The Holidays One Year Later

Comments 38


When you’re co-dependent and have never truly been on your own and you haven’t had sex in more than a year and then your wife leaves you, it feels like your life is over because you’re 34 and every second it’s: Now what?

You cry a lot and feel shitty and lack confidence and no women in the history of the universe have ever been attracted to that.

So much of your identity was wrapped up in your marriage and essentially all of your purpose was.

And when that identity and purpose go away, you don’t even know who you are anymore or what you’re supposed to do and it’s terrifying.

You have a lot of choices to make.

About who you want to be. And about how to get there.

But you’re still having trouble breathing. You’re still having trouble moving. You still don’t recognize the reflection in the mirror.

Being an adult is hard. And life is not always fair. And the choices we make are predominantly responsible for wherever we are in life.

If we can accept those three facts and make peace with them, we have a chance to move forward.

Especially that last one.

Because the choices we make moving forward will be predominantly responsible for wherever we are five years from now.

Something important happens during all that suffering. You get tougher.

And you figure out what really matters.

So instead of trying to win a pointless fight with your future girlfriend or spouse for no reason, you’ll act like an adult and exercise patience and kindness and sensibility.

Think of the last really awful fight you had with your spouse or partner. You probably wanted to punch them in their stupid face, because: Ugh—they’re so dumb and stubborn and mean and unfair sometimes!!!

I get it.

Now imagine a drunk driver runs a red light and crashes into their driver’s-side door at 50 miles per hour and now they’re not with us anymore. And the last thing you wanted to do was punch their face.

And you cry because you loved them more than you’ve ever loved anything. And you cry because you feel guilt and shame for feeling that way.

Perspective is a beautiful thing.

Figure out what matters. Fight for it. The stuff that doesn’t? Maybe let it go because car accidents happen and we’re not guaranteed anything because life isn’t fair, and being an adult is hard, but we should still be adults, even when it’s inconvenient.

Something else important happens.

Time passes.

You stop crying.

You stop feeling broken.

You stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Maybe you start making better lifestyle choices.

Maybe you start working out and taking care of yourself again.

Maybe you start laughing again. Laughing is important. Kids do it constantly and they’re happy and healthy. Adults rarely do and they’re sad and miserable.

And maybe you smile and laugh and are attractive again, and people like you because everyone likes smiles more than scowls and then you get some confidence back because all isn’t lost.

A year ago, I played “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on repeat while decorating the house for the holidays because it’s my favorite Christmas song, and I got sad over and over and over again as I kept pulling Christmas décor and ornaments out of boxes that belonged to my ex-wife, all with a different story attached.

I was obsessed with the idea that I would never find a girl to like me because I was mid-thirties and had a little boy and who could possibly want some loser castaway who probably deserved everything he got?

I spent the vast majority of Christmas Day alone, eating Chinese food and watching TV. It felt exactly how it sounded.

But then another year passed.

And I’m so far beyond the brokenness of yesteryear that I sometimes forget to be amazed by it all. To feel the gratitude the miracle deserves.

I felt like dying because the whole world ended.

But I just kept waking up anyway.

Just kept smiling at the people who lifted me up.

Just kept my sense of humor which has always kept me younger than my chronological age.

And now we’ve circled the sun another time. That was fast.

I’m going to break out the Christmas tree tonight and set it up for my little son who is the most-precious thing I have ever known.

I might still listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on repeat because it kicks ass, but I won’t be sad over and over and over again and cry like a wimp.

I’ll be hopeful. Maybe I’ll even watch Elf or Christmas Vacation and laugh some more. I’ll probably smile, even if I’m alone.

Because I don’t want to die. Because some girls will like me. Because I’m actually alive again.

Because it’s just about Christmastime and sometimes magic happens.

Because 2015 could change everything even though we don’t have all the cool stuff Back to the Future 2 promised us.

Because I recognize the guy in the mirror.

And despite all the flaws and immaturity and bad decisions?

He’s really not so bad.

38 thoughts on “The Holidays One Year Later”

  1. “But you’re still having trouble breathing. You’re still having trouble moving. You still don’t recognize the reflection in the mirror”
    This is so true and you pinpoint the feeling so good.

    I just wonder one thing, you talk a lot about being a shitty husband and so on….but to me…it’s obvious that you really LOVED your wife, shitty,arrogant or whatever….I sit here wondering. DID she know how much you actually loved her?

    My fiancee left me because he was depressed selfish and scared..he didn’t understand how much I loved him, he was locked in his world.

    So, I don’t think ypur that shitty, not even when ypu considered your self shitty..don’t put too much blame on the split…we women also have a responsibility to tell our men that they are distant before it’s to late.

    1. If I don’t accept responsibility and try to grow, none of this matters.

      I don’t know any other way to think about it. But thank you for trying to make me feel better.

      And I DO feel better. Of course it wasn’t all my fault. Nothing is usually ever just one person. But as a writing exercise, I think looking inward rather than pointing fingers is the only responsible thing to do.

  2. Sounds like you are getting things in order. You have the right priorities. That son of yours is very important and he needs a good strong Dad.

    1. Thank you. It’s all coming together. It’s so nice to appreciate how good it feels to NOT feel horrible.

      Helps maintain perspective.

      1. If you keep your son, your focus it will take you mind off your own pain. overtime he smiles will be a gift to you.

  3. I love this. And I think what’s so wonderful is that in two years and then seven years and then thirteen years (or whatever) you will look back to this time and it will likely seem, in some ways, like a weird blip. Sure, it’s the time of the before and then the after, like large, difficult happenings are, but it’s also just part of the fabric of you. And you will always have this blog, all these entries, to see who you were and how you got through and how you became New You. So congratulations, New You.
    Listen to Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s Little Drummer Boy for me!

    1. You’re wonderful, Mrs. Groeber. Thank you.

      I have plenty more decorating to do, so perhaps this weekend I’ll spend time with Bing and Bowie on your behalf.

  4. I’m not even sure how I came across this post but I felt the need to comment.

    That is a wonderful attitude. I am so happy that you are thinking the way you are. Things do and will get better as you can see. They will be that much better because you are conscious of all of it.

    I hope that you have a Merry Christmas. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking a minute to write this.

      You said it: “Things do and will get better.”

      It’s true.

      A very happy and blessed holidays to you too.

  5. It really is amazing, isn’t it? Before my dad died, I really felt that comments like “it gets better in time” were a cliche. And though I don’t wish coping with death or divorce or any kind of loss on anyone, it really is true. You start to feel a little better every day. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it when you’re going through each day, but when you can look back after a year, or as jgroeber says, ten years, then twenty–It IS true. “The days are long but the years are short.” Hang in there!

    1. It IS amazing. And we should spend more time saying “thank you” even if we think no one’s listening.

      I can’t express the depths of my gratitude for being able to live free of all the darkness and difficulty that infected every part of me 18-24 months ago.

      “Miracle” doesn’t feel like too strong a word to describe what must have happened for me to be essentially back to my old self again.

      I want to make sure I never forget how far a person can fall, even if it seems like they’re okay on the surface.

      Thank you for this note!

  6. One year has gone for me too. I’m not too sure that I’ve been able to work on myself as you did, and I still do stupid things due to my sednes and the fears, but yes, I’m alive and I should laugh much more than I do with my 3 super kids. Great job guy!

    1. You can’t possibly laugh too much, I don’t think.

      I’m so glad you have three kids to keep you in a good place, because they most certainly do that.

  7. It is amazingly difficult to kill a spirit isn’t it? You think it is, and then something happens and you spring into life (and a second later think WTF!?).

    It’s hard for me to remember the Christmases of 2012 and 2013. They were incremental healing. But 2010 and 2011 I remember vividly. Playing carols on a loop in my head. Feeling devastated. In 2010 it was fighting a phantom, I couldn’t understand why he was treating me so badly. I found out a few weeks later it was the affair with the woman I had not wanted our son to meet. (Protip: trust your gut). In 2011 I was reeling still, and she was still emailing him every day reproaching him for dumping her and arguing he didn’t really mean it. Pretty much the pits.

    Perspective is a wonderful thing. He got a big dose of it when I made him leave. And yet, it still felt like I was in a catatonic state. It took a decision to move out of that, but not a decision to move on or forgive or anything like that. Just a decision to wait and see. To stop stressing that I needed to decide to stay or go. Perspective to see that time (while not healing all wounds) does change things. Deciding to let him try to prove himself let me off the hook of daily agonising. I still have re-runs, I still don’t see that carefree loving girl in the mirror. But now I see the strength again.

    For me it wasn’t letting go of what didn’t matter as such, it was letting go of having to commit one way or the other. The perspective was that I just didn’t have to decide and I wasn’t a total failure for not kicking him out on day 1. What mattered, what I fought for, as you rightly point out, was time. Time equated to having *my* choices back. I fought to have time and time taught me a lot: that he was genuine this time, that he did see how someone who will cheat with you is never worthy, that we could live together without fighting, that we did have happy carefree children, that there was something of value there still. Time showed me I could endure. And life isn’t a sprint it’s a marathon.

    Where you are at 34 isn’t what counts. Maybe that’s what I would have told my 18 year old self if I could.

    1. If someone asked: Matt. What’s the best thing that happened to you in 2014?

      The only answer could be: I finally started to feel like myself again.

      And a person can’t know how important that is until they go through a period where they can’t recognize themselves. That scared the shit out of me.

  8. completelyinthedark

    Happy holidays, Matt. Keep laughing and hoping and loving your boy. It’s a gift he will never forget. cheers, Mike

  9. It makes me happy also, to see how far you’ve come in a year. Just imagine how different you will feel NEXT year!
    I do have one minor kind of beside- the- point gripe. NOBODY SHOUD BE PLAYING “HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS” until after turkey day!! -Even though everybody already is: the mall, the hospital where I work etc etc etc WHY??

    I’ve literally JUST remembered my perpetually twinkling Christmas tree that has been up all year.
    HO! Ho! ho!

    1. Normally, I’m right there with you, K. Totally. I’m a Thanksgiving guy. Christmas starts AFTER. However. I have a little dude. And Thanksgiving feels a week later than normal this year. So. Christmas decor must be displayed. And in a previous life, I shunned all Christmas music on all occasions. I softened up. Christmas music is the only viable choice for this job. (Which I’m currently doing!)

      Means a lot to me that you’ve been following along all this time. Thank you so much for that.

  10. I’m on about the same timeline as you & last year’s Christmas sucked. big. time. I was in a blur of misery & disbelief after 20 years of marriage, barely managing to keep things together for my then 5 year old son. This year, as you also said, feels monumentally different, I’m excited to give my now 6 year old son a fantastic and happy Christmas. We put our tree up last weekend and went to the Santa Claus parade – I’m caught up in the spirit and, although I know there will be moments of sadness/nostalgia but I’ll just keep calm and carry on. Thank you for your blog, it’s a source of inspiration for me!

    1. You probably don’t realize it. But saying something like “it’s a source of inspiration for me” is one of the most-profoundly good feeling-inspiring things I can hear (or read).

      That you’re able to read any of this and actually feel marginally better about some aspect of your life is the thing that makes writing a worthwhile endeavor.

      I can’t thank you enough. My sincerest best wishes for a peaceful, joyful holiday season.

        1. None of us are. We just believe lies sometimes because our brains are funny.

          There are a lot of people just like us. There is a lot of good. There is a lot of beauty.

          But it won’t just show up on our doorstep.

          We have to go find it.

          When things get really hard, we forget to move. To get out. To live.

          I’m glad that I’m not forgetting anymore.

          Hope the same is true for you, miss.

          1. I think I’ve reached a stage where I’m making the effort to move and do and feel again… but for me it is scary.
            For me it’s like opening your front door, seeing a chaotic mess of monsters, lava and violence out there, and wanting so badly to just shut the door and retreat to some dark, safe corner for always.
            I fear all the difference and change yes; I fear being so newly on my own for the first time in my adult life.
            Mostly I fear giving up the most important parts of me again, only to find myself devastated and destroyed yet again in the future.
            It’s a difficult fear to shake but… I’m pushing onward regardless.
            I’m shutting my eyes tight against the terror and pain and taking the steps outside…
            Wish me luck, Matt?
            I wish you the same.

  11. I think the line that hit me the most was the one about needing to be an adult even when it’s inconvenient. It is hard to be the adult when all you want to do is scream and be the little kid. But like you said, it’s worth it.

    1. I haven’t been tested lately. But I’m eager to take another crack at being a good person during a time when it’s hard to be.

    1. Fabulous is entirely too kind a descriptor. But I’ll take it because I’m vain and self-conscious and really want you to like me.

      Thank you so much. And of course, I wish you and yours the very same.

  12. Absolutely lovely!! You’ve much to be proud and thankful for. It’s nice to hear that you can look back on the year that has gone by and see all the good as well as realize that the bad isn’t permanent. 🙂

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Matt Fray

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