Tag Archives: Optimism

The Third Post-Divorce Valentine’s Day

Wilted rose sad on valentine's day

I didn’t want to write about Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t thinking about it at all. But it turns out, THAT is the entire point. (Image/freepromotoday.com)

My phone buzzed.

The text read: “I’m telling you now, so we don’t have to have a guilt-ridden conversation later. Today is my bday. Holla! And I am expecting a good V-day post in honor of it.”

“Happy birthday! A V-day post!? What would I possibly write about?”

“I don’t know! About being single on Valentine’s Day?… Unlessss… Wait, do you have another secret girl?!”

(For clarification, said “secret girl” was someone I went out with a few times, and it represented the first time post-divorce that I believed something serious might be happening. It wasn’t.)

“I do not. But I also don’t feel loneliness anymore,” I said.

“Well then. Isn’t that a post?” she said.

“Is it?”

“Isn’t it?!”

“Seems self-indulgent.”

“How could it be self-indulgent when… so many people follow you with the HOPE of one day, being on the other side?! Those ‘I’m not feeling loneliness anymore’ posts are very important to your story. I think.”

Maybe she’s right.

Here’s the thing: I can’t remember me three years ago. I remember wanting to die. But recreating traumatic emotion is, thankfully, not a skill I possess.

I won’t pretend to know what other people feel at the end of their marriage. It was all, just, very bad at my house. I spent 18 months in the guest room. That’s, what? About 540 consecutive mornings of waking up and realizing your life is shitty and your wife doesn’t want you? That takes a toll.

I tried to stay hopeful.

On that final Valentine’s Day, I got her a card. The one I received came from our son, but not her. The depths of my denial were apparently limitless.

April 1, 2013 was the last time I shared an address with another adult.

Loneliness is a State of Mind

I freaked out.

I can’t explain the depths of the pain, fear, sadness, grief and anger I felt. I had no idea simply being alive could feel like that. You either know what I’m talking about, or you’re very fortunate.

In the early days, I was with friends constantly. If I wasn’t home with my son, I was out having drinks. I stayed busy and surrounded by others because spending too much time in my empty house taught me how loud silence can be.

Friends and family were checking in constantly. I have never known lonely like I did then.

Lonely isn’t the same thing as isolated.

You can be standing in the middle of a bustling New York City sidewalk and feel lonely.

And you can be sitting alone on a lakeside picnic table soaking in a gorgeous sunny day with no one in sight and be the furthest thing from it.

We can’t cure loneliness simply by surrounding ourselves with others.

It has to be the right others. But broken insides don’t heal from the outside in. The healing has to start from the inside. And we don’t have much control over how long it takes.

When you first get divorced following 34 straight years of pretty much always being with someone in public, you feel like the biggest loser imaginable when the restaurant hostess asks whether anyone will be joining you.

“Nope. Just me,” I’d say, and then imagine what she must think about me since she probably thought I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to join me.

I’d sit there on my phone, or with a pen and notebook, and I’d meet the eyes of other diners, all of whom had at least one person sitting with them. I felt like every one of them was sending me pity vibes each time we made eye contact.

I irrationally believed everyone who saw me could tell my wife had moved out and thought I was pathetic, when the truth is they likely didn’t give me a second thought.

When you spend 540 straight nights in a guest room, then your wife leaves you and seems a million-percent happier about it than you, really bad things happen to your mental and emotional make-up.

I wrote honest stories here about how it felt. About how afraid I was of everything. A bunch of tough guys read some of it and internet-yelled: “Be a man, pussy!!!”

But, they can all suck it.

I wasn’t broken because I was weak. I was broken because human resiliency is a finite resource, and I’d just been through some shit.

When all you have ever known is companionship and connection, being alone and feeling the disconnection of divorce and celibacy and your child being gone half the time is the recipe for profound loneliness.

And that’s what I felt. Every time I saw an old married couple. Every time I saw any couple. Every time I saw big groups of friends laughing and having a good time. Every time I returned home from a fun weekend away. Every time I walked in the door to my quiet, empty house. Every time I woke up in the morning and realized I was the oldest I’ve ever been AND that my life was worse than it has ever been.

That’s a pretty bleak and brutal realization.

The Giant Ever-Spinning Globe

It’s not something you earn.

It just happens.

You just… feel better.

You have a million questions following a painful divorce, but I think the one you care about the most is: When will I feel like myself again?

Everyone and their individual situations are different. Maybe it’s easier for people to move on when they don’t have children and don’t have to see and speak to their ex constantly. Maybe people who have been through traumatic life events prior to divorce don’t think it’s as bad as the rest of us do. Maybe some people brush off divorce easily because of their emotional wiring in the same way some people can roll their tongues while others can’t.

My wife left on April 1, 2013. That day, and many that followed, are tied for the worst day of my life.

A year later, it was still hard.

Two years later, it was much less so.

Three years later? I spent two hours yesterday morning with my ex-wife and her new significant other, and there were zero ill-effects. He’s a good guy. We have history. And I count my blessings every day that he is in my son’s life instead of an unknown entity or someone who sucks.

You don’t “earn” healing. There isn’t a “best way” to heal in order to speed up the process. If you hurt, you just hurt. And it doesn’t stop until it stops.

There are no shortcuts. Just masks. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. People use them to numb the pain. To escape.

The only escape is the other side. The only way is through it.

The Earth spins around every 24 hours. It fully orbits the sun every 365.25 days.

And here on the ground a million imperceptible things are happening inside our hearts and souls. We watch the sun rise and set. We watch the clocks tick off the minutes. We flip the pages on our calendars.

And then we wake up, and it’s tomorrow even though it felt like it was never going to get here.

The days are dark at first. We feel out of control. We sometimes question whether waking up tomorrow is even worth it.

But early in the process, I thought of something important. It’s true, and it has stuck with me, and I will never stop saying it:

Someday, the best day of our life is going to arrive. The best thing that will ever happen to us, will happen, or at least something awesome that makes every day after more inspiring and life-giving.

Someday, we will be presented with a new opportunity or we will meet someone who will maybe become the most important person in our lives.

Since looking forward to awesome things is one of life’s greatest pleasures, I always figure: Why not start now?

Something good and beautiful is out there waiting to randomly bump into us in the future. Look forward to it. Choose hope.

And when that day arrives, we get to connect all the dots. We get to see how everything needed to happen exactly as it did. We get to have this beautiful and important thing in our lives and we get to know that all of the shit we crawled through was worth it because it was the only path to now.

I used to say it even when I didn’t feel it: Everything is going to be okay.

It’s three years later, guys. And everything is okay.

Today just might be the day the best thing that ever happens to me, happens.

And if it doesn’t?

I like having things to look forward to.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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How to Be Hopeful, Vol. 2

God, please make the Browns select Johnny Football and deliver us from awful quarterback play. Amen. Artwork by Ryan Cirignano

God, please make the Browns select Johnny Football and deliver us from awful quarterback play. Amen. Artwork by Ryan Cirignano

Hope is most important when it feels hopeless.

I’m sure everyone’s rock bottom looks and feels a little different. Mine came in those first weeks and months after divorce. I have never felt as uncomfortable in my own skin as I did during that time.

You lose yourself. You lose control of your mind and body. They do things involuntarily. And those things don’t feel good.

You look in the mirror but you no longer recognize the person staring back at you.

There are so many life events that send people into a tailspin. Mine was divorce. I have never known fear like that before.

How will I handle doing everything that two people used to do?

How will my son feel about me when he’s old enough to understand what happened?

How will I handle my ex-wife eventually marrying someone else?

What if I lose all my friends?

What if women won’t date me because I’m a divorced loser with a kid whose own wife wanted nothing to do with?

Even if they will, how will I ever meet them?

But here’s the scariest part: You have just spent years and years building dreams with your family. You have this idea of what five years from now will look like. There’s comfort in that. And you’re walking the walk with a partner. Someone you can count on for back up and support. Someone to give a teeny-tiny ounce of a shit about the things going on in your life.

And, poof. Gone.

All those ideas about your future are toast. Up in smoke. When you get dumped, you lose your PAST and FUTURE. I didn’t handle that very well.

I’m still coming to terms with everything.

But 13 months later, I’m learning to not focus so much on the past or the future. We spend so much time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Why not live in the now?

Right now is the only thing that’s real. Yesterday isn’t real. Tomorrow isn’t real. Today is real.

And right now you’re breathing. You’re thinking. You’re here. You’re a human being.

I am.

Not many things are more important than that. We’re here. Right now. We have right now.

Does Yesterday Determine Tomorrow?

I was kicking around two questions in the first post:

How much does what happened yesterday factor into what will happen tomorrow?

Is some hope—blind, unfounded hope—a dangerous thing?

The Cleveland Browns win, on average, five games every year and make me sad. My favorite football team has conditioned me to expect the worst. Does that make sense?

Does the team’s performances of yesteryear have ANY bearing whatsoever on what they might do this year or next? With new coaches and strategies and players?

Does the fact that every quarterback the team has drafted since 1999 failed to live up to expectations mean that the next quarterback they select will fail too?

Does the fact my marriage failed mean there’s no chance a second one could succeed?

Do the bad things that happened to me, you, or anyone else justify abandonment of hope? Is the sky really falling? Or is it the perfect opportunity to learn how to overcome fear so we can live life more courageously?

Is False Hope Dangerous?

You see it in the “faith healing” community sometimes where people want to rely on prayer (I am ALL for prayer—even when it comes to the NFL Draft) and ignore some of the resources available to them. People die doing that.

People die drinking purple Kool-Aid®.

People waste their lives holding on to relationships they think are on life support, but are really just corpses.

And the false hope kills you. It does. That’s why marital limbo is so hard. I think particularly for the person who really wants the marriage to last. You hope and you pray and you try and you work and you love.

Every day is an opportunity.

And then the rug gets pulled out from underneath you. The person with all the power—the person holding all the cards—seals your fate when they finally make their move and it’s not the one you’ve been hoping and praying for.

You lose your happy past. You lose your imagined happy future. And you just lost life. All that precious time.

You mourn every bit of it. All the loss. And you feel sorry for yourself, right up until you don’t anymore. Because we learned a valuable lesson about time traveling to the past or future.

Don’t.

All you and I have is right now. That’s true every day we wake up. Every second we get to breathe.

Don’t forget to breathe.

The Future

I don’t try to imagine the future much anymore. One of the biggest changes between me two years ago and me today, is that I’m so much more focused on the present.

What can I do today? What can I do right now? Is this the life I want?

And it has been so empowering to focus on the now. To concentrate on living in the moment.

Because now I’m not afraid of an uncertain future.

And now I don’t spend all my time living in the past, allowing the pains of loss to poison the present.

Hope

noun – a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

verb – to want something to happen or be the case.

I know a truth that almost none of us keep top of mind, or else the entire world would be different.

None of us know what is going to happen next. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Not five minutes from now.

Sometimes bad things will happen. And sometimes good things will happen.

Sometimes we’ll laugh. And sometimes we’ll cry.

If we always focus on the bad things that happened to us, we will feel sad. If we try to focus on all of the good things that happened, we will feel much better. In the end, the past barely matters and the future isn’t real until it is.

But we have right now. To expect good to happen. To desire happiness and contentment.

Right now we have the power to smile. To laugh. To hug. To kiss. To be kind. To love.

And if life is nothing more than a series of right-nows, then we always have the power to be a force for good.

To choose the life we want for ourselves. A beautiful one.

And I’m hopeful we will.

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Mr. Balls Proves Anything is Possible

Mr. Balls. An actual, real thing.

Mr. Balls. An actual, real thing.

If anyone ever tells you that you can’t do or be anything you want, you now have irrefutable proof they are wrong.

It’s a message of hope from Brazil.

And because of its existence—its simple purity—I can no longer doubt that ANYTHING is possible.

You want to be president of your country? It’s possible.

You want to move things with your mind? It’s possible.

You want to be a movie star? It’s possible.

In fact, after seeing something so unlikely, so impossible, I’m beginning to think my hopes and dreams are likely to happen.

And now, you can too.

Oi, Senhor Testiculo

Meet Mr. Balls.

His mission: To raise awareness about the dangers of testicular cancer.

His appearance: Tall, dark and handsome. A friendly face. Plump cheeks. Nice dental work. Covered in pubic hair. Clearly doesn’t manscape.

His existence: Improbable. Yet, real.

He’s the mascot for the Associação de Assistência às Pessoas com Câncer in Brazil.

“Both children and adults love taking pictures” with Mr. Balls, the AAPEC website said.

So, to recap: Mr. Balls is a massive, friendly faced, pube-covered, glistening ball sack to whom children are encouraged to nestle up next to for photo ops.

This is real, ladies and gentlemen.

This gargantuan, smiling, two-toothed, Portuguese-speaking scrotum man exists. A marketing team thought it up. Spent money creating it. And now it’s a thing.

Not only is it a thing, it has been so effective in raising awareness for testicular cancer (and for being a huge, noteworthy hairy man bag) that some random guy in Ohio found out about it and is sharing it with even more people.

Mr. Balls is a champion for hope. Hope that we can prevent, treat and perhaps one day cure testicular cancer. And hope that there is no dream too far-fetched to be realized.

Dream Big

One of my friends says this a lot. She has it tattooed on her wrist in her father’s handwriting, because it’s something he always said to her.

Dream. Big.

Nothing can stop you. Nothing.

“Mr. Balls!?!? Are you freaking shitting me right now with this!?!?!” the executive director of the Brazilian non-profit organization MUST have said in Portuguese when first presented with this idea.

But then some earnest little marketing person stood up to her or him, saying: “Yes. Mr. Balls. Because he’s the hero testicular cancer deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

“And so we’ll exploit him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A massive, hairy ball sack.”

And then the executive director shed a tear.

“My great uncle Gustavo had testicular cancer. And maybe Mr. Balls could have saved him,” she/he said. “Let’s do it.”

And now at public events, parents are snapping photos of their children hugging a walking set of huge, unshaven testicles.

It defies every bit of logic I possess.

It is almost, literally, inexplicable that Mr. Balls walks this Earth.

Yet, he does.

A smiling mascot. That looks like this.

I still can't believe this. If this can be real, then there is truly no stopping me. I can do ANYTHING. And so can you.

I still can’t believe this. If this can be real, then there is truly no stopping me. I can do ANYTHING. And so can you.

Doesn’t this mean anything is possible?

Doesn’t this inspire you and give you endless optimism about life’s possibilities moving forward?

If Mr. Balls can be a thing—a real thing—posing in children’s photos. Doesn’t that mean the sky’s the limit?

That I can make all the money I ever need from writing?

That I can find Mind-Body-Spirit balance once again?

That you can do anything your mind can dream up?

I say yes.

Mr. Balls says yes.

And now it’s time for you to look in the mirror, and say “Yes,” too.

Because I believe in us.

Today, we spell hope: B-A-L-L-S.

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