Tag Archives: Strength

The Difference Between Knowing the Path and Walking the Path

running

Anyone can run a marathon, right? After all, you’re only doing one simple thing. (Image/danieltrainingnetwork.org)

Because I sometimes make bad decisions and do the wrong thing, I got internet-mouthy with readers in the comments of a recent post. In doing so, I undermined the very message I attempt to convey as critical to healing broken relationships and having pleasant, healthy and functional marriages.

Nothing fuels Imposter Syndrome and fears regarding future relationships quite like realizing you’re behaving exactly as you did in the marriage you helped destroy.

I wrote about something I think is important and believe can help guys like me because it’s the concept that helped me discover the secret to making marriage positive and lasting. Some readers were offended by certain word choices and ideas I shared. And because they didn’t respond like I wanted, or agree with me, or didn’t focus on my conclusion and then forgive me and tell all their Facebook friends I’m perfect and amazing, I dug in my heels for a You’re-Wrong-and-I’m-Right-and-Here’s-Why exchange that changed approximately zero hearts and minds.

Like children do.

Like many disagreeing people do.

Like I did when I emotionally abandoned my wife in my marriage, creating a culture of resentment and mistrust which ended unceremoniously with her packing a suitcase and driving away one April Fools’ Day.

I apologize to the people whose opinions I dismissed as if they were somehow less important than mine. And I apologize to people in relationships hoping my explanation of how leaving dishes by the sink can end marriages might connect with their significant others, because maybe—even though blog readers and commenters are not the same as husbands and wives—you felt like all the comment-fighting was evidence that I didn’t really learn anything after all.

You wouldn’t be the first people to tell me that.

I’m Afraid of History Repeating Itself

I worry that, unless I meet someone of a particular temperament and personality type (not that I have any idea what that might be), I will end up doing many of the same bad things in a future relationship I did in my last one. The things I’m always warning people to not do now.

What if all the fights are about different things but I still end up reacting defensively and dismissively? What if, no matter how much I think I know, these same emotional triggers and habits always wind up sabotaging my relationships?

This is a key point: Some people LOVE conflict and could give a shit how they make you feel while they’re trying to “win.” I am not one of them. Kindness matters. More specifically, I would never—not once under any circumstances—intentionally choose to harm or inflict pain on people I love. Yet, I have accidentally done so countless times. I have done so with such frequency and relentlessness apparently that I could not convince someone I genuinely loved and shared a home with that she was genuinely loved enough to feel safe and secure in our marriage.

It really scares me. Because for the first time in my life, I understand something profound and powerful about the human experience—something many people don’t seem to know—and it causes a lot of unintended damage in relationships. And no matter how much I know it, and how much I think about and write about it for public consumption, I still demonstrate shortcomings in executing it during live-fire exercises.

It’s because there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.

How to Run a Marathon

Running a marathon is easy! There’s almost nothing to it! All you have to do is ONE thing for a very specific distance.

Anyone can do it, right?

You just run! That’s it. That’s all you do. You do one simple activity for 26.2 miles, and then you’ve completed a marathon.

Easy-peasy.

But then you’re me who probably can’t run a 5K without heart palpitations, and you try to do this “super-simple” thing and fail epically and/or die.

Because it’s actually a very difficult thing to do.

And everyone who has successfully done so (I’m not one of them) knew it was hard, so they took a bunch of steps, and trained and trained and trained and trained to be able to do it successfully.

Everyone knows how to run marathons. But not many can actually do it without proper mindset and preparation.

And so it is in marriage and our other relationships.

People often think once love stops feeling easy and romantic and lusty that they made a bad partner choice. Everything breaks down from there.

For some reason, so few of us seem to understand that we will eventually experience difficult moments which require sacrifice—sometimes very painful sacrifice—no matter who we’re with. We will get tired, bored, angry, hurt, and want to quit so we can stop feeling all of those unpleasant feelings and go do something fun and easy that makes us feel good.

Maybe on those days we’ll collapse for lack of preparation. Maybe we’ll quit.

We have choices to make.

Maybe figuring out what we need to do in order to reach the finish line can be the choice we make.

Maybe it can be the choice I make.

So maybe then we don’t have to be afraid anymore.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The First Date, Vol. 2

Diamonds. Virtually unbreakable. Not unlike my date. The jewelry store girl. Who knows what will happen next? I'm not sure it matters. But I'm grateful to have met her. And I've already grown because of it.

Diamonds. Virtually unbreakable. Not unlike my date. The jewelry store girl. Who knows what will happen next? I’m not sure it matters. But I’m grateful to have met her. And I’ve already grown because of it.

My shirt was untucked so she wouldn’t see the pleats.

I was running late from work and hadn’t had time to change.

I pulled into a parking space in front of the jewelry store where I had promised to pick her up 20 minutes earlier.

I hope she’s not too mad, I thought.

I beeped my horn for her to hurry. Applebee’s was probably going to be slamming.

She tried to tell me about her day at work, but I was only half listening while answering some text messages and driving at the same time.

I can only do so many things at once, lady!

Rod Stewart was blowing my mind on the radio and I turned him up so she would know to change the subject.

We got to Applebee’s and sat down right away. The Olive Garden next door was packing them in because of unlimited salad and breadsticks so we totally lucked out at the neighborhood grill and bar.

I invited her to order anything she wanted… so long as it was on the Two for $20 menu. Like a boss.

She texted one of her friends, probably telling her what a charmer I was.

I’m getting lucky tonight, baby.

<Insert vinyl record-screeching sound here.> C’mon now. Non-punctuality? Applebee’s? Rod Stewart!?!? You didn’t really believe that.

Only the untucked-shirt part of that story was true.

I arrived right when I said I would.

I sipped a sugar-free Red Bull because I didn’t want to yawn during our dinner conversation. I brought her a bottle of water, just in case. She appreciated it.

She’d had a tough day, she said. She manages a jewelry store owned by a man she calls her dad, but who isn’t her biological father. The vast majority of day-to-day responsibilities at the shop belong to her. Almost every day, she experiences all of the negatives of being a business owner without any of the financial perks. I bet it’s exhausting.

It took about a half hour to drive to the restaurant. We were a little early but were still able to get a table pretty quickly.

She likes sweet wines.

I prefer dry reds.

So, we ordered by the glass.

The conversation was effortless. I remember being curious what we would discuss. Wondering whether personal topics would be broached.

Her divorce was finalized only a month ago. And from a separation standpoint—she is three months behind me on the healing curve.

She’s an incredibly open person. Just puts it right out there. No walls. I’m learning to appreciate that more and more.

It’s amazing what you can learn about someone in five hours—the length of our time together. More on that later.

Dating as a Divorced Adult

The stark differences between 34-year-old me and 20-year-old me were on full display last night.

I seriously didn’t think about sex one time. Okayyyy. Maybe once. But only because I have a man brain and she mentioned a couple tattoos.

Honestly, there was zero sexual tension as there would have been several years ago.

Maybe because we’re both still reeling from our marriages ending.

Maybe because it felt foreign to be sitting in a dimly lit restaurant with a relative stranger.

Maybe because we didn’t drink enough.

Maybe because we consumed 89,000 calories.

Maybe because she thought I was stupid and ugly, but faked it well.

Not thinking about sex is a wonderful thing. It helps you focus on substance. On listening.

And you are less anxious as a result. No one likes anxiety.

On the flipside, I was worried about feeling pressure because the stakes are so much higher now as an adult. At least on paper.

When you’re young and a date goes bad? Who cares?

I could have two more the next day!

When you’re Divorced Single-Dad Guy who knows approximately ZERO single people?

The field narrows.

So, it’s like: OMG! OMG! I gotta be amazing! Brilliant! Funny! Sexy! Skinnier! Richer! Stronger! Braver! Taller!

Because if I don’t, maybe it will be another seven months before I meet an attractive available woman to share dinner with.

When you’re young, you have your entire life ahead of you. You’re only worried about which club or pub or keg party you’re going to attend this weekend.

When you’re me?

You wonder how many weeks it will be before you’re even able to coordinate schedules to be in the same place at the same time again.

She has a very hectic professional and personal schedule.

I have my son half the time.

So, even if she wants to see me again—and I am inclined to ask—it could seriously be, like, January the next time we’re both available.

But maybe I’m just exaggerating. I totally do that sometimes.

A New Kind of Tough

This woman is a brand of tough that would take me a long time to fully understand.

Hers is a story filled with tragedy and heartache. And you only know it because she’s not afraid of telling you who she is.

She’s been through so much shit that she doesn’t know shame. She doesn’t know fear.

I’m whining about divorce all the time.

And divorce is just barely sneaking into the Top 10 of her Shitty Things That Have Happened to Me list.

I hesitate to share her story, even though three times she has told me to write whatever I wanted.

But I also want to give you a taste of who I spent five hours with last night. Because so much of it surprised me. That pleasant, smiling, pretty girl behind the counter of a family owned jeweler? How could she have baggage? How could she be tainted by all the shit?

Here’s how:

Her mother abandoned her, leaving a 21-year-old father to raise a baby daughter alone.

Her father loved and cherished her. He painted. Made crafts for his daughter. Took her fishing. Loved music. Metallica. Aerosmith.

But we all have demons.

My date’s father was a drinker. Like my dad, in a lot of ways. Because he never had any of the problems commonly associated with alcoholism. He went to work. Maintained healthy relationships. Stayed out of trouble. No violence or sexual misconduct or anything like that.

He just drank.

My date recalled stories growing up in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with her dad.

“I went for the coffee and donuts,” she said.

Sometimes, her father’s hands would shake from withdraw symptoms, so they would only fill his coffee cup a small amount to avoid spilling.

A total goofball, his adoring daughter called him.

Her father was killed in a car accident when she was 12.

Mom’s been gone forever. And then the person who matters most is gone, too. Out of nowhere.

My chest tightened as I started to see my date for who she was. As I started to realize the depths of trauma and tragedy that have touched her.

She started tearing up. She almost never does that, she said.

The waitress showed up right then. I hoped she didn’t think I made my date cry.

She regrouped quickly. Told me happier stories about her father’s art. She has one of the last paintings he ever made. Showed me a photo of it. A small boat nestled up against a palm-treed peninsula or island. Calm waters off on the horizon. I liked it.

She also lost a best friend unexpectedly. I don’t know the details. I just know she’s an only child like me and keeps her best friends close. Which makes it extra brutal, all that she’s endured.

By the time her failed marriage came up, I had a healthy dose of perspective.

A healthy dose of gratitude.

And an inkling of a clue as to the kind of woman I was with.

A special one.

Whatever Comes Next

She likes football.

And playing card games.

And non-traditional family.

She likes making crafts—really creative things with a needle and thread.

And designing jewelry.

And music.

She wants to learn how to play guitar to honor her father. She worries about her small hands, though.

She has reconnected with her biological grandmother who she didn’t know growing up. They sew together now, and have built a loyal and loving grandmother-granddaughter relationship.

She likes the number 13. I always have, too. We joked about how shitty 2013 was for us despite our affinity for those digits.

I have absolutely no idea what my future is with this woman.

Perhaps friendship.

Perhaps nothing.

Perhaps something.

I don’t know that it matters. Which was my favorite part of going on my first date in 14 years.

Because I don’t care what happens next. Whatever happens next will happen.

The world will keep spinning.

The sun will rise and set.

The clocks will keep reminding us that yesterday is yesterday, we can’t know what tomorrow will bring and that we only have right now.

And today I choose gratitude.

Because someone volunteered to share a moment with me.

Because someone trusted me enough to share their deepest wounds and vulnerabilities.

Because someone proved to me that no matter what happens next, there is life after divorce, there is life after death, there is as much life as we choose to live.

This too shall pass.

I’m inspired by her perseverance. By her courage. By her fearlessness.

I’m inspired by her ability to love after all of the, just, totally epic pile of shit she has endured since forever.

I’m inspired by her faith. That her spirit endures. That she wants to discover more, and be generous, and love her friends and family.

The world tried to break her.

But she wakes up every day, and says: “Not today, bitch.”

I can use a little more of that in my life.

And, platonic or otherwise, I hope to do that very thing.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lost Followers

Are you not entertained?

Are you not entertained?

I lost readers—at least three—after disclosing that this place has been compromised.

My place.

To write. To opine. To emote.

Maybe they decided I’m a fraud and jumped ship.

Maybe they’re people in my ex’s and I’s personal lives that no longer felt comfortable playing voyeur now that she’s in the loop.

Maybe they were among the many new followers picked up when a post I wrote about Clean Copy was widely circulated by WordPress, and they quickly discovered my personal stories weren’t their particular cup of tea.

Maybe I offended them with all of my bad language in the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde post.

Or maybe they think I’ll stop being honest now since my ex might be reading. Maybe they think I already have. Maybe they think I never was.

On Rejection

I don’t take it well.

Never have.

While I was never the most-popular kid in school, I was also never the kid getting picked on, or the last to be picked in a playground football game.

I’ve always fared reasonably well socially.

I always had predominantly good luck getting jobs. I interview well because I’m nice and I think interviewers can tell I care and have genuine passion.

But then I was laid off. Living on The Unemployment Line for a year and a half before finally finding the job I have now.

My editors at the paper assured me it was a financial decision. I had to be the one because I had the least seniority on the editorial staff. That it had nothing to do with my value.

But, you know what?

That can’t be true.

If I had been an all-star-caliber employee? A magnificent reporter and writer? There’s no way in hell they send me packing.

I failed to make myself indispensible.

So, when the economic crunch happened and employers had to make tough choices, I was tossed on the other side of the line upon further evaluation. With the group of people they could manage without.

I’ve had plenty of girls not want to go out with me. But I never had my heart broke by one until my marriage failed.

There was so much at stake. Nine years. A child. Family ties. Mutual friends.

And in the final analysis, I was deemed the worse option. Divorce was the lesser of two evils.

I am so much more sensitive to rejection now than I used to be.

Girls that might not have even been real people not writing me back on online-dating sites felt like needles.

Friends withdrawing post-divorce has felt even worse.

Somewhere in the middle are people who once decided: Yeah, I want to read more from this guy. Only to read more and decide it was a nuisance. Bullshit. A waste of their time.

I can only think of that great scene in Gladiator where Maximus violently ruins a few dudes in the gladiator arena to the horror and astonishment of a crowd that was blood-thirsty just moments before. He screams at them: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? IS THIS NOT WHY YOU ARE HERE?”

Own It

Then.

Pause.

Get a grip, Matt.

Breathe.

You have to own your shit.

Or, in mature-speak, you must accept responsibility for your actions. In each and every situation in which you find yourself.

Life cannot be a series of unfortunate events happening to you. You’ll be a victim you’re entire life if that’s how you think about things.

Life must be a series of choices you make to control the action. To dictate the outcomes you want. With courage. And faith. And fortitude.

You know why girls on Match didn’t write me back? Because I wrote them suck-ass emails. Because I haven’t made my body something they want to touch. Because I don’t represent the type of successful and confident and bold and brave and strong person they find attractive. Maybe even because I have a son. And that beautiful little man is a choice I’ll make over and over and over again at the expense of my dating life forever.

Own your shit.

You know why I lost my job?

Because I didn’t make myself indispensible. I didn’t work harder than every other person. I didn’t write the most stories. Or the best. I wasn’t the best journalist in the newsroom. All the best ones got to keep their jobs. There’s a lesson here about how it’s in our best interest to give our jobs—if we value them—the very best we have each and every day. To take nothing for granted. Because it’s on us to be the best we can be. No one is responsible for us having jobs. Or money. Or job satisfaction. Or long-term career success. We’re responsible. Make the choice every day to be great.

Own your shit.

You know why I lost my wife?

Because I was a shitty husband. I’m not going to rehash it. We all fall short. We all mess up. We all do things to hurt others. We all sin.

But is there any doubt that I could be blissfully married with an amazing job and my happy wife and child—or possibly more children—if I’d chose every single day to be great? To love unselfishly? To be kind even when it was inconvenient?

I don’t get to be married anymore in large part because of me.

Our lives are the sum of our choices.

Don’t point fingers.

Look in the mirror.

And be strong.

And love yourself.

And forgive yourself.

And commit to giving your all today in every endeavor that truly matters to you.

Be indispensible in life and love.

Do it for the people who write your paychecks.

Do it for your partners.

Do it for your children.

But mostly, do it for yourself.

The world doesn’t owe me a thing. Nothing. But I owe the world.

I’m sad I lost those followers. Those readers. But they don’t owe me.

I owe them.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

It might be long. There might be some scary shit along the way. Keep going anyway.

It might be long. There might be some scary shit along the way. Keep going anyway.

The words were piercing.

“I want to die—I can’t do this,” wrote the broken 26-year-old. The one with the cheating husband. The one who’s being abandoned. The one just trying to figure out how to breathe. How to pick herself up off the floor.

I don’t know this young lady. But I know what all of that feels like.

She writes:

“I gave him everything.

“I have nothing—I hate myself.

“I’m empty—I’m a shell.”

Attitudes are more important than facts. – Karl A. Menninger

Hopefully she doesn’t really want to die.

I certainly don’t want to die. But for the first time in my life, I can at least relate to the thought process.

Sometimes, something hurts enough where flipping the switch to the OFF position doesn’t seem like the worst idea.

But it’s cowardly. Selfish. Wasted thought.

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, “Always do what you are afraid to do.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Absence of Hope

People feel this all the time. Hopelessness. It’s heartbreaking.

Because that’s one of the things we need the most—hope. Hope is how you persevere. It’s how you (insert cliché metaphor here) climb the mountain, break through the wall, conquer fear.

Hope is why we wake up in the morning.

Hope that today can be better than yesterday. That tomorrow brings the promise of unlimited possibilities.

Hope is why we educate ourselves and our children.

Hope is why we pray.

Hope is why we go to work.

Hope is why we love.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. And sings to the tune without words, and never stops at all. – Emily Dickinson

Motivational clichés are annoying. I know. But they’re clichés because they’re predominantly true.

When one door closes, another door opens.

When you get laid off from your job, you eventually get a new one. A better one.

When your spouse or partner leaves you, in theory, you eventually get a new one. A better one? I don’t know. But that’s my hope.

We build muscles by breaking them down.

We temper steel in fire.

Diamonds are formed under the Earth’s most-intense pressures.

If You Can’t Be Strong for You, Be Strong for Others

I don’t know much.

But I do know this: NOTHING eliminates fear, worry and stress in my own life quite like the news of someone else going through tragedy.

What were you worried about around 7:30 a.m. EST on Sept. 11, 2001?

What was bothering you on Dec. 26, 2004 when the tsunami hit the Indonesian coast?

How bad was your day last December when 20 beautiful children were fatally shot along with six teachers trying to protect them in Newtown, Conn.?

Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others. – Plato

People need you.

If everything’s great in your life, people need you. Help them.

If everything is total shit? People STILL need you. Help them.

Light Up the Darkness

You may not believe in fate. Or karma. Or that everything happens for a reason.

I don’t really know what I believe in that department. Nor do I particularly care.

I believe in math, though. In statistics. Are you getting spoon fed copious amounts of shit? Hang tight. Because good is coming to balance the math equation. To level the scale on the other side of the equals sign.

I also believe in being a good human being. In treating other people with kindness and compassion. With respect. With love in its most basic human form.

If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves. – Thomas Edison

It’s how I’m going to beat this.

It’s how I’m going to keep breathing.

It’s how I’m going to experience the sweet taste of whatever good thing is coming down the pipeline for me.

It’s how I’m going to keep my head up.

It’s how I’m going to be strong for others even when I don’t feel strong for myself.

Because we have LOTS of takers in this world. Shit tons of them. And I don’t want to be one. And I don’t want you to be one.

Find a way to give more than you take.

To be a positive force in a sometimes cruel world.

To light up the darkness.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: