Happy Birthday, Mom

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

It must have been hard. Raising me.

You were so young. Just 21, right? Just a kid? A kid with a kid.

I still feel like one of those.

Is it the same for you as it is for me? Did you think about your future and assume it would all just click one day? Magically? When I was in grade school, I knew I’d finally figure it out in high school. When I was in high school, I knew I’d finally figure it out in college. When I was in college, I knew I’d finally figure it out once I got out in the real world. Once I got out in the real world, I knew I’d finally figure it out once I settled down and got married.

And now I’m divorced. Single dad. 35.

And I don’t have anything figured out.

At one time, that might have terrified me. But not anymore. Because I’m beginning to think the older and wiser we get, the more aware we become of how little we ever really know or understand.

We don’t have much control, and we were delusional whenever it felt like we did.

Each day I wake up, I get incrementally closer to making total peace with that: I am not in control. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But everything’s going to be okay.

You had to say goodbye to me for months at a time when I’d leave for dad’s.

That must have been hard. I have such a hard time saying bye to your grandson for much more than a couple days.

You had to deal with my selfish, me-first, independent, only child nature. I took EVERYTHING for granted when I was a kid, mom. Everything.

Love. Money. Safety. Health. Fun. Friends. Family. Laughter. Innocence. Spiritual peace.

And you, mom. I took you for granted. I still do. You can tell because I don’t call you enough. Because I still am so good at doing the me-first, only child routine, even all these years later.

I think you carry a lot of guilt about my childhood. Questioning some of the choices. Wondering whether you could have done anything different to give me a better life.

It’s been a rough go in my thirties. Everything just seemed to go to hell right then. And it has taken me a long time to find my way. I still haven’t found it. But I’m not just wandering aimlessly anymore. I feel close.

Mom. You’re why that’s possible.

You’re why I get to feel any sense of hopefulness and excitement about my future.

You dedicated your existence to providing me with the guidance, life lessons, kindness and decency, principles, and spiritual foundation that have allowed me to feel alive again.

Without you, I might not know what love looks like.

Without you, I might not understand what it means to forgive, or be forgiven.

Without you, I might not be alive because I didn’t know being alive could hurt so much until one day it did.

Mom, without you, I couldn’t be me.

It was so easy to not like who I was throughout these past years. Self-loathing. You probably know the feeling because I think everyone whose lives don’t turn out absolutely perfect feel it. And I’m pretty sure that’s all of us. Even those whose lives seem particularly charmed.

And you know what saved me?

All of the things that you instilled in me, via genetics or example.

Love and kindness live inside me and the days worse than I’d ever imagined couldn’t kill it.

Friendliness and smiles are my gift to those near me because most of the time I don’t even know how to be another way.

Hope is my favorite word. My favorite idea. Hope. Always.

I’ve taken to saying the following, and I love it because it’s always true and always will be: There’s no reason that today can’t be the day the best thing that ever happens to you, happens.

I am genuinely hopeful, mom. That I can be a better man today than I was yesterday. That I can be a better father. A better friend. A better writer. A better son.

I am ashamed of my failings. And I’m sorry for all of the times I didn’t act grateful for all you’ve done. And I’m sorry for all the times I might seem ungrateful in the future.

But I need you to believe that deep down in the places no one gets to see, that I am trying to do good. To be good. To be a teeny tiny part of making this world better than I find it.

I would never want to be anyone but me, mom. Ever. I’d trade nothing but some poor choices.

So much of the good that lives in me is because of you.

In many ways, I am you.

Thank you for my life. Thank you for dedicating so much of your life to mine. Thank you for teaching me how to love.

You sacrificed everything (nearly your life, mom—I don’t forget that) for me.

And I’m not going to waste it.

That’s my birthday gift to you, mom. And I hope it’s enough.

I love you more than I say.

I appreciate you more than I act.

And I’m still chasing those dreams. The ones you instilled in me all those years ago. And now it’s time to start running faster.

I know this life can be beautiful. Because I’ve lived beautifully. And it’s because of you.

I still care about making you proud. And I still intend to.

Happy birthday, mom.

To many, many, many years.

I love you.

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How To Never Have Bad Days

candle_Candle_light_3008

I was offered a job when I was 28 that would have basically eliminated financial concerns for the rest of my life.

The job was 500 miles away, and ultimately, I had to turn it down.

I had dared to dream of a life where I was never again worried about how a bill would get paid. The future would not be: “How will I afford to send my kids to college?” but rather “Do I want to go drink wine in Tuscany or the south of France next month?”

I got sucked in.

Money for nice clothes. All my dream cars. The kick-ass inground pool and outdoor bar and kitchen I’d always wanted.

Then, poof. Gone. Not happening.

And all the sudden, my very decent car seemed like a massive piece of shit.

My very decent home seemed wholly inadequate.

My wardrobe? Ugh.

Those goddamn bills? Maddening.

The not-amused Universe started delivering messages, one at a time.

Message #1: You don’t know how good you have it.

I lost my newspaper reporting job on Dec. 31, 2009 as part of another round of corporate layoffs. I’d hold my one-year-old son—just watching him. How will I provide?

My wife went to work, dressed to kill, and exceptional at the work she does.

She’d come home. I’d be watching Yo Gabba Gabba with my son in sweatpants and a t-shirt. I must have seemed like the biggest loser imaginable. I was unemployed for 18 months. I finally felt real financial hardship. I finally learned that we are not guaranteed employment in this life. I finally learned that having a very decent home and driving a very decent car in a very decent town isn’t such a bad thing. I learned that having a good job is not something to complain about or take for granted.

Message #2: Money won’t help you.

About 18 months after losing my job, and after a decent run writing freelance copy from home, I was offered my current job as a writer in the internet marketing department of a reasonably large company. We do good work. It’s a very pleasant, professional working environment. I’m good at my job. Seem to be liked and appreciated. And I’m paid much more than I was as a news reporter.

Suddenly, we were prospering financially. Whew.

A few weeks later, we had a death in the family and my marriage totally fell apart.

No dollar amount could save us.

Message #3: Inner peace and happiness is what we should be chasing.

She left me.

My son was gone half the time. And I totally lost it.

And I learned my most-important life lesson so far. NOTHING is more important to our individual human experience, than feeling peace and contentment. (I like the word “happiness” which I incorrectly use in place of “contentment,” which is what I really mean.)

When you can’t even sit quiet and still because of fear, stress and anxiety, you’re left with almost nothing.

Trillions of dollars and exotic vineyards can’t save you. With every breath, you wonder whether you’ll ever feel like yourself again. It’s hard when we deal with change. Even small ones.

When you actually lose yourself? When you don’t know the person in the mirror and are afraid you’ll never find them again? I’m not sure I’ve ever known fear like that.

And that’s when I knew: There are few things in this life that really matter. And so much of what I’d been chasing is not on that list.

Bring It

I’ll never ask for hardships. I’ll never hope for trials and tribulations. I’ll never revel in tragedy.

But I have been thinking: What if I could learn how to embrace obstacles and life challenges, knowing I’m going to come out a better person?

When my wife left, I thought I might lose my house. I was afraid of adding more drastic change to my life. I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid of losing my home.

The same house I resented when I thought I should be living in something more elaborate.

The same house I didn’t think was good enough for me.

When I was thinking one way, the house brought me misery. Now that I’m thinking another way, the house fills me with joy, comfort and gratitude.

Can that same phenomenon be accomplished with the hardships we face?

Of course it can. If we’re brave enough to not be victims. If we’re courageous enough to embrace growth opportunities. If we’re strong enough to take on all comers knowing defeat doesn’t come easily.

If I can find a way to not blame the world and other people for my life circumstances—to look at obstacles as they arrive and relish the challenges—I believe this life can be incredibly fulfilling.

Bad shit is going to happen no matter what. No matter what.

And we have two choices: Be afraid. Or embrace opportunity.

With mind tricks, really. With psychology. With perspective.

Tough challenges make me stronger.

Hard times make me wiser.

Moments of fear make me braver.

And I want those things. I want those things for me and for you.

Strong. Wise. Brave.

Courtesy of life, just, happening.

Gratitude.

Turning bad things into good things.

Turning darkness into light.

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18 Months: A Post-Divorce Milestone

I Googled "Look of satisfaction." I got John Locke from "Lost." Fine. We'll go with that.

I Googled “Look of satisfaction.” I got John Locke from “Lost.” Fine. We’ll go with that.

I panicked when I lost my family.

You freak because those you love are gone. You freak because you feel broken on the inside. You freak because you didn’t know rejection could feel this way.

People resist change. We don’t like when our favorite menu items go away at the restaurant, or when our favorite television shows get cancelled, or when we’re forced to adjust our routines.

And then your family disappears. It feels like a lot.

Things were totally shitty between you and your wife. Cold and distant. But you knew her. There’s comfort in the routine and reliability. There’s something reassuring about growing old with someone. It’s the closest thing we get to the safety net most of us feel as children with our parents.

But then they leave. And you question everything you ever believed because now you can’t even trust your own judgment.

And maybe you have a son. Maybe he’s four, going on five, and getting ready for kindergarten. And maybe you’re not the best father in the world, but you love. Hard. You love hard. So much. Because that child is your lifeblood. That child in four short years has become your primary reason for even existing.

You didn’t know you could love something that much—this little person who you’d only imagined in some theoretical Imagination Land when you talked about having kids one day.

And here he is. Your son.

And then he’s not. Then he’s not there.

And so you lose your wife. Your pride. Your purpose.

As a prisoner inside yourself, there’s nowhere to run.

I’m always thinking about five years from now. I can’t help it. It’s a real problem after divorce, because there can be no five-year plan.

There’s so much just trying to figure out how to bleach your laundry without ruining it, and how to shop and cook for one, and how to fill the now-empty hours that your brain can’t fathom five years from now.

You thought you had the rest of your life mostly figured out and it all blew up in your face.

How can you possibly know what’s going to happen tomorrow?

You can’t.

And after years of believing your world was going to keep spinning as is, that’s a pretty frightening realization.

Dating After Divorce—A Double Life

I was overwhelmed by fear in the beginning.

In a week, I’m going to hit the 18-month mark. A year and a half since everything I counted on every day stopped being a thing.

And I need you to know, Person Who Just Lost Their Family And Is Totally Freaking Out: You’re going to make it.

It’s funny.

I was pretty panicky about this idea of dating after divorce. Right away I knew what a challenge it would be.

  1. I’m 35 with a son in first grade.
  2. I live far away from where I grew up, so I don’t have that large, institutional network or built-in family support system locally that some people have.
  3. Nearly everyone I know here consists of married couples that my ex-wife and I used to hang out with all the time—people who are friends with both of us, so it’s not exactly a breeding ground of like-minded singles.
  4. I’ve lost much of the confidence I possessed in my youth.
  5. I’m a 35-year-old divorced dad who works in a cubicle. When I was 20, there was still some question about my potential. Maybe I’d run a magazine one day. Maybe I’d write a bunch of books. Maybe I’d win the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. I don’t have those maybes on my side anymore. Now, I’m just this guy.

And let me be clear: Just this guy—he isn’t so bad.

I was pretty down on myself right after getting left, but I’ve fought my way back and will continue to.

I’m not such a bad guy. I’m not undateable. I’m not a failure.

I’m just not in the place in life I thought I would be when I imagined myself as a thirtysomething. And failed expectations are always disappointing.

I didn’t know it before. But I know it now: Life doesn’t always work out like you think it’s going to.

At the beginning, you feel something close to hopelessness.

But once you get through the initial emotional gauntlet of horror, you start to realize: I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But maybe that’s okay.

My dating life has been a colossal failure. I’m horrible at it. And I’ve learned to accept it.

But I guess if the goal is to end up with another partner again (and that idea appeals to me much more today than it did 18 months ago when I was losing my shit), then that means I only need to get it right once.

I never meet anyone because my social life is disjointed and weird and my various social circles pretty much only include married people hanging out with one another.

I also never meet anyone because I’m the world’s biggest chicken shit about introducing myself to strangers.

I could have a bunch of casual relationships, I suppose. And some people do choose that path in their post-divorce lives.

Maybe if I wasn’t a father, I would have too.

Maybe you’re different than me. Maybe we’re not all as much alike on the inside as I believe we are. But lustful, meaningless, empty sex just doesn’t do much for me except make me feel bad on the inside.

I wonder sometimes to what extent it’s a factor in marriages breaking up—people using sex as a tool to feel good.

Casual can work. Two well-intentioned, honest people agreeing to make one another feel good is a viable option. It feels morally bankrupt to me. But it makes sense. Because there’s an element of unselfishness to the proceedings. An element of giving.

If sex is only about pleasing ourselves, one wonders what the point of a partner is at all.

If sex is about service—an expression of love—an act designed to give more to the other person than we take. Then I think maybe the foundation is there for something lasting and meaningful.

I say all that because so much of these past 18 months have been about exploring who I want to be moving forward. If this is a second chance at choosing a life for myself, then I want—need—to get it right.

And my son is at the very center of that desire and thought-process.

I cannot teach that boy about the finer points of love and self-respect and choosing a partner down the road if I don’t know who I am, and if I’m not walking the same walk I wish for him.

That Was Totally Rambling and Disjointed

Sorry.

I just want people like me to know it’s going to be okay. That’s it. I could have saved you a thousand words, and simply said that: Just wait 18 months!!! Mark it on your calendars and look forward to it!!! Everything’s going to be okay!!!

Bam. Message delivered.

Because it’s true.

It is scary and horrible when you get divorced.

It is messed up and wrong when you lose so much time with your children.

It is daunting to think about how you’re ever going to move forward functionally in a post-divorce world and find someone to love you again.

If you’re in the beginning, I’m so sorry. Don’t give up. Because something beautiful is on the horizon.

If you’re here with me?

Smile.

We made it.

Still breathing. Still alive.

I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

*shrug*

That’s okay.

Probably going to be awesome.

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We Do What We Know

suicide king

He shot himself.

Right in front of his wife because he learned she was sleeping with someone else. Just a few months ago, she gave birth to his third son.

And now he’s gone.

It feels so unfair to love someone when they don’t love you back. You want so badly to settle the score. To balance the scales. To make the pain go away.

A dramatic act of violence in front of his wife who’d rejected him seemed the most-effective way to even things out.

Taking his own life seemed the most-effective way to make the pain go away.

Pulling the trigger seemed the most-effective methodology.

He was a man who grew up surrounded by crime and poverty. Death and violence are interwoven into most stories that begin there.

Despite overcoming enormous odds and achieving financial success and settling into family life, death and violence are what he knew.

He died yesterday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound intended to eliminate his pain, and as an unforgettable goodbye note to his wife.

We do what we know.

The Suicide Kings

People sometimes call the King of Hearts in a deck of playing cards “The Suicide Kings.” Because they appear to be stabbing themselves in the head with their swords.

There’s no blood. It’s not a violent image. So maybe the artist meant to show a brave king wielding a sword behind his head, preparing to strike an enemy.

Or maybe it’s designed to evoke images of a sad, lonely man considering taking his own life, but unwilling to do so.

Maybe the heart has something to do with it.

All we really have in life are the people we love and care about, and the people who love and care about us. That’s why it’s so hard for many people to move far away from home.

Our roots are important to us. They provide sure footing during uncertain times.

And when we’re away—disconnected—and facing life’s inevitable hardships, we can feel lost at sea without that anchor of comfort and familiarity. We can feel isolated, lonely and lost when we don’t have, or are far away from, home.

Because home is what we know.

I don’t think we ever lose the natural instinct to run into our parents’ arms when we’re hurt and want someone else to make it better for us. It becomes more of a metaphor as an adult. But our human instinct to crave comfort and reassurance remains.

The hard times—particularly the first ones we experience as people—feel REALLY hard.

I often use the word “dying” to describe it. It feels like how I imagine dying to feel. Maybe worse. There’s a difference between the pain we feel in a physical sense—like a flesh wound or bone break—and the pain we feel when something happens to us internally.

To our hearts.

To our minds.

To our souls.

When we break on the inside. They don’t make painkillers for broken hearts. For poisoned minds. For torn souls.

Your entire body is tense, aching, and you feel like a prisoner inside it because there’s nowhere to run and hide.

And when it happens for the first time, it’s the most-frightening thing that’s ever happened to us because we didn’t know our bodies were capable of feeling like that.

What if I never feel like me again?

Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of my life?

I didn’t know it was possible to hurt this much.

Only in that moment can a person understand why another human being could take their own life.

You can’t know until you know.

Misery Loves Company

I didn’t know how common this reaction to a life hardship was until I was feeling it myself. When you go through difficult times, other people sometimes are more willing to open up about their hard times. Sometimes, those talks can help both people heal a little more.

I’ve talked to SO MANY people going through challenging times over the past couple years. Divorce and broken families are the most common. But sometimes people died. Sometimes people’s children were suffering in extreme and unimaginable ways.

The theme is often the same, and it’s the EXACT same thing I said after my wife left and I eventually learned about her new relationship:

“I don’t want to die. But I kind of don’t care if I do. Because at least then I won’t feel like this anymore.”

My friend texted me about yesterday’s suicide. She was shocked and devastated to lose someone she talked to and worked with every day. She was asking so many questions.

“I keep thinking… ‘What if Matt had done that?’,” she said, drawing parallels between how her now-departed friend was feeling relative to how I was feeling 18 months ago.

I remember driving by the hospital where my wife met the other guy. Sometimes, I had to drive by on my way to the office. Tears fell more often than I care to admit. My insides twisted. And I couldn’t escape.

And I’d think: Would it really be so bad if I just went head-on into that massive concrete Interstate pillar? Do I really care whether I wake up tomorrow?

It’s the closest to suicidal I’d ever been and ever hope to be. It’s scary to understand that. I spent my entire life not understanding how someone could ever want to kill themselves, and I’m confident in reporting that it’s infinitely better when you’re too innocent, happy and ignorant to understand it.

The truth is, I didn’t want to die. But I felt like I’d exceeded my pain threshold. And all I wanted to do was make it go away. I couldn’t function in any area of life, making the entire exercise seem somewhat moot.

Just. Shut. It. Off.

The Sun Will Rise

“Why does one person shoot himself and the other start a blog?,” she said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“I know why. It’s what they know. He grew up in the slums. He knows violence. Guns. A lot of gun death.

“You know words.

“We do what we know.”

Why did that man kill himself when I wouldn’t?

Is it because I don’t know gun violence? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I don’t know.

But I do know some things.

I know life is precious.

I know good conquers evil.

I know happy is better than sad.

I know happy is good.

I know perspective matters.

I know there are billions of people who would gladly trade lives with me right this second if they could because they believe I have it so good.

I know we have purpose and it’s our job to seek it.

I know I love. Deeply. My son. Life. You.

I know every day I wake up could be the best day of my life, and sooner or later, that day is going to come, and I choose to look forward to it.

I know I have a choice: Despair. Or, hope.

And I choose courage. I choose love. I choose hope.

That’s why I’m still breathing.

That’s why I started writing.

And that’s why I’ll keep trying to do both for as long as I possibly can.

We do what we know.

So, know it: The sun will rise tomorrow. Everything’s going to be okay.

Without the low, there ain’t a high.

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Why I’m Not Writing

aokWriting for the sake of writing is important for personal growth.

But writing for the sake of writing and publishing it on this blog is an enormous waste of your time.

So I stopped doing it.

Maybe I’ll start again. I’m going to do whatever I want.

But for now, it feels important to me to have something to say.

I haven’t had much.

Why I Write

I started this blog because my wife left me and I lost my mind. There weren’t very many people in my life I could or wanted to discuss it with, so I turned to the only thing I knew: the keyboard.

I feel at home at the keyboard. Like an extension of me. Punching these keys is as natural to me as anything else I do. And for reasons I don’t understand and have never really explored, I know how to communicate and express myself more effectively via the (type)written word than I do speaking.

I thought I was dying. It felt like how I imagine dying to feel. And writing was medicine. Relief. It helped.

So I did it.

I was so hurt, so sad, so angry, that nothing else mattered. I could write anything. Because there’s nothing you could think about me that could ever make me feel shittier than I felt.

I felt so weak and helpless in my real life.

But not at the keyboard. I had my own arsenal here. An unlimited combination of words that could be written and a seemingly endless string of thoughts and feelings and experiences as I tried to document what it was like to be me. The newly single, scared-shitless divorced dad.

Here’s why it mattered: Because I’m just like so many of you. And so many of you are like me.

It mattered because you’re not alone.

It mattered because I’m not alone.

So we connected here. And I needed to feel connected to something. Maybe I still do. But everything’s different now. I just know I’m still alive.

I’m a mid-thirties single dad who just got thrust into the wild, ill-prepared and ill-equipped for the world I now face.

And I wanted to write about that experience. Because maybe some other person got divorced, too. And maybe they felt like they were dying. And maybe they cried more than they knew they could. And maybe they were scared again just like when we were kids only now their masks could no longer conceal the fear because aging without wisdom doesn’t make us more courageous.

There’s one super-important ingredient to making the writing (and the reading) a worthwhile exercise.

It Better Be Honest

It’s all bullshit if it’s not real. If it’s not honest.

A year ago, it was all: Hey! I’m sad and depressed and my life is shitty and I don’t feel like doing anything except writing about it!

And I did. And just kind of laid it all out there, raw and uncut. To the right people, it really mattered. I know it mattered to me.

And now? It’s not like that. I’m a different person than I was a year ago, just like I was a different person the year before that.

I’m a pretty resilient sonofabitch. I know it doesn’t look that way when I’m pissing myself and crying like a small child and whining to anyone who will listen about how hard my life is.

I started to heal. That’s still happening. And it’s all still getting better every day.

And then, as each day passed, things were happening in my life that I no longer felt comfortable telling you about.

My relationship with my ex-wife continues to improve. All things considered, I think we’re doing a great job working together to raise our six-year-old son.

My dating life remains shitty and not discussion-worthy. Everyone who likes me lives super-far away. I rarely meet people because I refuse to online-date and because I’m sometimes a coward about introducing myself to others. I had a date last weekend and she was super-nice and we had a great time, but it was clear romance would not be in our future.

And that’s really the root of my writing “problem.”

I am not going to exploit women I meet and jeopardize friendships by writing about them.

I am not going to teach my son to love and respect his mother and then write about her personal life as if it’s anyone’s business, including mine.

I am not going to bore you with the mundane details of my life as I continue to figure out how to juggle my various responsibilities with efficiency—work, parenting, chores, etc.

If it’s not therapeutic to write, or can’t help someone, is there really any point of writing at all? Maybe. But probably not as part of what I want to be doing here in this space.

I want to help people. Not lots of people. Because I’m not qualified to help people. But I am qualified to help one. Just one. That person out there who understands what I’m feeling and thinking and can breathe a sigh of relief: I’m so glad I’m not the only one. Now I know I’m not a freak.

Because that person isn’t a freak. But we lie to ourselves because we’re all a little bit crazy and we convince ourselves that we’re too dumb, too short, too fat, too weird, too <insert personal insecurity here> and everyone else is so much better than we are.

And it’s an effective lie because so many of us believe it.

And we become empowered. Strong, even. When we realize that we’re not alone. That we’re all fighting the same battles, and that maybe together we can win more easily than fighting alone.

We’re smart enough.

We’re good enough.

We’re tall enough.

Everything is different now.

I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. But I’m not afraid. Everything is going to be okay.

I’m better apparently at writing about misery than I am about hope.

So.

Fewer words. More hope.

Not a bad trade, really.

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It Gets Better

Image by Incessant Star at Deviant Art.

Image by Incessant Star at Deviant Art.

I read my text message and laughed out loud because my ex-wife wrote something funny.

One of my friends at the office asked what I was laughing about.

I told him. He smiled.

“You wouldn’t believe what a difference nearly a year and a half makes,” I said.

Sometimes my ex and I laugh about stuff.

The Darkness

There was so much darkness after she left. I freaked. Big-time.

Partially because something radical and different was happening, and change scares me. Partially because my little son wasn’t home all the time anymore and it feels like a piece of your soul is missing. Partially because the wounds of rejection run deep and can feel exactly like betrayal.

I was broken. Dazed. Crying, sometimes. It wasn’t pretty.

I have never gone back and read anything I wrote a year ago. But I think it’s all there.

Growing up, nothing extremely horrible ever happened to me. My parents’ divorce was the worst thing.

I grew up in this safe little Catholic school in this safe little Ohio town and had a safe little non-scary life.

Life had inadvertently pulled the wool over my eyes.

Then she left and started seeing someone else and I felt like dying.

Sometimes, I intentionally try to recreate the feeling because I don’t want to take for granted the peace I feel today. I NEVER want to forget how uncomfortable life can feel inside your own skin when you’re broken. Because that’s the fuel I need to build my new life.

The feeling is unmistakable and all-consuming. And you only know it if you know it. If you don’t know what it feels like to not be able to breathe because everything you ever thought was true just crumbled, then I really want you to keep your loved ones close, because you’re going to need them when it finally happens.

It hurts more than anything you’ve ever experienced. When you break on the inside. And the wounds are so deep they take an excruciatingly long time to heal.

But they do heal.

Sometimes my ex and I laugh about stuff now.

Clocks, Calendars and Fear

I was 34 when my wife left after a dozen years together. Mid-thirties with a son in kindergarten.

A single, graying, average-looking dad who just got dumped. My entire social network, altered overnight. My home went from a steady, warm, safe haven, to a quiet prison that felt much like a tomb.

I was (sometimes, am) afraid of so many things.

Who will ever want me?

How can I set a good example for my son?

What’s my purpose in life now?

Am I going to survive, financially?

Will I ever feel like myself again?

I wrote.

I read.

I watched a bunch of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.

I went out with friends.

I kept waking up each morning and breathing.

The clocks ticked.

The calendar pages flipped.

The sun kept coming up.

No Shortcuts

I don’t think so, anyway. I don’ t think there’s any way of cheating the process. When we lose things, we grieve. And everything I understand about grief and loss is that we all deal in different ways, but we all go through the same stages. Some of those stages take longer than others.

The five stages of grief are:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance, and Hope

I wasn’t shocked when she left. The shock happened a long time ago when the marriage went bad. The denial, too. She’s not leaving!

I was wrong.

But I didn’t have any trouble being angry and feeling like a victim. That part’s easy.

In the bargaining phase, you long for the past, forgoing the present by focusing on what might have been.

Then you get depressed.

I got totally depressed.

I wasn’t moping around, like how I imagined depression to be. But just a deep emptiness and sadness. You tend to not give a shit about a bunch of things you used to. Simple things, really. All my old hobbies—my favorite sports teams, poker, cooking, etc. I just didn’t care anymore. They feel so insignificant after something monumental happens.

And it turns out this is completely expected and normal. And there’s no set amount of time. Everyone has to walk their own path. And it’s important to remember that when you’re feeling so shitty. The depression IS the path. It’s the way out of all the suck. Keep moving forward.

And finally, acceptance. Hope.

This doesn’t mean you’re all better. Woo-hoo! I accept it! I’m totally healed now!

I don’t think that’s how it works. At least not for me.

My world ended on April 1, 2013.

A life that only exists now as a high- and lowlight reel in my memory bank.

And now I have to build a brand-new life.

With new goals. New dreams. A new script. A new supporting cast.

And you know what? I’m going to.

It’s not like I ever had much of a choice, but when you’re walking through all those phases of the Grief Path of Suckage™ you don’t feel much hope or really anything at all.

When I felt like dying, the thing that made me feel best was connecting with people who understood. Via this blog. Via real life. Crossing paths with people with the same wounds and scars. Crossing paths with people who had been through the exact same things and would pat me on the back, reassuringly.

“It will get better.”

And if you’re still in agony, it’s hard to hear. It’s tricky when other people seem happy or peaceful or unaffected.

Don’t they know the sky is falling? Don’t they know the sun might not come up tomorrow?

They walked through fire.

And they emerged stronger.

Better.

Taller.

And I know there are millions of people out there now. Having trouble breathing. Crying and terrified.

It makes my entire body hurt to think about because that feeling is still like muscle memory, just below the surface. It can still be recreated in short bursts. And it’s horrible.

But it doesn’t last.

It can’t anymore.

Because one day you look in the mirror.

Hey! I know that guy.

And someone else makes you smile.

Hope.

And your child fills you with enormous pride.

Love.

Because real healing has taken hold.

Because you kept breathing.

Because clocks keep ticking.

Because the sun is indiscriminate and it won’t stop setting, rising and dancing across the sky for anyone.

Because sometimes my ex and I laugh about stuff—strangers, but strangers who don’t hurt each other anymore.

Because everything is going to be okay.

It really is.

It might even be amazing.

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Ageism, Dating and More Ageism, Vol. 2

My ageism isn't just about me being a dick. I want marriages to succeed.

My ageism isn’t just about me being a dick. I want marriages to succeed.

I’ve never been particularly controversial. I’m that way on purpose. I like to get along with everyone.

But I brushed as close to controversy as I ever have this week when I published my first post on the topic of ageism and dating.

And by “ageism and dating,” I really just mean I question the long-term romantic compatibility of people too far apart in age.

There are people with two decades separating them and everyone involved seems content and satisfied with the relationship. Great! Happiness (long-term contentment and inner peace, actually) should be the thing we strive to achieve most in this human life.

I would never ask two people in love to sacrifice their happiness. But for the purposes of this discussion, I’d equate it to winning the lottery. Some people do it! But it’s a shitty save-for-retirement strategy. Most of the time, lotto-ticket purchases are the equivalent of burning money.

I wanted to get into this a little more because my previous post was written off by at least one person whose opinion I very much respect as “an immature view of adult relationships.”

And maybe it is. I’m not the brightest. But I’m happy to explain how I arrive at my conclusions.

The Dating Math and its Impact on Marriage

In the previous post, I wrote:

“In the Department of Overgeneralizations, you’ll discover a few laws of human nature (that I’m totally making up on the fly because I believe them to be generally true and the furthest thing from actual law.)

Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted. Which is often several.

Girls and young women are constantly hoping to find someone who will fall in love with and marry them, frequently misinterpreting sexual interest as potential love interest and ultimately spawning the “Boys are Mean™” and “Men are Pigs™” movements.”

I want to clarify my position, and reinforce that I believe (quite strongly) that all of this is generally true. Perhaps 85-percent of the time if I had to attach a number to it. There have always been, and will always be, exceptions to every rule. And I think my observations on life are a far cry from being “rules.”

On “Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted.”:

Aside from being grammatically incorrect (‘life’ should have been ‘lives’), I stand by this statement.

And it does NOT mean I think all young men are trolling to con some unsuspecting girl or young women into having sex under false pretenses and then ditching them afterward.

There are millions—billions, hopefully—of good men out there. But they all want to have sex with the people they’re attracted to. Every one of them. It’s a mammal thing. And I think boys and young men are motivated romantically by their desire to have sex.

I also believe love is a choice.

I believe it as much as I’ve ever believed anything. Boys—and men—while motivated by sex are absolutely capable of love. And when they figure that out, and choose it, they put all of their energy into the person they want to be with forever. That happens when they find the partner they want to stay with.

And I think girls and young women are different. GENERALLY. Generally, I think girls are interested in the love part upfront. I think women often want to recreate the safety and security they felt living with their fathers growing up. And I think women want to experience the romantic love they see on television. Prince Charming. The knight in shining armor. The passionate kiss during the cliché ending of another romantic comedy. Because that stuff makes people feel good.

Because males and females are different (and because people are impossibly shitty at communicating with one another—myself included) the wires are always getting crossed in our youth.

The boys are thinking about sex all the time, and because they know no different, assume the girls are, too. (And some are!)

The girls are thinking about love all the time, and because they know no different, assume the boys showing all this interest in them has romantic, Prince Charming-like intentions at its core. But really, the boys are most interested in exploring their sexuality with them.

I think this general misunderstanding causes a lot of hurt feelings for young people not mature enough to understand the psychological and spiritual ramifications of acting like adults, sexually.

We live. We learn.

I went on to write about the 20-30 age range, because I think this is the window of our lives (please keep in mind I’m a heterosexual American male, and don’t have a sense of how much this applies elsewhere or to people dissimilar from me) when the majority of people get married.

I think many girls (Not all! Just most!) dream of their wedding day throughout much of their teenage years.

I think falling in love and getting married, at least during my lifetime, has been the No. 1 goal of the majority of females.

And I’m not sure I believe that’s true of men. I think most men want to. But boys tend to dream of being a pro football player, or an astronaut, or the front man for a rock band, or whatever. The dream tends to be career-oriented.

I think most boys assume they will grow up to get married and have kids because that must be “the way” since that’s what their grandparents and parents did.

It’s not so much a goal as it is an inevitable eventuality.

So, we’re in our 20s.

And the girls our age are generally much more emotionally mature than we are. I estimate about five years’ worth.

They want a husband. Crave stability and security. Their friends are getting engaged. Some even have kids and they’re sooooooo happy!!! We’re not getting any younger! And commitment and feeling safe is so important to them. So, either very directly, or more subtly, they begin to hint at and apply marriage pressure to their boyfriends.

But their boyfriends aren’t ready.

They’re only 22! Just got out of school! Just started their career! What’s the rush!?

He probably even thinks about all the women he can’t date or hook up with now because of his girlfriend. It’s worth it, he’ll tell you, because she’s a keeper. And it might even be true. But he still feels the call of the wild, so to speak. He’s a boy. Boys feel that.

If said boy doesn’t want to lose this girl, he has to make assurances. She’s in a hurry!!!

She doesn’t know he’s a child. She doesn’t know he has so much more growing to do on the inside. She thinks he’s just a little undisciplined because he’s still bro-ing it up once in a while like he did in college.

He’ll settle down! He’ll grow up!

And he will.

He will settle down. He will grow up.

It’s just that it’s going to take longer than she thinks. Not in all circumstances. Just in most.

I think very few men under 30 are ready to marry.

To give what it takes to stay married. To understand that that’s part of the formula for making it successful.

To give, give, give.

Because if you’re not giving more than you take in a marriage, it’s DOOMED. If it doesn’t end, it will be unhappy.

There are no cheats. No hacks. No workarounds.

Two people give themselves to one another without reservation. Both give more to one another than they take from one another.

Anything less, and it’s either shitty, or it ends.

Probably both.

Marriage is important to me. It affects 95 percent of us. That’s damn near everybody.

And I think the dynamics of dating that occur during our prime marriage years (20-30) are a HUGE factor in why so many of us divorce 5-10 years later.

It’s a tragedy.

And I know we can do better.

And I think being just a bit more discriminatory and whole lot better at communicating can be an important part of the solution.

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Ageism, Dating and More Ageism

No. Just... no.

No. Just… no.

I’m an ageist.

There, I said it. I didn’t know I was an ageist until last week because, outside of professional sports, I had never previously discriminated against the elderly.

But now I am.

And the real beauty is that almost EVERYONE qualifies, so basically, depending on the situation, I now potentially discriminate against every single person on Earth. Except babies. They’re cool.

One of my oldest friends (not in an age sense; in a friendship-length sense) is female. We talk about everything.

And I just found out recently that one of her best friends who is our age (35-ish) is married to a guy who is 50-plus.

And my gut reaction was: “That’s gross.”

Then she told me about how all her girlfriends will get together and sleep over at their house, where this wealthy older man “spoils” all these attractive women, 15 or more years younger than him.

Shocker.

“He’s yummy,” she said, just before explaining that he goes to bed before 9 p.m. every night, and spends all his mornings reading the paper in bathrobes that cut off mid-thigh.

My natural, instinctive reaction was revulsion. I don’t know that I can adequately explain or defend it. It’s simply how I feel.

When this wife was born, the husband was a sophomore in high school.

When the husband graduated college, the wife was in first grade.

Chew on that, outraged people who might feel like debating this.

It’s totally gross. Like this, but less awesome:

The Dating Math (Pre-Marriage Edition)

In school, your “dating” options are limited.

In grade school, you’re mostly stuck with boys and girls in your class and a few randoms you meet through other channels.

In high school, the girls’ options open up to all four grades (and later, college guys), while the boys generally are limited to just one grade up and back.

While our college years represent the closest thing to “real life” any of us experience throughout our schooling, the age thing tends to play about the same as in high school, though women tend to have more upward mobility—age-wise—than guys.

For example, it’s not unheard of for a 19-year-old sophomore girl to date a young professional man who is 23 or 24 (and I’d even recommend it for those looking for stability—more on that in a minute), but you almost never see a 19- or 20-year-old guy with a woman much older than he is.

In the Department of Overgeneralizations, you’ll discover a few laws of human nature (that I’m totally making up on the fly because I believe them to be generally true and the furthest thing from actual law.)

Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted. Which is often several.

Girls and young women are constantly hoping to find someone who will fall in love with and marry them, frequently misinterpreting sexual interest as potential love interest and ultimately spawning the “Boys are Mean™” and “Men are Pigs™” movements.

I don’t believe there to be many males who spot a female from across the room and say: “Ooooooohhhhh! I want to marry THAT one!”

It tends to be more like: “Oooooooohhhhhh! I want to nail that one!” and so the male tries to court the female hoping to get laid. And what sometimes happens in that courting process is that the male will decide the pain of losing that female is greater than the “benefit” of his independence and will eventually choose her to settle down with.

So you end up with a lot of girls who are obsessed with Disney princess movies and romantic comedies marrying men who know jack shit about what real love is. They just know they’ve agreed to stop having sex with other women and to give up most of the weekend keg parties and other bro-hobbies for the rest of their lives. Five to 10 years later, half of them divorce.

It’s a sad story.

Now, please allow me to slightly contradict myself.

The Older Guy Contradiction

So. Ladies. New rule. Unless you’re absolutely sure you have an exception to the rule (and there are always those, too), then you should never be dating anyone who isn’t about five years older than you if you’re between the ages of 20-30, because almost every under-30 male you know is still similar to a child from an emotional-maturity standpoint.

From about third grade on, girls have a five-year emotional maturity advantage over boys.

Many girls are so eager to “fall in love” and get married in their early 20s, so they accidentally con young men who don’t know how unprepared they are into agreeing to marriage.

The girl thinks she’s getting a husband just like her father or the men (who aren’t real) she sees on TV.

The guy thinks he’s signing up for a permanent girlfriend like he currently has. He thinks: “Life’s pretty good! We have fun with our friends and we hang out all the time, and the sex is great! Sure, I can do this forever!”

Neither side is being disingenuous. It’s just that no one teaches us how completely insane and outside reality that type of thinking is, and I’m not sure we would have listened even if they’d tried.

If you’re a 25-year-old female, you need a 30-year-old male to even have a chance to be on the same emotional-maturity level as you. It’s a gap that pretty much closes after age 30. Many guys figure out in their early to mid-30s (whether married or single), that the lifestyle we lived in our youth doesn’t bring sustainable happiness, and that “freedom” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I wish girls weren’t in such a hurry to get married. I wish young men were smart enough to communicate why it’s too soon. They simply don’t know they’re still apes, because we all lie to ourselves.

The Dating Math (Post-Divorce Edition)

I was online dating for a short time right after my wife left because I’m a stupid moron.

You can filter out online-dating profiles based on a variety of criteria. For example, every single woman with no children filters out guys my size (5’9”) and/or guys with children (I have a young son).

Whatever. People are allowed to date whoever they want. The moral of that story is simply that online dating is bullshit. Write that down.

I’m 35.

I’m at a funny age, even though I suspect there are literally millions of people just like me out there (thirtysomethings with kids who don’t like being single very much). We just have a hard time finding one another, so we online date and then wish we could set ourselves on fire afterward.

The dating math for guys my age and with circumstances similar to mine is sort of interesting.

Under the right circumstances, I could meet a 28-year-old who has never married and wants to have children. Whoa. Or I could meet someone with a couple kids who has two or three years on me.

If I decided I wanted more children, something would have to happen pretty damn fast for it to be mathematically feasible, considering I’m not dating anyone, nor do I even really know any single people.

I remember being 21 and thinking that 21 year olds would ALWAYS be attractive.

And I guess, physically, maybe they always will be.

But years have a way of morphing you on the inside. And now it just sounds wrong and unpleasant.

There isn’t a 21-year-old on the planet I can see myself wanting to talk to for any great length of time (and that’s just 14 years’ difference!), and even if there was, there aren’t any 21-year-olds trying to get with Graying, Thirtysomething Guy with Kid™. Just not happening.

Which is totally fine. I’m merely walking through the mental exercise of dating someone about 15 years younger than me.

I feel like we all need to agree to keep it within a 10-year window throughout our adult dating years. Seriously.

Can we agree on that? I feel certain we can’t.

I’m sorry, ladies. I don’t care that he buys you Porsches and unlimited spa days. At some point, this is just going to get awkward. I can’t quite put my finger on when, but I’m pretty sure I’ll know it when I see it.

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What’s Possible Today?

Possibilities word cloud

Marital status aside—my life looks a lot like I thought it would when I was growing up.

I live in the Ohio suburbs. I’m middle class. My child goes to Catholic school now, just like I did.

When I was a kid, I didn’t really know what marriage would look and feel like, so I didn’t spend a great deal of time imagining it.

When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand what separates the financial winners from the losers. And I still don’t. I often feel like a complete failure. But compared to many people (the statistical majority, actually), I’m really doing quite well.

I hold myself to pretty high standards. And maybe that’s not psychologically healthy. But I don’t know how to quit. And I’m not sure I’d want to if I did.

Ask me why I’m 35 and have never been promoted at any of my three jobs since graduating college, and I’ll feed you an excuse: “Well! When you’re a newspaper reporter or copywriter in a corporate environment, there really isn’t much upward mobility!!!”

But the truth is that I’ve never made myself stand out as a leader of others.

Ask me why I lost my last job, and I’ll tell everyone how unlucky I was: “Oh yeah! Back in college, how could we have known what would happen to the newspaper industry!?!? I survived two rounds of corporate layoffs before the economic crunch caught up to me on a third round of cuts, and I was the least-senior person on staff!!!”

As if telling the story that way (which is all true, but all bullshit) makes you think any more of me.

The truth is that I didn’t prove myself to be indispensible to the publication. They knew they could lose me and there would be no financial consequences. There wasn’t enough demand for my writing and I never gave anyone a reason to care.

It’s not the economy’s fault my career is what it is.

It’s my fault.

It’s not the universe spoon-feeding me bad luck that has made me a single 35-year-old who works in a cubicle, leaving this dissatisfied taste in my mouth.

It’s my fault.

A little bit of ignorance.

A little lack of discipline.

A little lack of life experience.

But those three things all can be remedied.

So, what’s possible? What’s possible today?

Maybe Anything

More than once in history, the American people picked up their newspapers or turned on their televisions to learn the U.S. president had been shot and killed.

That lady over there just won a new car on a scratch-off lottery ticket.

A ping-pong ball bounced the right way last June, triggering a series of events that have turned the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (my favorite team) into championship favorites after four straight years of horribleness.

Things just happen.

One day I was getting ready to fly to San Diego for a wedding and my wife told me she was pregnant.

Another time, when I was little, my mom put me in a car and drove me 500 miles away from my dad and we never came back.

You get the idea.

We know this already because life surprises us all the time. Like when we heard the Robin Williams news last week.

Things just happen. And we can’t see them coming.

The good news is that many of those things are not bad. And some are quite good.

I’ve just been thinking that maybe my life is a lot like how I thought it would be because I always thought this was “the way.”

You’re a little kid.

You go to grade school.

You go to high school.

You go to college.

You get a job.

You get married and have kids.

You try to get better jobs and raise your kids.

You retire and maybe travel in an RV, or live part of the year in Florida.

It’s hard for my brain to come up with things I haven’t seen or experienced. It’s hard for me to think beyond what I know.

That’s why I’m a writer in a safe corporate job at age 35, convincing people that often have less money than I do that they need to spend it on the things our company sells.

I was always so happy from childhood through college, and a bit beyond, that I never bothered to think about other ways to live a life, or what might happen if I was wrong.

Because, I was wrong.

What I’ve done, and what a lot of people do is A WAY. But certainly not THE WAY.

There’s no THE WAY.

Because while we all share so much deep-seeded commonalities within our hearts and minds because of the human condition, we are all motivated by so many different things, and those motivating factors are changing constantly because of changing health or financials or children or death, or simply our individual passions and pursuits.

I want to get better at everything.

I want to get better at being a dad. A homeowner. A writer. A friend. A co-parent.

I want to get better at life.

And they don’t have a scoring system for that which matters. Some people measure it with checking accounts, or attendance records, or the cars in their garage, or their children’s achievements, or the photos they post to Facebook, or the job titles printed on their business cards.

And that’s fine. All of those can be good. And all can be bad. Most of the time, they really don’t matter.

In the end, our ability to thrive mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally in an ever-changing world is what gives us the balance we need to enjoy life. And I think people can achieve that balance and thrive regardless of their job, or their house, or where they graduated college, or how many people fawn over them at the next high school reunion.

There are all these things in life I want to do and experience, but I make excuses and just go to work 40 or so hours a week and hang out at home most of the time in a life that looks and feels a bit wasted.

I’d move somewhere fun! But my son is here and I can’t leave!, I’ll tell you.

I want to write and travel! But I need my job to pay for all of this… stuff!

I’d be hard-bodied and in the best shape of my life since I’m trying to attract a mate! But I’m still a little depressed over my failed marriage and the loss of my family last year so I don’t workout enough!

I always forget: Anything can happen.

I don’t know why I forget since we are constantly reminded.

We get so wrapped up in our little comfortable routines and we’re often too scared to leap. It doesn’t feel safe to leap.

But I WANT to leap. Maybe you do, too.

Because that clock is not slowing down and we only have one shot.

Because safe is boring.

Because the bad things that might happen are never really as bad as we imagine them.

Because we can handle it.

Because no matter how bad, good or great we have it, there is ALWAYS more to life than this. Than right now.

What’s possible today?

Anything.

Seize it.

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How To Be Found

Worst-hide-and-seekMost of us grow up playing Hide and Seek with friends.

Something interesting happens during the game.

The counting begins: “One! Two! Three!…”

And we all run, run, run, trying to find that perfect hiding spot. It’s important to us that we find a good spot. That we become difficult to find.

If we’ve done our job, the seeker might find others. You hear the screams and laughter.

But there you remain, unfound.

The seeker continues: “Where are you??? I’m gonna find you!!!”

But, no luck. Because you’re stowed away in the best hiding place.

As the cat-and-mouse game drags on, it dawns on you: I may never be found!

And against the very nature of the game, you offer little hints to make yourself known.

A little noise.

A stifled laugh.

Maybe you peek out, putting yourself in view.

It’s because, in the end, we all WANT to be found.

A Catholic priest—the man who oversees the church and school my son will attend as an incoming first grader this week—told a similar childhood story this morning and I nodded along silently because I think he is correct in the universal human truth sort-of way that has fascinated me since discovering the many things that tie us all together.

We all have different experiences and upbringings. Different talents and hobbies. Different cultures, beliefs, skin colors and interests.

But underneath all the stuff we see on the surface, down in the places inside us that we don’t spend enough time talking about or acknowledging—all the human stuff—there is so much that unites us. So much that connects us.

It’s the thing that made me feel least alone when I felt like the earth was crumbling beneath me and everything I thought was true about my life turned out not to be.

The Connection Culture

There’s a reason there are a BILLION people using Facebook. Because people—you and me and everyone else—feel an innate desire to feel connected to others.

Even introverts want to feel connected to something. Perhaps a small circle of like-minded people, or pets, or their craft—whatever that may be.

When I got divorced, so many of my connections felt severed overnight.

The family I’d married into.

All of the friends—especially other married couples—that she and I had forged bonds with.

All of those perimeter people in your lives that you met through your spouse that you maybe bump into at local restaurants or grocery stores or social gatherings where everything’s just a little bit different now.

I went crazy trying to connect during those initial weeks and months. I was freaking out and latching on to any friend I could, seeking fun and distraction because being home was torturous. Because the silence was so loud and scary I couldn’t hear myself think.

Like a fool, I tried online dating, as if anything good could have come from that.

It was unstable, unwise behavior. But in hindsight, I get it.

I needed to feel connected because so much had been lost, and everything just feels like you’re floating out to sea at the mercy of the weather, and there’s nothing but storm clouds in every direction.

But you stay alive. Just breathe. In. Then out.

That’s your only job when everything feels impossible.

Just to keep breathing. One breath at a time.

Then I Hid

I don’t know what stage of the grieving process I was in when I tucked into my shell, but I got very reclusive. I stopped thinking about dating. I did a shitty job of staying in touch with friends and family. And I just stayed quiet and alone in my house.

Just breathing.

I was writing and reading and watching TV. Things I enjoy that I can do alone. Comfortable things. Things that made me feel safe.

But out of sight. Hidden.

Isolation Therapy

Maybe it’s necessary. All that alone time. I don’t know. I just know that real loneliness settled in. A feeling that—despite growing up an only child—I’d never really felt before.

No one’s coming to save you.

I wanted to be found.

There are a million reasons people feel lonely.

Sometimes people feel lonely even among throngs of people. I’ve heard people say New York City can be the loneliest place in the world.

Death. Divorce. A troubled marriage. Moving to a new city or country. Changing schools. Changing jobs. Over and over again in life, people have to adjust to the world they know turning into one they don’t.

And many of us feel lonely when that happens.

Sometimes children feel lonely even when surrounded by brothers and sisters and loving, well-meaning parents.

Sometimes spouses feel lonely even though their husbands or wives live in the same home and sleep in the same bed.

Sometimes adults feel lonely even though they put on a happy face and walk through the world doing their jobs and running errands and trying to make life something that feels meaningful and worthwhile.

People crave acknowledgment.

People want to be found.

People need to matter.

And They Do

People do matter.

I made my wife feel alone in our marriage and made her feel like she didn’t matter to me even though she did. And now I don’t have a family anymore.

Simple things like attention and respect and acknowledgment. They’re game changers. One way or the other.

The same goes for our children.

And our friends.

And our coworkers.

And the strangers we encounter.

And the homeless, sick and marginalized.

They just want to matter to someone.

I wanted to be found but I was spending every night home alone and out of sight.

But I’ve been floating out at sea for many months now. And the waters have calmed. The storm clouds are rare.

I want to be found.

And maybe others do, too.

And maybe if we all get out… smile at others, be brave enough to say hi, try something new, somewhere new… we will be.

And maybe the best part of Hide and Seek isn’t the hiding, but the seeking.

And maybe we can start changing lives, one found person at a time.

At work.

At school.

At the store.

At the gym.

At home.

Maybe we make the connections instead of waiting for everyone else to do the work for us.

And maybe we build a whole new life for ourselves.

One where we don’t run, run, run and hide. They may never find us.

But where we are the ones seeking out others, saying: “I see you! I found you!”

Maybe then, everything changes.

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