Tag Archives: Sadness

No Place Like Home

social connection

When you live somewhere far away from your hometown or a place with many friends and family, and then get divorced, you spend a lot of time alone.

There are differences between being alone and being lonely. More than two years removed from marriage, I am alone more often than I was right away, but feel less lonely.

But as someone who thrives on social connectivity and human interaction, there can be no doubt that I find myself in the loneliest period of my life.

I’m going to be fine because this won’t be permanent, and because I actively pursue social activity today more so than I did during the hardest, darkest days following the divorce.

But like so many of these experiences new to me in this unexpected life phase, it dawns on me that I can’t be the only one experiencing this.

The Recipe for Social Isolation After Divorce

I’m sure it can happen multiple ways, but here’s how it happened for me.

I was born in Iowa and lived there until I was 4. Then, my parents divorced and my mother moved us to Ohio where we lived near her hometown.

I grew up in a small-town, big-family environment and had a large group of friends throughout elementary school and high school, so even though I was an only child, I never experienced loneliness.

My college years proved to be the most-connected, and I believe not coincidentally, the most-fun years of my life.

Because I was young and took for granted the connection between friends and family, and my internal happiness and well being, I moved to Florida more than a thousand miles away after graduating college.

My girlfriend, who would later be my wife/ex-wife, was with me, mitigating some of the loneliness and social isolation we both felt after a few months living so far from home for the first time.

After a few years, we moved back to Ohio, only this time, we moved near my wife’s hometown—a place where I had no roots, hundreds of miles from all the people I knew and grew up with. Still, it felt much more like home than Florida. My wife’s immediate and large extended family welcomed me, and holidays were warm, vibrant affairs, and that helped offset any loneliness or social isolation I felt being in yet another new place far from home.

We made friends. Almost all were married couples because when you’re married, you tend to befriend and hang out with other couples.

It wasn’t perfect. My dad’s side of the family was 500 miles away. My mom’s side was a four-hour drive away. But we had made a home and forged a comfortable life with our new friends and my wife’s kind family.

Even though it was a slow death at home, so sneaky I didn’t even recognize it happening until she finally said one night: “I don’t know if I love you anymore,” it must have seemed quite sudden to friends and family because my wife and I were so good at wearing masks and pretending.

She’d had enough. And she left.

And at first, I was so out of breath, and so emotionally and mentally and spiritually damaged, focused on the loss of my presumed lifelong partner, half of my little son’s childhood, and all of my hopes and dreams for the future, that loneliness and social isolation weren’t on my radar.

In fact, there were many days and nights where I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

But time heals even the deepest wounds. And something like normalcy returns.

You lose friends from the fallout.

You lose an entire family because when you divorce your spouse, you often divorce their family too, no matter how kind and loving they remain in your sporadic post-divorce meetings.

So you take stock of your life.

I have no family.

I lost friends.

My son needs both of his parents, so unless we all agree to move somewhere, this is where we are for many more years.

You accept your fate. It’s not ideal. You’d move if you could. But your son matters so much more than anything else, that there’s no internal debate.

When you are a divorced parent to children fortunate enough to have a viable parent nearby to help love and care for them, you tend to be geographically stuck. And if you’re someone like me who happened to move with your partner to a place far from home, you find yourself here. Just like me.

Longing for more.

Yearning for the joy and comfort of lifelong friendships.

But resigned to your fate.

This is where I live. And I have to make the best of it.

The Journey Home

I’m visiting family and friends this week in western Illinois.

No matter how many years of vibrant social living you’ve experienced, when you live alone as I do now and rarely see people from your past, it’s easy to forget how soul-enriching it is to be with loved ones.

It has been a wonderful visit. Incalculable fun and laughter with people who have mattered for as long as I can remember.

But this is the last day. The one that always arrives too quickly.

Tomorrow, we—my young son and I—return home.

Not home, per se. But, home.

It reminds me that home isn’t just a destination, but a state of mind, a state of being.

That it’s about people and how we feel when we are with those people. Those beautiful few we let all the way in. The people who cross from friend to family, despite the absence of shared bloodlines.

I came across this today in Medical Daily:

“While solitude can stimulate creativity and even improve our attention span, it can also have deadly consequences. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science found social isolation increased people’s likelihood of death by 26 percent, even when people didn’t consider themselves lonely. Social isolation and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely.

The human species is inevitably a social species that has depended on other members since birth. We’re social creatures that need other people in order to be well and thrive. Naturally, surrounding ourselves with others and fostering close relationships are the antidote to living happy, healthy, and well.”

I can’t go back in time and change the course of my life or marriage.

I can’t run away to places in this world where I have family and friends networks that mean so much to me.

And I can’t rely on others to do anything for me.

It has to be me. It has to be us—everyone who finds themselves in these relatively unique life circumstances.

We have a responsibility to create the best-possible life for our children. We have a responsibility to be the happiest, healthiest versions of ourselves so that we can be the parents our kids need.

To totally sell out and rock a pretty annoying cliché, we all have a responsibility to make lemonade. You know, because of the lemons.

Our families can’t do it for us.

Our faraway friends can’t do it for us.

It has to start with the choice to be friendly and generous to others. To courageously try new things and participate in new activities. To put ourselves out there for acceptance or rejection and being willing to roll with the punches knowing we’re going to earn a few new “family” members along the way.

Because when you can’t be home, you have to make home.

To inject more life into life.

And it boils down to one simple choice: What am I going to do today?

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

(Image courtesy of ansnuclearcafe.org)

(Image courtesy of ansnuclearcafe.org)

When a conjoined twin dies, their attached sibling usually dies soon after.

In most cases, one can’t live without the other.

Occasionally, surgeons can separate the deceased twin from the other before the dead infects the living.

Maybe life goes on.

But things will never be the same.

When you exchange wedding vows, your soul becomes conjoined with your spouse’s. Every second after, your life is no longer just your own. A part of you is imprinted on her, and her, on you.

Your life just became infinitely more important than it used to be because now someone else’s life is in your hands.

Don’t Try to Fix Your Marriage

Before every flight, the attendant giving the safety spiel always reminds you that in the event of an emergency in which the plane’s oxygen masks deploy from the ceiling, parents flying with children are strongly encouraged to put on their own masks first before helping the child with his or hers.

It goes against our caretaker and unselfish instincts.

As a parent, we always put our children first.

As friends and family and co-workers, and in many other walks of life, we learn to put others’ needs before our own and are taught that this is virtuous and makes us good people.

We are sometimes taught that it’s selfish to do what we want or need to do for ourselves.

But the truth is, if you aren’t right, you can’t be good to anyone else.

If you don’t have your oxygen mask on and you pass out, you can’t save your child.

If you can’t be your true, authentic, best self in your marriage, then the union is already doomed.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

We’ve been collectively rolling our eyes at that bullshit break-up excuse for eons. But I think in the context of mending a broken marriage, the idea has a lot of merit.

Maybe two sad and angry people who feel trapped, disrespected and unloved, shouldn’t necessarily be trying to work cooperatively all the time.

I believe the right way to attack marriage problems starts with NOT trying to work together.

I’ve sat in front of marriage counselors with an angry spouse. When couples disagree, they spend the entire session telling the therapist what it is their partner does to make them feel sad, angry and miserable in front of the person they’re supposed to love the most.

I think it’s a piss-poor strategy.

Maybe if we took all the finger-pointing out of the equation, we’d see real results.

Not: She makes me feel like this! She does this to me and it isn’t fair!

And more this: What is it that I need to do to make my partner feel safe, and content, and loved, and happy?

And if your spouse is doing that same thing to you in reverse? And attempting to make internal and external changes on your behalf?

I think everyone who wants to make it, will.

I think we just have to choose it.

Rethinking the Problem

Politically conservative people are furious with the number of illegal immigrants flooding into the United States via the southern border. It’s because the undocumented people don’t contribute to the tax system but provide an economic burden on the health care, criminal justice and education systems.

Politically progressive people want to make the path to legal citizenship easier, and in the meantime, appreciate the fact that immigrants most often are performing jobs that help the U.S. economy that most Americans are unwilling to do themselves—namely low-paying agricultural jobs and others in the service industry. They believe innocent children should not be punished or denied access to health care and education because they believe in compassion and helping others and believe the government is in the best position to do it (whether or not that’s true).

Then there are people like me. I agree and disagree with both sides.

I agree that the financial strain on the system is unsustainable, and that our country is a business and should be treated like one. If you can’t pay for anything, you’re screwed.

But I also (mostly) love human beings and believe the value of a human life can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

What’s a political moderate to do on the subject of immigration?

Choose Option C. The road less travelled.

I think you solve the immigration problems in the United States by creating more economic opportunity for people in places like Mexico. I think if Mexico’s economy and health care and education systems improve, Mexicans will want to stay in Mexico, because there’s no place like home.

I vote we make Mexico so awesome that WE want to go there.

Problem solved.

…..

Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

…..

Don’t sit around thinking about how your spouse makes your life miserable every day.

Think about how you can actively change yourself in an effort to bridge the divide between you and her.

Be selfish about making yourself the best you can be so that you’re strong enough to actually be unselfish when the situation calls for it.

Another Definition of Love

“I moved a step farther toward accepting my complete inability to change another person and my inability to change myself. Love has been called many things, but maybe one definition would be the utterly unbridgeable gap between any two humans and the attempt to bridge it anyway.” — from Stumble, by Heather King

It doesn’t start with her.

It doesn’t start with “us.”

It starts with you.

You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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Nothing is Sound

loud-silence

We were standing in the kitchen, drinking, but not yet buzzed.

There was a small party at our house, but most guests hadn’t yet arrived.

One of my favorite Switchfoot songs was playing.

“Happy is a Yuppie Word.”

Most of the time, I gravitate to music because of how it sounds. But more and more as I’ve aged, I’ve been drawn to music with lyrical meaning.

This song isn’t phenomenal musically. In fact, I don’t particularly like the chorus. But it’s lyrical perfection.

“Happy is a yuppie word? What does that even mean?” asked my buddy’s girlfriend and my wife, when they heard it playing.

They both made fun of the song. Then they made fun of me for liking it.

I didn’t bother defending it. It wasn’t the time or place.

And some people will never understand.

Back when my wife and I were still newlyweds, we were at a NASCAR speedway outside of Chicago. She had attended the Daytona 500 with me a couple times in Florida, but this was her first time at the only other track I’ve ever visited. The place where my motorsports-enthusiast father and many of his friends visit annually for three days of drinking, tailgating, laughing and watching cars drive nearly 200 miles per hour.

I’m not a huge NASCAR fan. But it’s fun to see in person. Mostly, it’s just fun gathering with loved ones and sharing laughs.

My dad looked over at my wife and I, and my stepsister and her husband who are just a couple years older than me.

“Hey there’s a band playing over by the track in a little bit. Switchfoot. You ever heard of them?” he said.

And I had. “Dare you to Move,” was huge. And a great song. I listened to it yesterday actually because that song has never been more relevant to my life than it is right now. There was also a new song “Stars.” It wasn’t amazing, but it got plenty of air time on American rock stations.

My wife and I, along with my stepsister and brother-in-law ventured over to the stage with a cooler full of beer.

I love live music.

Switchfoot, a band I knew very little about, took the stage.

I don’t often digest lyrics the first time I hear music.

But even in my half-drunken state, I knew what I was watching and listening to was something different.

Something meaningful.

Especially when I heard Jon Foreman sing “Happy is a Yuppie Word” for the first time. I’d never heard the song before.

And I’ve never been so moved by something I was hearing for the first time—especially considering I was hearing it during an extraordinarily happy time in my life with a bunch of fun-producing beer in me.

… I’m running down a life that won’t cash out

Happy is a yuppie word
Blessed is the man who’s lost it all
Happy is a yuppie word
word.

Looking for an orphanage
I’m looking for a bridge I can’t burn down
I don’t believe the emptiness
I’m looking for the kingdom coming down
Everything is meaningless
I want more than simple cash can buy
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie…

And then, surrounded by thousands of people in nearly 90-degree summer temperatures, I got a severe case of goose bumps and chills as Foreman started belting out:

Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!

And I’ve been in love with the band ever since. Because they care about what I care about. Whether people get it or not.

Writing Makes Me Happy

I wrote a post titled “Clean Copy” once.

It was a typical Matt spaz-fest because I was feeling REALLY sensitive about all the typos you guys read when you’re reading this stuff via email. Because that initial email records whatever is live when I first hit Publish, with all the mistakes. I almost always find something to correct after hitting that blue button.

Traffic to the blog soared—relatively speaking—once that post was picked up and promoted by WordPress editors in Freshly Pressed.

In fact, about half of you started following this blog after reading that post.

Despite securing the URL mustbethistalltoride.com back when I first launched the blog on June 22, I hadn’t figured out how to point the servers to it because I’m a Grade-A moron when it comes to backend web stuff. But after digging around last week on WordPress and Google, I figured it out.

Despite being an internet marketing professional, I didn’t give much thought to what might happen to blog traffic after making the change.

I assumed—wrongly—that most people reading were those who had been following my story or fellow writers part of this wonderful WordPress blogging community.

But now, traffic is down 70-75 percent since dropping the .wordpress in the URL.

And at the risk of seeming vain and hypersensitive (I am certainly the latter), it has really made me sad. Because the one thing that’s not my five-year-old son that has made me happy in my life as a single adult is this.

This silly little chunk of the Internet. Because it’s mine. Because it’s me.

And people cared. Which surprised me. But I grew to love it. To need it. Because it’s the thing that has made me feel connected during the most-disconnected period of my life. It’s the thing that has made me feel the least alone during the most lonely period of my life. And because it has given me purpose after everything I was living for walked out the door on April Fool’s Day.

I didn’t set out to try and grow an audience. To try to make this into anything more than a misguided attempt at journaling.

But then it sort of became a thing all by itself. Not for everyone, certainly. Not even for a lot of people.

But for some.

People like me. People who hurt. People searching for light. For meaning. For purpose.

And the web helps us find each other.

And then I had purpose again.

To write. For me. But also for those other people. Those people on the same hunt for answers.

People who want to feel.

People who want to live for something more.

And it made me smile. And it made me feel like I mattered a little. And that motivates me to write more.

For the people who care.

But then, BAM. Traffic gets wrecked. Just, poof. Gone.

And it’s literally painful. Because a rare source of happiness is no longer providing it. In fact, it’s making me sad.

But, really? What is happiness?

It’s a Yuppie Word

It was 1991. Bob Dylan turned 50. And Rolling Stone magazine interviewed him about his life.

“Are you happy, Bob?” the interviewer asked.

“You know,” he said, “these are yuppie words—happiness and unhappiness. It’s not happiness or unhappiness. It’s either blessed or unblessed.”

Bob Dylan.

Dropping knowledge.

The lead singer and songwriter for Switchfoot wrote “Happy is a Yuppie Word,” based on that quote by Dylan.

Whenever I have heard Foreman screaming “Nothing is sound!” during my favorite part of this song, I always thought he was saying:

Nothing is okay.

Nothing is safe and sound.

Nothing is alright.

But then I heard the song on my morning commute today.

And it got to the bridge—the part I adore—and Foreman belted: “Nothing is sound! Nothing is sound! Nothing is sound!”

And for the first time in eight years of listening to this song, I questioned whether I was hearing him right.

Maybe he wasn’t saying what I thought he was.

Maybe he’s saying:

Nothing IS sound.

Silence is sound.

Emptiness is something.

Because silence can be loud.

When you’re used to the noise. The buzz. The movement. The life.

And then one day it’s just… gone.

It’s loud. The silence. It’s one of the reasons I listen to so much music now. Even more than I used to.

To replace the deafening silence. To push out negative thoughts. To feel.

Nothing is sound.

Happy doesn’t mean anything. It’s a word we associate with feeling good. A yuppie word, Bob Dylan said. And sadly, feelings are fleeting. They don’t last. It’s why so many people turn to sex and alcohol and drugs. To feel something. Something like happy. It doesn’t satisfy. So we just keep doing those things to prolong the fake happiness. Because it’s better than nothing. Right?

Maybe.

But I want more than fake happy.

I want more than simple cash can buy.

And I want that for you, too.

Which is I why I try to think, feel and pray each day. Chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But there’s no pot of gold. We’re really just chasing an idea.

And when the weather changes again, there won’t even be a rainbow.

Because the weather always changes. Like feelings.

So maybe we shouldn’t try so hard to chase the pot of gold we know isn’t there anyway.

Maybe we should just slow down and breathe.

And maybe just try to enjoy the rainbow while it’s still here.

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