The Milestones

shawshank1

Right after your wife leaves you and you’re crying and barely able to breathe, the only thing you want to know is: When is this going to end?

I’ve never had suicidal thoughts, but when I felt that for the first time, that’s when I knew why someone would do it. To shut it off. I was a naïve optimist who had never felt pain from life. At least not the kind that rewires you.

I liked talking to people who had been through divorce and understood what I was dealing with. I was always a little bit like “Fuck you” every time they’d sit calmly on the other side of the table with a smile on their face and assure me it was going to be okay.

They were smiling because they remembered and were so relieved they no longer felt that way.

“Just give it time. Everything will work out. You’ll see.”

I wanted to punch every person who said that to me. I would scream on the inside: “You can’t know how this feels! You must not have cared as much! You must not have hurt this much!”

One time, a divorced mother told me she sometimes enjoyed when her son was with her ex-husband because she was able to do fun things that would be otherwise impossible.

On the inside, I screamed: “You’re a shitty parent then! You must not love your son as much as I love mine! I will NEVER enjoy my son not being home!”

I’ll never forget feeling that way.

The rejection fucks you good. You’re not good enough!

But then all the sudden your child is gone half the time, too, and the combination of those two radical life changes just ruins your insides.

You pray and beg for relief. You drink vodka sometimes even though you’ve always had a never-drink-alone policy. You indulge in escapism with friends and books and movies, but when you wake up in the morning, life is still real and hard.

You’re still alone.

Your heart is still broken.

Your life still feels over.

And all you want is for your friends’ predictions to come true: Everything’s going to be okay.

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

That’s the name of the blog and book written by Lisa Arends who I like and admire very much. Yesterday, she published a post called “The Shortcut for Healing After Divorce,” which I instantly clicked because I want to know the secret and tell everyone!!!

Lisa’s clever post title compelled me to read the story where she expertly told me something I’d been figuring out along the way.

There is no shortcut. There is just… the way.

Nobody wants to hear it because we all want things now, now, now. There’s no immediate gratification when your spirit is broken. The amount of love and laughter and adventure and friends and family and new life experiences it takes to recover is pretty immense.

The journey for each of us is exactly how long it’s supposed to be. I think the road is the same length for everyone, but some people are better conditioned to run to the finish a bit faster.

No tricks. No magic.

Just slow, sustainable healing as you rediscover yourself.

Andy Dufresne: Forget that… there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.

Red: What’re you talking about?

Andy Dufresne: Hope.

Signs Along the Way

You’ll see them without even looking hard.

The first one I remember is that I could go have dinner with a girl without feeling that Everything is wrong feeling I’d had for so long.

And then you notice the silence at home isn’t so loud anymore. You can be there alone and just be still. And it’s home. It’s safe. It’s okay. That’s when I knew everything would be okay.

And then you develop new routines. Make new friends. Build a new life. I can do this.

And then you can drive by places that used to make you cry, but now they don’t.

And then you can walk by the very spot where you proposed to her and surprisingly your heart keeps beating.

And then you can sit with them at school events for your child and laugh like old friends.

And then you can learn about an out-of-town trip they’re taking without that familiar panic setting in: Where are they going? Who are they going with? Oh fuck. Oh shit. I’m dying.

It’s not something you could have understood two years earlier. It’s just… okay now.

You’re not dying.

It’s like magic, but it’s not magic. You walked the path.

Everything is no longer going to be okay someday. It IS okay. Right now.

You can live with your son being with the only other person on earth who loves him like you. You love him just as much, but don’t carry guilt for enjoying life even if he can’t be there, too.

You can feel tangible joy.

You can feel brave.

Strong.

I’m not just different almost two years later.

I’m better.

I am the best version of myself I have ever been.

You crawl out of the emotional shit tunnel just like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

A huge gulp of air. Of emotional freedom.

And now anything is possible.

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14 thoughts on “The Milestones

  1. swo8 says:

    I think Matt, there will alway be a little ache in your heart, but you will learn to move on. There will be a next time and it can be so much better because you have learned so much about life.
    Leslie

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  2. 22oberon says:

    It would be an understatement to say you are able to capture the experience in words. You captured the emotion with your words also. I also have two kids that I share 50% of the time. One week on and another week off. Not easy to get swallow when you start.

    One thing I did experience during my divorce was this need to talk to people about it. I have never opened up to people outside of the relationship and there I was. It helped and i is nice to read about it also. So thank you for sharing.

    I went through this several years back but the road does not end abruptly at the end. There is so much that changes, and it can be expected since we are essentially starting over. And yes the pain is debilitating and it gets better. Not so long for me but more than anything I have ever experienced.

    Still things sometimes do not feel right but I think it is only because I am not in the same routine I was in when I was married. At the end of my Marriage we were together almost 20 years so I had worked most things out about myself in the marriage. (What we did and how we did it) Now I find myself working things out again but this time it feels within a different life structure. My life is different so how I do things is different.

    I was fortunate to fall in love again. But not entirely ready for it :) I love this woman. If I had not experience Marriage the way I did I would have asked her to marry me long ago. The difference between her and all the women I dated after divorce is enormous :) I know she is right for me.

    The journey back to making a life with somebody is bumpy. There is internal conflicts. I know I want to spend every possible moment with her but there is something there that I have not been able to put my finger on. Its like I have to restructure how I see marriage. How I see a relationship. Or maybe I already have and I am trying to make it something i want again.

    Well, Ill stop there :) I am looking forward to seeing you fall in love so i can read your experience and get some additional insight. :)

    Take care!

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    • Matt says:

      I appreciate this thoughtful comment very much. Thank you. Almost 20 years is awesome, and also a little heartbreaking that it had to end. I’m really glad to hear you’ve moved into a new chapter, though where things are starting to feel right.

      These are good stories for people to read.

      I can’t thank you enough for sharing and for your support in what was a very difficult journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. this is my #1 favorite movie of all time. :)

    I have recently found myself to be the person on the other side of the table as my old high school friend just was asked to move out by his wife…completely out of the blue. There is a sense in which I feel those pains again…but I am relieved to not be there anymore either. It was weird to say….”imagining the person you love the most being intimate with someone else will literally bring you to the brink of your sanity. But after many, many, MANY days, you will find that you are no longer dwelling on it everyday.”…and then thinking…well wha’dya know?!? that is true advice! go figure.

    well written, Matt…. as always, you talented jerk!
    :)

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    • Matt says:

      It’s many people’s favorite movie of all time! I think it might have the No. 1 spot on IMDB. Great film.

      Sooner or later, I’ll be the one consoling a friend who wants to punch me for being so steady when he really wants me to be freaking out with him.

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  4. It is really great to read that you are in such a great place.
    You have come such a long way and are an inspiration.

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    • Matt says:

      This made me smile a lot, Elizabeth. Thank you so much. I can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to NOT feel horrible.

      I’m still not even sure I’m as great as I think I feel. I might still be in that phase where it was SOOO shitty that “regular” feels like heaven.

      We’ll see. :)

      Like

  5. Phoenix says:

    This was especially needed and definitely right on time! Spot on, as usual….

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  6. zombiedrew2 says:

    Great, great post. Healing is a difficult process, and everyone does it differently. I’m glad you are finding peace.

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    • Matt says:

      Thank you very much! It’s been a ride. Well over two years. But, I’ve found my stride again, and while I know everyone experiences life differently and heals at different paces, I wanted to tell my story so that maybe some people can find a little healing and hope in it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. […] The only escape is the other side. The only way is through it. […]

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