Tag Archives: Alone

Staying Together For the Kids is a Good Enough Reason For Me

(Image/bhhook at Deviant Art)

(Image/bhhook at Deviant Art)

It was like I couldn’t catch my breath. I was afraid.

I’d never felt anything like this before. I stood over the bathroom toilet and vomited even though I wasn’t sick or drinking. But I felt seasick. Like a guy in a row boat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico with no oars and no way to signal for help.

What the hell is happening to me?

It was the first time I’d ever experienced anxiety so badly that I threw up. It’s a feeling I got to know well during the run up to, and the aftermath of, my divorce. I puked a lot.

I still do sometimes.

You might say I’m a little unsteady.

I was 23 the first time she left. It was just for a week to visit her family in Ohio. After spending my entire life in either Ohio or Illinois with my parents, friends and extended family, I was totally alone for the first time ever.

I was in Florida 1,100 miles from the nearest person I knew. And I could really feel it. And I just lost it.

That’s the first time I realized how reliant I was on other people and how much I needed an anchor.

I grew up in this safe little Ohio town with a close group of friends, my mom and stepdad (who I met on my 5th birthday) and a big extended family.

When I wasn’t there, I was with my dad who I only saw a few months out of the year 500 miles away.

I think maybe when your parents split up when you’re 4, and live 500 miles apart, it fucks you up a little no matter how great the rest of your life is.

I used to think I was normal.

But then I broke inside and realized there’s no such thing as normal. Just a bunch of different versions of being human.

Mama, come here
Approach, appear
Daddy, I’m alone
‘Cause this house don’t feel like home

I spent every day of my life feeling safe and loved with my parents until I went away to college. I spent most of college living with one of my dearest friends from grade school and high school having the time of our lives. I spent my last year of college with the girl who would eventually be my wife.

When you get married, you officially leave the nest and build a new one. The most intimate of inner circles in your life (your parents—and siblings if you have them) moves out one rung on your circle, and your partner takes that place in the center.

She’s your new safety net. Your new normal. Your new foundation.

So when she flew back to Ohio for a week, leaving me alone far away from anything familiar for the first time, it was my first taste of isolation. It didn’t take, I realized, staring into a toilet and recognizing just how little control of myself I had.

That’s the part that scares you the most. I’m not in control. What might happen next?

I had always thought I was strong and steady.

But really, I was weak and fragile.

If you love me, don’t let go
If you love me, don’t let go

My mom left my stepdad while my wife was pregnant with our son. Mom called to tell me when I was on my lunch break. She cried. I cried.

Then I vomited some more and called my wife because I needed something steady. She left her office to come hug me. I felt like the biggest pussy imaginable. I was almost 30, for God’s sake. I’m supposed to hold HER. And I’m fucking crying on her shoulder?

I was just smart enough to know shit I’d been carrying around for 25 years was rearing its head.

I didn’t visit my mom for about a year after that.

But I had my wife. She’d always be there.

When we met, I was strong and confident. But now I was something else. I wonder if that scared her. I wonder sometimes if the fear and anxiety that started to build throughout my late 20s and early 30s made her feel unsafe. Like she couldn’t trust me to make everything okay, no matter what.

You can’t know it until you know it: When your insides break, you need more than another person to make it okay.

The only certainty I ever had in life was that I would never get divorced and put my children through what I went through.

That’s it. That’s the one thing I was sure of.

I had plenty of time to get used to the taste of failure while I slept in the guest room for 18 months feeling it all slip away one failed attempt to save it at a time.

I’d like to tell you I spent most of that time thinking about how hard it would be for my young son. How he could end up feeling so many of the same uncertainties and co-dependent tendencies I did if his mom and I divorced.

But I was mostly thinking about me. That I was about to lose the only thing I was sure about. Maybe it’s not the same for everyone, but when I got married, I thought of my wife in the same way I’d always thought of my parents. The person you can count on to love you unconditionally and always be there.

But then you realize it’s not true. I guess I really don’t know anything.

And then you’re back in that oar-less boat in the middle of the ocean, and the storm is kicking you around, and you want to start paddling but you don’t know which way to go because there is no home to go to anyway.

Hold, hold on, hold onto me
‘Cause I’m a little unsteady
A little unsteady
Hold, hold on, hold onto me
‘Cause I’m a little unsteady
A little unsteady

I hear a lot of people say that staying together for the kids is a bad idea.

If there’s heavy dysfunction like infidelity or physical abuse or addiction problems, I can co-sign with that. Exposing children to those things is not in their best interest.

But what about the rest of us? The ones who just die from a thousand little pinpricks?

The people who are bored. The people who are angry. The people who are scared. The people who are sad. The people who are confused. The people who are lost.

Those people need a good reason to fight for it.

If you won’t do it because it’s the right thing, or because you vowed to do so, I think doing it for the kids is a pretty legit reason.

People always say (including me): “I would do ANYTHING for my kids!”

Fuck you.

And fuck me, too.

Because we won’t love for them.

But maybe it’s because we don’t know how.

Because no one ever showed us.

Because they didn’t know how either.

Mother, I know
That you’re tired of being alone
Dad, I know you’re trying
To fight when you feel like flying
But if you love me, don’t let go
If you love me, don’t let go

Author’s Note:

I was at an X Ambassadors concert Saturday night having an amazing time. They’re incredible and are going to blow up in 2015-’16 and you should buy their albums. The band played this song. It’s rare for a song to grab your soul and squeeze, especially in that surreal environment.

But it did. So I had to write this post.

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How To Be Found

Worst-hide-and-seekMost of us grow up playing Hide and Seek with friends.

Something interesting happens during the game.

The counting begins: “One! Two! Three!…”

And we all run, run, run, trying to find that perfect hiding spot. It’s important to us that we find a good spot. That we become difficult to find.

If we’ve done our job, the seeker might find others. You hear the screams and laughter.

But there you remain, unfound.

The seeker continues: “Where are you??? I’m gonna find you!!!”

But, no luck. Because you’re stowed away in the best hiding place.

As the cat-and-mouse game drags on, it dawns on you: I may never be found!

And against the very nature of the game, you offer little hints to make yourself known.

A little noise.

A stifled laugh.

Maybe you peek out, putting yourself in view.

It’s because, in the end, we all WANT to be found.

A Catholic priest—the man who oversees the church and school my son will attend as an incoming first grader this week—told a similar childhood story this morning and I nodded along silently because I think he is correct in the universal human truth sort-of way that has fascinated me since discovering the many things that tie us all together.

We all have different experiences and upbringings. Different talents and hobbies. Different cultures, beliefs, skin colors and interests.

But underneath all the stuff we see on the surface, down in the places inside us that we don’t spend enough time talking about or acknowledging—all the human stuff—there is so much that unites us. So much that connects us.

It’s the thing that made me feel least alone when I felt like the earth was crumbling beneath me and everything I thought was true about my life turned out not to be.

The Connection Culture

There’s a reason there are a BILLION people using Facebook. Because people—you and me and everyone else—feel an innate desire to feel connected to others.

Even introverts want to feel connected to something. Perhaps a small circle of like-minded people, or pets, or their craft—whatever that may be.

When I got divorced, so many of my connections felt severed overnight.

The family I’d married into.

All of the friends—especially other married couples—that she and I had forged bonds with.

All of those perimeter people in your lives that you met through your spouse that you maybe bump into at local restaurants or grocery stores or social gatherings where everything’s just a little bit different now.

I went crazy trying to connect during those initial weeks and months. I was freaking out and latching on to any friend I could, seeking fun and distraction because being home was torturous. Because the silence was so loud and scary I couldn’t hear myself think.

Like a fool, I tried online dating, as if anything good could have come from that.

It was unstable, unwise behavior. But in hindsight, I get it.

I needed to feel connected because so much had been lost, and everything just feels like you’re floating out to sea at the mercy of the weather, and there’s nothing but storm clouds in every direction.

But you stay alive. Just breathe. In. Then out.

That’s your only job when everything feels impossible.

Just to keep breathing. One breath at a time.

Then I Hid

I don’t know what stage of the grieving process I was in when I tucked into my shell, but I got very reclusive. I stopped thinking about dating. I did a shitty job of staying in touch with friends and family. And I just stayed quiet and alone in my house.

Just breathing.

I was writing and reading and watching TV. Things I enjoy that I can do alone. Comfortable things. Things that made me feel safe.

But out of sight. Hidden.

Isolation Therapy

Maybe it’s necessary. All that alone time. I don’t know. I just know that real loneliness settled in. A feeling that—despite growing up an only child—I’d never really felt before.

No one’s coming to save you.

I wanted to be found.

There are a million reasons people feel lonely.

Sometimes people feel lonely even among throngs of people. I’ve heard people say New York City can be the loneliest place in the world.

Death. Divorce. A troubled marriage. Moving to a new city or country. Changing schools. Changing jobs. Over and over again in life, people have to adjust to the world they know turning into one they don’t.

And many of us feel lonely when that happens.

Sometimes children feel lonely even when surrounded by brothers and sisters and loving, well-meaning parents.

Sometimes spouses feel lonely even though their husbands or wives live in the same home and sleep in the same bed.

Sometimes adults feel lonely even though they put on a happy face and walk through the world doing their jobs and running errands and trying to make life something that feels meaningful and worthwhile.

People crave acknowledgment.

People want to be found.

People need to matter.

And They Do

People do matter.

I made my wife feel alone in our marriage and made her feel like she didn’t matter to me even though she did. And now I don’t have a family anymore.

Simple things like attention and respect and acknowledgment. They’re game changers. One way or the other.

The same goes for our children.

And our friends.

And our coworkers.

And the strangers we encounter.

And the homeless, sick and marginalized.

They just want to matter to someone.

I wanted to be found but I was spending every night home alone and out of sight.

But I’ve been floating out at sea for many months now. And the waters have calmed. The storm clouds are rare.

I want to be found.

And maybe others do, too.

And maybe if we all get out… smile at others, be brave enough to say hi, try something new, somewhere new… we will be.

And maybe the best part of Hide and Seek isn’t the hiding, but the seeking.

And maybe we can start changing lives, one found person at a time.

At work.

At school.

At the store.

At the gym.

At home.

Maybe we make the connections instead of waiting for everyone else to do the work for us.

And maybe we build a whole new life for ourselves.

One where we don’t run, run, run and hide. They may never find us.

But where we are the ones seeking out others, saying: “I see you! I found you!”

Maybe then, everything changes.

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I Hope There Are Aliens

Wouldn't it be a sad story if we had all this to ourselves?

Wouldn’t it be a sad story if we had all this to ourselves?

On an April Fools’ Day long before the one my wife chose to vacate our home, the local newspaper ran a large photo of alien spacecraft hovering in the night sky.

The headline indicated UFOs had visited our small Ohio town.

I was captivated.

Enchanted.

Bewitched.

Just a young boy.

I had never seen or heard “War of the Worlds.”

We were still years away from Will Smith very believably punching a large alien trying to emerge from its wrecked aircraft with a sharp-witted “Welcome to Earth” in “Independence Day.”

Even further away was M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs.” You know the movie. It’s the one with aliens that will die if they get too much water on them. They are smart enough to conquer the physics of interstellar travel but are not smart enough NOT to invade a planet with a surface covered 71 percent by water, which regularly experiences rainfall and has microscopic water droplets suspended in the breathable air in most geographic locations.

Anyway.

I wasn’t scared of aliens. I didn’t know better.

All I knew was that I was fascinated with the unknown outside our planet. Outside our solar system. Outside our galaxy.

I’ve spent countless nights staring into the night sky.

Every single star representing a solar system. Every solar system representing an opportunity for more life to exist.

Maybe there’s someone out there seeing our sun in the night sky. Maybe there’s someone out there wondering whether we’re here. Maybe there are more people like us.

The newspaper story was a joke, of course. But I didn’t want it to be.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.

I’ve met people who have been inside Area 51. There are MANY secret things there, they say. Things they won’t talk about. But there are no extraterrestrials or wrecked alien spaceships inside, they say.

Of course, that’s EXACTLY what people protecting the secret would say.

But, still.

In my experience, things that sound like far-fetched nonsense typically prove out to be exactly that.

But I do believe in math. Math is the most-provable thing I know of. Pure truth.

And here’s an elementary breakdown of the math.

Why There Might Be Aliens

The nearest thing to Earth besides our moon is the planet Mars. Mars is 34.2 million miles away. Depending on how much fuel we’re willing to burn we can get an unmanned spacecraft to Mars in anywhere from 150-300 days.

We cannot figure out how to safely send humans to and from Mars. It hasn’t been tried.

We cannot get to the next-closest thing in our solar system.

This is where I need you to stay with me.

Earth is in a solar system. The thing with nine planets orbiting the sun. (Eat shit, science! Pluto is STILL a planet in my universe! My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas!)

This is where brains start exploding…

There are an estimated 100 BILLION solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy. Our galaxy.

The Hubble Space Telescope, combined with the best computer models in the world, estimate 500 BILLION galaxies.

There’s no point in even typing out 50 trillion. Our brains can barely process a number as large as one billion.

Hopefully, you see my point. Even if we eliminate 99 percent of those solar systems due to inhospitable living conditions, we’re still left with (if my lousy math skills are correct) about 500 billion opportunities for life to exist.

And we can’t even get to Mars.

A Table For One

I had breakfast at one of my favorite little mom-and-pop breakfast diners this morning.

“Just one?” they ask.

“Yeah. Just me.”

That’s always embarrassing.

There was a wife or girlfriend on the other side of the table from every guy in the small eatery.

I always wonder how many women are out there like me. Maybe wondering whether some guy just like me is eating alone somewhere. Maybe wondering whether they’re the only single person staying in on a Saturday night and wishing they weren’t—or at least not doing so alone.

We crave connection. Maybe not all of us. But most of us.

I hope you believe that I believe I’m not just going to be this cooped-up single guy forever. I have every confidence there will be someone on the other side of the breakfast table from me someday.

I think about that girl sometimes.

Where is she now?

Does she live close?

Do I already know her?

That connection, however long or short, will change my life.

That’s scary in a way. To invite more change into a life where change has been my worst enemy.

I don’t like whining here about being alone. And I hope it doesn’t seem like whining.

Especially after being on my soapbox yesterday about choosing ourselves and taking personal responsibility for the state of our lives.

It’s just another lonesome benediction. Can I get a witness? Written to some bluesy, soulful southern tunes being belted by the magnificent Kristy Lee who I finally got to meet and hear live last night.

Not so different really than those late summer nights in my youth staring into the majesty of our sky.

Into the universe. I can see for miles.

Just hoping there’s someone like me out there. Believing in my existence. Hoping I’m here, too.

I hope that person exists.

And I hope there are aliens.

You know. Nice ones.

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