Living

I haven’t been very good at writing for several months. There’s plenty of reasons for this, work, kids, lots of adventures. But more than anything else I honestly haven’t had a good way of describing what has been happening in my life.

You see, I started this project to help me pause and listen to myself. To dive into how I’m feeling. Sharing these stories also forces me to stop and think about my life. About what’s happening to me and what I’m doing. It was never about suicide, not directly. It’s about what comes next. It’s about the life I’ve been forced to live after Christine left me alone. Those first months were so full of raw, painful emotion. Every minute was consumed with thoughts of what I could have done differently, of all the mistakes I made as a husband. My failures. Suicide is the antagonist, but I’m the protagonist in my story. I’m sometimes the hero and sometimes the villain, but it’s about me and the choices I’ve made.

I sound like a textbook narcissist. I don’t care.

I’ve written a few posts so far this year, but I haven’t really broken down what’s happened since I made the decision to live. That is a weird thing to say because unless I was planning to take my own life wouldn’t I have defaulted to life? But I’ve discovered that living is a choice. And living in this case is not the opposite of dying. It’s the opposite of existing. On January 1st I drew a line in the sand and told myself NO MORE. No more letting days pass around me while I did little more than moving forward, one breath at a time. No more escaping to my room and hiding from the world. I’m done with that idea of life.

As I wrote before, I died. Or rather, who I was died. That guy is gone. Poof. There’s a lot I miss about him. Dude really didn’t give a shit about anything. He was invincible. Or so he thought. He was also so twisted by insecurities. He hated himself. He wasn’t the best dad. He wasn’t the best husband. Not as good as he could have been. But damn he was good at putting on a good face and smiling his way through all the problems he was hiding.

That stuff was really hard to think through. I made mistakes I didn’t even know I was making. I was so lost in my little world I thought I understood that I never took the time to think about how my actions might be affecting others.

RIP that guy.

So it’s time to catch you up on what happened next. There is some good, some bad. There are things I’m proud of and things I’m sorry for. I’ve won some and lost some. There was a black mamba that jumped at me, and spiders, I almost lost my job, I learned what friendship really means, I’ve become a better dad than I’ve ever been. I’ve lived. And I’m not done.

So here’s what happened next.

Selfish

As I approach the anniversary of the day I lost Christine I’m finding myself experiencing thoughts and emotions I went through months ago, but with new a perspective, through a lens of forced grace and forgiveness toward myself.

Because this is all old and new I’m also a bit better at being honest with myself. Several months ago I wrote about my realization that I could be a selfish person. Or rather, thoughtless. I often took Christine for granted, trusting she’s be just fine when I left the country for several weeks, explaining away her sacrifice as justified for my work. Or going out with friends, leaving her at home with the kids on short notice. Soccer games, rugby tickets. She never complained. I’ve had so much guilt.

Not that I was a total asshole. I gave her absolutely anything she asked. She complained about cooking when I was out of town so I’d prep a week’s worth of meals. I’d drop everything and run to help if she asked and I’d buy her anything she wanted (except for a horse and I was already researching costs to make that happen).

I never tried to be self-centered. I just didn’t see it well when I was doing it.

Now, nearly a year into my post-love era I can confidentially call myself selfish. And idgaf.

What’s that look like? It’s manifested in many ways, but primarily my unwillingness to put others first in some circumstances.

For instance, there was a woman I was seeing. Nothing serious, but we were spending some time together. I noticed she was starting to ask things of me. Nothing big, nothing life changing. Just letting preferences be known but stating them more like demands. Things she expected from a man she was seeing.

And I totally get it. She’s come out of a relationship where she lost herself, doing everything for her partner and she wasn’t going to do that again.

With Christine I always took on more. More work, more rides to soccer practice, more dinners cooked, especially as she began to spiral. Then when I was seeing A I found myself doing the same thing, trying to be exactly what she wanted me to be, particularly bad timing as I was also trying to find out who I was without Christine (although I didn’t know it at the time).

What’s the point? I’ve realized I don’t want to be what someone else wants me to be. And I won’t.

This doesn’t mean I can’t compromise or find middle ground with people. It just means I’m not going to be the person they want me to be for the sake of it.

And this isn’t just in relationships. In life I’ve taken similar stances. I used to do a lot I didn’t want to do. I’m learning how to say no. Even better, learning how to say no and not feel guilty about it later.

Is this selfish? Putting my interests first like this instead of being afraid to be anything other than selfless? Selfish maybe. Bad? No.

In retrospect it was reasonable to expect my wife to watch my kids while we built my career. It was ok for me to spend time with friends. Just because she didn’t do the same things didn’t mean it was bad I did.

And I’m ok with that.

Forgetting

Hey Babe,

I’m having a hard time remembering you. Not you in general but the little things. I can’t remember your favorite foods, your favorite songs, your favorite movies. It’s hard for me to remember your face without pictures. I don’t remember the things we laughed at as easily. My memories are becoming more abstract and you haven’t been in my dreams for a really long time.

I feel like I’m losing you. Again.

And I feel like a terrible person because of it.

I’m sorry.

The Things People Say

I’ve written before about the weird grief comments people have, whether it’s the optometrist telling me how bad she felt when Anthony Bourdain killed himself or the bizarre need strangers have to tell me about the death of their pets. And I get it, I really do. We all want to show empathy and as experiential beings we do that by sharing stories we believe gives us common ground. It’s stupid, but it’s why we do it and I usually laugh it off.

However, there is one particular group that I can’t handle.

Divorcees.

Not those people in general. Getting a divorce does not make you a bad person. Not even a little.

It’s a very specific sub-group of divorced people: the ones who want to compare their divorce to becoming widowed.

I understand that divorce can be very painful and it could lead to a deep emptiness, a longing, sadness, depression, guilt, self-loathing and a plethora of other hurtful feelings.

But I only understand this in an academic sense. I don’t know what going through a divorce is like because I’ve never been through one. Because I’ve never been through a divorce I have to trust the reports of those who have. I would never in a million years compare my wife dying to someone’s divorce.

Because they’re incomparable.

They can’t be compared because they are not the same thing.

Since this shitty chapter of my life begun I’ve heard from people that they’d prefer to have had their spouse dead than be divorced because it would have been easier.

I want to break that down for a second because here’s what these people are saying:

“I know you are grieving the death of your spouse, I know you’ve told me of the unimaginable pain it’s brought to your life, but I would have preferred your experience than divorce because it’s would have been so much more simple.”

Fuck you.

And this hasn’t only happened once. This is a regular occurrence. I’ve heard it from acquaintances, from near strangers, friends. Usually it’s in a dismissive way, sometimes with deep emotion.

I don’t care.

Look, own your pain. Please. If you want to talk to me about how painful your divorce was/is I’m hear to listen. Really. It was a terrible experience for you and I will absolutely be there in any way I can.

We can even talk about both experiences. We can both talk through our pain.

But I will not allow you to compare your divorce to my very very very different experience.

And why would you want to?

Closer

I haven’t written for a while. A lot of things have happened. Some good, some bad. I’ll get back to that in the coming days.

I took time off because I felt like writing all these things had begun to put me in grief spiral where I kept concentrating on feeling bad instead of processing my feelings. I didn’t want to wallow in that place.

But now I’m back there regardless. Today is the anniversary of the day we left for Norway. The trip Christine didn’t come back from. These next two weeks are going to be tough. Really really tough.

I’m scared. Terrified of what’s coming. Of the things I will feel. I want to stop time. I want to pull myself out of this and reappear in the future. I don’t want this experience.

Feelings and feeling and feelings.

But I have to live it. There’s no choice. And so I’m back to writing, to processing, to working through all these damn feelings.

Here we go.

Living

With the new year I’ve decided to move this blog in a different direction.

2018 post-love was about surviving and existing. Just getting out of bed and finding my way through each day. I made mistakes, I hurt people, I failed at so much.

But I made it.

I could keep dwelling on grief forever. I could stay in my hole, wallowing in the sickeningly bitter feeling of loss. Or I can look forward.

This doesn’t mean I’m forgetting Christine. I learned from that. I won’t ignore her ever again. I will still have horrible, terrible days filled with pain, loneliness and grief. I will cry, I will wail. I will have days of numbness.

I’m sure I’ll still write about those days as they come.

But I’m choosing to live.

I’m living for my kids, my friends, my family.

I’m living for me.

So what does that really mean?

Not entirely sure. I’m still not planning on rushing out to find a partner. I’m not trying to fill that hole with a replacement. I’m not ready. I’m also not going to go out and solve all of my problems. I’ll keep going to counseling, I’ll keep reflecting on who I am and who I should be.

But I have made a list of goals, resolutions for the new year.

I resolve to:

⁃ Forgive myself

⁃ Be more present in my children’s lives

⁃ Run a marathon

⁃ Climb a mountain

⁃ Cook at least 4 healthy dinners for my family each week

⁃ Go out of my way to be kind to at least one person every day

⁃ Visit a country for the first time

⁃ Commit an act of service every week and involve the kids when possible

⁃ Keep Christine present in my life by living each day striving to be the man she would want me to be

⁃ Raise/donate $10000 for suicide prevention

⁃ Meet new people and learn from them

⁃ Start a podcast

⁃ Love fiercely

⁃ Become a companion for a suicide widow(er)

⁃ Ask for help when I need it

⁃ Be mindful of how my words and actions can be perceived by others, regardless of my intent

And if I don’t finish everything on this list it’s OK because my final resolution for 2019 is the only non-negotiable.

In 2019 I will learn to give myself grace.

That last one is so important. I’ve had so many people tell me that ‘You need to give yourself grace’. It’s a trend, a theme. I tend to take the world on my shoulders and blame myself for every misstep. I don’t want to live like that anymore.

I don’t want to live under a blanket of stress and guilt.

I was married so young that I never took the opportunity to learn to know myself, relying on Christine to make me whole. Now I’m without her. I’ll never be whole again, but I can decide who I am without her and using guilt to drive my direction is not healthy. I’m going to learn to forgive myself, be gentle when I fail, choose to learn from mistakes to make myself a better man.

In my first post I wrote ‘welcome to the shit show’. At the time it was true. I was (am) a mess.

But 2019 is about life. My kids, mine, ours. How I impact others.

So welcome to my life. I’m glad you’re here.

– B