Maybe If We Don’t, We Die

(Image by Fraida Gutovich.)

(Image by Fraida Gutovich.)

When your marriage fails and you’re in your thirties and you have a child, you freak out.

First, your wife just moved out and now everything you ever thought was true about your life isn’t.

Second, you freak about your child because now half the time he’s not going to be home and there’s nothing you can do to protect him except hope and pray, and your faith just took a hit because I feel like I’m dying.

You worry about your social life because all your friends are “couples” friends.

You worry about finances.

You worry about what your family and friends think of you.

She’s gone.

My little boy’s gone.

Now what?

You’re too busy freaking out to be lonely, but you’re lonely.

I don’t think it’s possible to spend a dozen years with someone, have them leave one day, and not feel totally alone afterward.

The kid’s bed is empty. Toys aren’t being played with. It’s eerie quiet. So quiet that it’s loud. So loud.

I’d been alive 34 years and it was the first time I had ever lived completely on my own, save for my last year of college when I was constantly surrounded by friends and seriously dating the girl who’d just said goodbye.

Everything was different now.

At first, the loneliness was psychological.

My friends included me in things all the time and people were reaching out so often that I didn’t find myself alone often. When my son was home, it was all about him. When he wasn’t, it was all about me.

I stayed busy because time goes faster that way, and I stayed connected because I was so desperate for it.

But it was unsustainable. And as I began to change on the inside, I moved less. And less. And less.

It was time to learn how to be still.

It was time to learn how to be okay alone.

But Maybe We Never Are

PsyBlog called it a “social epidemic that’s worse for our health than obesity, smoking or alcoholism.”

Loneliness. Social isolation. Based on research conducted over 34 years, researchers discovered that loneliness and isolation have a similar negative effect on health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, or becoming an alcoholic.

We are wired to connect.

Chemically designed to thrive together, not apart.

But in the context of dating, it’s so much scarier now, right?

When you’re divorced with children and the rules of the game are so much different than they were back in high school or college?

It’s so hard for single parents to align schedules. Children must come first.

It’s so hard to meet people because we’re no longer involuntarily thrust into situations where “people like us” are, the way we were during our school years.

Now, we have to choose it.

Our work environments. Clubs. Groups. Hobbies. Volunteer organizations. Various social pursuits.

And it’s hard. Because it takes bravery and energy, something that’s now in shorter supply.

We have work, chores, children and other life responsibilities. I sometimes forget that I’m going to die someday, and that every day I didn’t choose adventure, or to live passionately, was a missed opportunity.

It’s hard to get divorced. Especially if you didn’t want to.

And it changes you on the inside. Rewires you into a different version of yourself. And now you don’t know if you can ever be married again. Don’t know if you can ever trust again. Don’t know if you can ever love again.

Everything’s so different now.

You tell yourself and everybody else that you’re okay alone. And maybe you are, especially if you’re staying connected to friends and family.

But there are still a lot of hours of life to fill.

Mornings and nights and weekends and holidays. Sometimes we want to walk the walk alone because we don’t need anyone! and I can do this by myself!

I’m like my six-year-old now, wanting to prove to myself and everyone else that I’m okay. That I don’t need more.

But once the bleeding stops. And the wounds turn to scars. And the pain turns to memories where you can’t recreate that feeling anymore (and that’s okay!), we have choices to make.

I don’t think we were meant to walk this world alone.

I don’t think it gets better than when we share time and space with people who matter.

And maybe if we want this life to be something more, we need to be open to trying again.

To walking.

Then running.

Then leaping.

Then flying.

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5 thoughts on “Maybe If We Don’t, We Die

  1. lovetotrav says:

    I have been where you are. Exactly where you are. You will get there… from walking to flying because it is clear that you want to. Take care and all the best, Cheryl (now part of a very happy blended family)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you for the nice note, Cheryl.

      This was intended to be more philosophical than emotional. I don’t “crave” companionship, per se, like I did in the aftermath of the divorce, but I think psychologically it’s probably a good idea for people to consider whether what’s best for us might be being open to things that make us uncomfortable based on our recent life history.

      Hard to say. I ask a lot of questions and rarely have any answers. :)

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

      Like

  2. completelyinthedark says:

    Here’s a fantastic TED talk about loneliness and emotional hygiene. I wish EVERY AMERICAN could watch it:

    cheers, Mike

    Like

  3. Even though solitude has its merits, I agree we are social animals and we all need to connect. However, there are many types of connections and we can exist without that ‘soul-mate’ connection. There are many ways we can learn to fly.

    Like

  4. There’s a lot of good stuff here, Matt. Makes me wonder…..
    It’s pretty early in The Bible where God says, “it is not good for man to be alone.” I think A LOT of divorced people are so afraid of being alone, they make some pretty terrible decisions to avoid it. What if we have to figure out how to be ok alone…..so that we can be ok again in another potential relationship? at this point in our journeys, I’m basically bankin’ on it.

    Like

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