You Can Never Go Back To Before
2017 is over and I couldn’t be happier about it. Obviously, there are a lot of reasons for that and one that looms largest, as you all know.
I suppose before I go on I should tell you all where I’ve been and why you haven’t heard from me in a while. To put it simply: it hurt to write. It hurt to think. It hurt to recall and hope. But mostly, I just hurt. I needed a break. Obviously, since I fancy myself a writer I didn’t stop writing entirely, I just stopped writing for others. I kept a journal but only wrote in it when the mood struck. About a week after I stopped updating here I realized how much more free and happy I was. I came to the simple conclusion that while I began this journey on the page things got out of control very quickly in my mind. I began to obsess over things I couldn’t have changed in the first place and even more that I couldn’t change if I wanted, which I no longer do. In other words, what was supposed to free me from worry ended up building walls around me. I had to make the very personal decision to step away and regroup. And thankfully “regroup” is exactly what I did.
Note: I’m about to make some sweeping generalizations which, by definition, will not apply to everyone.
It’s a funny and sad thing to realize that all of your positivity was futile. At some point everything you think of as happy and true and unbreakable morphs into a sad, false and broken narrative. I’m still not sure if it’s better for this to happen gradually or all at once. Maybe it doesn’t matter. After all, the future is referred to as “inevitable” for a reason. But my experience screams at me: gradually. There’s always that glimmer of hope, no matter how small, that things will just work out or magically get better. At least with the sudden onslaught of reality you aren’t toyed with; the bandage is ripped off in one fluid motion. You process the hurt and move on.
It’s an interesting experience when you aren’t truly given a chance to start mending yourself after a breakup because both parties are still living under the same room for months after the breakup. I learned a great deal about how I process emotion during that time. To be blunt, most of it was negative and I didn’t instantly realize the damage I was doing to myself by not being more proactive in my self care. I could have - and should have - removed myself from the situation as much as possible. I should have gotten a sitter for the kids and went somewhere to be alone. I should have gone out with friends. I should have gone to more AA meetings that usual. I should have talked to someone. I didn’t. What I did was keep it in. I let it eat away at me from the inside. I let it corrupt every aspect of my being. I began to get daily bouts of heartburn. I began to find new and creative ways to place the blame everywhere but on me. I wasn’t eating and I wasn’t living. I had passing thoughts of ending it all. I had passing thoughts of just walking out of the house one day and never coming back. Eventually everything came out - and it was not pretty. What should have been me seeking to understand the situation and what may have led to that point became me screaming, yelling and berating. I was combative at every turn. The only words out of my mouth were placing blame on “her” and complaining how I was the victim. Simply put, I was an asshole. I think the first thing that began to bring me back to sanity was the realization that just because you are the victim doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anything. You still have to work on yourself and maintain a strong foundation upon which you can build a new life. Screaming and starving yourself doesn’t get results. Neglecting your part in it doesn’t help. No one thing truly helps, but acceptance is always a good place to start.
I recall taking hundreds of little breaks in the day just to remind myself that this was all out of my control and I wasn’t at fault. I would step away from work, the kids, friends, and just take a series of deep breaths and repeat “I have no control over this. It is not in my control.” Time and time again until I believed it. Truth be told, I’m not sure I believe it still but it worked at the time to get me over the vertigo inducing thoughts running rampant in my mind. It was several weeks of this, to varying degrees of success, before I could wake up in the morning without feeling like vomiting. Of course that’s assuming I had slept at all. Eventually I got back to eating, enjoying life (to an extent) and sleeping on a regular schedule. She and I got back on relatively good terms. We had accepted things. Well, I had. Turned out she had just gotten herself a distraction in the form of a guy. That’s when all the hard work I put into rehabbing myself went to hell. I was off again - screaming, yelling, crying. I realize now that my reaction wasn’t totally her fault. In fact, it was barely her “fault”. A reaction is controllable, to an extent. And in this case I wasn’t actually reacting to her - I was reacting to her decision. But I didn’t say that. Instead I smacked a box off a table and sent it flying across the room and called her names. I’m not proud of this. But it happened. (And it never will again. I’ve gotten the help I need to assure that.) I went back to the personal reassurances of not being able to control anything. I went back to forcing myself to eat and sleep. I distracted myself with more work. But the one thing I didn’t do was face the feelings of loss, guilt, anger and a million others still swarming in my mind.
She moved out on a Sunday. I had come to accept everything and even understood her and her actions to a limited extent by that point. I knew it was over and I didn’t want her back anymore. She was gone from my life, but still living rent free in my head and my heart. I got home that night to an eerily quiet house. It was much more empty now that she had taken her things, and some of mine. I had my kids sleep in bed with me that night to reinforce the fact that we still had each other. I slept for a couple hours total, but no more than 20 minutes at a time. I didn’t have to work the next day so I laid in bed as the sun came up, holding my kids closer to me than I ever thought possible. They woke up, and the New Normal began.
I had no idea at that point that it would be another seven months before we were going to see a judge. But in that time I was able to get most everything back on track. I got a new place to live, big enough for me, the kids and all their toys. I got my son into a good school district. I started dating (sort of). I went out with friends. I made plans to go out and I kept them; no more lame excuses or saying the kids were too sad for me to leave them.
What I’ve learned from those seven months cannot be summed up in a blog post. I gained such a wide breadth of self-knowledge that it hardly seems possible that it happened so quickly. I learned what I want from a significant other. More importantly I learned what I need from one. I learned that sleeping alone isn’t comfortable but that’s the exact reason I need to do it. I learned that women of all ages have idiosyncrasies. While they differ from one person to another they make the woman a stronger and more interesting force. I learned that my children will always learn more by observing my actions (and reactions) than they will by what I say. I learned - finally - that you can be completely at odds with someone on every possible topic but if there is or was a foundation of love things have a way of working out…eventually.
My divorce was finalized four days ago. It wasn’t a day I ever saw coming. Obviously no one gets into a relationship thinking it’s going to end. But The last ten months have been the wildest, darkest, brightest, happiest and most uncertain of my life thus far. My ex will be the first to say that this ultimately ended due to decisions she has made over the years. I should hold a grudge with her for everything she did, regardless of how much blame can be placed on me. But I won’t hold a grudge. I can’t, actually. I tried. It isn’t because I am fine with her methods or because I agree with her decisions. It’s because I know now how it feels to be lost. I know what it is to feel helpless and unsure. I know what it is to hurt. In a strange way I owe her a debt of gratitude for that.
I used to say “you’re not the woman I married” often. I didn’t mean this is a strictly negative way. Everyone changes. Everyone strives to be the best they can be. No one should remain the same over an eight year period. She didn’t. I didn’t. I don’t know what the future holds for me, her, the kids or anything, really. But I can say one thing for certain to her, if she’s reading this: I’m not the same man you divorced.