Something So Strong

My mind is set adrift so easily these days. But, here's to the future.

My mind is set adrift so easily these days. But, here’s to the future.

I time travel a lot these days.

One of the after-effects of divorce has been my heightened—I’m not sure what; sensitivity?—to emotional triggers from my past.

It’s as if I didn’t think much about my childhood during my marriage because I was making a bunch of new memories with my wife and son.

Because of that, there was a 12-year span where I was pretty much only thinking about the future.

Then. EXPLODE.

Everything goes away.

And the future is so scary and there are so many questions to answer about where you went wrong that you focus almost exclusively on your past.

And all of the sudden you find those memories are so much more precious than you once thought. Because they’re not the ones that feel wasted. That feel tainted. That feel like this massive life void that happened between your childhood and whatever unknown thing is going to happen next.

Could Carry Us Away

I stepped into my favorite diner for breakfast Saturday morning. They clearly aren’t used to me yet.

“Are you meeting someone?”

A weak smile.

“No. Just me.”

I sat down with my note pad brainstorming about life and writing.

Then, this song started playing:

And I was instantly seven or eight years old again. Standing in the living room of my summertime babysitter, watching this video on VH1 or MTV.

It still shocks me how affected I can be by the simplest memory.

There was nothing particularly important about that babysitter.

But the memory still represents innocence.

It still represents my parents’ divorce.

It still represents missing my father when he had to go to work on weekdays even when I had such precious little time with him during my summertime visits.

And it feels just a little bit more important now because of all that has transpired.

In between ordering food and receiving it, an older guy I know walked in. He’s a contractor and has done a couple jobs in my house over the past five years.

We shook hands. He was only stopping in for a minute to say hi to his daughter who works there as a waitress.

It didn’t take him long to ask about my family. My answer made him sit down next to me.

He’s getting divorced, too.

Brokenness. All around us.

I’ve been
Feeling so much older
Frame me
And hang me on the wall
I’ve seen
You fall into the same trap
This thing
Is happening to us all

Then, Forward March

In walked a couple I’d met while out with friends the night before. We’d shared a bunch of laughs together.

We exchanged pleasantries.

My network of familiar faces expanding.

Smile.

I arrived a few minutes early for a birthday party for a six-year-old boy to which my son had been invited. One of those big places with arcade games and laser tag and roller skating and all that.

My ex-wife met me there to drop off our son. I encouraged her to hang out for a bit because it’s such a treat to see your son playing happily with his friends from school.

It’s a big place.

Some employees pointed us in the direction of our party. The three of us walked in together. The family that isn’t.

The birthday boy’s mom caught our attention. We’d never met before.

I introduced myself and handed her a birthday present for her son.

She wasn’t wearing a ring.

I see everything.

And so, apparently, does my ex-wife because as she and I followed our son over to a playground area a minute later, she sort of playfully elbowed me.

“She’s cute,” she said of the party hostess.

And while I appreciate being in a place where I can joke around with my ex-wife about things, I’m just not ready to joke with her about my dating life.

It still hurts.

“Please don’t make jokes. That’s not funny.”

“It’s a little funny. I’m just saying. She’s cute.”

I changed the subject.

We talked about our son’s upcoming birthday over the summer and how to handle it. We talked about where he should go to school next year. And she asked me about our wedding rings again.

They’re still tucked away in my sock drawer. I haven’t sold them or even tried.

I probably care more than I let on.

Okay, fine. I definitely care more than I let on.

It hurts to hear her say she’s in a hurry for me to sell our wedding rings just so she can have a little extra money.

It does.

After she left, I settled into the rhythm of the little-kid party.

I’d met a few of the parents before. Met a new guy who owns an old pub in town. He was very cool. Score.

I kept watching the birthday boy’s mom.

A bit of a task manager. Slightly uptight, but not in a bitchy way. Just in a I’m-ALWAYS-in-mom-mode kind of way.

I was talking to one of her good friends at a nearby table.

“That girl needs to get out more. You should get on that.”

“Me!? Why don’t you take her out?”

“That’s funny. My ex implied that very thing.”

Something about the entire day makes me think of one of my all-time favorite song lyrics from a mostly unknown band named Red Wanting Blue:

“If the future’s a destination and if our history’s a ghost

Then what happens right now is what matters the most”

I try really hard to not live in the past. But sometimes I get it wrong.

Because if we’re not living in the now, what are we living for?

Why live in two places that don’t exist—the future and the past?

I thought about eating alone that morning.

I thought about hearing that song and how it transported me to another time and place and how it made me sad.

I thought about my ex-wife encouraging me to sell our rings.

All those years. For a few pieces of silver.

She’s cute, she had said of the host mom.

Yes, she is.

And she’ll be sitting on the other side of the dinner table next Saturday.

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53 thoughts on “Something So Strong

  1. If you are not worried about the money from the rings, I would suggest…Give your ex her ring, keep yours.
    Tell her to do what she wishes with the ring.
    You can keep yours in the drawer; you will still have the piece of mind that it’s there, but not the burden to sell hers.

    Congrats! On your date next Sat…. Have fun, be yourself… Don’t forget flowers ;)

    • Matt says:

      That’s a pretty good suggestion.

      I’ll kick that one around.

      And thank you. I’m sure Saturday will be fun.

      *writes in notebook “don’t forget flowers”*

  2. completelyinthedark says:

    Here’s my philosophy re: the past, present, future conundrum. Use the past to learn how to be a better person. Enjoy the fantasy of a happy future because imagining that will fuel the fire to getting you closer to realizing it. Lastly, don’t let either of those impinge on the present. That’s where the magic lies. And have fun next weekend! :-D

    • Matt says:

      Thank you, good sir.

      And yes. I totally agree with your take on all of that. I don’t mean to dismiss all the good that can come from self-reflection and chasing a beautiful future.

      I just don’t want to get so stuck there that I’m never enjoying right now. I’m trying really hard to concentrate on right now. :)

  3. “It hurts to hear her say she’s in a hurry for me to sell our wedding rings just so she can have a little extra money.”

    Oooh yes, I can completely understand how bad that might feel… :( sorry bud.

    I liked your points about not living in places that don’t exist (i.e., the past and the future). From my perspective, this is a bizarre skill to learn, but necessary nonetheless. Such mindfulness is important and I think I’ll make that my thought of the day. [Thank you!]

    • Matt says:

      Quite alright. There is rarely healing without pain.

      And I’m not trying to whine. I’m a million times better than I was at the beginning of all of this.

      But I do try to report these experiences accurately for anyone reading who might be in a similar spot.

      I really want people (assuming there are some) to know they’re not the only ones feeling a certain way.

      Always nice to hear from you. :)

      • I did not perceive one ounce of whining :)

        I’m imagining that someone who is going through this process might not have thought about what would happen to the wedding rings because it’s likely not a first thought…other things being far more important and all that…yet, I can clearly imagine why considering such things would be useful from the emotional preparedness/resiliency perspective. It’s good to consider how those things might play out.

        I would also find it quite weird to discuss potential dates with my Ex. I do not know whether or not that could ever be comfortable for me…huh…interesting thoughts… My bet is that your reactions to everything you wrote about are quite normal (but then again, I’m not that kind of doctor LOL!).

        As always, thanks for sharing.

  4. mel says:

    YAY!!! I had a feeling that would be at the end!! Ok, I’ll temper my excitement…

    The real message caught in my heart. Completely different lives, but parallel process: focus on the here and now.

    The future is scary. Mine is terrifying me at the moment, but the present is exciting.

    The past reminds me of failures. But the present is a new opportunity.

    I needed to read this today. So, thank you again, Matt.

    • Matt says:

      Yeah. I’m no M. Night Shymamlalamamalamamlamlmamamalmalmaman.

      I’m sorry to hear you’re frightened. But I think I can understand and appreciate where you might be coming from on a couple different levels.

      Thoughts and prayers, Mel. For you and your family.

      Thank you for saying hi. :)

  5. Know what caught my eye? The word “heightened”. It is an unintentional play on “Must be this TALL”. I know you didn’t mean it, but think about it. You are learning, you are GROWING, because you are leaving yourself vulnerable to the pain. You are putting yourself out there daily here on the blog, and in the “real” world too! (Yay for the date!)

    • Matt says:

      Thank you, Maggie.

      And yes. I am. I am learning and growing.

      Writing all of this down has been amazing for getting my thoughts organized as well. It’s helped me ask the hard questions.

      A little bit taller every day. Metaphorically, of course. ;)

  6. awesome! have fun on your date!

  7. Dan_Dlion says:

    I still have my wedding rings in a drawer. Not because I cherish them still but because my ex took hers off before she asked for a divorce and then later asked for them back so she could melt them down. I still don’t know what if anything I’m going to do with them. Maybe some day I’ll let her….Or maybe I’ll just pawn them.

  8. Haha! Good job! I was expecting that ending on your post… Nice!

  9. Ley says:

    Well, congrats for asking the host out. I hope that the two of you do indeed have fun. In my past, I would rather just go out for kicks and never get serious. I didn’t want it, didn’t need it; and just really wanted to be single.

    But life is a strange thing, I started doing things that I never would have originally done. I love playing video games, but paying for a subscription to play a game was a major turn off. But I did eventually shell out some money for an online game; and while playing that game I met my now wife. I wasn’t looking and I wasn’t asking; but it was perfect when it did. Life gave me a healthy dose of compassion and understanding when I needed it most.

    • Matt says:

      Yes. It sounds like you’re saying–just live. And things will just happen.

      And I think you’re absolutely right.

      • Ley says:

        Let’s not get into the absolutes, yet. I have grown a lot with my current wife (god that sounds so wrong to me) and have learned a few things along the way.

        When it rains on your wedding day, don’t find it to be like tears of sadness, treat it as if all the angels in the heavens cried their happiness for you. But definately live. Live like you have no tomorrow, embrace it like it is the hope it is.

  10. suzjones says:

    To coin a cliche Matt “Where we are now is is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”.
    I hope you enjoy your date and you find some common ground.
    As to the rings, why don’t you just give your ex her rings and tell her to live her life. That means you can keep yours and what it means to you but it unburdens you of the attachment of keeping hers. Just my thoughts anyway.

  11. Caitlinjade says:

    Enjoy that date, live in the moment and be happy!

  12. Ah! The “punch line” (not the best word) at the end made me so happy and excited for you! … Like you always say, something good is coming. :-)

  13. Nephila says:

    “There is freedom within, there is freedom without
    Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
    There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
    But you’ll never see the end of the road
    While you’re traveling with me

    Hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over
    Hey now, hey now, when the world comes in
    They come, they come to build a wall between us
    We know they won’t win
    Now I’m towing my car, there’s a hole in the roof ”

    Songs of my childhood. Songs kill me. My daughter’s favourite CD is one that we played constantly in the car in the aftermath of the affair. It was kind of soothing and the kids sang along so we didn’t have to talk. I still like the music, but it hurts to play it now.

    About the rings- if they matter to you, keep them. If she wanted a bit more money she could have been faithful and stayed. Yep, I hate cheaters and I don’t care how they rationalise it.

    But seriously, I would be keeping them for my grandchildren and if it mattered so much to her she should have taken them when she left. Let her sweat for the money.

    Then again I hate the kind of scene you describe, going to a party or whatever as parents after its all over. I always said I’d never do that. I won’t play happy families or pretend we like each other if we are divorced. No contact would be the only way to heal and the only honest thing for our kids. But each to their own.

  14. garden2day says:

    :D That’s so good. I remember that song–takes me back…I’ll leave that out. Songs have a way of doing that. I couldn’t get out of the past until I made peace with so many memories. It was like opening boxes and pulling out things (I may have said this) that I had saved–remembering, crying, and boxing them back up. I did this for the real things and the memories in my mind, too. I still do this but not as often and it has gotten better. I had to face the memories. They can’t be buried. It’s like grief.

    I still have the rings. I remember how easy he gave his up. I thought we were still separated with the idea we had not given up on working things out. I asked to borrow his to make a photo for the book I was writing–about protecting one’s heart in the marriage sense. He carried his on his keychain because it didn’t fit–it’s where he put my heart. I thought about selling them. Lord, I could use the money, but I have a feeling one day the girls may want them and if not…they can sell them.

    I wish none of us had to face the pain. Steps..keep walking and keep writing. :)

  15. I’ll begin with your ending that you presented as an appetizer, and not a force-fed full meal. That’s just me appreciating the writing, thanks for brushing the readers mind and not just bludgeoning, nice. And about the date: cool exciting nervous, but what’ev’s, you rollin’ with it.

    The ring thing, mine is still sitting in the same place I took it off, three years gathering dust.

    The memory thing, the walls in our heads get soft from pain and time, but seems like it’s part of the process, especially if your remembering your childhood. It’s not surprising to me that your parents’ marriage and your marriage ended when you and your son were both 5.

    But that’s just my head trip, the patterns of things, life repeatedly offering the same lesson in different but familiar forms, giving us the chance to finally get it right.

    “Ground Hog Day” Bill “My Man” Murry!

  16. Vince says:

    I like the story, especially the ending.

    “I introduced myself and handed her a birthday present for her son.

    She wasn’t wearing a ring.

    I see everything.”

    It’s things like that I wonder about. I’ve been married for 18 years and during that time I didn’t notice any of those things. I never even so much as flirted or made eye contact for longer than it takes see someone’s eyes then look away. How does a guy go from that to dating again? That’s not really a question just a thought.

  17. Doing a happy dance for you!

  18. khushnumab says:

    Awwww Saturday . We already know you so well i think with this blog that i am now hoping it goes well. Either ways I know you will let us know how it went.

  19. Sandy Sue says:

    Score! (And let me just say, the writing here was perfect. The zinger ending WORKED for me).

    If your ex wants to sell the rings, and if you’re okay with it, then let her do it. This seems like digging around in the wound too much too me.

    And as for her making ANY comments about your dating life–that is not cool, cruel, even. Which makes me think it tripped a little trigger in her.

    • Matt says:

      I don’t think she was being cruel. We really have been doing quite well. But yeah. It’s not something I want to talk much about with her. :)

  20. Is it just me, or is planning to share the potential ring sale proceeds kind of a generous thing for you to do? I thought her ring was returned to you, to do with it as you wish? You are clearly a kind person, and I commend you for that. I’m not hoping to see you change your plans … I’m just curious about wedding ring etiquette.

    • Matt says:

      I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules.

      I told her I would give her half of whatever we get out of them.

      And I try to keep my word. :)

      Hi, Elizabeth. Had no idea you were reading this stuff. That’s always embarrassing! I hope you and your family are doing well, lady.

      • Hello, Matt! I’m sorry to embarrass you by lurking. Etiquette definitely is not my strong suit. But I do enjoy the blog, and I’m happy to hear that things seem to be looking up for you. And thank you. My family and I are doing well. :)

      • Matt says:

        Thank you. I’m flattered you’re reading.

        And yes. Every day gets better. And I’m extremely grateful for that fact.

        I’m so glad you’re all well. I should fire you a note soon. Appreciate you saying hi. :)

  21. Alright, Matt! Great last line to the post. Get out there, have fun, date. Importantly, have fun; it can’t be stressed enough. Live life. You deserve it.

  22. jessiesgirl says:

    I tried to sell my wedding ring a few months after I moved into my own apartment. I needed the money and I was in a much more angry place than I am now. The thing that really hurt was discovering that my ring was virtually worthless…as a whole, or scrapped and melted down for parts. My wedding ring…the symbol of the love between a husband and wife, one that my ex paid well over $2500 for in 1993…was now worth less than a few hundred dollars. They could melt the gold down, but the center stone was a half-carat marquise…the least desirable diamond cut today. An apt, though painful, metaphor for my marriage. Something beautiful, sparkling, and valuable — now out of style, worthless, and collecting dust in a drawer.

    On a brighter note, congrats on the date! Have fun and be yourself. ;-)

    • Matt says:

      Ugh.

      That is a sad story. And I know what you mean. I know what you mean, exactly.

      The entire thing feels wrong.

      Thank you. I’m sure Saturday will be fun.

  23. v0brien says:

    Their dad threw his ring in Lake Michigan and I don’t know where mine is. Alas it’s the past. BEARHUG! Have a super time on your date!

  24. Nephila says:

    I’m sorry if my comment offended you. I know we don’t see ex spouses who cheated the same way. I also don’t think you owe her the rings at all. Put it down to telling her what she wanted to hear when you said you would. Your grandchildren might want them one day.

    • Matt says:

      Hey! Sorry. I didn’t write back, did I?

      Please don’t apologize. This is a free-speech environment.

      I have a relationship with my ex-wife. She is the mother of my son. And I care about her life and want her to be happy.

      I have no idea what happened a year ago, and I never want to know.

      But I don’t have enough facts to run around telling people she cheated, nor would I want to even if it were true.

      It’s the worst thing that ever happened. So I try not to think or talk about it in those terms. It doesn’t make my life better to dwell on it.

      I’m really sorry that me not replying made you think I was offended. I was not. But I am sensitive to this particular topic and a little unsure how to talk about it here at this stage.

      Thank you for apologizing. But please don’t. I hope you’ll continue to say exactly what’s on your mind. :)

  25. parra67 says:

    Wedding rings! Where is mine? Hmmm, I’m going to call the ex and ask if he has a clue. The weirdest thing happened with our rings, I remember very clearly the ring I gave my husband on our wedding day as it was identical to my own but one day he came home and he was wearing a totally different ring (after 4 years of marriage).

    We were in the kitchen preparing dinner together when I noticed and so I asked if he’d lost his wedding ring, he said no, I asked if he’d not really liked his and bought himself a different one, he said no. At this point I cut to the chase and asked him why he was wearing a different ring to the one we got married with and he said “I’m not”. “You are” I said “that’s not the ring I gave to you on our wedding day”. “It is” he replied. “It’s not, we had matching rings and look” holding up my hand next to his “these are totally different”. “Oh” he said “It is the one we got married with I don’t know what you are talking about”.

    At that point I was gifted with the ability to see into the future, just momentarily as I envisaged a day when we couldn’t possibly still be married.

    Have a great date!!! :D

  26. parra67 says:

    Haha, I just found out myself… or rather i didn’t. I called him and asked if he knew what happened to my ring.

    When I left I was 6 months pregnant with a giant baby (arrived 2 weeks early and weighed in at a whopping 11lbs 2oz eventually.. thankfully by elective C section) and it was a hot summer (swelling) and I had a raging kidney infection which wouldn’t abate even after 3 months of antibiotics and gallons of cranberry juice (it’s a wonder my son wasn’t born red. Oh and more swelling). I was also emerging from a hugely stressful year long work project and the situation with my husband was incredibly tense all of which had also resulted in my usually happy little daughter being anything but happy.

    Sensing things were not good at home she had become the proverbial damaged grass under the feet of the fighting elephants which nobody noticed and she was crying when I tried to leave her at school, she had begun bed wetting and had even taken to sleep walking. At the time more selfish additions to my stress but eventually thankfully my wake up call. The swelling meant I’d taken to not wearing my wedding ring and even on the good days when I could have squashed my sausage fingers into it the stress and building resentment made me want to choke him on it not wear it. So (gosh I do digress) I didn’t pick it up when I left, I didn’t think about it.

    So… I rang him just out of curiosity and he told me that he has it in a drawer beside his bed and that’s where it’s always been since I left. He asked if I wanted it and I said no. Then I asked about his and he said he still wears it. Without knowing the full story of ‘us’ this is maybe really sounding odd, how we speak to but don’t see one another and he still wears his wedding ring but it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

    I asked if it was the one we got married with or the one he came home in that day and tried to convince me it was the one we got married with. He just laughed and said it was the one we got married with, so I asked “is it the one we got married with though for real?” he said “yeah” I said “what happened to the other one?” he said “there wasn’t another one he only ever had one”. Even after 14 years I felt the familiar frustration rising and bade him a good day and once again realised that leaving had been the right thing to do :D

    Can’t wait to hear about the date, I want to hear that the criteria were blown out of the water :P

  27. When your ex said “she’s cute,” the proper comeback would have been: “So are you, and you see where that got me!” :)

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