Three Years From Now 

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Sarah asked: 

“How would you like to see your relationships evolved in the next three years?”

If form holds, I’ll still be alive in three years.

But form never holds.

I’ll be barreling toward 40. Maybe I’ll like myself more. I hope so. People should like themselves on their 40th birthday.

My son will have just finished fourth grade. Maybe he’ll like a girl and want to hold hands with her but not want to talk to me about it.

I might still be plugging away at my cubicle job. Maybe that will be depressing. Or maybe I’ll be grateful for the security.

I might be a published author. Hopefully more than just once. You always get better at things when you practice.

When I rank all the things that project to matter in my life three years from now, only four things stand out. All four are personal relationships. Only three are with humans.

The One with my Ex

I didn’t see it coming, but my relationship with the woman I married continues to be the most important one I have.

“But what about your son, Matt!?!?”

If you want to get all lawyery about it, my relationship with him (he’ll be seven soon) is the most relevant and meaningful.

But the thing that gives me the best chance for success with that child is for his mother and I to have a civil, healthy, friendly, cooperative relationship, that provides him the best opportunity for a happy, secure, fruitful childhood.

In three years, I have to assume she will be in a serious relationship with another man. A man who will serve as a de facto stepfather to my son. A man who I will inevitably imagine having sex with my wife of nine years and be slightly repulsed. A man who might have children of his own who will prove to be a major influence on my young son.

I will have no say in the matter, nor should I.

You wake up and breathe. You smile. You help. You care. You love. Not romantically. Just… love.

You continue to practice kindness and you build up that muscle.

This is what love looks like, son.

That’s what it must be about now.

The One with my Son

When I was a boy, I loved being with friends because I was an only child. I wanted to go play with them more than I wanted to be home, and I think it might have made my parents sad.

My mom sometimes took it as I didn’t want to be with her.

My dad? I only saw him for a small percentage of the year. Maybe he felt betrayed, too. He usually didn’t say anything. But maybe it hurt. I don’t know.

My young son was invited recently to spend the night with his friends. I texted his mom to let her know I was thinking about letting him.

“Thanks for letting me know,” she said. “But I think there’s a good chance he will wake up crying and want you, so be prepared to go get him in the middle of the night.”

I asked him whether he’d like to stay with his friends. He was visibly excited. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t going to be there. In that moment, he had everything he wanted.

That was the first time he has ever slept somewhere else when he was “supposed” to be with me. That’s the first time I ever felt like my parents must have felt a thousand times, each.

I know there will be more.

I want him to know he can talk to me about anything. I pray I never make him feel punished for his honesty. He must learn to communicate honestly about things if he hopes to maintain healthy relationships in the future.

It was a lesson I learned too late.

I have never loved nor been more proud of anything than that child. Nothing can stir in me deep, meaningful feelings the way just looking at him sleeping can, or when he does something that demonstrates how much he has learned and grown.

He’s a beautiful child.

I pray I always feel about him as I do right now. Right as I push this button.

The One with the Girl I Haven’t Met 

It fascinates me when I consider it.

Maybe she’s laying in bed with another guy right now. Maybe she’s giving birth to a child. Maybe she’s on the other side of the world building houses in impoverished communities. Maybe she’s out having drinks with her friends. Or walking her dog. Or visiting her grandmother. Or writing something like me.

Maybe she’s sitting somewhere right now wondering who I am and what I’m doing.

Maybe I’ll be single forever. I just don’t think so.

And that means it’s going to happen again. You know. IT. Love. It’s hard to imagine. Only this time, she’s going to get a more raw, real, honest, authentic version of me than my ex-wife did. (I didn’t know then what I know now.)

With all of my insecurities (though I feel pretty good about myself these days) and baggage. With the knowledge I have a son.

That my family is spread all over. That I’m still trying to figure out who I’m going to be when I grow up.

She’s going to be amazing. AMAZING.

I know.

Because I’m picky. Because her capacity for love and patience and forgiveness will be massive. Because I’m TERRIFIED to love again the way I loved my wife because I never again want to feel the horrors of breaking on the inside. And if there IS a someone?

That means she overcame all that. That means I looked at her and she looked at me, and we both said yes.

It means we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow but for now, we want to find out together.

It means I’ll be cooking again. Hugging again. Kissing again.

It means someone will inspire me. Cheer for me. Believe in me.

It means I’ll rarely feel lonely. Just a reach away.

Maybe all of that will come true, or maybe none of it will. We spend a lot of time reflecting on the past and pondering the future.

But really we only have now.

The things that happened before don’t get to determine what happens next.

And what happens next is not something we control.

Just. Right. Now.

Breathe in. Hold it. Then out.


11 thoughts on “Three Years From Now ”

  1. 3 years.

    I actually always have somewhat of a 1 to 5 year vision of my life. Where I am today, and where I want to be. For me, I find I need to have some sort of goals and some sort of plan. If I don’t know where I want to be, then how will I ever know if I get there?

    Normally the plan is around things like work, things I want to do around the house, and ways I want to spend vacations. Plus any other little goals that I may have along the way.

    It’s a fairly flexible plan, as new things occur that may change my perspectives and priorities. But it’s still built of a number of short and long term goals.

    Like yourself, I have realized that beyond concrete goals (promotions, home renovations and trips) I need to also have goals around who I am as a person, and how I approach relationships. I’ve always tried to be “the best person I could be”, but a healthy dose of self-reflection makes me realize that I can always learn more about me. In my 20’s and early 30’s I don’t think I really saw that, or understood it.

    My biggest shift in the past 2-3 years has been in taking ownership of me, my choices, and my role in the events of my life. No matter what has happened, and no matter how unfair things may seem at times, there are always decisions and actions on my end that have contributed. I can influence the world around me, but the only thing I really have control over is my own choices. Sometimes they are good, other times? Well, less good I suppose. But ultimately they were mine. And I can learn from them, and always try to improve moving forward.

    1. Sounds like we have very similar stories, Drew. The past three years have been a remarkable experience for me. I’m not glad it happened. But I’m glad for the perspective and wisdom I’ve gained. Valuable stuff.

      1. Very similar actually. The main difference is that my marriage is still around. It’s battered, bruised, and I don’t know if it will make it. Things look fairly promising at the moment, but we’re coming from a fairly dark place and have a long way to go.

        No matter what happens moving forward though, I have learned a lot about myself, relationships and what I want/need out of life. And I’ve learned not to take things for granted ever again.

  2. I have tremendous respect for your choices.

    To show your son what love looks like, to model it for him in all your relationships.

    Much, much respect to you.

    1. Thank you very much. I don’t always show him what it looks like. But I’m always aspiring to and hoping I get close sometimes.

    1. Seems highly unlikely anyone will call or think of me as amazing today. This was so nice. Thank you.

  3. This is indeed what love looks like. You will know it again, I assure you it will come. You will be scared spitless when it does. You will want to run, multiple times because you don’t want to ever feel what it is like to break apart inside. But you will choose to stay, because when it comes you will recognize it and it is worth it.

    This was wonderful, raw and beautiful. You are going to make someone a wonderful ‘last love of their life’. Think about that one.

  4. Hah The one with the awesome Friends reference.

    But seriously, this is the best blog I’ve ever read. I’m not saying that to give some inflated, over dramatized compliment, Reading your words has been enlightening, to say the least. I think I’ve literally felt all the feels- or at least close to it. I’ve laughed. Ive cried. I’ve cried again. I’ve identified with your ex. I’ve identified with you. I’ve been made to think. I’ve cried some more. This has truly been an amazing read and I thank you for sharing your heart and your experience. Absolutely fantastic.

    1. There is no combination of words that can adequately convey how appreciative I am of this.

      Thank you for reading and feeling. I let a lot of doubt creep in. All the time. And when I read something like this, it reminds me that you don’t have to reach everyone. Just one.

      And in this instance, it’s you. And you were nice enough to write and tell me about it. Thank you so much for that because it’s important to feel like you didn’t waste your time. Like it mattered.

      I appreciate you very much. Please have a good day.

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Matt Fray

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