The Post I Can't Write
I wish this had never happened."
I wrote the other day about how I was "happy." That's true, but it isn't the perfect word to describe my condition. In the midst of a recent wide-ranging conversation with X, the perfect word came out, blurted from my face. What I said was, "I am at peace."
She came over recently so we could talk about a change in AJ's schedule, mete out the holiday assignments and plan for his upcoming adventures in First Day of School and AYSO Soccer. After we dispensed with all that, I started to tell her what's been happening to me.
I stated almost right from the outset of this life-altering event that I intended to make some personal changes in my life. That was bravado talking, a defiant sneer in the face of my pain. I meant it, on some level, knew I had changes to make for AJ's benefit, but it was mostly words. Inside, the turmoil overwhelmed everything else, fueled my anger--both righteous and not. I spent whole days arguing internally, a cacophonous place, white noise and shouted indignation filling me, bashing X, myself, the world at large. I was consumed with regret, with those moments that kept coming back to me, little things I did or didn't do that might have corrected the path. I seized on every slight--real and perceived--and built towers of blameless rage, waiting to unleash them on her.
That emotion, that pain, slowly dissipated and I began to see--to feel--a greater truth. Knowledge seeped in between the cracks of my busted heart. That urge to harden myself lost the battle. Instead of shutting down, letting scar tissue develop on those open wounds, I let the fissures grow wider, laying myself open, willing to start again at the bottom, to find purpose.
I've finally gotten away from my emotional rendering of the event and have been able to look at it with a more logical eye. And what I see is, that even when I thought I was happy, I really wasn't. This is true not just of that failed marriage, but of my whole life. I found comfort in a great many things, found solace in a bottle, fun in dope, fantasy in high potency blotter acid. I found escape in women, love even, letting my heart lead the way into those dizzying relationships. And all those things worked, calmed the demons inside. For a time.
If I'm honest with myself--not an easy thing--there's always been something missing, something I had not yet done, a standard to which I'd not ascended. For many years, I've felt aimless, not unhappy, but wondering if "that's all there is," wondering where the last 20 years have gone and why...oh why...do I look back and find nothing of import, nothing with lasting resonance?
I gained so much strength from you people when this went down. I can't enumerate, nor adequately convey, the depths to which I was aided by your attention, support and love. At a time in my life where I could have felt the most lonely, I never felt alone. At the same time, your kindnesses caused in me some regret, even guilt. Because, for too many years, I'd isolated myself from others, walled myself off inside my marriage because that's what I'm supposed to do right? I'm father and husband now, I can't be spending time traipsing off with friends when I have responsibilities, adult responsibilities!
And maybe that was simple justification for the laziness with which I attended my friendships. Guys I've known almost my whole life and my contact with them had been reduced to the occasional e-mail. It's a trait I recognize, since it's the same as the distance I always noted and disliked in my own father. About a year ago, I got some photos in my e-mail from Donny. In them, were pictures of a camping trip they'd all taken, complete with families, a camping trip I was wholly unaware had taken place. My first reaction was, "What the fuck?!" Thanks for inviting me, guys. My second was that I didn't deserve to be invited, so little had I contributed to my friends' lives in recent years.
I'd done the same with X, of course. When the logistical changes occurred in our lives a couple years back, separating us, diminishing our physical time together, a distance was fermented. And instead of working overtime to narrow that gap, we pulled further away, each of us caught in our own rut, taking the easy, lazy way so as not to be interrupted from our personal attentions. Our connection crumbled, the bridge between us no longer able to reach the shores with neither of us willing to speak up, to give a name or solution to the expanding gulf.
In both instances, I isolated myself, wrapped my life in distraction while ignoring the obvious. It was who I had become. At some level, I recognized it, but at the same time, somehow thought there would be no implications. That any danger could be dealt with.
"I wish this had never happened," she said to me, as we sat on my balcony in the humid heat.
"Me too," I said. "But it had to."
It had to happen to expose my faults. I was not self-aware enough and as much as I'd like to think a less-dramatic change would have shaken me from my fugue, I can't be certain. And the realization that this split was necessary is an idea I resisted long and hard these many months. For much of it, I only sought to quell the hurt. Once that subsided, I lit out to find fault in X. Sure, I did a lot of self-examination. Too much, in fact, so much so that I was asking endless questions, but never quieting long enough to find answers.
With a couple recent and life-affirming events, that noise inside me subsided. I found myself open to ideas I'd not previously considered or heard. There was optimism there, a rendering of the possibilities, not only going forward, but rewards in calming the past. So I was still. I listened.
Regret can be debilitating, because you have no opportunity to go back and alter your decisions. It gnaws at you, those simple things you let pass by that may have made a huge difference. I found many reasons to be regretful in the aftermath. They piled up on me, heavy on my shoulders, an illustration of how I'd failed. I've gone on and on about how I was going to turn those into something positive, how I could profit from my setback, but I was missing a crucial piece of that particular puzzle.
I had to give them up. You can't hold fast to regret. I grasped my failures with white knuckles, trying to choke the life out of them, render them impotent. That's not the way to go. You have to hand them over, release them from yourself. Six weeks ago, in the midst of a soul-shaking moment, I did just that.
I told X all these things that lazy Sunday. I also told her that letting go of that burden pointed me in an obvious direction. One of the great rewards of this tumultuous time has been the realization that I can help people. My words and experience resonated with some, so that they came to me with similar problems. That became one of the things that kept me going, kept me sharing the day-to-day roller coaster. It connected me with people. It turned me into the role of counselor and in the process of re-living my own hurt, of empathizing with the pain of others, I began to heal. And with those regrets now gone, I can take my experience, all that I've survived, and use it to light the paths of others.
So maybe that's what's been missing all these years. Maybe this entirely self-directed life I've lived is what has left me unfulfilled.
"So," said X. "Can you help me?"
I laughed. "You just need to not be afraid to show people your true self."
"Yeah," she said, nodding.
"I forgive you, Mari," I said. "I love you. And I forgive him too."
She only stared at me, blinking.
"And now I'm off into the world to do some good."