This is the fourth, and last, post in a series reflecting on my forties, as I near their end.
2021/47--A Transition Year
Vaccination! Much thanks to Darryl Brown for informing me that clergy were being inoculated along with social workers, therapist, chaplains, and others at the tail end of medical worker inoculations in January 2021. What a blessed day that was, full of possibility and newness. I went walking on the Field Club Trail afterwards and was almost dancing. And by my birthday, at the end of February, I was fully inoculated.
By the end of February, Michael had moved out, and so began a period of creating something new. First up was cleaning and reorganizing and redecorating the house, buying to replace the items that he had moved, filling the house with plants, finding new art for the walls, etc. And while I was processing many emotions, there was also a sense of possibility and the fun of all these new things. In the spring I had a few friends over for a house blessing.
Earlier I had invited a few of my straight, single, female friends over to explain online dating to me. It seemed that pretty much everything about dating had changed in the fifteen years since I'd last done it. Plus, it was still Covidy, so not a lot of social life going on. I did not want a serious relationship that year. Instead there were a few short term, casual relationships. Including one that was particularly nurturing and healing for me.
At the same time I was rebuilding my social life and friendships. And on my days and weekends without Sebastian, creating new routines.
Most of the major milestones of that year were related to my grieving and healing process--books read, podcasts listened to, tears cried, conversations with friends, therapy sessions, meetings with my spiritual director, praying, meditating, and thinking while out for a walk, etc. It was not a linear process. I made mistakes, had second thoughts, and experienced moments of deep heartbreak and pain, but there is nothing about that journey that I now regret. All of it, every step in the journey, was important and had to be gone through.
Looking back through my 2021 photos, they are full of fun memories. Sebastian, Mom, and I were often going and doing fun things. We took trips together as well--back to Oklahoma for spring break and to Kansas City the weekend he got out of Kindergarten.
On my days without Sebastian I took little excursions too--to Lake Okoboji, to our church campground in Burwell, and my first flight since April 2018 to the OU-Texas game that fall.
Another highlight was that my hometown of Miami, Oklahoma hosted their first Pride, and I had to attend. I enjoyed spending the day catching up with old friends.
The theme of the year was reconnecting with family and friends, and so the camera roll is filled with visits to and with all sorts of folks. For me it was important to go back to my sources, of who I had been before my marriage, to help me find myself again. And it seems that those plans worked. That summer we spent time in Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Mom's time living in Omaha ended that September, but her trips here, or ours there, have been quite regular ever since, as she has helped me be a single Dad.
At Christmas time, Sebastian and I performed our first duet on the piano.
2022/48--A Good Year
In February, right before my birthday, I asked Michael for one last sit-down conversation to discuss whether divorce was really what we wanted to do, and it was clear it was. From that moment I've had emotional clarity that I lacked before and was really able to fully turn toward the future. We still had lots of legal and financial steps to complete. There continued to be arguments, and warmer moments. Custody issues would not be resolved fully for some time. But these divorce-related moments became less the central narrative. Now when someone asks me about my divorce I describe it in four statements: I didn't want it. It was hell to go through. I'm so glad it happened. I'm a better version of myself. Of course it took a lot of work to get to that point.
The central narrative was much more about Sebastian and the joyful, rich relationship we have with one another. Everything else in life has, of course, been secondary to parenting him.
By the spring of 22 I was ready to try an actual relationship, but so far, no serious one has developed. I have fallen for a couple of guys, but neither developed. I spent many months dating a really sweet guy, even introducing him to Sebastian, but it just didn't develop for whatever reason. Mostly dating these days is just difficult. The Neil Patrick Harris mini-series Uncoupled did a fantastic job portraying what it is like to be gay, in your late forties, dating again after a long relationship.
2022 was a year of travel. A spring break trip to Austin. A work trip to New England. And then all of my sabbatical trips last year--to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the grand adventure to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, home for my 30th high school reunion, and to the Boundary Waters with Robyn. The three days Sebastian and I were at the Old Faithful Inn were among the very best time we've ever spent together, in our down time just playing board and card games together.
2022 was also full of great shows and concerts, including the wonderfully fun Outlandia Music Festival, where I saw Wilco again and The National.
And I moved forward on a number of home improvement projects, completing some that had been in process for many years and doing some new ones of my own.
2023/49--A Good Life
In January I traveled to St. Pete Beach for a clergy retreat where I connected with old friends, made new ones, experienced a time of refreshment, and came home with lots of good ideas for church.
First Central has come out of Covid even stronger and with more vitality than we had before. Our attendance and participation have been excellent, and our programs for children and young families have experienced rapid growth. It's an exciting time.
This spring was also hectic with work. In the office we were experiencing staff transitions. In 2021 my long-time Office Admin Sara Sharpe retired, and we had some bumps finding the right person then. Which we did. Only for her to depart this winter, and we had an even bumpier time finding the right person this time, which we've also done. At the same time my Associate Pastor Katie Miller announced she was moving to Vermillion, South Dakota to become the pastor for First Congregational Church there.
Outside the office, I was running to Lincoln over and over again this legislative session to oppose vile and disgusting legislation that threatened bodily autonomy and the dignity of the human person. With many shenanigans, those measures passed, which has been the dark shadow hanging over this year and giving a sense of foreboding for the future. Apparently Nebraskans elected a Christian nationalist governor, and we have a difficult fight for democracy, liberty, and human rights ahead of us.
I was rather exhausted by the time summer rolled around.
With three parents of young kids now working in the office, we often had kids all over the place at work during the summer break.
Sebastian and I didn't travel as much this year, and so more of our attention was focused on activities here--attending shows, his participation in camps and classes, and lots of playdates with friends. My life is now structured around the rhythms of being a full-time single dad. While I miss some aspects of the weekends I had to myself for a couple of years, we're having a great time together.
Over Memorial weekend, we visited his birth mother and sisters, for a fun time together.
And for our summer vacation, he wanted to return to the Upper Peninsula to see his friend Thomas. We added a few other stops along the way there and back. This year he has embraced kayaking, which has given us even more fun to have together.
49 isn't finished--there are six months left. But as I wrote the other day on Facebook on the occasion of my half-birthday, "Today I am six months from turning fifty, and the most surprising realization, as I head into the final six months of my forties, is how young and sexy this age actually feels."