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Personal News About My Life and Move to Nashville
After 28 years of marriage, and 23 years in San Francisco, my wife and I are getting a divorce, and I am moving back to Nashville
I rarely share personal aspects of my life on Substack, but something transformative is happening. I would like it to be known for several reasons. One is that I personally know some of you, and I will benefit from your support. Another is that grief is discombobulating, and it might affect my writing. A final reason for sharing the news of my divorce is that grief, while perhaps not desired—why would anyone want to feel their heart tear?—is at the center of human experience and, right now, at the center of mine.
Back when I was practicing psychiatry, my areas of speciality were grief, depression, and existential psychotherapy. In the existential therapeutic approach, I focused with my patients on the most precious commodities in life: finding meaning, finding emotional connection with others, and coping with fears of death (your own and that of loved ones). In my treatment of depression, the goal was always to help patients get free of the muck in the system that blocks the deep underlying emotion of grief.
I am well-studied in the psychology and science of grief. I have experienced a few overflowing cups of it before in my life. I am open to grief. Grieving, I believe, is as important to human health as eating, drinking, breathing and sleeping.
Still, it hits you like an internal earthquake. Grief is an awesome and dreadful thing. It asks you to disconnect your heart from its deepest attachments, and, man-o-man, are they tightly entwined with those cardiovascular fibers.
In moving into this divorce, my losses are many. Predominantly, my wife, Rosana. Also, the internal family unit that has guided my every thought, feeling, and decision for decades; my house of 22 years in San Francisco; a city I love (especially the weather and the beautiful hills and breathtaking water views); and not least, by a long shot, dear friends I love in the Bay Area.
Yet I feel called to return home. I grew up outside Nashville, and it seems overwhelmingly to be the right place for me at this time of transition and rerooting. I have family in Nashville—and some old friends—and, by great fortune, my son Alejandro, who is a rising sophomore at Vanderbilt, lives there. Not far away will also be my other son, Cameron, a rising sophomore in high school at Choate boarding school in Connecticut, as well as dear friends from college and graduate school on the East Coast stretching from D.C. to Vermont—all just a short plane ride away.
My wife and I were ever-faithful to one another. After years of trying, we just could not get adequately disentangled from childhood and marital patterns that were painful to us. So mutually, even beautifully, we made the decision to divorce. Rosana wants the best for me. I want the best for her. Our divorce is a loving gift to one another.
Some of you know how much I love books, and, of course, these fantastic objects are always divided into chapters. That’s how I am viewing things at this juncture in my life: I am entering a new chapter that begins with grief and a move to Nashville. I don’t know what’s next, but I do know that only the pathway of grief can heal my heart and open it to new vitality and possibility.
Because grief is so damn important in our lives—and because I will personally benefit from writing about it—I might update you from time to time. Grief is our shared humanity. It needs community and air to breath. Thank you for reading.