The world ended 616 days ago when my wife moved out and my little son became someone I only got to see half the time.
He was 4. The same age I was when my mom left my dad.
That was one year, eight months, and six days ago.
Today isn’t any sort of anniversary. And I’m only thinking about it because I had a perfectly pleasant and seemingly “normal” email exchange about a couple things with my son’s mom.
We were married nine years. It mattered. And it’s sad that we’re not married anymore on a handful of levels.
The most-shocking thing about getting divorced was feeling how hard it was even though I’d already experienced divorce as a child. Your entire life you hear about couples getting divorced, but it never really seems like that big of a deal from the outside looking in.
In the case of a death, we rush to everyone’s side. We send sympathy cards and flowers and make lasagnas. But when people get divorced, we just shrug and think: Gee. That sucks.
But then you get divorced.
And you can’t even breathe.
Maybe it’s because you were so accustomed to the rhythm of life. You get up, kiss your wife and son, go to work, come home, have dinner together, do this or that and go to sleep and do it again the next day.
Routine feels safe.
And then it stops suddenly and you freak out because everything’s different now and change scares us.
And maybe it’s because an actual piece of your soul was intertwined with someone else’s soul. And divorce doesn’t surgically separate that. It just rips the shit out of it and leaves it bleeding.
You gasp for breath. Frantically try to take your mind off it with TV or books or parties or friends or drinks or family or work, but everything you do and experience reminds you of your now-failed marriage.
Your now-failed life.
It reminds you of broken homes and broken dreams and broken hearts.
It reminds you that you had ONE job that really mattered.
And you didn’t get it done.
And you cry.
And then you’re someone else. You’re not who you were. You look in the mirror and think: Who the hell are you?
Someone unfamiliar. Someone strange and broken.
The Time Machine
Life doesn’t have a fast-forward button to get through the hard times. We just have to gut it out.
And it’s excruciatingly slow when everything feels poisoned and broken and wrong.
But life does have a funny way of making it seem—in hindsight—as if time flew by. Maybe it’s our mind’s way of healing.
But here we are. One year, eight months, and six days later.
What have I learned? Am I healed? What can I do to make sure I never feel that way again?
I’ve learned that divorce is worse than I thought. The emotional fallout is unlike anything I could have ever imagined. And losing so much time with your child? Life is too short and too precious to lose what little time we have with our children.
But this is what happens when two people can’t muster up the fortitude and courage necessary to love even when it’s hard. It’s a tall order. It can feel impossible. But if we’ll step in front of a truck or bullet to save our child from harm, it seems particularly foolish and selfish to suggest we can’t also be courageous enough to choose to love someone we already promised to love and cherish forever. Because that’s what is best for our children.
And certainly not in ALL cases, but in most, I believe it’s what is best for us.
There are no perfect partners out there. There are no magic people with whom we will never fight or disagree. With whom we will always want to lustily ravage in the throes of passion.
The Other Side of Divorce
Am I healed?
Damn close. It’s still a tricky thing. A little sensitive. Particularly as it pertains to my son who I cherish above all things. I don’t like not seeing him half the time. I don’t like that I can’t do anything for him when he’s not with me. I don’t like that there will likely be another father figure in his life one day and that if that man is not a particularly good person down deep where it counts, I can’t be sure how that will rub off on my son.
But the most underrated, non-discussed aspect of divorce, from my perspective, is the ebb and flow and logistics of life.
I was born in 1979.
I was raised by parents until I was 18.
I went to college and lived with my best friend for four years.
I started dating my ex-wife, and even when I lived alone, she was always around to help me.
We were married nine years.
Here’s a big spoonful of shit, Matt. Eat it. You may not like it. But you better figure out how to deal anyway.
All the sudden, all the little things that need done when you own a house and care for a school-aged child come into play and blindside a guy that relied so heavily on a mom and a wife for the first thirty-whatever years of life. Wow. They did a lot. And with infinitely more efficiency than me.
It’s big and scary and some people totally shut down and can’t handle it. That was me for a stretch.
It all still scares me a little. But nothing like before. Because when you do something 616 days in a row, you realize that you can do it for 616 more.
I have fallen short in several areas, several times. I’m still figuring things out. But I’m getting there.
How Can I Stop This From Happening Again?
Because it’s really scary to break on the inside and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I don’t know. Nothing?
Do a better job at marriage if I’m ever someone’s partner again?
That’s the rub. Marriage and divorce are big and scary propositions. Ones we don’t see coming when we’re young and in love and feeling invincible.
There’s no insurance against heartache.
Someone can always leave you.
People will always die.
Humans will always be human.
I always say I don’t know much. Still true. I just know the few things I know based on my own experiences. Those are the only things I can really be sure about. And they only really apply to me, and anyone who happens to be like me.
And here’s what I know: Divorce is hard. Excruciating. But you just keep breathing. And after hundreds of days, it doesn’t feel so hard anymore.
I know that I kind of wanted to die because I didn’t want to feel so bad.
And 616 days later, I don’t want to die anymore.
I know that I didn’t know how I was going to get through life alone, raising a young son when I can’t even take care of myself.
And 616 days later, I can take care of myself. And I’ve never felt more pride in anything than I do in that little boy.
I know that I was broken, gasping for air and searching for purpose. I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m scared.
And 616 days later, I feel whole, I can breathe and I am thrilled to be raising my son with his mom while continuing to push my own limits at home and in my career, building a new life, creating more purpose.
I still don’t know what’s going to happen.
But with 616 days in the books? I know I can handle it.
And I’m pretty sure tomorrow is going to be better than today.