The Faux Apocalypse

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Image by eKBS at Deviant Art.
Image by eKBS at Deviant Art.

The world ended 616 days ago when my wife moved out and my little son became someone I only got to see half the time.

He was 4. The same age I was when my mom left my dad.

That was one year, eight months, and six days ago.

Today isn’t any sort of anniversary. And I’m only thinking about it because I had a perfectly pleasant and seemingly “normal” email exchange about a couple things with my son’s mom.

We were married nine years. It mattered. And it’s sad that we’re not married anymore on a handful of levels.

The most-shocking thing about getting divorced was feeling how hard it was even though I’d already experienced divorce as a child. Your entire life you hear about couples getting divorced, but it never really seems like that big of a deal from the outside looking in.

In the case of a death, we rush to everyone’s side. We send sympathy cards and flowers and make lasagnas. But when people get divorced, we just shrug and think: Gee. That sucks.

But then you get divorced.

And you can’t even breathe.

Maybe it’s because you were so accustomed to the rhythm of life. You get up, kiss your wife and son, go to work, come home, have dinner together, do this or that and go to sleep and do it again the next day.

Routine feels safe.

And then it stops suddenly and you freak out because everything’s different now and change scares us.

And maybe it’s because an actual piece of your soul was intertwined with someone else’s soul. And divorce doesn’t surgically separate that. It just rips the shit out of it and leaves it bleeding.

You gasp for breath. Frantically try to take your mind off it with TV or books or parties or friends or drinks or family or work, but everything you do and experience reminds you of your now-failed marriage.

Your now-failed life.

It reminds you of broken homes and broken dreams and broken hearts.

It reminds you that you had ONE job that really mattered.

And you didn’t get it done.

And you cry.

And then you’re someone else. You’re not who you were. You look in the mirror and think: Who the hell are you?

Someone unfamiliar. Someone strange and broken.

The Time Machine

Life doesn’t have a fast-forward button to get through the hard times. We just have to gut it out.

And it’s excruciatingly slow when everything feels poisoned and broken and wrong.

But life does have a funny way of making it seem—in hindsight—as if time flew by. Maybe it’s our mind’s way of healing.

But here we are. One year, eight months, and six days later.

What have I learned? Am I healed? What can I do to make sure I never feel that way again?

I’ve learned that divorce is worse than I thought. The emotional fallout is unlike anything I could have ever imagined. And losing so much time with your child? Life is too short and too precious to lose what little time we have with our children.

But this is what happens when two people can’t muster up the fortitude and courage necessary to love even when it’s hard. It’s a tall order. It can feel impossible. But if we’ll step in front of a truck or bullet to save our child from harm, it seems particularly foolish and selfish to suggest we can’t also be courageous enough to choose to love someone we already promised to love and cherish forever. Because that’s what is best for our children.

And certainly not in ALL cases, but in most, I believe it’s what is best for us.

There are no perfect partners out there. There are no magic people with whom we will never fight or disagree. With whom we will always want to lustily ravage in the throes of passion.

The Other Side of Divorce

Am I healed?

Damn close. It’s still a tricky thing. A little sensitive. Particularly as it pertains to my son who I cherish above all things. I don’t like not seeing him half the time. I don’t like that I can’t do anything for him when he’s not with me. I don’t like that there will likely be another father figure in his life one day and that if that man is not a particularly good person down deep where it counts, I can’t be sure how that will rub off on my son.

But the most underrated, non-discussed aspect of divorce, from my perspective, is the ebb and flow and logistics of life.

I was born in 1979.

I was raised by parents until I was 18.

I went to college and lived with my best friend for four years.

I started dating my ex-wife, and even when I lived alone, she was always around to help me.

We were married nine years.

Then BOOM.

Here’s a big spoonful of shit, Matt. Eat it. You may not like it. But you better figure out how to deal anyway.

All the sudden, all the little things that need done when you own a house and care for a school-aged child come into play and blindside a guy that relied so heavily on a mom and a wife for the first thirty-whatever years of life. Wow. They did a lot. And with infinitely more efficiency than me.

It’s big and scary and some people totally shut down and can’t handle it. That was me for a stretch.

It all still scares me a little. But nothing like before. Because when you do something 616 days in a row, you realize that you can do it for 616 more.

I have fallen short in several areas, several times. I’m still figuring things out. But I’m getting there.




How Can I Stop This From Happening Again?

Because it’s really scary to break on the inside and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But how?

I don’t know. Nothing?

Do a better job at marriage if I’m ever someone’s partner again?

That’s the rub. Marriage and divorce are big and scary propositions. Ones we don’t see coming when we’re young and in love and feeling invincible.

There’s no insurance against heartache.

Someone can always leave you.

People will always die.

Humans will always be human.

I always say I don’t know much. Still true. I just know the few things I know based on my own experiences. Those are the only things I can really be sure about. And they only really apply to me, and anyone who happens to be like me.

And here’s what I know: Divorce is hard. Excruciating. But you just keep breathing. And after hundreds of days, it doesn’t feel so hard anymore.

I know that I kind of wanted to die because I didn’t want to feel so bad.

And 616 days later, I don’t want to die anymore.

I know that I didn’t know how I was going to get through life alone, raising a young son when I can’t even take care of myself.

And 616 days later, I can take care of myself. And I’ve never felt more pride in anything than I do in that little boy.

I know that I was broken, gasping for air and searching for purpose. I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m scared.

And 616 days later, I feel whole, I can breathe and I am thrilled to be raising my son with his mom while continuing to push my own limits at home and in my career, building a new life, creating more purpose.

I still don’t know what’s going to happen.

But with 616 days in the books? I know I can handle it.

And I’m pretty sure tomorrow is going to be better than today.

18 thoughts on “The Faux Apocalypse”

  1. Two things: there is so much relate-ability(?) in your writing for people like us who are sojourning through life, post divorce. Ironically, today is the one year anniversary of my divorce being final. … meh… it’s not that bad. Am I healed? uhh…. don’t know how to answer that. Can broken people ever be healed? Is a vase glued back together ‘healed?’ not really but it works…and it has a story. And it was worth putting back together, right?

    second…the word is “throes!” and not “throws?!?!” Good golly! I always learn cool stuff from you Matt, I hope you write FOR-ever-and-EVER! 😉

    1. 1. Thank you.

      2. It is totally “throes.” I didn’t know it, but I was smart enough to look it up first. And now I do know it. Yay, learning.

      I hope I write forever and ever too. Thank you for wanting me to. 🙂

  2. Re: Bandwagon Fallacy: The bandwagon fallacy is committed by arguments that appeal to the growing popularity of an idea as a reason for accepting it as true. They take the mere fact that an idea suddenly attracting adherents as a reason for us to join in with the trend and become adherents of the idea ourselves.

    1. I’ve read this three times. And I totally understand the bandwagon fallacy. But I am a bit perplexed as to why you wanted to share it here.

      It’s probably because you’re super-smart, and I’m… not.

      Really appreciate you reading and commenting, regardless.

    2. I’m soooo sorry! I posted the above comment to your blog when i should have posted it to another blog and vice versa. Note to self– don’t post on mobile phone. Don’t post on mobile phone….

      1. Don’t apologize! I think it’s rad.

        In fact, it might be fun to just get wrecked on your drink of choice and just arbitrarily comment on people’s blogs.

        I appreciate the engagement no matter how it comes.


        Thanks for clearing it up, regardless. 🙂

  3. Amen. Time is kind of magical in its ability to heal.

    I also feel like I’m pretty close to normal. Or at least the ‘post-divorce normal’ that I identify with now. But I completely agree that it’s still a little scary. And by “it” I mean everything. Still, I love that I can hear the hope in your tone. Because at the end of it all, nothing is guaranteed and hope is all we really have to go on.

    Since I’m only the tiniest bit ahead of you in this (I’ve got 630 days to your 616), I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment.

    But I wanted to anyway. 🙂

  4. Any chance you cancer get back together? It is tough out there and those kids really need a full time Dad.

    1. In a perfect world, I would believe that is what would be best for everyone.

      But we don’t.

      We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. I am imperfect.

      Given all that has happened, I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that would make much emotional sense for anyone involved, least of all, our son. The worst thing that could ever happen to him is for him to believe mom and dad are back together only to have to go through the process all over again if it didn’t work out.

      Everyone involved deserves better.

      Somewhere between impossible and highly unlikely, I’m afraid.

  5. I really wish my ex had 1% of your thought processes. But the pride just won’t let him be a normal human being. He’s still mad, bitter and disrespectful towards me. And I have no clue as to why. Especially since the divorce was all his idea and doing, including his infidelity. But I can relate to your healing. My 1 yr anniversary is coming up in March even though I’ve been separated since 2011. It’s still very tough and painful and I can still feel the dagger shoot through my heart sometimes. It might sound weird, but maybe if my ex were more of a man like you, we’d be able to communicate better, verbally speak instead of solely talking through email and text. And maybe he’d respect me. He doesn’t have to love me, that’s his choice. But I deserve respect, absolutely. He couldn’t give me a faithful, long-lasting marriage, but damn it all to heck! At least give me the respect!!! You’re awesome, Matt! I’m proud of you.

    1. First of all, thank you. Super-nice.

      Secondly, I’m sorry. You’re right. You do deserve respect, and I’m sorry you guys have been unable to achieve a state of healthy communication.

      Third? Awesome is entirely too strong a word. I’m sort of, kind of, okay sometimes when things are going my way.

      I think my son’s mother might tell you that I haven’t always made her feel like I respected her.

      And I’ll volunteer (and have written) that I’ve fallen WAY short of always treating her with the sort of dignity and respect that all people deserve, but especially the mother of my son.

      I’ve been something way less than charitable when I was really angry. Childish, really.

      I want so badly to act like a good person even when it’s hard, because I think THAT’s when you’re actually a good person.

      But I find I’m only a good person when it’s really easy.

      And I’m sometimes a little bit shitty when I’m upset.

      But I promise to keep trying. And it’s motivating to read you write things like this.

      Thank you for that. Very much.

  6. Related to a lot this. In common with many other readers I’m also in the divorce process. You just wouldn’t imagine it could be as hard as it is. I think your very last line of the post is a bit of a mantra to use when having a shitty day. Keep on writing, knowing others understand is good for all, readers and writers.

  7. I think you write so well to express your feelings of a divorcee. People who are contemplating a divorce should read this. I think with such lows in life, people grow up tremendously, I hope you get it right when the chance knocks once more. As a reader who loves your blog, you have my support! You are an awesome dad for sure!

  8. I’ve never been divorced, but I did go through a bad break up earlier this year with someone I was with for four years. I understand these are two different things, but a lot of what you’re saying is still super relatable to my situation. I feel like I’ve gone through what you’ve gone through on a smaller scale. (I thank God I didn’t actually marry him as planned. I feel like that would’ve caused more heartache.)

    I have moved on, but there are still scars. I am still healing. This post is great to affirm that I’m on the right track. I also thank God I went through that experience. I learned a lot about myself and what I want. I am stronger in areas. It’s the areas that have become weaker that I’m still working on.

    Enough about me. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this experience. Divorce makes me sad. Maybe I’m a weeper (or maybe I have some sort of empathy disorder. ha.), but even when I don’t know the person, if I hear they’ve been divorce, I feel like crying. However, you seem to acknowledge the mature (borderline positive?) side of the situation. I commend you for that. Learn from the past and make the future brighter. Keep on keeping on.

    On a side note, it sounds like you’re open to choose to love again, (I’m going to go read that post of yours in a minute.) which is awesome! Humans are humans. We always seem to let each other down. Humans probably hurt each other like no other species on the planet, but dare I say we probably love stronger than any other too? I’m just happy you didn’t blame love for your divorce and heartache. (Or women in general.)

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Matt Fray

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