The Art of Getting to Tomorrow When Everything’s Wrong

(Image/iStock)

It was exactly like those initial weeks after divorce.

I couldn’t describe what was wrong. None of my feelings made sense to me. Intellectually, I thought my body was overreacting. But our insides—all the invisible stuff that makes us, us—have a funny way of not always doing what our brains think they should.

I was robbed on a work trip to Las Vegas. They took my phone, the cash I had on me, and my shoes. I learned after visiting my bank once I got back home that they had cleaned out my checking account through a series of ATM withdraws and Venmo transfers.

I can’t prove that I was drugged. But given that one minute I was with friends listening to a cheesy Vegas cover band before leaving to use the restroom—and the very next thing I remember is waking up five hours Iater in a hotel stairwell several miles away, and apparently providing strangers with the private banking information and phone passcodes they needed to clean me out financially—I’m continuing to operate under that theory.

At the end of the day, some dickbags took my phone, wallet/money, and a pair of shoes.

People have been killed for less.

From a certain perspective, you could say I’m lucky to be alive, and that I’m fortunate to have ended up at my hotel, even if it was in a dingy metal and concrete emergency stairwell.

So why do I feel this thing I don’t have a name for?

On the surface, it’s a ridiculous comparison, right?

Divorce is hugely disruptive. Your person leaves you. Your entire life changes overnight, forever.

This was NOT that.

So why? Why is it feeling the same?

Divorce was my first encounter with inner brokenness. Things were dark and heavy and ugly and painful and scary and broken, and there was nowhere to run.

That was its defining characteristic. That you took it with you everywhere, no matter what. It greeted you in the morning. It sat on your chest as you tried to fall back asleep in the middle of the night. It sat next to you while you were driving around. It poked you and asked you to pay attention to it while you were trying to watch movies or sports. It inserted itself in your conversations with friends and family while you were just trying to have a good time like you always had.

It built and built and built until the only thing left to do was cry like a child.

And you kept waiting for it to go away, but every time you looked in the mirror, you could still see it hiding behind the dead eyes of the stranger in your reflection.

I don’t know what to call this feeling or how to categorize it.

So, I’ve always just called it being “broken.” I was once a certain way. Something that felt normal and right. And then suddenly I was something else. I was a different way, and everything about it sucked more than the old way that I’d gotten used to for 34 years.

Finding my way back from that is one of the most significant things I’ve ever done. It’s perhaps my greatest personal achievement, because I didn’t know the human body could do that, and I didn’t know whether there was any coming back from it.

But You Do Come Back

And it’s happening again.

This robbery thing broke me again for a few days. It happened last Friday. Yesterday was the first day I felt like myself again. It was the first day I was brave enough to have calls with coaching clients.

I was shaken—not just by the incident—but by the idea that I was once again feeling things in the invisible places with no means of fixing it, and nowhere to run away from it.

Feeling 80-percent regular yesterday felt like winning the lottery.

I still have no money, no mobile banking ability, and no driver’s license. But at least I get to be me again.

I’m so grateful it only took a week.

How to Recover from Divorce and Other Trauma in 3 Steps

I’d written it before, and I recognized this was an opportunity for me to try to practice things I’d preached.

When everything is very bad, we’re simply trying to survive. To return to a sense of normalcy.

I reminded myself there was no Skip or Fast-Forward button to push. That the only way anywhere sustainable is the long way.

I remembered that I only had one job. Just one.

Breathe.

My only job was to breathe. Just one more breath. Once I’d completed that task, my only mission was to do that again.

One more breath.

When you breath enough times today, tomorrow always comes.

And after enough tomorrows come, you find yourself further down the trail—finally a safe distance from the shitty, life-wrecking thing you were trying to escape.

Or maybe more accurately, you carried the shitty, life-wrecking thing with you as you continued down the trail, but you finally made peace with the idea of setting it down and moving forward without it.

I don’t pretend to know.

I just think there’s something important about breathing when it’s difficult to do anything else.

To recover from bad things, the three steps are:

  1. Breathe.
  2. Love yourself.
  3. Repeat.

I repeated it like a mantra six and a half years ago when I didn’t know whether I’d wake up the next day, or whether I even wanted to if there was no hope of that feeling going away.

Just breathe. Everything’s going to be okay.

It never happened as fast as I wanted it to. There are no hacks. No cheat codes. No magical workarounds.

There’s just the long way through. Never easy, but always simple.

Breathe. Just one more time.

I’ve breathed millions of times in my life with zero awareness that I was doing so.

So if I do it on purpose? If I try hard? I’m confident I can always take one more.

And after breathing enough times, you get to be you again. You get to wake up tomorrow where the best thing that ever happens to you might happen.

Tomorrow is a gift waiting to be opened.

When you’re ready.

Breathe.

You will be.

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14 thoughts on “The Art of Getting to Tomorrow When Everything’s Wrong

  1. Louie says:

    Matt.. I’m shocked to hear of the Las Vegas incident. I hope you’re not physically injured. I know how the feeling of “what the f%@k” takes pole position now. Please know you are cared about and prayed for by us. Anne sends her best. Please let me know next time you decide to go to Las Vegas… I have “goons” there. What becomes relevant to the theme of your post is the love yourself and breathe part. Vitally important. Being aware of your value helps you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. I work out quite a bit and many of the young men at our gym are at the post divorce getting fit part. Many are broken beyond words. Some come to me for advice. Most want to get their families back. All I can tell them is ” Be strong and live” . Bless you Matt…please be safe

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Thank you, Louie. I really am much, much better now. Very close to normal. I was not physically harmed aside from whatever I might have ingested.

      I’m going to hang out with my son this weekend and do fun things, and I have every confidence next week is going to be infinitely better than last.

      Really appreciate the note and kind thoughts.

      Like

  2. Stacey Pardoe Shannon says:

    That thing you haven’t been able to put a name to? It’s your loss of innocence. A very bad thing happened to a very good person. When that happens it pulls the rug out from under everything we thought we knew about how the world should work. You may not be ok right now, but you will be. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. KB says:

    Dude: You are lucky they didn’t just shoot you in the head and walk away. Next time you travel….plan better. (I never carry a wallet when I go out) As for being broken, you can only let yourself stay in that place for so long and then you have to escape or you won’t survive. Just remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Life lessons can be expensive.

    Like

  4. I think what both (the end of your marriage/being assaulted by strangers) have in common is betrayal, loss of trust/innocence. You find out that the world ain’t what you thought it was.

    I’m sorry you’re finding all this so disconcerting. It’s certainly understandable.

    Keep breathing, my friend. Better times are ahead.

    Like

  5. Elle says:

    Glad you’re pursuing their comeuppance. If you can help get a few bad guys off the street it can keep a lot of other people safe. Maybe they can even have the chance to rethink their life choices? …it’s awesome when the prison system helps to rehab lives.
    Doesn’t always happen, but that sort of thing is happening more and more.
    Cheers to a happy and safe weekend!

    Like

  6. ouidanielle says:

    The word we use in the counseling profession is traumatized. I’m so sorry this happened to you, and horrified. Thieves are becoming more diabolical.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. DrK says:

    I echo the other therapist and feel you’re describing trauma. You weren’t expecting this very bad thing to happen to you, and now maybe feel like you have to be hyper-alert to make sure you’re not in that vulnerable place again. Breathing is great, yes. But also try to refrain from blaming yourself. You did nothing wrong here. Yes, you shoulda, woulda, coulda, etc. but you did not ask to be violated and taken advantage of. You were not ‘asking for it’ by doing anything. I know people, especially those with ADHD, tend to blame themselves for every misstep that happens, but please know you did nothing wrong. Someone hurt you, and that’s 100% their fault. Lots of love and support from all the way over here in Wisconsin ❤️ Also, i learned something amazing at the ADHD conference last week that i think will apply to you… when i get a moment, I’ll email you the concept.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Yam says:

    I’m sorry life has been so rough this month for you. I’m a new reader, happily married in fact but your website would be useful for many people I know. To my surprise, I found a lot of what you had to say helpful to my own marriage. You don’t just give advice on how to save your marriage but to make it stronger. Thank you for all that you do.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. […] I’m grateful for the short turnaround time recovering from an extremely troubling incident. […]

    Like

  10. KB says:

    There are many evil people in the world who will perpetrate many crimes of violence upon the general population. Most people walk through life oblivious to those around them until they get a wake up call. Some don’t survive the first one. Thankfully, most do. Mine was an attempted carjacking at E9th and Euclid Avenue at 9:00pm on a Friday summer night. Fortunately, I saw them both coming. I recommend you take some situational awareness and self defense training. It will open your eyes to what is really wandering around in the night. I no longer wonder why there are over 20 million people in the US with ccw permits.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      A fellow NE Ohioan. Normally, that would be awesome in the absence of a crime attempt.

      Color me naive if you must. But I’m not going to use this incident to start viewing people through a prism of fear and mistrust.

      Most people walk through life oblivious because the VAST majority of people would never intentionally hurt others.

      I have a choice to make.

      Assume the worst and maybe save myself from an unfortunately incident some day by being afraid and focusing on the worst life and humanity have to offer.

      Or.

      I can choose to focus on the good, on assuming the best from others, and being disappointed sometimes when they let me down.

      I’m all for exercising caution.

      But I’m not going to expect the worst. Ever.

      Bad things don’t get to steal the very things about me that make me, me.

      I get to be me and I get to show up how I want to show up precisely because I look around and identify whenever possible the good and beautiful things. The stuff that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning.

      I see the dark. I’m not blind to it.

      But I’m going to keep being grateful for the light.

      The shadow proves the sunshine.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. wk says:

    sounds like scopolamine… very scary
    wishing u the best

    Like

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