One Year Later, Vol. 2

Comments 46
You don't have to be tall to stand tall.
You don’t have to be tall to stand tall.

I’m back in Illinois, where my father lives and where I typically visit twice a year to catch up with family and friends I rarely see since I live in Ohio.

One year ago, I brought my young son on this Fourth of July trip with me—the first time we made a father-son trip together after his mom and I stopped living together.

One year ago, I sat poolside, day drinking a little and reflecting on my life.


No sense of direction.

No idea what might happen next.

I only knew that my life had unexpectedly changed forever and I needed to deal with it. Getting away from my house and immersing myself in family had a profound impact on me.

This blog was less than a month old. My fingers were still learning this dance. My mind still trying to wrap its way around the words needing written and the life needing lived.

I had been so sad and so angry for the three months since she left.

Here I found peace. Not inner peace. But outer peace. In this place. Plush, green, open acreage.

A bunch of important things collided.

Love and support from family.

The realization that I had what it takes to care for my son alone.

A healthy change of scenery from the bleakness that was my now-empty home.

And the words were working their way out from me for the first time. What will come out next? From this place deep down inside. I was coaxing things out I didn’t know were in there.

I was mostly screaming with the keyboard. Crying and blaming and finger pointing.

I needed to do it. I needed to be mad and throw a tantrum. There’s still a child in here angry at the unfairness of his own parents’ split three decades earlier. My own divorce pulled all that anger and sadness to the surface.

From day one, writing here has felt like being on the proverbial couch. Divulging all that festers inside. Occasionally turning myself inside out and letting people see the ugly.

From where I sit now, I see the poolside table and chair where I sat a year ago and wrote An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1.

It’s not particularly well written. But people liked it. People like when others accept responsibility for their lot in life.

Up until that post, I hadn’t done any of that.

Up until that post, I had been a victim.

When you accept responsibility, you become empowered.

And that’s the day I became empowered as a writer. That’s the day I gave myself a real chance to contribute something positive. To turn a selfish exercise into an unselfish one.

Is There a Point to All This?

I hope so.

I hope there is a percentage of people out there who have gotten to know me throughout this process. Who have watched—for lack of a better term—a metamorphosis. From me spazzing and freaking out. To whatever this is now.

Maybe I’ve earned a smidge of credibility with some of you whose broken hearts are healing. From people who felt cheated. Or abandoned. Or broken. Because the person you loved and trusted most made choices that made you question everything you ever believed about them and yourself.

Fear and anxiety keep you from living when you lose yourself. When you don’t know where “you” went.

You remember being a certain way. And now you’re not that way.

You remember feeling good. And now you don’t feel good.

You remember having confidence as your life progressed in ways you expected and that made sense to you. And now you’re not confident. Now all your plans and dreams are derailed.

You’re in mental, spiritual and emotional limbo. And you’ll stay right there until you’re not anymore.

I Think I’m Back

I’ll never be like I used to be. I’m forever changed. Hopefully for the better.

But I’m me again.

I was in agony. I was terrified. I was crying.

And now I’m not.

I faked hopefulness.

And now I have it for real.

I felt broken and shitty. Every single second I was awake.

And now I feel stitched together and somewhat whole. I don’t feel shitty.

Everything is going to be okay.

One year later, I can measure progress.

One year later, I can see and feel change.

One year later, I know that no matter what happens next, I can handle it.

I’m going to spend the next couple days thinking about what I did and about the things I think helped me along the way in case you feel like you’re dying. Like you need something—anything—to hold onto. And maybe some of the things that worked for me can work for you.

Maybe the calendar can be a tool. Maybe time can be your friend. Maybe you don’t have to feel like you’re doing this alone.

I think maybe it’s okay to not know what’s going to happen today.

As long as you give it every chance to be better than yesterday.

46 thoughts on “One Year Later, Vol. 2”

  1. Forgive yourself. That’s being one of my biggest lessons, I am too harsh on myself and beat myself up and this makes me feel very shitty. Great read and thanks for the thinking about more than my world. Ivan

  2. See? And just think of where you will be a year from now…
    Good on you for growing…keep it up! 😉

    1. I’ve been reflecting on all this for the past 24 hours, trying to figure out what percentage of my healing is a function of some good choices and experiences, and what percentage is simply the passage of time.

  3. A year really does feel better doesn’t it? For me too and I’m so glad for you. Though mine like yours was divorce related I’ve recently seen a similar derailing happen to my ex for a completely different reason. And though we are amicable and I truly wish nothing but happiness to him and a part of me will always love him (we share a child after all); part of me thinks “NOW, now you know how all this feels – to question everything you ever thought you knew about family and the people you counted on”. To have little control in your life where you thought you had it all together. Some lessons are only learned through pain – but in owning them and even sharing them hopefully we come out wiser in the next round 🙂

  4. More than sometimes, you have to fake it, hoping that you will make it eventually.

    You keep going. It’ll go up and down, but the point is that it will be doing something.

    1. There’s a ton of faking it in the beginning.

      You nailed the experience exactly. Gotta keep going. And it just keeps getting better, oftentimes too slowly. But better just the same. I suspect that applies to just about every rough patch in life.

  5. Are you taking requests? Robin talked about how her ex knows how it feels to question everything….my ex appears to have emerged unscathed. How did you overcome the desire (need!) for your ex to feel it? I’m 2 years out and spend way too much time waiting for him to suffer some consequence.

    1. I don’t believe healing is possible without truly forgiving the other person (and yourself.)

      That was an important step for me. Hugely important.

      To whatever extent my ex feels or doesn’t feel like she did anything wrong, I was extremely hurt by all of it.

      She is forgiven.

      Not saying there are no hard feelings. There are some. But she is forgiven. And I only want good things for her.

      1. I was recently reading all about forgiveness and how it’s more for yourself than for the other person. That once you can look back on a situation you had with someone and no longer think, “if only x, y, z had happened…” but rather accept that it happened and be ok with it, than you have forgiven.

        I think back to a year ago as well and I remember being terrified that I had no idea where I’d be living now. And now I am here and I am happy. A year of healing can make all the difference in the world.

        p.s. where in IL are you?

        1. Until I was almost five, I lived in the Quad-Cities. (Moline/Rock Island on the Illinois side)

          My dad’s side of the family is all still here. I get out here twice a year. 🙂

      2. Thank you Matt. For all of your insight. You have helped me immensely. Just trying to shake a couple more things to be truly healed.

  6. It may have taken me longer, and I may not be out of the woods just yet-but I can see progress as well. I wanted to believe that I could get past whatever it was I was dealing with when my wife and I split up. But what I found was that it was ok to not be ok for a while-and to give myself time to accept what had happened, and to figure out a way to move forward. Even when if felt like I was fighting through dense fog, I kept telling myself that it would get better. And like you Matt, I’m not what I was before, though I feel like each day I get a little better than I was the day before.

    Thanks for your blog, and these posts. It’s nice to see someone going through what you go through and being able to nod your head to say, “yes, I’ve been there!”

    1. You really summed up the entire experience extraordinarily well.

      Thank you so much for reading and validating the content. It really means a lot.

  7. completelyinthedark

    I freaked a little cos I thought that shadow photo was one I used on Instagram. Well, hey what ISN’T similar on Instagram? 😉 Anyway, glad to hear things are swinging upward. Man the road is long. And I think I have 20+ years on you and still haven’t figured it out. So, it’s not a matter of time but … I don’t know what. Still mulling that one, bro. cheers MM

    1. Cheers to you. I don’t think we ever have it all figured out. I’m okay with that.

      I just didn’t like feeling totally out of control.

      It’s nice to feel mostly “back.”

  8. Everyday we wake up and get on with living is a day of opportunity. I have had some similar moments lately mainly reflecting due to others asking for help with what they are going through. They are a couple of friends who just didn’t understand what I had gone through and now they are (unfortunately) living it they have apologised for their lack of empathy previously. It is wonderful to have moments of seeing how far we have come puts a smile on my face! 🙂

    1. We have to forgive others. It’s really hard to see things from others’ perspectives and empathize without knowing exactly what something feels like.

      In a lot of ways, suffering a little can make you a better human being.

      Probably important to embrace that component of it.

      Hope you’re well, miss. Nice to hear from you.

  9. A year makes a world of difference, so much can happen, so much HAS happened. It’s helpful to look back so you can see how far you’ve come. Not just you Matt, but me as well. And more good things will come in this year, for both of us.
    Keep it positive and moving forward, but remember it’s not a steady ascent, but it is always forward.

    1. No. Ups and downs. For sure.

      But always forward. There’s comfort there.

      Thank you so much, Jen.

  10. Good to hear you are in a better place. I’m thankful for your blog because it kind of allowed me to cheat the process some I think. Reading about your struggles made me feel human during this divorce of mine. I am able to handle it knowing without a doubt there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Even less than six months on I can already see that light and it’s nice. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Vince.

      I’m not hanging a Mission Accomplished banner behind me and giving victory speeches.

      But there is a VERY noticeable shift that has happened inside me over the past month or two.

      Once you can stop just trying to stay alive, you can really start living again.

      Always rooting for you, sir.

  11. This I will write down – thank you – “I think maybe it’s okay to not know what’s going to happen today.As long as you give it every chance to be better than yesterday.”

  12. Hi Matt, I’m so glad that you’re feeling better!. And I love the wisdom in your words. As you know I was heartroken this spring, and then I tried dating and found a really nice man…but I did the same mistake…blamng everybody else instead of taking full responsibility of my own behvious. I was rude and childish and he left. Now I see so clearly how childish I was, not because of that I’m a bad person. Not at all. I just had not been dealing with my own grief from my childhood being abondoned and not well treated, so I had that as a shitty unconcious excuse for behaving egoistic. When my last date left. The truth hit me like a wall in the face, It hursts so much, because you can’t change the things you’ve done wrong. I will do it better next time. Until then I will heal and your blog has been a great help. Thank you Matt.

  13. So one year later, you start to emerge from the fog and realize you can be a grown assed man with something to offer yourself, your son and the world. It may not be the life you planned it is however the life you have. I suspect you will make it a far better life than you imagined it could be. You have cajones Matt, believe me you do.

    So this weekend, start to dream would you please.

    Have a chilled glass of Herradura Anjeo and consider the possibilities.

  14. You deserve to feel good about yourself. There are few who work as hard at being a good person as you do.
    Happy 4th.

  15. I hope you enjoyed the fourth with your dad – my dad passed way five years ago and my father-in-law passed a couple of weeks ago – so I’ve lost the fatherly influence in my life and now it’s my time to become the great wise one in my family…I’m not sure I’m up to the task – BIG shoes to fill… a year is along time and hardly any time at all. Continue to be the light ad let light fill your life.

    1. Very sorry to hear about the recent (and less-recent–I bet it NEVER gets easy) losses, sir.

      I don’t know anything because I’m not wise, but I’m pretty sure worrying about whether you’re up to the task and recognizing the big shoes to fill makes you just the guy for the job.

      I don’t anyone ever gets it all figured out. I just think the best of us try really hard. And when we have a bunch of life experience to share with younger people, we seem wise, by comparison. I think all the really wise people who’ve ever lived doubted themselves, too.

      Wish I could ask them.

      Thank you very much for writing, Clay. Appreciate your time.

  16. “When you accept responsibility, you become empowered.”

    That quote from you is challenging, profound, and difficult, all while offering a route to freedom.

    Perhaps that is part of why I blog; writing and standing up for what I believe by hitting that publish button and proclaiming those beliefs to the world is part of what responsibility looks like to me. I write to process and own up to where I am and how I got here. I also write to address the issues around me that I feel are being swallowed up by the shadows of complacency and discomfort.

    I applaud you for stepping up to your responsibilities, and I look forward to reading more of your gut-wrenching honesty as you figure out what your life will look like from here. Cheers!

    1. Thank you. For reading. And for summing up quite well WHY we write.

      It’s easy for me to write this stuff. My challenge? Walking the walk. Taking action AFTER hitting the publish button.

      Getting there.

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