Saturday, December 21, 2013

Each Day I Die - Finding Wellness in Child Custody Conflict

21 December 2013

The noir film Each Dawn I Die has not a thing to do with this posting but it does nearly match by name and is a good flick so while thinking of it I linked to the synopsis. Now on with Each Day I Die.

In the realm of child custody litigation I try to establish within parents an overarching goal to be the improvement of the parent-child relationships while serving the desires and needs of the child. Relationships. While this can be done acutely in the litigation process the litigation process itself does not accomplish this overarching goal. It is fundamentally a win-lose dichotomy. So here I intend to demonstrate that conflict in child custody litigation does not correlate directly to a breakdown or damage to the parent-child relationship. Nor does it mandate by default a deterioration in the parent-parent relationship. By changing a frame of mind I propose that the “hostilities” or “conflicts” in child custody litigation may be mitigated and viewed as a positive.

So what do I mean by each day I die? At this time of year we are entering the festivals of rebirth, rebirth of the earth, the fauna and flora within. Though not dead in the demise sense these things experiences an annual life-cycle that mimics death. Simply put awakening from sleep is birth and going to sleep is death. Don't let this befuddle you. Somewhere in your culture you already experience this concept. One who may have a spiritual awakening could be 'born again' while a sick pet may be 'put to sleep' or in the correct application 'put to death.' For this I see it as analogous to the seasons and the evolution of flora. Each year trees shed their leaves, fruits fall to the ground, and an innumerable amount a vegetation withers and decays into the ground. The earth is replenished with nutrients, seeds are embedded in the newly produced soil and in the Spring trees bud and those seeds germinate.

During this annual process plants die – trees appear so as they 'sleep' – but are reborn through the flow of sap within and the germination of their seeds. Similarly, each morning thus far – for many more I suspect – I awaken while at some point later in the day or night I go to sleep. The time in between is when I live. When I experience a life cycle. I begin my day with growth – stretch, exercise and eat well. This is my primer to efficiency and accomplishment. I assess my responsibilities for the day and undertake the actions necessary to achieve progress. I said achieve progress, not achieve the task. I keep in mind that tomorrow does not exist for what can be done today. If I can compliment or thank someone today then that opportunity does not exist tomorrow. I get what needs to be done in this 'lifetime' done in this 'lifetime' because life will soon end. Before I go to sleep I shed all the baggage from that day. No project is left unfulfilled. No person is left hanging. The thoughts that consume my active day quit flowing. I meditate and practice mindfulness. I am mindful that I have lived that day and made a contribution but that as with all things it has come to an end. In short each day I live a full life that has a beginning and an end.

Keep thinking throughout your day that today is the last day of my life, let me live it therefore by making it as meaningful as possible, being of benefit to others, etc. Don't view this as a contradiction – making right for your end without a future. There is a residual effect of our prior lives on our rebirth. Much like the cults teaching that your current life portends a future life contingent upon a judgment of fulfillment of certain mandates. In our daily lives every action of body, speech and mind that we create lays down a subtle imprint in our mind which has the potential to ripen as future happiness or suffering, depending on whether the action was positive or negative. These imprints remain in the mind until they ripen or until they are purified or cleansed by spiritual practices. This produces the potentiality of the new life. Like our genetic code we are not harkened into existence upon a blank slate. Instead we are endowed with tendencies which we may follow, intuitively. That is our essence.

Now that you know the objective is to live a full life each day in preparation for the new life tomorrow you may want to know “How will this impact my child custody case?” Keep in mind that I said the goal is “improvement of the parent-child relationships.” You may already have an idea of what you think should be done. You may be thinking of what hasn't worked. You may be thinking that it is time to start reading my point-by-point plan for getting to your goal. Slow down a moment – you have the entire day! You can invest a few extra minutes to listen to me ramble on for something that will benefit you for the rest of your lives – all those days that you live a full life.

I'll be candid with you here. I am being verbose because I want for you to be invested in this. You have read this far so at this point you may as well go to the end or you will have wasted past time dedicated to reading this. Onward we march.

I am not going to give you specific actions to take into the court room. I am not even going to connect what I have to say to your child custody case. Likewise I am not about to apologize for dragging you along this far without delivering the goods. I am not going to try to bait and switch you into hiring me to provide specifics because I don't even have time for a new client.[1] Instead I am going to tell you why it is important to die each day and the effect that will have on your child custody case.

When you die each day, each day is a new life. What happened yesterday does not exist. Tomorrow does not exist. You then have the freedom to live in the moment. I'll present an example.

It's a beautiful day. Your child wants to be outside doing something fun and you know it. You want to provide that opportunity, especially considering the frequency with which you and your child can be together. You decide to go to one of those big water parks a ways off. But . . . . you've had some trouble with the car lately. You suspect that the starter is going out. As old as it is you are sure as soon as you replace that, something else is going to go. It's a money sucking black hole and you don't have the bucks to buy a new one and your credit is shot after all the unpaid bills during the divorce while you and the former spouse paid more to argue over them than it would have cost to just pay them off. So . . . you don't go. That is not living life today.

Living life today is finding that you were born with a car and using it. If it breaks down so what. Now you go hiking instead of swimming. So take shoes in addition to flip-flops. Treat that car as if it has never done you wrong and has no plans to do so in the future. Don't take this as freedom from planning or responsibility. Quite to the contrary it demands planning or responsibility. In the current scheme of our expected 75 or so year life we have and will continue to face challenges along the way. That is life. What I advocate is not to focus on and prepare for certain challenges but instead to imbue your future daily lives with the imprint of preparedness. The past is not known, the future is not predicted, but every challenge has the potential to be met.

Have you picked up on where this is going? When you wake up tomorrow to a new life you will have a child who hasn't been a bad child, who hasn't been the source of your frustration, and who hasn't brought great joy to you because that child has not been a part of this life that day. You will have a child that has a clean slate that you can serve that day. I am going to set apart the next sentence for clarity.

That child has a another parent.

This is where I kick you in the gut. When you wake up tomorrow to a new life you will have a parenting partner who hasn't been a bad parent, who hasn't been the source of your frustration, and who hasn't brought great joy to you because that partner has not been a part of this life that day. You will have a partner that has a clean slate that you can serve that day.

Don't discount that the other parent is your partner. Nothing has yet to happen so treat that parent as your partner. If there is parental alienation, high conflict, or hostile aggressive parenting that day then respond in a loving-caring manner. A manner that demonstrates the loving-caring attitude that you have for your child. Not for the sake of the other parent but from the perspective that allowing the other parent to be a better parent is showing loving-caring for your child.

You know what your current instinct when attacked or disrespected is going to be. But don't do that. Respond rationally. Be empathetic. Ask yourself first “How would I have viewed my actions?” and “How could I have responded? Then ask yourself “How could I have negatively viewed my actions?” and “How could I have negatively responded? This can help you to understand why you are being attacked. It will form the basis of your response. Agreeing to selective underlying objections can reduce hostility and promote cooperation.

When the children are returned a half hour late an email like this may be awaiting your arrival at home:
You are a @#$%!&# loser. I hope you know that when your always trying to mess up my plans you are really messing up theres. If you really cared about them as much as you say you do then you would start showing it. Next time you pull this $#!@ I am going to file contempt.
If you noticed the spelling/grammatical errors then kudos to you. Those are there because that is what people do when they boil over. They are reacting from the primal part of the brain – defending against a perceived attack – instead of from the reasoning frontal cortex. Your response could be something like this:
I understand how you could view my tardiness as being intentional. I don't want to cause you stress or make it difficult for you to get the children to bed on time. Unfortunately there was an issue with my car and the children's grandparents came to pick us up and then they wanted to take us to dinner. You know how they get to talking and eating so slow. I apologize for not calling. It would have been more responsibly appropriate for me to call and give you the opportunity to come pick them up.
That may totally catch him or her off guard. It may not win you any points but so what. If you have ever had a boss or coworker who gets on a rant looking for an argument and you keep agreeing, do you notice how that rant eventually runs out of steam? If it bothers you that your kind overture isn't reciprocated then go meditate on that. You can then sleep easy because tomorrow you will have a new life and the life in which you returned the children late no longer exists. Ha! You are off the hook.

Whether that other parent responds positively to your goodwill overtures does not foreclose an improvement in your parent-child relationship. Any effort is better than continuing the ongoing conflict that you know is harmful to the children.

As a person who dies each day and then is reborn the following day you are going to be uplifted by the benefits of the detachment from the experiences that inhibit most people from experiencing forward progression in their relationships. The challenges of a child custody conflict can give you the opportunity to experience the benefits of dying each day. A critical self-examination likely reveals that you are holding onto past hurts and transgressions from your marriage that reveal themselves as painful or hostile feelings when that other parent engages in a particular act. When you view that same act without being primed by the past – as though it was done by a stranger – then the feelings evoked by that act are less likely to be painful or produce hostility. Applying this throughout your everyday life will provide to you an ease by which to approach your usual activities and interactions which becomes self-fulfilling.

It is said that the mark of a spiritual practitioner is to have no regrets at the time of death. If your mind is calm and peaceful and imbued with positive thoughts at the time of death tonight, this will augur well for a happy rebirth tomorrow.

[fn1] If you do want assistance please do apply. The more people I have on my waiting list the more selective I can be about whom I can provide the greatest benefit. I am always available for emergencies where the immediate welfare or custody of a child is in jeopardy.

If you would like assistance improving your relationships around a child custody matter then please visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. There is no charge for initial attorney consultations.

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©2008, 2013 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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