Hope Changes Everything

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In the aftermath of my wife leaving, sometimes I would sob like a small child.

I spent so many years not crying that I didn’t know I still could—not like that.

For reasons I still haven’t figured out, the trauma (Am I allowed to use that word—trauma?) of divorce rewired me emotionally and I became hyper-sensitive to emotional triggers.

Saying goodbye to my son was, by far, the biggest trigger.

I only see him 50-percent of the time now, my little six-year-old. I cried in front of his day care provider twice during those first couple weeks. I’d even get teary if some poignant father-son thing was happening on TV.

It was pathetic. But it was also real.

We lose things.

Loved ones.

Marriages.

Jobs.

And no one ever handed out the How to Deal with Major Life Trauma manual.

Near as I can tell, everyone just has to take it on the chin. Feel the shock and horribleness. Then make a comeback as a wiser, stronger person.

Throughout the healing process, one tool remains useful no matter which stage you’re in: Hope.

About a Girl

My friend’s divorce was finalized exactly one week before mine last summer.

His story is very similar to mine except he’s an infinitely better human being than me.

At the risk of sounding like I’m celebrating his divorce, it’s hard to put into words how helpful—emotionally and logistically—it is to have him going through the same healing process at the same time.

You swap stories about what went wrong in your relationships.

About healing.

About the ups and downs of dating after divorce.

There’s someone to play golf with. To have drinks with. To go out with in the absence of your partner.

He’s been an enormous blessing.

We’ve been walking this walk together, and I’ve had a front-row seat to his healing process, as he has mine.

He’s had an active dating life, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of his confidants. I hear all the stories. The good and the bad.

Like every person in human history, all those stories have (in varying degrees) unfortunate endings, right up until they don’t anymore.

Every couple that doesn’t marry or end up together forever ultimately has a sad story to tell.

I tried online dating just a couple months after my wife moved out because it was the only way I knew how to mitigate loneliness and balance what I perceived as unfairness that she seemed so happy while I felt so miserable.

It was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.

Even if online dating was a good idea (it’s not), I was this totally broken, imbalanced, barely sane freakazoid trying to convince women looking for a future husband that I was somehow a good choice to go out with.

It seems so much crazier now.

I was a total mess.

But today?

I’m not a total mess.

I have all kinds of problems. Plenty of life obstacles and self-esteem issues to work through. But I also know that I represent a pretty solid choice for anyone interested in a single 35-year-old with a child. And sooner or later, someone will make that choice.

The best part?

I don’t feel panicky about when that might happen. I’m comfortable in my own skin again. I’ve spent plenty of time alone these past 16 months. And you know what? There are worse things.

The day I realized that I was finally okay alone is the day I realized I might be ready to let someone in again.

Which is a big deal. Because a year ago, I was questioning whether that could ever happen again.

And under the right circumstances, I think maybe it can.

Hope.

I love the word “hope.” Always have. But I love it even more now, because when you feel totally broken, the only real reason to keep waking up every day is because you feel hopeful that things will get better. And of course, they will.

A couple weeks ago, my friend—the one going through the same process I am—had three dates in one week.

He told me about all three on our way to a recent concert. (Lord Huron, suckas. You better get on that.)

One was a total non-fit.

Another had a health condition that was a huge obstacle.

The third seemed… perfect. And still does.

Her name: Hope.

3,000 Miles Away

My son is vacationing with my ex-wife and her family on the East Coast this coming week.

I had to say goodbye to him this morning for what will be the longest time we have ever been, and hopefully ever will be, apart.

Early next week, I fly to Reno/Lake Tahoe for a work trip.

Logically, it doesn’t make sense that the geographic distance between my son and I over the coming 10 days should bear any relevance whatsoever.

But it does.

I’m somehow acutely aware of how far apart we’ll be. I didn’t have an easy time saying bye to him this morning.

But.

I didn’t break either. Not like I would have a year ago.

Tears welled. But none fell.

And I think that means I’m healing.

That everything’s going to be okay.

That I’m learning to accept that things are as they are.

As I was driving to work this morning, I passed a little church. One of those places that likes to put inspirational messages on their roadside sign.

This morning it read: “Hope changes everything.”

I thought about my friend. I’m really rooting for him. Hope.

I thought about how much differently I feel 16 months later. Hope.

And I smiled.

Hope changes everything.

Yes.

Yes it does.

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47 thoughts on “Hope Changes Everything

  1. panikikubik says:

    Beautiful Matt.
    And I’m so happy for you. What a grrat feeling it must be to slowly feel the options of falling in love again. Congratulations for comming this far.
    love /Lotta

    • Matt says:

      Thank you very much.

      I think, practically speaking, I’m a pretty long way from that happening. But to feel the internal stability necessary to feel content alone again has proven to be a huge step forward.

      I appreciate the kind note. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

      • panikikubik says:

        Thank you. You too.

        I’m struggling to forgive myself for messing up my last relationship. But I cam see that even if I still think it was the right person who I met- I still think so- BUT I was still a mess after the relationship before him. I wanted so badly and tried so madly to be ready, but I had no chance against time.
        Maybe we’ll meet sgain and he forgives me or not. I need to reach that point you’re talking about. To feel comfortable in my own company alone
        Thank you for your kind words.

  2. love this. Good to see you in a good space.

  3. completelyinthedark says:

    Man I really needed to read this NOW. I’m LOSING hope. Possible new jobs aren’t panning out, and a house sale my brother and I NEED to make (we’re both financially struggling) doesn’t seem it will happen. I’m two months behind in mortgage and bills, and it’s really hard to believe things will get better. Then, last Friday, an unexpected hour-long convo with the ex gf that left me hopeful there could be a reconciliation. I texted her some info she wanted, then followed up with an email … no response. So, HOPE GONE AGAIN.

    I realize this is just NOW but this now has gone on for a long, long time. It’s hard to visualize a better place with good people and financial stability.

    So, thanks Matt. It’s good to remember that “Hope changes everything.”

    • Matt says:

      I’m sorry to hear (read) there’s so much shit going on, sir.

      I know what the pile-up feels like. Where it’s not just one shitty thing, but two or three or four.

      I wish I knew what to say.

      I’m not going to suggest your problems are not big and real and scary as if I understand all that you’re dealing with.

      I just know that I, personally, don’t believe in unsolvable problems.

      Usually, I’m just unwilling to make the difficult sacrifices necessary to overcome what I’m sometimes facing.

      Big problems call for big solutions. Scary ones. I have a few of those I’m dealing with. It’s just not my soul bleeding out anymore. And that’s a pretty good start.

      Now, I’m trying to tackle the other stuff.

      We’ll see how I do.

      I hope you get this stuff knocked out, man. Stress and anxiety is no good.

  4. Janelle says:

    Great post, Matt. Reno/Tahoe is my neck of the geographical woods, and my son’s GF is in a similar field (marketing) and attending an event in that area. I’ll tell her to keep an eye out and get an autograph for me. :)

  5. nights7 says:

    Having a divorce buddy (as I call it) is very helpful. I have a friend who went through a divorce a year or so before I did (his name is Matt too coincidentally). It’s helpful to have someone to call who knows exactly how much it sucks & can reassure you you’ll get through it & things get better.

    That not-such-a-mess-anymore feeling is a pretty good one isn’t it?

  6. mjmsprt40 says:

    Matt, I’m glad to see you write this. I was really thinking you were going to continue to beat yourself up, and– let me tell you, that just won’t do. This post is one of the first “positives” I’ve seen in a while. Maybe healing is happening now.

    • Matt says:

      I certainly hope so. Things are feeling much better. There have been ups and downs, and maybe another down is coming.

      But the ups feel real and sustainable.

      I’ll take it.

  7. lrconsiderer says:

    This is awesome. I decided once, a long time ago, that if I could change one thing about the world, it would be to give everybody hope.

    Sounds like you’re working through some really tough things. I’m glad you have a good friend in there with you.

  8. My mantra for the last year and a half has been “Faith, the size of a mustard seed.” My hope is faith, faith that the bad times are just as temporary as the good. We take for granted the good and really drag around the bad so long that it taints the neutral, which in my opinion is good! My divorce finalized in April. Tomorrow I move out of my aunt and uncle’s home, which is a painful 2.5 hours away from them, to a little 1 bedroom apartment 5 minutes away from where they live. I feel like a kid at Christmas time! I will still be challenged for a while financially, but I do see a glimmer of light and have faith it will all work out to my favor. Thank you for sharing your progress Matt. There have been many days where I have read your posts and thought, if he can get through this day so can I. I happy to say I can share your feeling of being ok. :D

    • Matt says:

      Thank you very much for sharing that. It means a lot to me that you feel like things I’ve written here have helped you get through a tough moment.

      Please just keep healing.

      A little more today.

      And a little more tomorrow.

      • Every baby step counts! I am loads better than I was last year and the year before that when everything fell apart. It’s good know know you are healing too.

  9. suzjones says:

    I would say that the sign on the church is a message for your friend – and a message for you. Right up there with hope is love and faith. Faith in yourself and your ability to love again and hope that all will be as it should. Hugs to you.

  10. Michelle says:

    If you don’t mind I am going to use some of you post for material in mine tomorrow of course giving you total credit.

  11. aniceguy012 says:

    This is an awesome post! Keep at it! You are right about the loneliness part. I’ve been reading a book called “boundaries in dating” basically says that one when you are happy with yourself you can be happy with someone else. That a relationship is not were we are going to get the cure for out loneliness, we need to deal with that first. How? Well through our friends and support groups like church, etc

    • Matt says:

      I think that’s exactly right.

      I tried to force the issue early and felt more alone than ever.

      Then I hunkered down for a while and tried to sort things out on the inside. And while I was alone a lot, I felt infinitely less lonely than I had before.

      That sounds like a pretty good book, sir. Appreciate you reading and commenting.

  12. jadedwildcat says:

    It’s always nice to read these posts where things appear to be looking up. I’m so glad for you <3
    You give others like me 'hope' that someday everything will be alright again…
    My main issue, now that I've taken yet another huge one to the chin, is the idea of trust…
    Finding someone interested in me doesn't seem to be a problem but… how to believe in him again, let him in again… I just don't know if that will ever change now that I've been devastated one too many times.

    • Matt says:

      I think I can understand and appreciate that.

      Not the part where I have unlimited people interested in me. That’s a problem totally unique to you, Jade. But I can appreciate how useless that is if you’re too gunshy to let anyone in.

      I think we’ve actually chatted about this before: We have two choices. Close up forever and “protect” ourselves.

      Or let people in, and live.

      I hope you’ll choose to live, miss. Whenever you’re ready.

      The only choice is to keep trying. All in your own time.

  13. Vince says:

    Next month my stbx is talking the kids south for a ten day vacation. I’ve never been away from my kids for ten days. When she emailed me about it my heart sunk. I felt sad at the thought but there’s nothing I can do. That vacation is the same on we started planning with her family over the winter, strange that she and the kids are still going but I’m not. She will be there with her family. Her parents, brothers and sisters with their husbands and all those people I vacationed with before. I feel it’s unfair but who said life is fair? It is what it is.

    Concerning that hope thing. During the last few months before she moved out and I felt like there was still a chance I had so much hope. Damn hope. In the end it was for nothing because it still ended and I came to resent hope. But I get it because I still hope. I don’t hope for my marriage to be saved but I hope for a happy future for all of us, even her.

    • Matt says:

      Ugh.

      I know EXACTLY the feeling you’re talking about, Vince. It took me well over a year to get better about all resentment about losing an entire family (in-laws and their extended family) that I’d become close to over the past 13 or so years.

      It’s a challenge.

      I’ll never pretend to know how you feel or what you’ll feel.

      But I have to believe I’m pretty typical. And I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you how much easier it is in month 16 than it was during the early days of separation.

      If nothing else, please just be hopeful about that.

      The pain and ugliness and sadness really does dissipate. Just a little bit more every day.

      People take for granted the ability to just… be. Just with themselves in a quiet place. It’s a luxury you don’t know you have until you can’t stand it.

      It’s like a cold glass of water after walking through the desert once you get that skill back again.

      In time, sir.

  14. Reblogged this on Don't Forget the Eyeliner and commented:
    Matt, you are healing in so many ways. I’m proud to be able to read your blog, and share in your growth. I can relate to this so much I have tears in my eyes knowing how close that growing pain is. But when there is nothing else and its just you all you have is “HOPE”. Thank God for “HOPE” JN

    • Matt says:

      Thank God for hope, indeed.

      There are many days when that was the only thing I had going.

      Hope that it would get just a little less shitty.

      And of course, it did.

      Maybe next, some really good things will happen.

      I’ll stay hopeful, just in case.

  15. Dawn says:

    Hope is good…and Faith.
    Everything is going to be ok…maybe even better.
    That’s what keeps me going.

  16. Love this one Matt. Hope is a great place to start. My wife-in-law (biological mother of my two sons and ex-wife of their father) and I started with hope 35 years ago. We hoped we could find a way to get along, we hoped we could figure out how to co-parent and do the right thing for the boys, we hoped we could sort out the vast chasm between us and our styles. Then I married her ex. We struggled for a couple of years. Then she got sick. Then I ended up with one of the boys full time. Then I divorced their father and ended up with one of the boys full time still.

    We sorted it out. We are great friends, great co-parents, great co-grandparents. Their father has been gone a very long time. But we have love.

    Matt, I tell you all this because eventually hope, love, empathy and doing what is best for your son will win. You and the ex will sort it out.

    • Matt says:

      That’s some story. You really have seen (and done) a lot of things. Kind of amazing.

      I really appreciate you sharing those stories and life experiences with me (and others.) Thank you.

  17. Great post. I am happy to hear that you have come so far.

  18. mollytopia says:

    I love this and I’m so happy for you and your friend. Your son is a lucky boy, and your future wife is, too. Looking forward to reading that post one day : )

    • Matt says:

      I don’t know whether marriage will be in the cards for me again, but I try to not think about it in those terms. Regardless, I do have a lot of hope that the future can be something to look forward to rather than dread. And that makes all the difference in the world.

      Thank you for saying hi.

  19. jgroeber says:

    I loved this one. It had a grin slowly rising over the horizon of my chin. Hope. Just like that. It’s never perfect or fully baked, but hope is possibility, and anything is possible. Wishing you good things (and a speedy and safe vacation for your little guy.)

    • Matt says:

      Thank you very much. A speedy and safe vacation, indeed.

      If I think too much about him playing in the Atlantic without me keeping an eye on him, I get a little panicky. So I just mumble prayers and happy thoughts and try to focus on all of the wonderful memories he’s making.

      As always, I appreciate you taking a moment to read and leave this note. :)

  20. Dawn says:

    You are so going to make someone a great partner. Someday, when you least expect it. You get all this stuff, and you’re willing to share it. There’s someone out there that’s perfect for you.

  21. Joanne says:

    I am sending a wish out into the atmosphere for you that Hope has a
    single sister named Faith.

  22. We await more of your journey and it’s just beginning. ‘They’ say that a break up is almost the equivalent to a death, and can take a couple of years to become fully functioning again and I would hate to add a child to the mix with the separation there. But once you have sorted your head out (which you sound pretty much sorted) you will see so many more possibilities. Good Luck. Peace and Ommmm from the Temple.

  23. Darice Rene says:

    Divorce is never ideal especially when there are kids involved. Seven years later and I’m still learning how to cope with the fact that something I poured so much into broke – and I’m in a new marriage. You are so right about hope. It carries you through tough days and delivers you to the other side of difficulty. I’m glad you have it.

  24. anitvan says:

    Yes, you are allowed to refer to what you went through as trauma. Big, shitty trauma. So glad to hear that you are taking the time and space that you need to heal. Keep hoping my friend :)

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