Poor assumptions

8:00am

I feel terrible about the assumption I made with Dad. I assumed he was going to lecture and try to bully me. We spoke on the phone last night for over 30 minutes. It started out with “This has gone on long enough. It needs to be fixed. The kids and your mother and I are upset about it. Etc. Etc” I explained to him how I felt. How stressful it is to be around Patrick and Rae. How they talk shit about every single person they know (without exception). How they go out of their way to make others feel like shit. How they just aren’t good people. I asked him…what are we going to do, sit down with them and make them stop being terrible human beings? He said, maybe. I told him I have my own shit I’m trying to come to terms with. I have my children I need to be concerned about after this brutal break up with Michelle. I told him I was in a good place about everything and the only reason (and I do mean the only reason) I am even entertaining an idea of reconciling with Patrick and Rae is because of how horrible my parents feel about things. I told him I can’t help that they feel terrible. I don’t feel good they, my kids, and Patrick’s kid’s feel stuck and trapped in this. But I can’t help that not having Patrick and Rae in my life (at least for right now) is an absolute good thing.

So the feeling terrible (about the assumption I made) part comes in now…he listened to me…and he didn’t try to tell me I was wrong. He didn’t try to tell me I was right…he just listened. I felt good putting it all out there with him. It felt freeing…like an unburdening. It felt like it did when I was in therapy and had a few break throughs.

A visit

7:30am

My mother is coming in town tomorrow. I am looking forward to the visit. I have yet to speak with Patrick or Rae since everything. I sent Patrick a “Happy Thanksgiving” text message on Thanksgiving Day. He responded with “you too”. Other than that one text, he hasn’t reached out…I haven’t either. I only sent it because I knew it would make my parents happy. It did.

I believe the real problem is Rae. She has become a horrible, nasty person. She is the toxic ingredient. Michelle talked about it (after we broke up). She said when Patrick came to Omaha (without Rae) he was great. He was fun and was really enjoyable. It was when you brought Rae into the mix that he changed. I’m not advocating letting Patrick off the hook, I’m simply pointing out the correlation between Rae being around and how terrible he acts.

More insight

8:00am

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving next week with my long weekend in Chicago. I’m worried I’m going to get bored while I’m there. I’ll pick up an extra book just in case. Friday after Hamilton, I think I’ll take an architectural boat tour. I have this nervous fear my parents are going to “surprise me” by coming out. I hope they aren’t coming. I really want the solitude right now.

I have been thinking about the right way to structure/organize my thoughts about Michelle. I need to frame them differently. I need to stop thinking about our happiness. I need to remind myself she doesn’t want a family. More than that, I need to remind myself what my friend said the other weekend about hoping we don’t get back together. That was/is a paradigm shift for me. It brought all of the things Michelle did or didn’t do into focus. She took me for granted and I feel taken advantage of. She never really was bought into our relationship.

All her blame and anger are a smoke screen for her guilt. There is a part of her that hates she wants to be free of our family. We would still be together if I was able to move. She would have worked on our relationship if she could say, “I want to move to (insert city)” and I was able to do it. I can’t though. So she tells everyone what a piece of shit I am as the reason we broke up so they don’t know she really broke up because she doesn’t want the obligations and limitations of living her life with the boys and me. She can’t have the adventure and excitement she wants while being with us. She isn’t willing to postpone that till after my boys are grown and gone…she wants it right now.

Okay…giant sigh…that feels right. My life as a father doesn’t offer flexibility or adventure and Michelle wants adventure (right now) more than she wants us.

All of this doesn’t mean I don’t miss “us”. I miss the joy, laughter, love, care, sense of common purpose, sense of family, fun, ease, touch, tenderness, our conversations, her kiss, watching her love my boys, feeling her love me, making love, holding each other…I miss “us”. I have never felt closer to another human being as I did to Michelle. I have never been that intimate with another person. It is a once in a life time type connection I doubt either of us will ever find again.

None of this negates my controlling behavior. It was there! It was a direct result of my anxiety, my anxiety was exacerbated by my drinking. Controlling behavior was a way to eliminate the outcomes in life I was anxious about. Drinking helped numb the anxiety. It was a vicious cycle. I would feel anxious and drink to mute that feeling. Drinking lowered my inhibitions and allowed me to be more controlling. The longer I went in life drinking, the more I needed to drink to get the desired effect. The more I drank the more I felt the need for control. I went further and further down the rabbit hole. I feel like I have broken the cycle. I am clear headed. My anxiety is manageable because I am addressing it not muting it. I address it with exercise, meditation, reading, and writing. I have dealt with toxic relationships. I have worked on creating healthy boundaries (for me and my children) that do not sacrifice what is good and healthy for me/us to what makes other people happy.

I thought for a long time my anxiety stemmed exclusively from my relationship with my father. It doesn’t. It is rooted in bullying from when I was a child. There were some pretty traumatic things that happened in the 7th grade. It made me anxious to be at school. I felt powerless. I internalized all of it and told no one. I was afraid I was going to be bullied again all the time. It’s why I hid in the library at lunch from 7th grade until I was a Junior in high school. If I wasn’t where the bullies were, I couldn’t be bullied. It was my first attempt at controlling and it worked. It reinforced that if I could control things, I would be safe. Never addressing the root trauma allowed the controlling behavior to leach into most of my life. Drinking magnified it.

What I am about to say is very difficult. I have never articulated this before (not even to my therapist). I have had a substance abuse problem since I was 19 years old. I have self-medicated my anxiety for 24 years. From the first time I felt the wonderfully numbing effects of smoking marijuana in mid-September 1993 to August 1st, 2017 (when I quit drinking) I have used marijuana and alcohol to tune out the deafening noise of my anxiety. I used to call it “turning my brain off”. The never ending scroll of “what if’s” would just stop when I was high or drunk. They were manageable when I was controlling and in charge of the outcomes in my life…but they were silent when I was high or drunk.

I feel so much better now. Now I know what to do. Now, I know what is real and what is my anxiety screaming nonsense about the end of the world. All of this insight is the only positive thing to come out of losing Michelle. Losing her was my rock bottom. It was what inspired me to change and work to be a better man and father.

16 years ago, I did what Michelle wants to do. I moved to a big exciting city (San Francisco), worked, and advanced my career. It was a scary, wonderful adventure I’ll never forget. I didn’t have anything tying me down. I was single. She is right at the same age I was when I did that. Our age difference doomed us. If we had been married, she would have stayed with me and been bitter at how her life hadn’t been the adventure she had envisioned. We would have been divorced in 10 or 15 years.

Maybe one day she will look back on our time together without all the hate and rage she has. Maybe she can admit being a family with the boys and me wasn’t important enough (I say this without judgement) and not have the guilt or loss she is carrying around. At this point, who cares really? I have a good life. I have great kids. I am healthy and I’m working on staying that way. I love Michelle. I miss Michelle. I wish we could work through all of this and be together but that will fade over time. In 10 years, we’ll remember how we felt but the feeling itself will be worn down.

We are happier

the three of us are

closer than we were before.

we are happier


8:00am

It is so good to have the boys back with me again. I always miss them when they are with their mother but it is brought into sharper focus when I have them…how much more fulfilled my life feels. I enjoy the time I get to spend with them. Our relationship has gotten better (and we have always been really close) since I have quit drinking. We laugh and have fun more. I still have that stern, “I’m your father and I have expectations!” thing because you know…I am and I do. It just seems easier, more relaxed…I don’t know what word fits best…not organic… somewhere between relaxed and natural. Whatever word best embodies that emotion.

I have to admit to a sense of pride in myself. I can look back on how I was doing, day to day before Michelle left me to where I am now and see a happier person. Don’t get me wrong, I am still sad about Michelle and I. The happiness is just a general, underlying state of being. The background noise is happy. It’s my first position (if I can use a dancing term).

Drinking has recently been difficult. The cravings have been more frequent. I went to dinner with some friends at a place that makes great cocktails and someone ordered their “Perfect Old Fashion”. I could feel the desire to have one in my chest. It was uncomfortable.

 

It is okay to be selfish (sometimes)

9:00am

I had an interesting conversation with a friend at Brad’s soccer game. She is friens with Michelle and sees her from time to time. She is glad Michelle and I broke up. More accurately, she said she hopes we don’t get back together. I asked why. She said it wouldn’t be good for Michelle, me, or the boys. She said Michelle has so many ideas and plans for her future and she is obviously so very happy about having freedom. She doesn’t think Michelle regrets us breaking up…in fact she knows Michelle is truly grateful she isn’t limited by having a partner/spouse and children. She told me she imagines 10-15 years into the future with Michelle and I married. She can see Michelle wishing her life had been different than having a family and being bitter at me for that. I agree with Cindy. At the end of the day, Michelle liked being with me and the boys, she just doesn’t want the responsibility and obligation(s) that come with it. I’ve been thinking and saying this for months now. She validated it.

Michelle wanted to want to be a wife and (step)mother…but faced with the obligations and responsibilities, she hated it. We made her feel trapped. What I am about to say is a statement of fact, not judgement. Michelle is being a selfish person. It is normal for a person who does not have children to think and behave this way. She is not interested in suborning her needs for the needs of a/our family. My friend is right. If Michelle had stayed with me and the boys, she would have eventually been unhappy.

I wish Michelle could be okay being selfish. Instead she feels guilt. For her that manifests itself in anger and denial. It explains why she has been so hateful and cruel.

I feel sad. Last night I cried as I was processing this. This is cathartic. The catharsis comes when I think about dating. There is no chance Michelle and I will work our way back to each other so I don’t feel guilty as I imagine being with other women.

Strength

clarity is (comes

when it wants. rushed…you dilute

its poignancy) strength


7:30am

Wednesday…what to write about? I’m taking Friday off to spend some quality time with Dennis (he doesn’t have school). I’m excited about hanging out with just the two of us. He is at the age where he generally isn’t interested in doing that as much.

I feel great today. I keep doing the things that work when I get upset or sad about Michelle: exercise, read, take a bath, etc, etc. It helps with sleeping. I don’t have any repetitive, obsessive thoughts. This morning, Brad asked me about sleeping and if I am getting enough. I asked why he was asking. He said, “I don’t know…you don’t seem as tired in the mornings.” We talked about drinking and how some people use alcohol to help them get to sleep. I explained it actually makes for a very restless sleep. He asked me what people who can’t sleep should do. I told him use the techniques we’ve both learned to quiet our minds and eliminate the swirling, obsessive thoughts. He liked that.

The three of us had an interesting end to the night last night. We watched the “Nosedive” episode of Black Mirror. In it a character has an epic, public meltdown. When the show was over I asked the kids if they understood why she had her meltdown. They did…they could see her stress building and building to an explosion. I told them that is what happened to Michelle when she lost it in Arizona. I explained the way their Aunt Rae and Uncle Patrick (mostly Rae) had treated her and her efforts to ignore it caused so much stress those weeks she finally cracked under the strain. She didn’t have any control once she cracked. I think they finally understand what happened that evening back in July.

 

What works

I am Regret. I

force questions that do not have

answers. I loathe sleep.


9:00am

Monday morning I sent Michelle a photo of Brad and his soccer team after they won their tournament with a brief description of the weekend both boys had. I sent her the picture because I thought she loves my boys and would like to hear about them. On my drive home from work I received the following text from her:

Michelle: I don’t see the need for us to have any more contact. I will not be responding to any more messages.

I was so upset. I have been feeling so good about things. Thursday I get all weird and freaked out about going on a date with a different woman then this. What the fuck? I did what works. I had a brutal workout, spent quality time with my boys, cried a little bit, talked to my dog, took a long hot bath, and read my book. By the time I was in bed I felt better.

I had some choice things to say back to her immediately after she sent me the text.

Me: Yeah, I can see that from your perspective. Why keep in contact with people you really never cared for to begin with. You are a cruel, unforgiving, and vindictive person. You kept that hidden for over three years. I don’t know if that is admirable or terrifying. You always said the song “Just My Imagination” by the Temptations was our song as a couple. Talk about foreshadowing huh?

About 5 minutes after I sent that I thought maybe I shouldn’t have. Now, I don’t have any regrets. Fuck Michelle and the space she keeps taking up in my head and my heart!! She IS cruel, unforgiving and vindictive. I am sending her the following text and then I am blocking her number from my cell phone as well.

Me: Yesterday, for about 30 minutes, I felt bad I sent that text. That was it. I stand by it. You ARE cruel, unforgiving, and vindictive. I should have included selfish, naïve, and immature as well. You’ve allowed one moment to define everything. You can’t allow I am capable of change because you are NOT capable of change. You have told me to “go fuck yourself” and that “you ruined my life and I fucking hate you.” I wish I had it in me to respond in kind…I don’t.

I’ll leave you with this: your actions the last 13 weeks and 2 days has as much to do with us being apart as anything I have done. One day, you will look back on our life together (our family) and you will regret leaving. You will miss us.

I sent this as a text and as an email. I have blocked her on my phone and email.

 

Love is a behavior

8:00am

Real love is a behavior not an emotion. It doesn’t matter how we “feel” if we have no action or “works”. An abusive spouse may feel they love their partner but the abuse says otherwise. A cheating wife may feel she loves her husband but the infidelity says otherwise…and so on and so on. Since our break up, I have tried so hard to make myself a better person. I can look back on the last 12 weeks and really say this has been a demonstration of my love for my children and Michelle.

Michelle doesn’t love me. It’s that simple. It is so clear looking at it through the prism of “love is a behavior not an emotion”. In fact, reflecting on our relationship, it makes me question if she ever did. I think she loved the idea I represented and the comfort my money provided. I say this because when we came to our first, real crisis she ran like a prisoner who sees freedom for the first time in 3 1/2 years. She has never looked back. Since then she has: misrepresented my actions, twisted my words, insulted my integrity, maligned me as a father, consistently said horribly cruel things (with the sole intention of hurting me), tried to manipulate my emotions for her financial benefit (health care), lied/went behind my back to try and maintain a relationship with my kids, and who knows what else. I guess the last one would be an example (all be it a misguided one) of her loving the boys. Her actions speak volumes about how she feels. She doesn’t love me. The only regrets she has with our relationship failing is losing Dennis and Brad and the material benefits that come with being with me. My “demonstrations of love” since our breakup have been a spectacular waste of time. I need to focus on loving just my boys.

Sliding Doors

8:00am

I have been writing in my journal less lately, just once a day. It hasn’t been intentional. I just have less on my mind to get out on paper. I talked with my therapist about this. She thinks it’s good sign. It means the inner turmoil, depression, and conflict are subsiding. I feel it. I feel like I’m on “this” side of my depression. I still feel sad sometimes. I miss Michelle and how we were together. I miss thinking about our future together. Putting that down on paper makes me sad, the past tense of the verb. It’s the way things are. Even now it feels so wrong and surreal. It’s like I’m in Sliding Doors. I wish there was a version of me that still had Michelle in my life to love. I miss hearing her voice. I miss telling her about my day. I miss reading while she does her homework. She used to do this stupid thing Saturday mornings while she was getting ready for work. She would turn on the ceiling fan light (which is super bright) and right before she did it would yell out, “PREPARE, PREPARE!!!” so I could cover my eyes with a pillow. I miss it…the day-to-day minutia of our relationship. I like the idea of there being a Sliding Doors (alternate) universe where Michelle and I figured things out and were back together living life towards our future. I wish there was an “our future”. There isn’t. She wants something else. I don’t even know what she wants because we don’t talk anymore. The last time we communicated was almost 2 weeks ago and she was screaming and hysterical about not being able to see the boys.

So I’m alone. I used to like being alone. Unfortunately, these days alone means being without Michelle. I don’t like that at all. Maybe, someday, I will.

Renewal

I will never drink.

this sobriety is what

remains of our love


death is renewal.

her love dying gave birth to

my sobriety


8:30am

I really like the way I feel in the mornings. I feel rested, clear headed, and lite. I like the calm in my brain. I don’t feel embarrassed I’m hung over on a weekday, again. I don’t have the scared, little voice in my head whispering, “You have a problem man.” That voice scared me. Every, time I woke up tired, foggy, thirsty, and pretending I was none of those things I would hear it in my head. “Dude, it’s Tuesday and you’re hung over again? You can’t keep doing this.” I wish I had quit drinking sooner. Brad and I have so much fun driving to middle school in the mornings. I feel like I short changed Dennis the last 2 years.

I know my sobriety required a crisis. I needed to be faced with a horrible consequence before I would make a change. Michelle was the consequence. I lost Michelle because I drank. She doesn’t see it but I do. The-glass-is-half- full way to look at losing Michelle is to think about all the things I could have lost had I kept drinking: my career, my home, my money, solid/healthy friendships, and a loving relationship with my children. Last week my therapist commented on the guilt I feel about being a drunk. She asked me if I saw anything good about not drinking. I do. I am modeling the right behavior around alcohol for my boys. There are alcoholics on both sides of my family (maternal grandmother, and paternal grandfather). All 3 of us are pre-disposed to being drunks. Being honest and open with the boys about my issues with alcohol and modelling the right behavior is going to help them do the same. It is just like smoking. It is kind of a I-will-not-have-lost-the-love-of-my-life-in-vain sort of thing. I will honor the love and relationship Michelle and I had (and lost) by being a better man and father to my boys. At this point, it is all I have left of her.