the erroneous comment I wish I never heard about

“I overheard her say that she doesn’t love you anymore at the dinner table”

“Wait…what?”

“Yeah, I don’t know who she was saying it to, I caught it at the last second but she said it.”

I felt like I had just tripped over a wasp’s nest but I kept my composure as the words set in.

I was having a glass of wine with my mom’s boyfriend. He was telling me about the dinner he had the previous day with my mom, my ex-wife and my oldest daughter on Mother’s Day. They had all gotten together at the restaurant my son works. It was an impromptu get together. My mom and Dave went down to MA to decorate the family stones with flowers and my ex-wife had called her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. When they realized they were in the same state for once they made dinner plans. I didn’t even know about it until they got home that night. Mom told me all about it. The next night, that would be the time of this writing, it was just Dave and I for a while. I had just asked him of his account of the dinner, particularly because it was the first time he had met my ex-wife and oldest daughter. He had all good things to say and I was feeling good about it. Until he said that line about my ex-wife’s comment. Two questions came to mind; why did she say this and why do I care?

He continued talking as we watched the Red Sox play the A’s. I became noticeably quiet. Eventually, he asked me if he had crossed a line by telling me. I assured him that it was fine, I was just taken aback. While I was unsure why he mentioned it, it wasn’t done out of harm or malice. In fact, he probably mentioned it because it resonated with him after being in a terrible marriage himself. The pressing question remained. Why is this bothering me?

I truly don’t understand why I am having such trouble with this. I was married to this woman for 22 years and for the last 12 I would have chewed my arm off to escape her. There were times when I actually felt that I hated her. Towards the end, we de-escalated into a tolerant phase where we put up with each other but there was no love. Eventually, there was clearly no desire to even try to recapture what drew us together in the first place. When we separated I was relieved. When she asked for a divorce I was ready. When the divorce was finalized I felt liberated. So why am I surprised to hear, second-hand mind you, that she doesn’t love me anymore? It could easily have been said in the vein of “We still care about each other but aren’t in love anymore” as she explained to my mother, or my daughter, or the fucking waiter…again why does this bother me? Do I still even love her?

I do love her. I’m just not in love with her. I love her because we raised four wonderful children together. I love her because I spent most of my adult life with her and there were some good times. I can’t deny them.

I have dreams, vivid dreams of her. I dream of conversations in which she reveals past infidelities. I have dreamt of being with her, in the present, still married and talking about how we “almost split up.” Sadly, I even dreamt that I had died and she wasn’t at my funeral. These dreams are so lucid, so vivid that Freud and Jung could come back from the grave and revive their careers. When I wake from them I find myself wishing she was in my life. Then I shake it off and remind myself that I really don’t want what we had any longer. Still, I am wrought with these conflicting emotions.

I am burdened by memories, racked with guilt, saddled with regrets. A mere matter of months ago I was bitter, angry and resentful of her. Lately, I look back at photos in which we were all smiles. I find myself asking where it went wrong. I find myself asking if I could have done better by her. I remember how much she once loved me and I ask myself if I drove her away, caused her to morph into the cold, detached person that she was in the end. Did I, in the course of exorcising my demons and finding my real self, push her away?

I asked my mother last night if she had heard the comment at dinner. She said she had. It was said to one of my son’s friends who works at the same restaurant. He had come over to the table and asked my wife where I was. She had told him that we were divorced and he was surprised. So, she explained it. She cares about me, but she doesn’t love me anymore.

There you go, I have my explanation. For the comment at least. I still don’t know for the life of me why the explanation stings so badly.

the man who said NO

I’ve been everything I hate lately. I am a lazy, joyless sofa-bound fuck. The will to do anything has been sucked out of my body and I feel helpless to do anything about it. Even though I know I will kick this pneumonia eventually, I have just been down. If you have ever read me, quality of life is everything. By that logic, I have lost everything.

I can’t breathe. I am exhausted after the most minor exertion. I procrastinate on everything because I just don’t feel it. My life now consists of Dr.’s visits, consequent runs to the pharmacy, and sitting on the sofa. Last week I drove to the pharmacy and instead of going in I sat in my truck listening to the radio. I never went in, the seat was too comfortable and the front door was too far away.

Pain is temporary. A disease is treatable. It is very feasible that at some point I will walk around like a normal person. Right now that moment eludes me. I walk slow, resent those that breeze past me, breathing heavy and my body language reeks of “I’m done.” The day that I hoped would never come is here, it is now affecting my psyche. I’m acting out like never before. I am unfollowing friends on FB because I can’t look at how fucking happy they are; frolicking in the Bahamas on vacation, out at restaurants at tables full of smiling friends and family, scuba diving in Australia. I started leaving FB groups that I follow about mountain biking and weightlifting because they are terrible reminders of the dreaded used-to’s. I have been getting angry seeing people laughing and enjoying themselves doing activities that used to be routine for me. I watch TV and I see so many things that elicit anger and frustration. Or worse, the realization that I used to be able to do that thing and I never will again. A year ago I would have said “Someday”. Now I say “Yeah, you wish.”

On top of everything else, I have become the Introverted Extrovert. Yes, it’s a real thing. The introverted extrovert likes people but is prone to finding ways to avoid making or following through on plans. Once you’re there, you’re fine, it’s getting there that’s the problem. In short, I’m saying NO way more often than I used to. I have shut out my only asset, my support network. Something that I need now more than ever.

I don’t know how to shake this. I’ve never let the physical affect the emotional side of me. I have maintained an almost cheery attitude in the face of everything. But lately, I have felt like giving up. The worse part, I don’t even know what that means anymore. Give up on what? I don’t do anything!?
yes man

I was thinking this morning about a Jim Carrey movie that gave me a good chuckle. Inspiration comes in many forms and sometimes a silly movie will do it. Yes Man is about a guy who just won’t engage. He goes to great lengths to avoid interaction outside of work, either for fear of rejection or getting hurt. His favorite word is NO. Sound familiar? Until he attends a seminar that preaches one simple message…say yes to everything. Through all of the silliness and suspension of disbelief the movie attempts, it makes a good point. Saying yes is opening a door, saying no is hiding behind one. I’m definitely hiding right now behind the door of illness. It’s not even a screen door, at least that would provide some fresh air.

I need to find a way to embrace life again, to look forward to each new day as an opportunity, not another obstacle. I need to get back to enjoying my life, regardless of my position in it. I need that one moment where I leap out of my chair, fist clenched and scream at the top of my lungs YES, FUCK YES!

Today, that task seems insurmountable. Tomorrow it may be possible. I suspect that the outcome is largely up to me.