dissolved

Today was the day of the dissolution hearing, so of course I’m experiencing a mix of emotions. The marriage is over, as it should be, and as it perhaps should have been years ago. And yet, understandably, I feel the grief overwhelming me. The little stabs as the magistrate called my ex Ms. followed by her maiden name. Hearing her voice, which feels like hearing a ghost. The message she sent after wishing me the best, thatI find happiness in life. Little stabs. Little twists.

It’s a tough day, but I know it’s a turning point. I don’t feel well, I don’t feel balanced, I don’t feel happy. I outright resent when people tell me “Awesome, you’re free!” or otherwise act like this should be a day of celebration. I know they mean well, and I know they understand the relief of moving passed this date, but it’s not something to be celebrated. I’m not sure why people do that, why they have divorce parties, etc. It all feels forced, like we’re so set on moving past things instead of processing them, that these shallow idiots have to throw a party for one of the most painful experiences that can occur in life. Oh well.

So many mixed emotions. An ongoing need to “fix” the unfixable. To heal what can only become a gnarled scar at best. To control the uncontrollable. Things will happen, bad things, and we have no control over them as much as we trick ourselves. We are animals of earth, and everything we’ve come to understand about society, is simple a creation of our own making. We can trick ourselves into thinking we have control, that we can force things through the power of will, but we’re no match. We are animals, frail bones and soft flesh. The earth and all things in it, whether other humans, forces of nature, or our very brains, are going to hurt us deeply, and we’ll have no choice but to survive the onslaught. To heal, as best as we can, to learn the lessons we never asked to be taught.

This is post trauma. This is where I’m supposed to grow and learn from my wounds. This is where I get stronger, so they say. Perhaps it’s true, and I feel it in some ways, though I’m not sure if I’d call it strength. Resilience is perhaps the better term, but in a broad spectrum. Yes, I have knowledge that I can withstand tremendous pain and loss, but also resilience to situations that may cause pain. And that sounds more like fear, something I’m very familiar with. When will these wounds heal, and will they do so in time. In time for the inevitable pain I’ll feel again one day. In time for me to feel content once again, or some semblance of contentment, before I grow old. To feel love and comfort from another.

Resilience. Resist. Close up. Grow. In any case, here I go into the great unknown. I’ve done it before, though not like this, and not with so many wounds. This blood trail in my wake is still so very fresh.

fade

This week is feeling a bit different. I think it’s a good different, though it’s such a small shift. Frail, and prone to being another tease, something that sticks harder when I fall back down. But maybe not. Time is doing its work, and with that comes a mix of emotions. My memories, the immediate ones, of being with her—of having her as part of my daily life—are fading. I remember this with the first dog I lost (the first in my adult life that is). I remember how his memories faded, how he became less tangible, like a memory from my past versus a living breathing reality. I had to work hard to imagine him bringing me his ball and dropping it, the polite woofs to get my attention, how he would lick me (and only me) right on my nose in our little ritual that existed only for us. It became harder and harder to confer those memories. It’s what time does, it’s how we’re healed when we’ve lost something so important. The memory becomes calloused, protecting you from the true pain beneath the surface, the pain that has been locked away, transmogrified into something different. Blood hardening into matted tissue.

Days after I lost my second dog, truly my best friend, I sat at my piano and played a song titled “Blue Bird” by Alexis Ffrench. I’m not sure of it’s intended meaning, but I see it as simple song about life, how it begins, how it is lived, and, cyclically,  how it inevitably ends, fading away into the mist of collective memory. One portion of the song captures this feeling, that the memory of a once-living creature is fading away, calcifying. As I played, I thought of my little guy’s memory fading, and I broke down. I thought how I didn’t want him to become only a memory, that he deserved so much more than to become another simply to be mourned.

It’s been 8 months since I split with my wife. 6 months since I found out she was having an affair. Somehow only 6 months. Only now have the memories of her presence begun their own calcification, only now becoming somewhat encased, no longer so raw. Memories of “us” seem long ago. Like binding twine, my mind continuously attempts to define the experience, relentlessly trying to understand, to capture what it was, to define 16 years of life, and, ultimately, to file it away. To tie the bow. To call it what it was. To move on. But with that feeling comes further grief, because I don’t necessarily feel ready to pull that bow tight, to forget, to submit to the ephemeral. I’m not ready to lose those memories, or to have them grow distant, despite the fact that it is crucial for my healing. I simply must have distance, I must place memories upon memories, into a bound box, and for the first time I must mourn for someone who still lives. Her. Myself.

But, there has to be a flame for something to burn away, to meld, to transform, and this flame is burning and burning and burning.

 

Sometimes, you’d ask me for something different
Hated when you did it, I wish that you didn’t
I would do things and you’d get annoyed
I should’ve never done them, I wish I was different
Why do we have to step away now?
It’s been a year, been a couple days now
Since you called me sayin’ you’re worried
Been hard for me dealin’ with this space now
No company, wishin’ we could sit down
‘Cause I’m sorry, but you don’t want me

Please stand with me after dark
I’ll stay in the limelight
Like a beautiful afterthought
I don’t wanna forget about you
I don’t wanna forget about you, oh
I don’t wanna forget about you
I don’t wanna think about it

— Joji, afterthought

flood

Last night I had an intense dream. In it I ran into my ex, and she was holding a ring in a box. When I confronted her, I asked her how she could be engaged to this new person already, how she could move on so easily. She replied that her father had given her the ring because he knew she was gong through a hard time, and he wanted her to know he was thinking about her. This gutted me because I miss her father and family, and hate the idea that they’ve all been put through this situation in their own ways, but also because I knew it represented how I really wish I could stay mad at her. She treated me in horrendous ways, let there be no doubt, but I tend to fall into sadness and regret more than anger. Anger is easy, and I wish I had her capacity to hold on to anger, but it’s simply beyond me. Later in this dream I wanted to talk to her, but she was constantly elusive, surrounded by friends who literally lifted her up and carried her away. In reality, after I moved out, I was never given the chance to speak to her in person, as she had retreated to her group of supporters, bolstered by their reassurance that she should indeed leave based on the false info she gave them to receive that exact feedback. I never had a chance against someone so efficiently able to fuel, and then reside, in her own anger.

A bit later in this dream I found myself driving to an unknown destination. I followed my route guidance until I came upon a sliver of land that rose up between two shorelines. Waves lapped inward from both sides, as if two oceans were divided by a 15ft swell of land. Reassured by my route guidance, I proceeded down this strip of sand and rocks. As I did so, the waves came in form both sides, touching all four tires of my car. Still I continued on. The next set of waves hit harder, submerging my car up to the windshield, and yet I kept driving, my tires still gripping the wet earth below. The next blast of waves, however, submerged me completely, and I felt my car lift as it floated, water spewing through the window linings and filling my floorboards. At first, panic rose, but in my mind I thought “Of course,” and I let the waters take me away. In my mind, it was just another thing happening to me. Just another thing to make me feel bad, to keep me from a potentially positive destination. The car began to roll, fully off course, fully removed from the small patch of land. I made the decision to exit, to swim to my destination, only when I rose, there was nothing but a single island. As I pulled myself onto the vine covered patch of land, I found a small house. As I approached, an old man opened the door to this house, and told me he wanted nothing to do with me. I knew instantly that this old man was me. Lost, alone, damaged, grizzled, and sequestered on a lone island.

Clearly the symbology is about my current struggle, my insecurity of my place in life, and my very real fear of distancing myself from others until I live on a metaphorical island represented by that old man. I’m trying my best to not let that be the case, but it’s not hard to imagine when I hold nothing but fear of others. Fear and distrust that anyone will ever truly care, but a fear that even if they truly did care, the distrust that I’d be able to believe it.

Will I grow stronger? Oh no. Despite the old adage about what won’t kill you, I think I’ll most definitely not be stronger. I’ve never felt weaker, never felt less of the fight within. Will I process. Will I adapt. Will I cope. Will I forgive. Will I trust.

deepening

Things are getting worse. I think it’s because the end of the marriage is near, and that part is fine, but also I’m fully in the anger stage of my grieving process as I work through the loss. I’m someone that has trouble staying mad, and my anger almost always turns to sadness.

Tomorrow is March 1st. I can’t express how important this day is, how I’ve kept my focus on powering through to March, an idea that if I just make it through winter to longer days, to more daylight, to the raw symbology of Spring and life renewed. Somehow I think this will help me, and I still believe it will, but it won’t fix me. Some Spring, some years in the future, might hold that feeling, but it won’t be this one. There’s still too much pain, enough that no amount of sunlight could ever melt.

I miss my dad. I had a dream the other night that I walked into a house where my brother was staying, and my dad was sitting on the couch. I looked at my brother in shock, and asked in disbelief “Why is dad here, what is going on?” to which my brother explained that there was a mistake, and they were indeed able to revive him, and he’d simply been in a coma this entire time. My dreams can be diabolical in their details, and this one through in some flavor to make it feel all the more real when my brother explained it was due to liability issues with the hospital, and they simply could not relay the truth until my father has woken up to sign a waiver of responsibility.

I ran to my father and cried will grabbing him in my arms. He cried too and said how sorry he was to put us through the pain, and I told him it didn’t matter and how happy I was he hadn’t actually died. I woke at this point at 7:45am and was crying in real life too. When I realized why, it hit me even harder, because the dream was of course not reality. Reality hits hard after these types of dreams, and I cried and cried and cried.

I haven’t been able to mourn the passing of my father. 10 months s not enough, and at 10 months my ex wife had her affair, thus freezing my mourning process like an ancient bug in amber. There, it lies preserved and raw, wholly unprocessed, waiting for its turn. I’m hoping that one day, perhaps one Spring, that the sun will indeed be warm enough to melt that amber, to set the pain free.

tampered

Note: this is a revision of my previous poem, 2 weeks in Mourning:

My dad died two weeks ago.

When I felt years younger.

Simply alive, then not alive. 

Both of us, in a way.

 

Alone in the ward, his final breath,

shared only with strangers,

joined in whispering ether,

of others, lost in sojourn.

 

A nightmare had me parked down below,

on the street, clawing at doors,

clamoring at bricks,

to climb to him.

 

My memories have changed

Each now newly stamped,

One by one,

A bloody red burn, smoking parchment,

a reaper’s hand, diligently thumbing through,

smashing that mark down,

each and every one of them, redefined,

Re.           Filed.

 

Soot in the fine grains of a thumbprint,

Like evidence,

A feeling that someone has tampered

*redacted*

Redefining each memory,

as they burn, and burn again,  

burn Me away, 

the Me you may have known,

now another to mourn,

in a tidy clasp of ashes,

like my father’s remains.

 

*redacted*

 

Different now,

I’m 

Different now,

Hollow… no, not quite,

Every memory polluted,

Now I, Me/Re.           Filed. 

/ compromised / I’m

*spark*

Stuttering, hunched, mumbling,

Half of me gone

A bitten tongue

No, I mean that, science means that

Half of who would be me

is gone.

sorry

My ex has never apologized during or after our split.  I have no delusion that she ever will (and I won’t need it despite the closure it would bring) so I’m doing it for her:

I’m sorry.

  • I’m sorry for telling you I wanted to separate 10 months after your dad died, and 3 months after the most special dog in your life died unexpectedly.
  • During this conversation, I’m sorry that when you asked me for a little patience and that you were still grieving so many things and needed time, that I yelled at you “I can’t help you with that!”
  • When you asked if there was someone else, I’m sorry that I told you the idea was crazy, that I wasn’t interested, and that the reasons you gave for suspecting were ridiculous.
  • I’m sorry that when you brought this up again, that I once again yelled at you and said “I’m sick of you bringing that up, you’re not helping yourself.”
  • I’m sorry that I lied to you and told you the reason I was leaving was because of “your moods” despite the fact that your mood was simply a result of sadness due to your multiple, consecutive losses.
  • I’m sorry that when you called me crying, that I was repeatedly harsh to you, dismissive to your despair, and placed blame solely on you, when all the while I was seeing someone else.
  • I’m sorry that I lied and told you I needed to be on my own for a while, when in fact I was never planning to be on my own and was in fact having an affair.
  • I’m sorry that when you were scared and upset from this separation, and accidentally sent a notification to see my location on my phone, that I yelled at you and told you that you were pissing me off, when in fact I was having dinner with the man I was having an affair with.
  • I’m sorry for finally telling you that I’m leaving the marriage exactly 1 year to the date from the last time you saw your dad alive.
  • I’m sorry that after every single conversation with you during our separation, that I would then call the person I was having an affair with instead of truly considering my options with a clear head.
  • I’m sorry that I constantly gaslighted you when you asked about thew repeated phone calls to this person that you found on our phone records.
  • I’m sorry that I didn’t even attempt to save the marriage through counseling or any other options we could have explored.
  • I’m sorry that I told you the reason for not going to counseling is because you called it off both times before, which simply wasn’t true.
  • I’m sorry that after not being able to have children, that I robbed you of that ability as well. I’m sorry that you thought I was enough and that sacrificing this option was worth it to you. I’m sorry that I left you for a man with 4 children, thus fulfilling my own desire to have children in some capacity.
  • I’m sorry that after you discovered that you were right all along about someone else being involved, that I immediately began to reform the truth to make myself look not only innocent, but somehow like a victim.
  • I’m sorry that when you got home from Seattle, that you brought me my favorite drink and food from Starbucks, only to find the text messages between me and the person I was cheating on you with.
  • I’m sorry that you read how I told him he was my person, told him “I love you” and other things that must have been truly painful to read.
  • I’m sorry that I have a repeating pattern of bending the truth when telling others the situation, simply to get their support and to justify and rationalize my own terrible actions.
  • I’m sorry for immediately enacting a smear campaign against you, lying to others to ensure the full truth never came out, especially truths that might hurt my image.
  • I’m sorry that I’ve shown nothing but anger and hatred towards you despite the fact that you could have told everyone about the affair, with undeniable evidence, but instead you chose not to.
  • I’m sorry that I lied to my parents to the point where they confronted you on social media and via text message with reasons that clearly weren’t true.
  • I’m sorry that I took my parents away from you with my lies, as I know you cared about them deeply. I’m sorry for not caring about that whatsoever, and that I care more about them seeing me in a perfect light.
  • I’m sorry that my parents are now like another series of deaths to you, and I’m sorry that I took them away from you without a single thought for your relationship towards them.
  • I’m sorry that my dad confronted you on Instagram and said “This is just as much your fault as it is hers” and insinuated that you were somehow to blame.
  • I’m sorry that my mom texted you and told you that you shouldn’t have told my bother before I had the chance, when the truth was that you told him simply because you had to block him on social media and wanted him to know why. I’m sorry that I put you in ap lace where you know I bend the truth and talk poorly about you top others, so you felt the need to tell the basic truth to a person you cared about.
  • I’m sorry for taking screenshots of things you posted on social media that were related to your father’s death and sending them to my friend, after which we both made fun of you and joked about how you made no sense.
  • I’m sorry for taking snippets of your text messages and sending them to my mom and lying about the context.
  • I’m sorry that I rented a movie through your Amazon account, making you pay for it, when that movie was for me and my new boyfriend. I’m further sorry that when you complained to me, that I took a screenshot and sent it to my mom and said “All this because I accidentally spent $4 for a movie rental” while leaving out the very important detail that it was for me and my new boyfriend.
  • I’m sorry that I lied to others about that final argument when you pointed your finger at me, and how I actually walked up to you and twisted your finger.
  • I’m sorry that I used this same argument as the “turning point” when it was in fact I who started the fight. I’m sorry that I ignored your attempts to ease over the conflict, saying that all will be fine and we’ll worry about it tomorrow. I’m sorry that I belittled you and implied that you couldn’t possibly handle the situation without my input, thus eventually causing you to react in frustration.
  • I’m sorry that I invited this other man into a house that we both still lived in while you were out of town. I’m sorry I made him dinner in your home, and left the dishes and leftovers for you to see. I’m sorry for the things we did in that house that you don’t know about, but were left to envision on your own.
  • I’m sorry that when you asked why he was there, that I lied and told you he was returning some ladders, even though we work in the exact same facility.
  • I’m sorry that I had so little respect for you, that I told you how I “made out with him” and went to dinner with him multiple times during a separation where I was supposed to be thinking things through wit ha clear mind.
  • I’m sorry that when you were crying during the worst day of your life, when you discovered I was having an affair, that the only thing I asked you was “So can you tell me what you’re going to do with those texts?”.
  • I’m sorry for never saying sorry, not a single time, for any of the above unless it was accompanied with another false accusation or “but” statement.
  • I’m sorry for saying that I never want to hear you tell me that all you want me to say is “I hear what you’re saying”.
  • I’m sorry for taking away another dog, and eliminating any chance of you seeing him again.
  • I’m sorry that when we finally came to a point where we could possibly get along after this disaster, that I posted 2 photos of me and my new boyfriend, arm in arm, with no regard as to how that may make you feel.
  • I’m sorry that when you mentioned it, all I said was “It was at a party with other people” as if that could possibly make a difference in how it made you feel.
  • I’m sorry that the only apology I gave was combined with the false accusation that you had “something similar going on”.
  • I’m sorry that, after you took too long to sign the dissolution papers due to the fact that reading them gave you panic attacks, that I threatened you with divorce and bullied you into signing them.
  • I’m sorry that I hired an attorney that constantly pressured you to sign the documents.
  • I’m sorry that I’ll never tell you sorry, that I’ll simply dig my heels in and tell myself, endlessly, that he was wrong, that he deserved this, that I could never be so wrong about something like this, that it wasn’t just sadness due to loss, but him, his fault, always his fault.
  • I’m sorry that my only goal throughout this entire process was to falsely vilify you so that I might feel better about my own actions. I’m sorry that the most energy I spent was ensuring that my image remained whole intact, regardless of the further loss that meant for you after losing so much in the past year.
  • I’m sorry that, 10 months after one of my own parents die, that I’ll never consider what it might be like for the person I care about the most to cheat on me, and to throw me away like a piece of discarded trash.
  • I’m sorry that you’ll never be able to visit the graves of our two dogs because it’s now become too hard to disassociate them from the failed marriage, and too painful to stomach.
  • I’m sorry I’ve never looked back, never shown remorse or doubt, and thus instilling such confusion and loss atop your existing pain, that 6 months of therapy still haven’t helped take away your persistent sense of doom and daily fear.
  • I’m sorry that I made you think I loved you, only to treat you worse than you’ve ever imagined, thus ensuring that you may never trust that anyone cares about you ever again. I’m sorry you were so sure that I loved you, and I’m sorry that this fact has now completely destroyed trust in your own instinct, and has now made you feel that you’ll never feel love again without doubt.
  • I’m sorry that I’ll never give you closure through something as simple as a genuine apology, one free of accusations or manufactured justifications that paint you in a bad light.
  • I’m sorry I don’t think you’re worth the simple effort of saying “I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve that.”

winner

PTSD. There’s no other way around what I’m dealing with, and it’s a pretty extreme version. I can’t wake up without feeling fear, and I can’t get through the day without sensing that I’m constantly in danger. Too much has happened, and I’ve simply lost too much in a short amount of time to truly feel that I’ll be able to recover and once again feel content, a feeling I’m desperate to feel again. Not necessarily happiness, but contentment, or even numbness. Anything but this fear, this anxiety, this sadness. Anger, betrayal, loss. I’ll never unravel the not to figure out where one ends and the other begins.

I miss my ex very much, and yet she was the worst thing that happened to me. She was so cruel, so dismissive of my feelings in the end that it was essentially a death blow after a series of growing minor wounds that she caused me over 16 years. She was a good person at her core, but she was not necessarily good to me. At times she could be so sweet, so caring, and I could see her trying. At others, she was dismissive, cruel, and completely uncaring towards my well-being. She told me that she wasn’t responsible for my happiness. She told me she couldn’t help me when I was still mourning my father’s death. She had an affair 10 months into my grieving, and discarded me as if I was her worst enemy, smearing my name and turning everyone against me when all I ever did was feel sad. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d withdrawn, but this was due to never feeling safe with her as far as my feelings go. As an extension, I had withdrawn from everything, had become so suppressed in my day to day life that I’d closed myself from most human interactions. Subconsciously, I had put EVERYTHING into getting approval from her, of getting affirmation, of craving her confirmation that she cared. It never came because, in part, I could not talk to her. When I tried, she didn’t give me what I needed, often compounding the issue with suggestions on how I should “fix” myself, when all I wanted for her to say was “I’m so sorry, that must be so hard” and maybe to hold me while I dealt with the pain. Such a simple request in my mind, but one she was unable to provide. Worse, the feeling that she was simply annoyed, the feeling that she felt I should simply move on, to toughen up. And then the ultimate solution to her problem (a sad husband) was to go after the first alternative that came her way, a stranger that she’d known for only a few months, yet one who was enough to justify her actions. An affair, cruel half-truths and outright lies about my actions, twisting of truth to play the victim and gain everyone’s approval. hiring a lawyer to pressure me to sign the dissolution papers, turning her parents on me to the point where they attacked me on social media and via text messages with statements based on what were clearly lies on my ex’s part.

She did her job: She destroyed any notion that we could ever work it out, made me look like a monster to the point where she defined me as such in her mind to console herself when she felt regret. No apologies, no looking back, just a total and complete discard. Like a dead body, like a digested piece of food. Then pictures online with her new boyfriend, surrounded by the friends that she’d rallied around her in lies about her marriage, about me. A life that I thanklessly helped build while sacrificing so much of my own.

I did so much for her. I took her to Hawaii, bought her thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, moved 7 times in pursuit of her work and paying out of my savings each time. I sacrificed having children, thinking it worth it simply to be with her, the one who was unable to have children. I was kind and thoughtful. tried my best to bring issues to the table and talk even though she was so incredibly hard to talk to. I worked on the marriage and myself, suggesting counseling, attending counseling on my own and managing my moods with drugs that compromised my health and energy. I bought gifts for her family while she was at work and too busy to put thought into them, spent weeks alone at the house while she went off to work events, and suffered alone after the deaths of my two dogs and father, each event followed by her leaving for a week to go to her events and be surrounded by her people while I was left alone.

Now, she has a new person, one with built in children, one that works with her and is in her industry. It will fail in time, but most likely that won’t be for many years, as she’ll be too prideful to let it fail due to what she threw away. She will be right, regardless of the consequences. She will be the winner. No matter how many times others tell me she’ll regret it one day, I don’t think she’s capable of feeling regret. She only knows how to come out on top, if only in her mind, as she crafts a false image for her harem of followers who have likewise fallen under her spell.

And yet, I miss her. I hate her. I love her. I’m angry, but feel bad for her. I want to never see her again, but want to protect her. I need her help, but I’ve never had help from her. I want my brain to change, I want it to wake up to the truth, but it isn’t happening. I want closure that will never come. I want a new answer. I want to feel happy, content. I want to feel nothing.

What I feel is ache. As soon as I think I’m feeling just a fraction of an amount better, I then find myself wailing on the floor and begging for someone to help me. I cry, and I cry, and I cry. Every single day I cry. I’m so very hurt, so wounded, and the knife was delivered by the person I thought loved me, the person I loved more than anyone, the one I thought to be the love of my life. I have been betrayed. I have been broken.

bleeding

I often think about how I felt about 13-15 years ago, and compare it to how I feel now. To say the least, I feel like that person doesn’t exist anymore, and I can’t comprehend how it might feel to be so “light” as I was back then. All things were in place: My father picked me up on Saturday’s for our weekly tradition of going to lunch (he, myself, and my brother). Thursdays was lunch with mom and my brother, and I was just considering quitting my job to start my business with my brother. I was engaged to be married, had just bought my first house, and we’d just gotten our second dog. I mowed the lawn to our little house, I read the Harry Potter books on my enclosed back porch while it rained. We went on walks and explored the neighborhood together (me, her, the two dogs, a group I considered my family). I remember on a Wednesday I was sitting outside at a nearby bookstore, and I thought, wow, I feel truly happy. My career had been growing, the prospect of becoming a business owner was exciting, and things were simply moving forward just as I’d hoped they could with marriage to who I thought to be the love of my life on the horizon.

Now all of those things are gone. My two dogs died, my father died, and my wife had an affair and abruptly ended the marriage all in the span of a year. A typical day for me consists of waking up around 10am at best, dragging myself to the medicine cabinet to take my meds, and waiting for my stimulant to take effect. This gets me through until around 2pm, when the daily depression and anxiety kick in like clockwork. The stimulant wears off, I get fatigued and sad, and my thoughts gaze into the past, taunting me with how it used to be, how a life promised to me had been torn away with such violence that I feel gutted and dismembered.

At night I used to enjoy my hobbies: video games on my custom built PC, a new hobby of board games, playing piano. Now, I can’t seem to understand how I enjoyed any of those things, and they feel meaningless. Worse, they feel like a relic from this past life, a life where I was still alive inside and able to enjoy such things. Now, I’m lucky to enjoy a movie or show on Netflix. I lay on my couch most of the evening, and typically fall asleep there before dragging myself back to bed to start the process over.

Inside, I feel empty, save for a deep existential sadness paired with anxiety so bad that I border on panic attacks on a nearly daily basis. I cry a lot, typically once a day, and long for my father and friends and family to all be together. Since I started my business all those years ago (something I’m still not sure was the right move, despite my success) I slowly became more isolated, and now, after covid and all of my losses, I feel desperately alone. When I cry, I wail. I scream and I punch at the air, and yet no one is there to hear. I sit in coffee shops alone and stare at the other people going about normal lives in seemingly happy relationships. I see families and their children. All of these things remind me of my loss, the loss of things I never had, and the loss of the most important things I thought I had. The love of another, the love of my life, so I thought, and the cruelest person I’ve ever met. I’m face with thew loss of self-confidence, of feeling the comfort of knowing someone loved me.

You see, this is one of the biggest wounds inflicted. I thought she truly cared. We seemed to be fine, and we didn’t have a typical downward spiral of arguing. We went on vacations, we went on walks and held hands, we went and got ice cream together and watched movies nearly up until the very day she told me she wanted to separate. Now I’m left with a fear that I’ll never truly know if someone loves me. Even if I feel it, how can I believe it when I felt it from someone who could turn of their love like a breaker switch. Instantly dead, gone, buried, and moving on to another.

They tell me I’ll move on, and I know I will. I understand more about how and when things turned south in my marriage now that I’ve stepped away, and I know that my own feeling of love was most likely a deranged form of attachment, of Stockholm syndrome and true institutionalism. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, and such. I believe over time I’ll understand the true gradations of my relationship with this person more and more. However, I don’t think I’ll truly heal to the point where I can trust my own feelings when I suspect someone has fallen in love with me. I’ll hear the words, I’ll see the actions that show their love as being strong and genuine. And yet, I’ve seen that all before, nearly moments before I was dealt the most vicious wound of my life. How can I ever believe with a wound that feels as if it will bleed forever?

lingchi

Lingchi: translated variously as the slow process, the lingering death, or slow slicing, and also known as death by a thousand cuts.

I’ve become immobile in so many ways. So many things that existed before my marriage now seem off-limits to me. Good memories, favorite movies and songs, treasured poems and experiences, all brutally transmogrified into painful triggers.

I remember going to Sunday breakfasts. I remember both of us wanting ice cream and sitting in the parking lot while the sunsets to enjoy them. I remember breakfast sandwiches through a drive through when they first opened up after the initial Covid quarantine. I remember long drives when taking a vacation or driving to her family’s house. I remember Christmas with her mother, father, and brother, of looking at Christmas lights, and opening gifts and laughing together. I remember feeling how her family filled in the gaps of my family. I remember thinking, after my father passed, that maybe her father could help fill that void. I remember going to the movies, of eating dinner and watching shows, of knowing she was in the other room if I decided to go to my office.

What haunts me the most is when I had her, and our two dogs Jackson and Ollie. That’s when I felt like I had a family unit, and I’ll always remember those as the best days. After Jackson was gone, things changed, and after Ollie, it was pretty much over. When it was the four of us though, I felt complete, and things felt correct. Now, things feel like a horrid mutation, like I stepped into an alternate reality where they exist only in dreams, in cursed memories tainted by the brutality of the nature of my marriage’s end, the writhing deaths of my dogs, the horrendous words from my ex as she cut me down for simply being grief-stricken.

If I drive near the area where I live, I feel the trigger. If I see a movie that we watched when scrolling through Netflix, when I think about ice cream, or breakfast on Sunday, of Christmas, of her expressions, of her leaving me so easily, of her speaking so badly of me for no reason other than to justify her horrible actions. Triggers everywhere. Every day I think of these things, regardless of my therapy, and the practices I try so desperately to employ. The breathing, bringing my mind to “the now”, of focusing on projects and distractions. Nothing has worked to prevent me from returning from those pitfalls of despair and confusion and hurt. For 16 years I was in that relationship, and though ultimately I know it was best that we separated, I’m still fully institutionalized within the constructs of its comforts, warped as they may have been. My present, however, offers no such comforts. I’m isolated, I’m scared, and I’m desperately lonely. When I have a good day, something sets me back: I see something that we both loved, I visit a place where we’d been together, I think about going to a movie alone and missing her next to me, it never ends. How I can be so attached to things relating to someone who treated me so poorly is simply beyond my ability to understand. Let’s call it Stockholm’s syndrome, though even that fails to capture the complexity of where I am now with my feelings, of what’s left over.

Only time will heal, I know. And I know that to be true, but time is a glacial, cosmic thing which I can only imagine sees time measured in the billions of years. Here for us humans, a day is less than a spec of sand on a vast ocean’s beach when it comes to time. The trauma will scar over, become more distant, and one day far into the future, I’ll look back and feel perplexed as to how I could have felt such hurt. But time, well, takes its time. I can only hope to survive its schedule. Though then again, I suppose none of us ever will.

daughter

In 2015 my ex-wife was 6 weeks pregnant. I remember a moment where we sat on my back porch and talked about the future, and I remember such peace and certainty that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. We told her parents, and told mine. Her father cried from happiness.

She lost it about a week later. Looking back, I feel like this is where things took a turn for the worse in our marriage. Before this, though we had our struggles, we still had innocence, and our love for one another. After, something changed, and the harsher realities of life became exposed to us. We dealt with it in our own ways, for better or worse. I thought about it from time to time, but solely in the form of what it was: A miscarriage. I worried about my wife and tried to be there for her, and I rarely thought about it in regards to the lost pregnancy.

2 weeks ago I had a dream where a small, 6-year old girl visited me. She had blonde, curly hair, and when I knelt to say hello, she lightly placed her hand on my knee and smiled. In my dream-mind, it dawned on me in that moment that this was my daughter, the one we’d lost when my ex had miscarried. A simple dream, but one born from the deep confides of my subconscious, a locked cage that seemed to protect me, until that moment, from more traumatic thoughts.

When I woke up I couldn’t stop crying. I realized that I’ve lost more than I’d ever thought, and it was nearly overwhelming. We of course didn’t know the gender of the child, but we suspected and both wanted a daughter. That thought had locked itself away, but still existed nonetheless. I haven’t stopped thinking about that little girl since, her bright eyes filled with hope and energy, of newness.

We never had children, despite how we tried, how we went to doctors and took part in certain procedures, how the act of trying and being joined in a single effort brought us closer, if only for a short time. One day we simply gave up, and never talked about it again.