knew I could make it on my own, I didn't want to live alone.

Thanks to the therapy, I pretty much knew who I was, but personals is about presentation. I made a few acquaintances, met a couple people, and began to wonder if this was going to take years.

Six weeks after we filed for divorce - and almost three months after we'd agreed to divorce - I met a wonderful woman through Yahoo! Personals. Eleven months ago today I sent my first "icebreaker" message, and we emailed each other many times that first week.

Between our online profiles and the emails, we got to know a lot about each other quickly, and we had our first date on June 22. Would we click in person? Could it be as good as the emails seemed to indicate?

Yeah, it could. It was a bit weird for a minute or two. I hadn't dated someone new in decades, and she had been disappointed several times by men she'd met online, but in no time we were talking about everything, enjoying dinner, talking more, enjoying a nice tall beer after dinner, and talking some more.

Love at first sight? No, but definitely interest. We had fun. We enjoyed each other's company. We were comfortable. Mostly we found we could talk openly about things that we might never have talked about in our marriages. It was refreshing, invigorating, wonderful. We've been seeing each other ever since.

It's great being in love, and it's healing being in a relationship where I can be open and honest and see the same in my partner, where I'm not worried about becoming dependent again, where we share our concerns about the relationship - so different from what our marriages had been like. I discovered that I could trust again - and that I wanted to.

I had tried to live a life with minimal risks. Despite that, I've been through hell. Laving that hell and living openly and freely is great. I know who I am, I like who I am, and I am secure in who I am.

It took losing the most important person and relationship in my life to get me here. Was it worth the pain? Yeah, it was, although I fought it tooth and nail. If not for such an overwhelming crisis, I wouldn't be who I am today.

Who I am is a lot more than a computer geek. I'm bicycling again, walking regularly, looking forward to swimming season. I attended my first men's retreat ever and made some new friends. I'm closer to my extended family than I've ever been. And I'm helping others working through their own divorces and abandonment issues.

I've learned a lot, and I'm sharing a lot of what I've learned. That's the reason I'm moving past publishing Low End Mac as what I do for a living. If plans work out, this will just be one of several websites Cobweb Publishing runs, and I'll be doing a lot more than just helping Mac users make the best computer decisions.

Life is good but where does it go from here?

It doesn't matter - it's the journey that counts.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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