A Lesson In Reality Morality

As some of you may know, I’m a massive reality television fan. In fact, my viewing habits over the years have gravitated from CSI and Seinfeld to X-Factor and Property Brothers. I don’t know why, but when it comes to television I simply find reality to be much more entertaining than fiction.

Over the years, the only program I can recall watching faithfully over the past ten years (other than Survivor) has been Big Brother. I had always said that the ONLY reality game show I could ever see myself on would be Big Brother. Heck, they just announced a month or two ago that they were FINALLY going to start casting the Canadian version of Big Brother and I got a bit excited (the fiance said “no”…so I guess I”ll just have to remain a couch fan for now).

So this season of Big Brother started off a little bit bland. Sure, there were twists (four previous Big Brother players were brought in to be “coaches” to a team of players where the winning player would get $500,000 and the winning coach would get $125,000), but overall things didn’t really get interesting until the coaches entered the game as players (you KNEW that was going to happen).

Dan Gheesling is a high school football coach who won Big Brother in 2008. He  was brought back to the house as a coach and jumped at the chance to play the game one more time. As the game continued on, he dodged the occasional bullet but eventually found himself on the block and was pretty much guaranteed a trip to the Big Brother “jury house” (i.e. the final seven players who would vote to decide who wins the money).

While going through a 24-hour isolation penalty of sorts, Dan came up with one of the most incredible plans ever devised inside the house. This plan, though, would also mark the direction Dan’s game would take over the remainder of the summer.

I can’t begin to adequately describe how “Dan’s Funeral” played out if you don’t follow the show. Just trust me when I say it was the single-most incredible game-play I’ve ever seen on pretty much any reality show.

Ever.

As he was saved from the chopping block, he began to lie more and more to prevent himself from going back up. He swore on his wife…he swore on family heirlooms…he swore on the bible. And each week he would cause the back-stabbing eviction of somebody blindsided and thinking they were safe from eviction for yet another week.

Dan ended up making it to the end (honestly, I think he was brilliant in how he played everybody off each other). He was brought to the final two by an uber-fan named Ian who didn’t have great social gameplay, but had won competitions when it was required. Dan even lied in order to make it to the final two, admitting that he wouldn’t have taken Ian if he had been given the opportunity.

In the end, Dan lost as he only got one vote from the evicted house guests. They were absolutely appalled by Dan’s gameplay and immoral actions with lying and back-stabbing. Even though Dan apologized and said that he did whatever he had to do in order to make it to the end of the game, they didn’t feel his gameplay warranted winning $500,000.

So at the end of the day, can anything be learned from this? Is it as simple as saying “no bad deed goes unpunished”?

No, I think it’s more complex than that. Y’see, the most interesting part of Big Brother is the human element. It’s seeing how people act in a confined space without any contact with the outside world. It’s seeing the things people will say and do in order to win a large sum of money.

Anybody who follows Dan’s website, Twitter, or Facebook page knows that he is a positive, honest, trustworthy individual who is admired by the kids that he coaches and by those who know him as a person. He played an incredibly dirty game full of lies and deceipt because he wanted, ultimately, to benefit himself and his family.

Does that justify how Dan played the game? I guess it’s all in how you look at it.

Before you sit back and judge a person for how they play the game in one of these reality shows, also take a close look at the person behind the gameplay. Dan never sat back and trash-talked his house mates. He never reveled in the sorrow of others. He simply did what he felt he needed to do in order to win the game.

Tackling a wide receiver just after he catches the ball is no big deal when you’re playing football. Tackling someone as they’re crossing the street in front of a convenience store is slightly illegal. What’s the difference? You’re doing one of those things in the context of a game where the other takes place in “real life”.

Does this now justify how Dan played the game? To me, it does. Nobody got hurt. In fact, when all was said and done the worst injury caused by Dan’s play was a bruised ego. So many players on these shows talk about how they don’t want to “sell their soul” for money and want to play with integrity, but does that really mean anything? If the only thing hurt is their feelings, why should they feel superior to somebody else because they didn’t play a “dirty game”?

At the end of the day, reality television isn’t really reality. Any thoughts on morality need to be kept out of reality television and kept into reality.

Congrats, Dan. I was a fan previously, but now I’m on the Team. #TeamDan

“I’m not gonna like your new girlfriend.”

I got an awesome “out of the blue” phone call from my daughter last night. It wasn’t anything more than a quick “Hi, how are you doing?” type of phone call. The type of phone call that I never would have had just three short years ago…when this post was originally written.

Y’see, my life has obviously changed dramatically over the past three years. Along with the relationship change is the improved relationship I’ve developed with my daughter, which makes me one happy father. In fact, she and I have even discussed her staying with this new blended family the entire summer in 2013!  So here is a glimpse of just how incredibly far my relationship with my daughter (and, in turn, Sunshine’s relationship with my daughter) has come.

It’s one more reason why I know I’ve made the right decision to move here with her…

**********

Rugrat & IMy daughter called me a couple of times yesterday to wish me a happy birthday. The conversations had been jovial and fun-spirited. In fact, her mom called me to say that The Rugrat had just gotten her first zit…on her nose…as a way to kinda embarass Rugrat a bit (in a fun way). So with the pleasantries going on, I thought it would be safe to discuss my relationship with Sunshine.

Y’see, I’ve never introduced anyone other than The Ex to Rugrat…I’ve always told myself that I didn’t want my kids to see adult relationships come and go as they got older. So the girlfriends I had before The Ex were never introduced to Rugrat.

Sunshine, obviously, is different.

Rugrat is expected to spend Christmas with me, so I thought telling her now would help prepare her for the meeting. I mean, Sunshine is going to be a staple in my life for a very long time so I thought it only made sense that Rugrat found out about her.

In fact, Rugrat’s mom had known about my relationship for months now (we’re casual friends on Facebook), but didn’t want to tell her because it wasn’t her place to do so. I respect that decision and I’m glad that I could be the one to tell her.

Well…I was glad, anyway.

I told Rugrat that I had a new girlfriend. She immediately got quiet. She then began to cry. I didn’t immediately understand why she was so upset.

“What about The Ex?”

“Honey, we’ve been apart for two and a half years.”

“But why? I didn’t know it was two and a half years.”

“Rugrat, we told you when it happened. You’ve flown down to visit me at least four times since and you’ve known all along that The Ex and I weren’t together anymore.”

“Is she still my stepmom?”

“Yes, baby. She’ll always be your stepmom and she’ll always love you. But I can’t be alone forever.”

“I don’t care. I’m only going to like The Ex. I’m not gonna like your new girlfriend.

“Rugrat…what if The Ex is dating someone, too?”

“Then I won’t like her boyfriend, either.”

“Sweetie…you’re allowed to like everybody. You don’t have to choose. You can like both people.”

“No. I only like The Ex. I never even get to see her anymore. The last time I came to visit I only got to see her once and spent the rest of my time with you.”

“That’s because I’m your father, honey.”

The phone was then passed along to her mom, who inquired as to why Rugrat was so upset. I explained the conversation to her and then realized that maybe I didn’t approach things in the most tactful way.

“No…I don’t think she’s mad at you or the girlfriend. Two of her friends are moving away and she’s all upset and worried about this pimple. That might be what’s really bothering her.”

“I just don’t understand why she’s so upset now about The Ex. It’s not like she calls her or ever asks about her (she doesn’t). And we told her when it happened what was going on.”

“CBG, after you told her on the phone about the separation I ended up talking to her about things with her stepdad. Everything appeared to be fine and she said that she understood. I really think she’s upset about something else. Let me talk to her and I’ll get back to you.”

“Thanks. I really appreciate that.”

And that was last night. I was immediately shaken-up about the whole conversation. I really didn’t expect that reaction. I guess I understand it…she was pretty close to The Ex and does visit with her every time she visits. But I really just thought 2 1/2 years was enough time to pass by before introducing someone new in my life. I really didn’t think she’d be so closed to the thought of either myself or The Ex dating somebody new. It’s just something that never came up in our conversations.

So now I’m in an awkward state. I’m not sure what to say next to her. I’m not sure how to approach things…especially over the phone.

I’m just not sure what to do.

Not Quite There Yet

I was absolutely giddy with excitement at the thought of spending the weekend with my son. I hadn’t seen him in two weeks (other than some video chats) and couldn’t wait to spend some time with him.

The weekend has come and gone and, for him anyway, it was just another weekend.

I say that because he was talking about how much he wanted to go to his mom’s on Saturday, primarily because of the dog and the new cat that reside there. They are his best friends and he loves being with them. She also has toys and games coming out of the woodwork, and those are things I just can’t compete with.

But the weekend was good and we had a good time, so I don’t want this to sound like a “complaint blog”. Far from it, actually. What I found was that I was the one having issues with being away from my son, not him. To him, I’m still living in the city. He even said that he’d show me something when he came to my house this week.

So because of that, there isn’t that sense of “OMG it’s a weekend with my dad!!”, and that’s tough for me to swallow at the moment. I’m going through the “OMG it’s a weekend with my son!!” and it’s tough to know he’s not feeling the same.

It’s not his fault…it’s just been two weeks so he’s not used to things yet. I’d like to think that as the weeks go on and he only sees me on the computer every couple of days, that our weekends together will really be special occasions where he’s not counting the minutes down on a Sunday afternoon until he goes home.

But on the flip side, maybe I shouldn’t be wanting him to feel that way. Maybe what I want is for him to be so comfortable with our relationship that our weekends together are, in fact, “just another weekend with dad”.

Still…it’s been a weird weekend for me. I’m beginning to get used to this move and this change, but I’m not quite there yet.

Staying…

At this stage in my new life with Sunshine, there are different areas that each have their own individual ups and downs. Combined, they make up my experience so far; they define how my “staying” is going.

The first area is the relationship with my son.  This was the biggest obstacle that I had to even moving here in the first place. I have to say that at this point, it’s been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.

Both he and Sunshine’s girls have a Blackberry Playbook, so we have had multiple video chats thus far with zero technical issues (it’s been a great connection and great sound so far…definitely better than any video session I had using Skype with Sunshine). Sure, he sometimes gets a little wound up…but at six years old, I wouldn’t expect him to sit still and have a deep, meaningful conversation. Sometimes I’ve got Sunshine with me, sometimes the girls are here with me, and sometimes we talk when it’s just me. But right now it’s been a lot of fun to talk to him and there hasn’t been any awkwardness or sadness. Heck…he even wanted to talk to me last Saturday just to show me his face paint from a birthday party!

The second area has been the “family unit” with Sunshine and her two girls. I’ll be honest…I thought that this could be extremely challenging, especially knowing that I had never lived with more than one person before.  I can tell you without question that mornings with all four of us trying to get ready at the same time can be a bit challenging, but so far we’ve all found a way to get into a groove. I’m sure we’ll settle into a routine very soon…it’s only a matter of time, right?

One of the things I absolutely love is our dinners together. Not since I lived at home with my parents as a teenager have I sat at a table on a regular basis to eat a meal. It’s an amazing experience that (after 11 days, anyway) isn’t getting old any time soon. It’s truly a feeling of FAMILY, and that’s something I’ve never experienced as an adult before.

The third area is my relationship with Sunshine. At this point, we’ve now been together in one stretch longer than we ever have been in our four-year relationship. Sure, there were concerns about how we would get along or (heaven forbid) if we’d start getting tired of each other already.

HA!!

Needless to say, we’re more in love now than we were two weeks ago. This whole move has brought us closer together…to the point that Sunshine has actually cried tears at dinner because she was so happy with our family unit.

Put all of these pieces together and you have a winning formula…a completed puzzle that has made moving here with Sunshine and her girls the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. I’m part of a family now…a REAL FAMILY…and I couldn’t be happier with how everything has turned out to this point.

I’m staying…and it’s where I’m supposed to be.

Leaving…

The biggest reason I remained in a long-distance relationship for the past four years was the fact that my son lived in my city. I would have probably moved a year or two ago, but I just didn’t want to leave my son and sacrifice the relationship that I’ve gone out of my way to build. I mean, it’s not easy being a single dad who doesn’t share 50% custody of his kid to build and then maintain a solid father/child relationship…but it’s something I’ve been able to do and I’m proud of the relationship I’ve built up to this point.

It was a massive leap of faith that I took back in February when I decided that not only would I propose to Sunshine, but I would move to her city to make it OUR city.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I talked with my ex-wife and with my son…who at 5 years old (at the time) not only encouraged the move but was excited about being the ring-bearer at the wedding (scheduled tentatively for next summer).

When I dropped him off at his mom’s two Sundays ago, I was absolutely devastated. My stomach was doing back-flips and I was questioning whether or not this whole thing was a decent decision.

But as I drove my usual 2 1/2 hour trek to Halifax, Nova Scotia…my mindset changed as each kilometer filled my rearview mirror. My sadness began to disappear and my excitement began to grow. The thought of starting a new job in a new city was an experience I hadn’t had ever in my lifetime. Any time I moved to a new city, I either already had a job that was ongoing or was not even employed yet and was on the search for something.

I not only had a new job starting the next day, but I had a new family life waiting for me.

The girls were waiting for me and greeted me with smiles, hugs, and a ton of love. My sadness was gone and I was absolutely filled to the brim with nothing but happiness. I was even met by a home-made sign that all three of the new ladies in my life took the time to make for me…

How could I not be the happiest guy in the world after seeing this??

Leaving was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. But leaving was also the best decision that I think I’ve ever made.

So how is the relationship with my son doing thus far? Stay tuned…

Settling In

Wow…I still have a blog here?

Seriously…you actually dropped by? Well then, I suppose I should have something to say. As a matter of fact, I do.

It’s been just over a week since I made the move from my old life to my new life, and I can’t even begin to tell you just how happy I’ve been during this time. There hasn’t been a shred of self-doubt, an ounce of second-thoughts, or a speck of worry.

No…this move was the RIGHT decision for me to make, without question.

Work is interesting, if nothing else. I mean, my boss is absolutely amazing. I was in her “inner circle” after three days, which is saying something about this woman. She owns a few businesses with her husband and is working with somebody on another, so she’s a very busy woman.  The “interesting” part is that the couple that she’s working with interviewed and hired me (trust me…it’s probably even more complicated than it sounds) and are already concerned about my ability to do my job. It’s weird because after a meeting on Saturday, I was really questioning whether or not I jumped the gun on this job. After talking with my boss on Sunday, I immediately changed my mind and realized that this is exactly what I should be doing at this point.

So yeah, it’s a strange situation with work…but at this point it’s a really good one.

The situation with my son has worked out quite well so far. We’ve talked every two nights via video chat and it’s been a pretty fun experience. I was concerned that I’d be really upset seeing him (leaving last Sunday before driving to my new home was gut-wrenching), but at this point it feels like we’re not really that far apart. It’s been a huge relief, actually…and one that has really helped me adapt to this new life in a new city.

The best part so far, without a shadow of a doubt, has been the new family life I’ve been experiencing with Sunshine and her two girls. Sitting at the dinner table three or four times a week is an absolute blast. We eat, we talk, we laugh, we cry so far from laughing…it’s just an incredible sense of family that I’ve never experienced in my entire adult life. I can’t even begin to explain just how amazing it feels to be so loved and full of happiness on a daily basis.

Just last night I arrived home completely worn out from a long day at work. I could have just passed out once I walked through the door. But as soon as I took my shoes off outside the apartment door, I could hear Kiddo (literally) screaming that I was home from work. I walked in and she was inside jumping for joy, giving me hugs and kisses and smiling from ear to ear. I was then met in similar fashion by Mo, then I got to follow that up with a big ol’ hug and kiss from Sunshine.

Yeah…without question, this has been the right decision. I’m settling in just fine, thank you very much.