Two Years Later

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I always thought anniversaries were a little dumb.

I don’t mean celebrating wedding anniversaries or birthdays. And I don’t mean observing holidays or commemorating events of historical significance. Those are good things. All good things have merit.

But sometimes when bad things happen, we hold onto those dates and relive those feelings we felt however many years ago.

It seems so arbitrary to me. For yesterday to be typical, and tomorrow to be uneventful, but today to be a big deal.

Is today a big deal?

I don’t think so.

But not being a big deal doesn’t prevent the events of two years ago from affecting today.

I told one person about it.

She said: “I can appreciate the general unpleasant feelings that come when you wake up on the anniversary date of something bad that has happened. It kind of hangs over your day.”

I can’t say it better than that.

A subtle pall, obscuring focus and clarity.

A splinter in your mind.

730 Days

Two years.

Twenty-four months.

A hundred and four weeks.

Exactly 730 days.

That’s how long it’s been since the most-important thing that ever happened to me happened.

I’d like to tell you being born was a big deal. But I don’t feel anything when I think about it.

And I’d really like to tell you the birth of my son was more important, and if you want to have a semantics argument, I suppose we can. That was huge.

But I’d be lying if I said April 1, 2013 wasn’t more profound. That little boy was a huge part of it.

Our life and marriage had grown tired and broken and shitty.

But it was normal, at least. Something you could really count on, like the ground being there when you take your next step. Even at our worst, we would still make dinner for one another, run errands for one another, share work stories with one another.

Even at our worst, our son still had mommy and daddy tucking him in every night, and hugging and kissing him each morning.

I don’t know why April 1 stands out.

She took her ring off the day before. That one totally knocks the wind out of you.

But on April 1, it was, just, different.

There was a suitcase and a little boy who didn’t understand what was happening. All the same things you’ve seen in the movies.

No screaming. No fighting.

Just sadness so suffocating, I don’t remember being able to speak.

That was the first time I can remember crying at the kitchen window watching them drive away.

It wasn’t the last time.

So, What Happened Next?

One of the things I like to do is tell you what happened to me because it seems like a lot of people have the same experiences.

And what that means is, if your marriage just ended or some other bad thing, and you kind of feel like you want to die, you can find out what it’s like two years later in order to have something to hold onto. A gauge. A measuring stick. Something. Anything. Because when you break on the inside, you feel so lost and out of control, you need something to hold onto. Even if it’s just one stranger’s story that might be kind of like yours.

What does it feel like two years later?

Most days, it feels just fine. I’m fine. And I don’t mean “I’m fine!” in that pretend way that people say they’re fine when they’re really miserable.

I’m okay. Really.

Two years later, I mostly feel peace when I’m alone.

I still feel sad sometimes, but it’s just as much feeling sorry for myself as it is suffering from the loss. It’s hard to tell the difference anymore.

The worst thing you still feel two years later is loneliness.

Maybe people with different circumstances feel less so. If you live near where you grew up, chances are you have institutional friends and family around. Those are very good things to have.

For a variety of reasons, including too much divorce, and some life choices I made geographically, I live far away from all of the people I used to know. Life-long friends and family. I don’t see them very often.

The only people I have locally are the friends I’ve made (and retained post-divorce) in the nine years I’ve lived here.

It’s one of the reasons writing here and connecting with so many of you has been such a valuable experience. As kind and thoughtful as many of my friends are locally, they all have lives, and no one sits around worrying about what the single 36-year-old is doing, nor should they be.

Staying connected is critical. It lifts you up and reminds you that you’re not alone. And by “not alone,” I don’t mean: Hey, look at all my online friends! I’m not alone!

I mean, you feel wretched and empty.

Lost and broken.

And one of the most important discoveries is when you find other people who know exactly what’s going on inside you. People walking the same walk. Feeling the same things.

The more connected you feel, the less isolated you are, and the faster you can start to breathe again.

You’re not alone.

Two years later, I still haven’t found a way to master all the organizational life skills my parents handled when I was young, and my wife handled the first dozen or so years of adult life.

My laundry system is suspect.

I throw away A LOT of food I buy at the grocery store because I don’t know how to shop for one and a half.

I forget little things my son needs for school on occasion—moments which serve as little reminders to my ex-wife how unreliable I can be.

I’m not the best house cleaner.

I’m not a particularly good planner.

I think I am probably my best self with a partner. But when you’re in your mid-thirties and you work full-time and you have your son half the time, meeting people is a massive challenge. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize it would be this hard.

After two years of being single, I find dating to be infinitely easier, and not particularly scary.

That’s not what I mean.

But if you want someone to be the other half of you, things get really tricky.

There are children.

There is baggage.

There is fear.

When you’re single and in your mid-thirties? It generally means you’ve been through some shit.

Said shit keeps the It’s Complicated quotient rather high right up until that moment it doesn’t anymore.

I’ll let you know whether that day ever comes.

Everything’s going to be okay now.

You say it and believe it after six months. Again, after a year. But sometimes it takes this long to feel it on the inside.

After two years, you make your own rules.

After two years, you can go an entire day not even thinking about your old life even once.

After two years, you can drive by where she works every day and rarely turn your head to look for her car.

After two years, you can stop feeling ashamed.

After two years, you can know you’re good enough.

730 days.

A hundred and four weeks.

Twenty-four months.

Two years.

The anniversary does kind of hang over your day.

But it doesn’t define your day.

It doesn’t get to decide whether you smile, or how much fun you can have, or block out the spring sunshine.

It doesn’t determine who you get to think about, or how beautiful tomorrow is going to be.

Two years later, you can’t even really remember how you felt.

Because you’re someone else now.

Someone better.

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18 thoughts on “Two Years Later

  1. Aslan says:

    Dude, i pray you’re right, and that things get better. Cuz right now is rough. Thank you for your blog, it’s a blessing.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I am.

      I don’t mean that in a cocky way. I mean it in a it’s-safe-to-feel-hope way.

      Nothing is worse than when you’re entire world crashes and burns.

      Please be patient with yourself and give yourself permission to feel today however you feel today.

      And try to have faith that tomorrow will be a little better. Every day. A little better.

      After 730, things really turn around. All my best wishes for you and everyone dealing with the hardships in your life. Thank you very much for reading and for the kind words.

      Please reach out anytime.

      Like

  2. what a post. As you know, I am on day 720 and I resonate with so much of what you are saying here. The dating part in particular. the decision to hitch my wagon to someone is so, very complicated. I don’t want to date for dating’s sake. But I know for a fact that I am infinitely better as a part of something more….I gotta get a partner, soon. I’ve got a propane tank that needs to be switched out…never done that before. I have these long light-bulb tube thingies that are burned out in my garage…never switched those out before…
    and then…
    …as a mother of a teenager daughter and an almost teenage son, I ironically clam up inside at the thought of my second husband having a teenager. A cute kiddo? that’s cake! I love kids! They love me! but a teenager?…gulp! coupled with the particulars of my job? …oy? It got so complicated.

    Happy Anniversary, Matt.
    XO

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m not going to change how I’m doing things in an effort to expedite finding “the one,” so to speak. Color me old-fashioned, but I still like when it “just happens.”

      I still refuse online dating, and I’m not prepared to start going out any more than I already do.

      But in terms of my own realization that I’m at my best when there’s someone else? I think these past two years have proven that out.

      What ails me is that missing piece. Good things are coming.

      Like

  3. Early in my divorce someone who had been there told me it would take roughly 2 years to reach a state of “normal” again. It was a pretty accurate prediction.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I was told that very thing. And I totally agree.

      Always getting incrementally better, but there’s something to be said for letting a full two years go by.

      Like

  4. jgroeber says:

    I remember still being surprised by how sad I was a year and a half after my dad passed, and this older woman I really respected said that mourning generally takes two years. Which seemed like such a cliche, pat answer for someone so wise. But something about two years- it’s a benchmark. And I find I sort of agree.
    You’ve created a powerful thing here in those two years. And it sounds like you’ve moved emotional mountains one pebble at a time. Truly amazing things, both. When your son understands the effort in all this, I bet he’ll be so proud. Congratulations, you.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      My father-in-law passed unexpectedly in the fall of 2011.

      That trauma, combined with my inability to be there for her in the way she needed while wondering every day whether today was the day she was finally going to leave, is what doomed my relationship.

      18 months of that. Then two years of this. It’s been a ride.

      Thank you for your kindness and support.

      Like

  5. Been through this twice. First time…hard, but not so hard, second time, well….it was 10 years ago so I am a better person now. It does get better. Really.

    Like

  6. erika says:

    I don’t think I have to tell you how much I can relate to every word of this, but I wanted to anyway.

    The second year has been monumental – in all aspects.

    Yay us.

    xoxo

    Like

  7. completelyinthedark says:

    Way to go, man. This May will be 6 years since breakup with ex. It was the right thing. Hurt like hell, but … still here. ;-) MM

    Like

    • Matt says:

      No. You just have it.

      And rightly so.

      Because there is so much good to experience. And it’s out there winding its way toward you.

      Maybe next month. Or next week. Or tomorrow. Or five minutes from now.

      Good things are coming.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. nights7 says:

    Here’s to two years, to being fine…real fine not fake fine. Cheers. (Pretend I’m raising a craft beer to you…a Michigan one because they’re the best.)

    Like

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