Our Way - Ol' Blues Eyes' Guide to Orchestrating Your Divorce and Coparenting
WARNING: Frank Sinatra references ahead.
It was a very nice Thanksgiving week. I drove Vanessa and Felix to Midway on Tuesday so they could get a head start on Texas and the week’s festivities. I stayed behind a day for work and to drop in on an Open House at the David Lynch Foundation (Chicago). This organization does some really amazing work with at risk youth, veterans and others experiencing trauma and toxic stress via Transcendental Meditation. I am very excited to be working with them on creative ways to bring TM to people who can benefit from it.
Later, Vanessa picked me up in Houston late on Wednesday night. As always, her family welcomed me into their home(s) to stay and then celebrate the holiday. We had a very nice Thanksgiving, and today, we all eschewed the Black Friday insanity and drove to Galveston so Felix and his cousin could grab lunch and spend a little time at the water. Vanessa dropped me off at Hobby Airport this afternoon and I managed to nab an early flight back to Chicago.
Free for a little while of the workday stress, I managed to sleep almost the whole flight; and, tonight as I write this, I am listening to and watching my 30+ year idol and favorite, Frank Sinatra, sing a host of great tunes including “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)” in a TV recording from a concert that is airing on our local PBS channel.
Vanessa and Felix will be back in town tomorrow. But tonight, I am here with just my thoughts on things.
Today, I could not help but note how far we’ve come as family - as Vanessa dropped me at the airport. Just a few years ago, I spent a lot of time in that airport as I flew back and forth to see Felix in Houston after Vanessa and I divorced. It was a bittersweet place - the coming always a joy and the going always a tribulation.
Tonight, I think about the hard work that Vanessa and I have done and continue to do for the benefit of our son. It is a lot like the work our clients do or maybe that you do as well.
Rearing a child isn’t easy. Rearing a child in divorce is harder. Choosing to coparent and put your child first at all times and in all ways is even harder. And while we, perhaps like you, continue to make mistakes — I think we are doing ok. I hope you are too.
And in my case, it couldn’t happen without the support of Vanessa’s very good family or mine. When grandparents, uncles, cousins and others buy-in to the approach and truly live it in action, it makes things so much easier.
I tend to approach whatever writing I do here with a fair bit of philosophizing and distance. But tonight, I hope to be a touch more concrete and personal.
When Vanessa and I divorced over four years ago, we made a choice. Like that great balladeer who I am watching right now, we chose to do it “[Our] Way.”
Many people had many opinions and thoughts and feelings about it all. I reckon many still do. But Vanessa and I trusted each other on the thing that meant (and means) the most to us both - our son, Felix.
Today, our son is a thriving and pretty happy kid. I am thankful to Vanessa for her crucial role in making (and often leading) this post-divorce approach to coparenting. I am grateful for the support from my family and hers in taking our cues and jumping in to follow where we lead.
I am also fortunate to work with a crew of lawyers and fellow-parents in Chicago who, over these many years, have allowed me to do what I have needed to do for our son. And then, I was lucky enough to work with a team of truly great folks in Texas that did the same. I think the role of the post-divorce support contingent is underrated by leagues and miles.
You know, when my mom died nine years ago, she never wanted a funeral. I always thought (as I am want to do) about Sinatra songs when she passed and what I/she/we would have wanted to play if she had allowed a commemoration.
I think it would not have been the rollicking, swinging stuff. I think it would have been a song that also has a great relevance for me tonight, as I write this - “All My Tomorrows”
In that song, Francis Albert Sinatra reaches deep to reach us. He begins by telling us that “today, [he] may not have a thing at all, except for just a dream or two” and he concludes by telling us that all his “tomorrows belong to you.”
It is that song that moves us, for all of us who look into our son’s eyes and see our father’s eyes. Or our mother’s eyes. Or our eyes - reflected back to us. It is primarily a future focused and prospective song. About hopes and dreams for what can come next and what can be different and what can be made better.
As I wrap my soliloquy on parenting, divorce and Sinatra in this second to last month of this year, I inevitably turn to another great Ol’ Blue Eyes tune - “The Best Is Yet To Come.” I surely hope it is. For me. For you. For all you guys.
Personally, I used to sit on a County Road in a little town in Indiana and endlessly sing along with Frank. I dreamt about a lot of things. Like we all do. Some of it happened, and a lot of it didn’t. I didn’t really understand all those songs the way I do now. I probably still don’t get them all the way I will in another 30 years. But, tonight, it is good to hear them all again. It is kind of our nature, we humans (not just Americans) to think about the next chapter being better than the last. And in my own post-divorce universe, I hear that song afresh and I hope that portents well for the next four years as it has the last four years.
And then - if I have to pick a song to sign off right now, it is simply this “Nice N’ Easy.”
Be nice to yourself. Be nice to each other. Making peace is hard. I am a prickly sort. I'd bet, I am even a fair bit more bumptious than you. I get paid to argue. I don’t always mix well. But the best thing I did - other than marrying Felix’s mom - was and is managing the divorce with her as well as I can.
I will charge you nearly $500 an hour to litigate your divorce. But what I just said here is free. It doesn’t make me a dime. But it is what I believe. It is what I know is right.
We do so much in divorce that has nothing to do with anything of any real importance. By we, I mean you as participants, and vicariously, we as your lawyers. Rather than fuss with all that, how about we get down to the meat of it and we try and sort it out.
Figure out what you are really fighting about. Not just what it seems to be about. And know this: You can always afford to be generous. With money. Time. Energy and Effort. With Praise and with Credit. Try taking it Nice and Easy. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn't. But it is worth it. Either way.