When the pain first set in it felt like someone was building a wall, not around me, but directly over my entire body. My feet were cemented in place so that I could not move from the crew of builders stacking brick after brick, laying layers and layers of mortar across my legs, then up to my waste, then they stacked them extra thick on my chest, and then piled them upon my head. There was nothing I could do to get out from this consumed feeling of hurt. My eyes hurt to see, my ears hurt to hear, each breath burned (the pack and a half of cigarettes a day didn’t help much), and the mere thought of moving created burning sensations across my skin. Never before had I experienced a pain quite like this. I have lost a child and I still think and cry over this loss today, I have had friends pass away abruptly, and I was there for my father in laws final breath. This pain though, it was different, which instantly made it worse.
I believed in love, I believed in true love, I believed in the fairy tales, the romantic notion that we would grow old together and maybe pass away in each other’s arms like in The Notebook. People would sit there that didn’t really know us and cry at the loss of such a connection, of such an unrelenting love that even death would be hard pressed to separate us. The loss of our relationship not only brought the pain it did, but terror as well. I was scared. The thing is I wasn’t just scared for me, I was scared for her, and I was scared for what this may do to my teenage boys and their trust in relationships. Would this be the reason that my boys never fully allow themselves to open up to another human being? Would this be the reason that teenage boys would grow scared or angry towards all women because they saw their father crumble before the weight of a decision their own mother made? How do I stop that? How do I tell them I will be all right when really I just wanted to climb into the bed in the cold guest room and fall asleep hoping that the morning would never come?
The feelings of being so self-centered during this time unfortunately didn’t hit me until much later. I didn’t realize how focused I was on my pain and not doing enough to be there for my boys. I didn’t know how to be there for them. In desperation I was still trying to be around her to see if there was a glimmer of hope that maybe this was just a momentary lapse of reason and that she wouldn’t be throwing away 20 years on a man that she had only met a few weeks before. I wanted what I wanted but what I wanted was something that I was never going to have again. I wanted to believe in something. It was like the first time I found the presents my parents would hide from us for Christmas. It took me until I had opened all of the presents on Christmas day to fully realize, as there was nothing that I had opened that I hadn’t previously found, that Santa wasn’t real. If there was one gift, just one, that I didn’t know about it would have provided me enough hope that there was a Santa and I could have justified believing a little bit longer. That Christmas though I knew, Santa was dead to me. He was something I pretended now for the benefit of others. As I searched and searched for the hope I was looking for from her the more distant she became, the angrier she became with me, and the more she stayed away. Then the moment hit me the “love of my life” wasn’t, not because I didn’t want her to be but because she didn’t want to be, every movie, poem, book, and song, every fucking one, their meaning changed. And I got caught up in that, I got lost in that, I got buried in that. My head wasn’t even above the surface so I could breath. I had jumped head first into the pain and fright that I didn’t give myself a chance to breath. This ultimately led to time lost, with my kids lost, job lost, friends lost, and I lost myself.
In an attempt mitigate this loss I put on a good face for everyone that was around me, well tried. Those that knew me knew better, fortunately there weren’t many around that did. When people would ask how I was doing I always had an answer and it was ridiculously over the top, but people laughed and then left me be. To everyone who asked I was “Amazing!” or “Great” or “So amazing that if the sky were to fill with unicorns and rainbows I would still be the happiest man around.” I was lying, for those who knew me and saw how I never looked anyone in the face when I was answering or that for the most part I just walked with my head down to avoid the question altogether, it became upsetting. I worked for a company that didn’t like problems, didn’t like that there was life outside of work. The more that it was known I was crumbling under the weight, the less and less they wanted me working for them. So I hid, in plain sight. There was a saying around that company “Fake it until you make it”. I took this saying and tried to fake it, hoping that one-day the pain would subside and no one would be the wiser. It didn’t though, it didn’t lessen, it didn’t stop ringing in my ears, it didn’t stop showing in my eyes as red rings darkened around my eyelids from months of tattered sleep. The dramatic weight loss (dropped almost 20 pounds in less than 45 days. It is a great diet plan for those of you trying to shed a few) also led to some whispers but never to a face-to-face question. To change the perception of the weight loss I went and bought new clothes, shiny corporate looking clothes. I was going to dress the part, or well I was going to keep faking it. It didn’t work, after 4 years, three record setting years more than tripling business for the field offices I worked with I was told that I was mutually agreeing to part with the company. Here is a check, give us our shit back, and see ya. It didn’t bother me though, I didn’t care, I was still faking that I wanted to be there so when I wasn’t allowed to be there it was a relief.
This scared my kids though. The one thing I did have was a stable job. Always have. I was the breadwinner in the house. I provided for my family and now they saw that everything I had worked for outside of them had escaped me, 18 year career gone, 18 year relationship gone, as well as, my confidence, motivation, and desire. I would try to lighten this burden by joking with them, telling them I was going to be just fine and will have a new job any moment, taking them places, and talking a good game or, incase you aren’t seeing the pattern, I would lie to them. I was scared. Not at the job loss as much, more of the relationship loss, but still ALL of the loss that was being experienced. It was piling up; they saw it right in front of their face. Now I had to try to show them that their father, a man I hope they have loved and respected for always trying to do things the right way, was not going to just crumble. I wanted to show them that their lives may bring adversity as well, that it is how you handle it that will make you stronger, not just a stronger man but person. The thing is, I don’t know how to do that. I have been spoiled; I have always worked hard, loved deeply, and laughed loudly. The only thing I could show them was that I loved them. I don’t know how to face the amount of adversity all at once like I have been and they didn’t even know about the cancer scare. There is still too much pain radiating through my body so I try to show them when they are here that the pain isn’t crippling me like it was, so we will play catch, or go for a swim, listen to music or simply talk. I bottle my pain when they are here so when they aren’t I can let it out. If they ask me questions I answer honestly, removing the mask for them so they know that I am trying but when one is trying there is bound to be a failure because trying to do something isn’t knowing how to do something.
I keep going though. For some reason the morning comes day after day for me despite my best efforts. I keep waiting for the moment when I wake up and the pain is gone. The hope of this day keeps me waiting for it and wanting it. The thing is I am not sure I am working towards a moment where the pain will be gone; I don’t think it is going to go away. What I think is that I will learn how to live with it and that will grow easier. I may not have it circling my head like vultures waiting for their meal to finally fall and falling for those vultures may not seem as appealing one day either. As someone who likes to know things, who isn’t as spontaneous as he thought, that now plans, reads, prepares, gains as much knowledge as possible, not knowing is the hardest part. Not knowing when or if a day will come when I won’t have to worry about the days where it is all I can do to get off the couch to make a sandwich for dinner, or looking at my door for far too long knowing that I need to get groceries but the idea of opening that door and stepping into the world I find cruel boosts an anxiety that I never had before. I have never known what would happen from one day to the next and that used to be fine because what I did know, that I would walk back in that door to a wife and kids and a loving house, meant that it didn’t matter what the world threw at me, I was rubber and it was glue. I have allowed myself to become the glue.
So when is it, when is the day? In reading they said 1 year for every 10 years of marriage. I have about 6 months to a year left. Can I circle the date on a calendar? The person I was that didn’t like to plan doesn’t like that idea because plans don’t always work out but this person, now of anxieties, sits here and thinks that he needs a date to look forward to. There is no date though; it is a process where I can learn as I go while slowly altering my state of mind. Such as, I want to wake up one day and not hate the state I am living in (literally the state of Vermont, which has become associated with loss in my mind. I rationally know the State of Vermont didn’t do this to me but it happened here. It all happened here). I want to be able to see people holding hands on the street and not feel the need to vomit on their shoes. I want the moments where I feel excited about the next steps such as meeting a woman, dating, and finding myself to not end in an anxiety induced thud with my face hitting the floor. Right now I recognize the pain as waves, some waves are bigger than others, some may not hit hard but there is a strong under current that can pull you far away from your starting point, and sometimes there are just a bunch of little waves that slap at you as you do that jump thing where you try to leap over them, it never works. I wonder though, is it just that I need to get out of the water, sit on the beach, grab a grape soda from the cooler, and select a time when I should try to get back in the ocean? Maybe when the water is calmer?
We have all had tragedy in our lives, some far greater than mind for sure and I recognize that. When was that moment for you? When did you realize that the pain wasn’t occupying a spot in the front of your brain but more towards the back where it would come up on occasion but you could put it back anytime you wanted? Was there even a moment or was it a process where slowly it just slipped away? I would love to know if you want to share. Thanks and goodnight.