Why the hell would you get married?

A a kid I was hopelessly romantic, had a moonbeams and rainbows view of the world and generally believed it was a wonderful place full of wonderful people all of whom wanted the very best for you, never told a lie and were 100% honest and truthful.

Fast forward a few years and you can imagine my surprise then when a series of relationships taught me that this was very definitely not the case. I was emotionally shredded each time, gathering the scar tissue of adulthood and the wariness that generates. By the time I was ready in my mind to get into a very serious relationship, I had the misfortune to meet a thoroughly corrupt and evil girl masquerading as a pretty young woman interested in getting into something equally serious. The warning signs were all there in hindsight. Already married once at 17 with a disastrous ending. Clearly living beyond her means and gathering funds by whatever dubious activities she could muster, I still gave her the benefit of the the doubt. We got married 6 weeks after our first date. On the evening of our wedding, she theatrically flushed her contraceptive pills down the toilet saying “she didn’t need those anymore”. 9 months later my first daughter was born. I was at university on a grant. (I should explain for my US friends that back then in Britain not only did you get tuition paid, you also got a grant from the government to live on while you attended university. Yes, I know, almost communist, but fuck you. You don’t even know the difference between socialism and communism. )

She sold insurance, had a house and relatively new car and was well dressed and spoken. Well – she spoke differently than me. How would I know that accent had the national reputation as the gold digging baby factory of the country? I’d grown up in the flatlands of Lincolnshire, where we suffered from an entirely different set of maladies as the unfortunate progeny of too proximal familial linkages did their damnedest to reduce their own and every one else’s numbers in the day to day life in the boonies. The dulcet tones of the North Eastern girl hadn’t become Cheryl Cole acceptable yet. I was absolutely clueless.

The next five years were a whirlwind of university, businesses, credit cards, living to excess, failed post graduate degrees and clandestine¬†larceny while I bumbled along trying to make the marriage work and make something happen for our daughter. A second daughter had appeared and the marriage was in tatters. Of course, with such volatility, a dignified exit was going to be impossible. Instead we had accusations of violence, child custody battles, bankruptcy and animosity. It wasn’t pretty.

I retreated back to university and met a woman with another funny accent who helped me lick my wounds and survive. The daughter of a Scottish Presbyterian minister, she had a strict upbringing and good values. The usual whirlwind ensued but over some years this time, which resulted in us finding ourselves in the USA in jobs and agreeing to get married. The Isle of Arran was the location and it was the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Really. There’s a lot to be said for having a wedding on an island. The guests can’t leave, can drink themselves silly and the possibilities of sea related tomfoolery are endless.

Ten years later, we had moved to California and back again, bought a house and embarked on our first child. Life wasn’t bad, we seemed to be getting along fine and nothing too much and changed. She wasn’t one of these “oh I love bring pregnant” women. She would have been far happier if it had come out of a grow bag, but for nine months she carried our daughter. A difficult C section birth and we had a new little life to deal with.

This is of course where it all went to shit. The strains of adjusting to motherhood and our life in general changed her beyond belief. Turns out we had very different views on child rearing too, which is where things began to really unravel. After a few years of this, where our relationship on all its levels had deteriorated to the point of loathing, it became obvious that this was irreparable and we began the process of splitting up. Our daughter was of course devastated but she has adjusted and now splits time equally between us.

Divorce seemed like some easy process the first time around. I suppose UK legal aid and having minimal assets helped, but even so it seemed the actual process was simple. A few forms, some meetings, a court and boom – divorced. (I left out a lot for brevity – it was hell). This time around though, its the most complicated thing I’ve ever done! We can’t afford lawyers, so we’re doing it ourselves – or rather I’m doing it. As the one with “sporadic income” I was deemed to have the time to make this happen, so I set about it.

Let me tell you – there’s a reason you pay lawyers to deal with this crap! I’ve spent months – literally months – even figuring out what I need to do! What forms? How many and in what sequence? What documents are needed? Who knows? Turns out Lawyers know – and that’s why we pay them.

The point of all this is ¬†– why the hell would anyone want to get married? I can honestly not think of one decent reason now why two sane people would want to do this. There seems to be no real upside (if you put aside the tax break and health insurance), and a whole ton of downside. It costs a fortune for one day of stress induced ritual, the traditions of which are largely made up. You have no greater bond, and in most cases a far weaker bond within marriage than if you have a live relationship unencumbered by legal trappings. In fact, the ironic part is that “common law” treats you as a bona fide legal couple anyways in almost all respects. I realize and fully accept that this is the rant of a jaded middle aged man who has made too many mistakes, but trying to figure this out is truly perplexing.

So tell me – why would anyone get married? Comments as always are welcome.

The Universe Shall Provide

The delicate balance of money in and money out in everyone’s life is always at the back of the mind. Even for those who are “comfortably well off”, the fear lies dormant that at some point the money will run out and a hugely different life will be forced upon you. A life of homelessness, living out of cars, tents, doorways. Maslow is front and center in dealing with these fears of course, a bottom rung primal concern on a par with food, warmth and sex. We all deal with that in our own ways, but in my case the impending forceful reorganization of my life has been a major cause of stress leading to medical issues and inability to really function as I know I can.

A little recap is in order. Earlier in this blog you’ll have noticed i referred to my non vanilla past regarding employment situations. I’ve been unfortunate in having some bosses who were the embodiment of the Dilbert syndrome, some who have been out and out psychos and one (yes ONE) who had the savvy and skills to get the absolute best out of me – and she left for another company mid way through my tenure. The universe can be an unforgiving monster.

It can also be the provider of the strangest sequences of events. I started a skateboard business to supplement my consulting business because it was something I wanted to do at this stage of my life. It’s a tough business to survive and thrive in. The skateboard business is nowadays about 10% product development and 90% sales and marketing. I have the product development part down pat – it’s something I’ve been doing for the last 30 years in some form or other. The sales and marketing part – well that’s another story. I’m naturally good at systems. I can take a set of circumstances, resources and desired outputs and construct the most effective system for achieving them in the most efficient way possible for just about anything. The actual engagement in the sales process one to one though? Well sure – I can do it, but it’s always been somewhat unnatural for me. I have the unfortunate encumbrance of a totally honest subconscious. If I don’t believe 100% in the product or service I am selling I can’t be convincing when selling it. It’s just how I’m wired. I’ve been put in that position many times in my working life, and I hate it. I’ll avoid it at all costs, and when forced to do it – well things can get ugly really fast.

Marketing I’ve always had something of a natural affinity for though. I like dreaming up ways to convey a message that will resonate with people. I like analysis and segmentation of that customer base and the targeting methods used to get the message across. It’s the creative part of running a company that has always been the counterbalance of the analytical parts for me. I’ve had a blast doing this with Half Dead Skateboards. It’s cathartic, and even though it’s not making money yet, I love it like a child.

Problem is – to do sales and marketing right takes massive amounts of energy and skill. If you don’t have that yourself, you have to buy it by hiring people either as employees or consultants. I just didn’t have the funds to do that, and my life is complicated enough that I didn’t have the hours I needed to do it myself, so the sales performance of the company has not been all it could be. Because of that – it has not been the provider of resources I wanted. That is its only downside though. I’m still having a blast.

My consulting business has been somewhat stagnant also. I’m working on TransformU and have put together the structure of operations, but the content is complex and takes time and energy to complete correctly. It’s a long term project of mine and I’m committed to it but it isn’t going to generate cashflow any time soon. I’ve been applying for job after job after job in the hope that something may happen, but I have had spectacular failures in actually landing anything.

These circumstances led to me bleeding my bank accounts dry the last year or so. So badly in fact that the next two months have become critical. By “critical” I mean having to liquidate retirement assets to survive now. (I know this is in some respects a “white persons problem”, but it’s scary as hell. i can’t imagine what it would be like to literally not have a roof over your head and no way of getting one). This has made my anxiety complex significantly worse, which has restricted my capabilities in doing any of the other things. It’s a giant negative spiral of doom, and I have been caught in it.

Despite this. I’ve always tried to keep a positive attitude somewhat, and trust that something would come along. My girlfriend has been instrumental in this – helping me get in touch with my spiritual side a lot and trusting in the universe. So – imagine my surprise when – like busses – two opportunities come along at the same time! One is a contract that I’ve won and can start in August. The other is a potential position that could work very well. I’m somewhat in shock, but am powering ahead in figuring out how to make these all work given the limited funds I have now.

I can’t believe it frankly. Right at the eleventh hour, these came through. The Universe truly shall provide, and I’ve given up (finally) trying to explain how or why. Thank you!