Thursday, June 12, 2008


I've now had a little time to reflect on the lived experience of my most recent blog, and a handful of comments about it. One comment included the question "why do you wash your dirty linen in public?"

I posted my ex-wife's letter to me on an impulse. I have a tendency to impulsivity: on the one hand it is narcissistic and regressive, on the other it yields insights to me that would otherwise just lurk in the shadows. My impulsivity has always both repelled some and conversely it has sometimes emboldened others to see things as they are, unidealised and stark, in their own lives. It is, perhaps, like all our characteristics of personality, both a gift and an impediment.

I remember my mother telling me as a child (maybe I was 9 or thereabouts) "King George is dead", and I replied, without thinking I'm sure, "Should I lower my trousers to half mast?". My mother was genuinely shocked, and I think it was my first awareness of my capacity to shock others, of my taste for doing so. I've never lost either.

I posted the letter not for compassion, not for absolution, not out of humility I think. But, yes: I did so to put the record of my own life and parenthood straight, and as a response to the charge of hypocrisy. This aspect of what I am, selfish, neglectful, and deviously 'clever' needs to be 'out there' to redress the otherwise impossible projections I attract, and generate through my writings and utterances. I also thought my ex-wife might see it and feel vindicated. She has not been impressed by any claims to compassion I might seem to make, or that might be wrongly inferred by others. Not that compassion is anything to do with the person or his efforts, as I understand it. It is something "in which we live, and move, and have our being", not a product of what we try to do.

I've had email contact with my eldest daughter (aged 42) and her own daughter for about three years, and this has clearly brought things to a head now, as I thought it eventually might. My daughter's messages to me are warm, confiding and intimate. She refers a lot to our temperamental similarities. We have made tentative plans to meet up, although we are both aware of the tension this may cause her in her relations with her Mum and her sisters.

I have been feeling quite wretched for the past few days, and this is the place to be, a place from which I can perhaps touch the experience of my ex-wife and her children, and share in it with thought for them, and not for myself. Even this sounds phoney, but there it is.
I'm grateful for the comments I've received from individuals for whom my post has had some relevance for their own experience of abandonment. These comments have been strangely devoid of any judgement, more a recognition of how things sometimes are. Perversely, this has not 'let me off the hook', so to speak, but has deepened my reflectiveness, and promises more by way of insight as time passes, and barriers fall away.
The image above is a portrayal of "Self-Doubt" published by Endicott Studio.


Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your post as one does on the net. I was struck by:

I have been feeling quite wretched for the past few days, and this is the place to be, a place from which I can perhaps touch the experience of my ex-wife and her children, and share in it with thought for them, and not for myself. Even this sounds phoney, but there it is.

Are they your children too? I wonder if your wife will appreciate your posting her private letter on the web? I wonder too if, beyond what appears to be an act of public self-flagellation, you feel remorse for your actions - to which you seem to be admitting. I suppose the mystery for some people may be how a person can walk away like that without turning back. But maybe there were reasons which you have not explained. Or is it a man thing as your wife seems to suggest? How do you feel about what you did?

Peter Goble said...

Thanks for your comments and your interest in this matter. I don't want to seem to be springing to my own defense in this reply, but I don't see my comments as self-flagellation. As I've said elsewhere, it's more about redressing the balance over the impression I may have created (and which my ex-wife mentioned) of being whiter-than-white, sanctimonious, and so on. I didn't ask her for her permission to publish her letter to me, but she didn't want to hear from me so I couldn't. I can't see that it will do her or our children any harm that her opinion of me is more widely known; anyway, I take responsibility for having published it and will bear any consequences for doing so. the children are all adult women, and the letter doesn't in any way reflect badly on them, or not in any way that I can foresee, or in any way that they need to be protected by my non-acknowledgement of their mother's thoughts.

You wonder if I feel remorse. That's not something I feel disposed to discuss with a stranger who doesn't identify himself/herself to me; but I invite you to speculate from your own experience of failure in personal relationships (if you have such experience to draw on), and extrapolate that, bearing in mind what judgement you've come to about me already.

As for reasons for action: nothing is for nothing, every action is the result of earlier actions, thoughts, feelings and chance events from conception onwards, some of which are more in our apparent control than others, but many of the things we do are the result of patterns laid down over many years, patterns of which we are largely unaware, but which we can come to understand, and perhaps dissolve, or at least mitigate, through mindfulness and effort. This is why I am a Buddhist.

I don't know exactly what my wife meant by saying that men are a different species, and if you mean this by saying my behaviour is a "man thing" then you need to say more about that for me to respond. I have worked all my life as a nurse, amongst women, and I do acknowledge that women perceive the world 'through different eyes', may experience emotions in a different way (maybe using a different 'pallette' to use an art metaphor), and may think differently about some situations from men. But these are generalisations, and have to thought of in more particular ways than this comment can begin to set out.

You ask me how I feel about what I did. My response to that is that I owe any such inventory of my feelings to the people closer to the situation than yourself, and there may be a time for that, but it isn't here and now.

There is, and has to be, a whole lot more involved in this situation than can be pursued here: mine is a life in progress, as are the lives of my children, my ex-wife, my second wife of well over thirty five years, our children, their several brothers and sisters, and many others besides.

You mentioned mystery in the context of life, my actions and their consequences, and you are absolutely right in your diagnosis. I have come to understand that life is indeed a mystery, and we are ordained by life to live the mystery, to do the best we can, and that no more can or should be expected of any of us than that. I dare say you have mysteries of your own to live, and your stumbling upon mine is one such, and let's hope something good comes of it for both of us.