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.

Hope?

the difference from

where I was – to now, gives me

hope for the future


8:00am

Yesterday, I was so upset and angry at Michelle with the horrible thing she was saying to me that I left work. She is consumed by anger and resentment (maybe hatred?). She kept landing these blows that were expertly placed for maximum damage. I wish I could say I didn’t try to do the same but that would be a lie. She is just so much better at it than I am. My heart isn’t in it. I mostly ended up trying to defend and explain myself. I’m pathetic!

I got in my car and just started yelling at no one in particular as I drove home. That lasted a good 10 minutes or so. After I blew off steam I decided I needed to get out of my head. I got home, did a tough 20 minute circuit work out, and immediately went for a 3 mile run. All told it took about an hour. When I got home from my run, Dennis and Brad were home. Brad and I talked for about an hour while his brother did his homework. Then the three of us went out for sushi down in the old market. We walked around talking, having fun, and ended up at a coffee shop for desert. We talked at length about Michelle and how they aren’t going to be seeing her for a while. They were/are both sad. I explained why it was for the best with an analogy:

When you pull off a band-aid, you can do it slowly and it doesn’t hurt as much but it hurts a lot longer. Or, you can quickly rip it off. It hurts at first but very soon stops. The way I see it (this is me telling them), we can either extend the pain because it seems easier (it isn’t) or just rip that band-aid off.

As we were driving home, Brad said he feels good about the decision. I asked why. He said he feels less stress (he suffers from anxiety and has a therapist) because he knows what is happening now. There is no longer any confusion about the status of Michelle and I. Uncharacteristically, Dennis chimed in and said he felt the same way and then said, “this was a really great night.” Brad agreed.

After her attacks the last two days, I know what I wrote to her in that letter (on Sept 18th) about being so much further ahead of her and being afraid she wouldn’t be able to catch up…it has come to pass. She doesn’t even think she needs to see anyone. I feel so sad. I need to focus on the positives: I’m healthy, I’m sober, I have honest/clear/loving lines of communication with my children, and I’m not overwhelmed by being sad like I was.

After dropping the boys off at their mother’s I went to the movies. When I got home, I went to bed and read for an hour. I am proud of myself. I left work just a mess: hurt, sad, and longing (I’m being honest, I am still wanting Michelle). Shortly after, I had worked out and was on the front porch laughing and talking with Brad. I turned my day around. I did that! I didn’t stew about things. I felt those awful emotions, I let them in, and then got rid of them doing what I know works: exercise, time with my kids, movies, and reading. Last night I slept like a baby. I have made so much progress.

I just realized, my go to thing when I am upset (like I was yesterday) was drinking (either alone or with a friend). That never entered into the realm of possible solutions to getting “out of my head”. That is progress!!!!!!!

 

The opposite of love…

8:00am

A text message I sent to Michelle:

The opposite of love is apathy. You said that. I’m fairly certain you don’t care about me further than my health insurance anymore but I still felt compelled to send this to you. I’ll make it the last thing I share with you…okay?

Simpler

8:30am

your life is simpler,

(you’re happier)

now that you are rid of me.

Mine is the same (only:

confused

lonely

angrier

sober

eventually hopeful) day-to-day.

accept!

you are not part of it.


the finality

of letting her go is hard

to come to terms with.

Resignation

she won’t acknowledge

she has work to do. why am

I trying so hard?


9:00am

Michelle and I had a bad fight Saturday afternoon. I called to talk to say hi and ended up talking about some resentment I (recently) had. She tried to turn it around like I was trying to control her. I wasn’t. I was simply giving voice to my feelings. I have always felt love was a behavior, not an emotion. She agreed. I told her I’m hurt she hasn’t gotten into therapy yet. She scheduled an appointment for October 5th (that is 12 weeks from when we broke up). I told her that spoke volumes about her commitment, or lack thereof. She interpreted this as me telling her what to do. I wasn’t. She refused to see what I said as an expression of my emotion…my hurt. No matter what I said she wouldn’t listen.

It feels like she’s stuck in this death spiral of anger and resentment. She is stuck in the past and what happened vs. the way things are now and into the future. She can’t see my actions for anything but controlling. She told me the difference between that long dinner we had on Friday (a lovely, tender night between us) and the following Thursday was Friday “she was in control…could express her feelings and I just listened.” The following Thursday I tried to talk about my feelings. She doesn’t want to hear my feelings. She doesn’t want to hear that I feel resentment that it will be 12 weeks after we broke up before she has her first meeting with a therapist. She doesn’t want to hear how that hurts me or how that hurts Dennis and Brad.

Right now, it’s not about me respecting her thoughts, feelings, or opinions because I do. Right now, it’s about Michelle being the only one who is allowed to say or do anything. She expects me to feel and say nothing unless it’s obsequious and apologetic. She doesn’t care about my feelings.

I think it is sinking in. Michelle isn’t going to try. She sees me as the only problem we have. She’s resentful, unforgiving, selfish, and hateful. She isn’t brave enough to look inward with a critical eye. It’s our death knell.

I feel sadness. I feel resignation. I’m fighting so hard to be a better man for my boys and for her. I can’t believe she won’t fight for us. I feel hurt. I do not feel hope. I slept better Saturday and Sunday nights than I have since we broke up. I guess resignation leads to less stress.

I can’t believe we’ve come to this.

Thanksgiving, I had this idea of doing “An Affair to Remember” in Chicago. Tell her I’ll be somewhere at noon the Friday after. Fucking stupid!!!

I would still jump if she said she’d take me back.

I am fucking pathetic!!


3:00pm

A letter I sent to Michelle:

Michelle,

The whole point of me sending these journal posts to you (The more insightful entries I have been mailing to Michelle) was to share. I realized I was going to have to do some colossal soul searching and super uncomfortable examinations of myself. I thought it might help both of us if you could witness it. It felt right to make myself vulnerable to you.

I had hoped, maybe naively, you would be willing to do the same (be vulnerable not necessarily keep a journal). With both of us sharing/growing, I thought, maybe, we could find our way back to each other. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. I don’t know. After our dinner on Thursday and the phone conversation Saturday afternoon, I feel further away from you than ever. I feel like we had started a trip together, 8 weeks ago, only for me to realize you’re still asleep, in bed, you haven’t packed your suitcase, and you aren’t planning on leaving for another 3 weeks. I have gotten so far ahead of you. I hope you can catch up but I’m afraid you can’t (or don’t want to).

I hope at some point, if you catch up, we can find each other again. We all feel less without you.

I love you.

Toxic

8:00am

I feel like I have so much anger about Michelle building up inside me. Look at my post from yesterday fuck’s sake!! I know anger is part of the grieving process but Jesus. It isn’t feeling cathartic anymore. It’s starting to feel toxic.

I’m still on this rollercoaster of emotion. Elation and joy when we talk or text (yes we’re texting even though we said we wouldn’t communicate for 4 weeks…we made it 2 weeks) to despair and anger when we don’t. I keep thinking about the quote, “the only way out is through”. I think the only way through is cut off communication with Michelle entirely. That means on social media, her visiting with the boys, on the cell phone, texting, email…a clean break. I need to move on.

She is done with us as a couple. I need to quit holding onto the notion she will change her mind. That she will take me back. That she misses our family enough to work on our relationship. I need to not be angry about that. So that’s where we are then.


1:00pm

Michelle,

I love you. You are the great love of my life. I have never felt the happiness, ease, and contentedness in a relationship I feel with you. You are everything I want in a woman: smart, complicated, strong, ambitious, tender, loving, interesting, maternal, beautiful, sexy, and gentle. We are so happy together. I miss being home with you. I miss how much we have in common. I miss talking to you. I miss the way you are with the boys. I miss laughing with you. I miss the way people talked about us as a couple. I miss making love to you. I miss our life together. I miss you!

It’s hard to accept the person you planned your life with, the first and last person you want to see every day, doesn’t want you anymore. I know you aren’t trying to hurt me but it hurts you won’t work or fight for our life together.

It’s been interesting reading my journal from the last month. I’m a cliché of grief. I’ve hit all of the stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and (only very recently) acceptance. I know exactly how I contributed to where our relationship is today. My anxiety and insecurity drove my drinking and my need for control. It’s too early to say I’ve fixed those things. I will say, I can see myself from today and into the future…it’s the man you fell in love with.

Do you know how you contributed to where our relationship ship is today?

In order to grow, as a person, you must be open to the possibility you are wrong. Personal growth requires you are uncomfortable. It isn’t easy and demands courage and objective, self-deprecation. You’ll never be able to grow using your family as your therapist. They lack objectivity. You know this, and your sister knows this.

I have been harboring some resentment (which manifests itself as anger) towards you. It feels like you’ve been treating the life we built together as a kind of buffet. It feels like you are picking and choosing what you want and leaving out the things you don’t want. In fact, I’m the only thing you don’t want from our life together.

Like I said before…I know how I contributed to our breaking up. I told you to leave. I will regret that for the rest of my life. I wounded us. You decided the finality …you killed us. From the outset, you have told me not to have any hope of us getting back together. Now, you want things that take you away from Omaha and preclude us being a family. When you decided you didn’t want us to be a couple any more, you didn’t leave me. You left the family we built.

I need to move forward with my life and accept we are no longer a couple.  I need a clean break.

To that end, you have to get your own cell phone plan by the 18th of this month. After that date, I am having your line taken off my plan. You will no longer have a relationship with my children. This is all very confusing and hurtful for them and your continued presence in their life is making that worse. You’re not their (step) mother. You decided that when you decided you didn’t want us to be a family anymore. I will be blocking your ability to communicate with all three of us via phone, text, and email. The only way to communicate with me after the 18th is via letter. I will carry you on my health insurance plan until January 31, 2018 (roughly 6 months from our breakup).

I’ve read this letter over and over. I know how harsh it sounds. I’m not trying to punish you. I’m trying to move on with my life. Nothing about our break up is fair.  We are un-equal partners (but partners none the less) in where our relationship is. I will never get over losing you. I will always hope against hope that you will change your mind about us and take me back. In the face of that unlikely event, I will never bring another woman into Dennis and Brad’s world. In hind sight, where you and I are at and the hurt the boys have in their hearts, it was a mistake bringing you into their lives.

I wish I had asked you to marry me. I love you.

Sam Cooke

our home – diminished

by your absence. they need us

to be their strength again


together we were

their stability. apart,

we take it from them


8:30am

With Labor Day, it was a nice long weekend. The weekends seem endless with my getting up so early any more. I guess that’s one advantage to not being able to sleep. Brad asked me, again, about Michelle and I and if we’re going to get back together. I told him I didn’t think so. I asked him how he felt about that. He said, sad. It’s like I said before. Their greatest hope is Michelle and I getting back together. Their life was happy with a stable, and loving home. We (Michelle and I) provided that and then took it away from them.

I feel awful about that. I wonder if Michelle does. I wonder if she has even processed things to a point where she can admit her part in taking away a happy, stable, and loving home from the boys. We took our family away from them.

Sam Cooke broke me down on Sunday afternoon. It happened while I was cooking dinner – again. It is my absolute favorite Sam Cooke song ‘Bring it on Home to me’ that did it:

If you ever change your mind

About leaving, leaving me behind

Bring your sweet loving

Bring it on home to me

 

I know I laughed when you left

But now I know I only hurt myself

Oh, oh bring it to me

Bring your sweet loving

Bring it on home to me

 

I’ll give you jewelry and money too

That ain’t all, that ain’t all I’ll do for you

Oh, if you bring it to me

Bring your sweet loving

Bring it on home to me

What a dickhead favorite song to have when you’re broken hearted. I think I’m just not going to listen music while I cook. No more tears while I’m cooking. Funny, right?

Thomas called to check up on me. I think he was actually checking up on my feelings about Patrick. He said my brother told him I “blasted” him with my email. He told me Patrick was pretty upset and sad about it. I didn’t say much. I forwarded him the email.

Michelle sent me a text about the email I sent Patrick, I guess it was one of the journal entries I had shared with her. She was wondering what, if anything, he said to me after the email. I guess that means she’s reading the entries I send.

Last night, Dad asked me where things are with Michelle and I. It’s the third time he’s done that. I’m puzzled by the curiosity. It feels a bit out of character. Is he nervous about the prospect of Michelle and I getting back together? Frankly, he should be. Let’s say, by some miracle, Michelle takes me back and we are able to be a family again. He’s going to have to square things with Michelle. Now I assume she would be willing to compromise but I wouldn’t expect her to eat shit and have to put up with any nonsense. It’s her home as much as it is mine.

Maybe I’m just projecting a desire for him to be nervous. It would be indicative of some sort of contrition about how he behaved in the past.


1:00pm

A note (in a greeting card) I sent Michelle this afternoon:

Michelle,

I assume you’ve read a few of the journal entries I’ve sent you. I’ve been writing some poems as well. Haiku’s are silly, I know, but they’re easy to write. I like the restrictions the format imposes…it helps distill how I feel. They aren’t very good but they’re honest.

Do what you will with them: keep them to yourself, share them to mock me, throw them in the trash, use them to pick up dog shit in the yard (maybe it’ll be cathartic to do that), whatever you want.

The boys miss you so much.

I miss you.

I love you.

 

Joseph

It can’t be rage

hear its pulse in my

ears? it can’t be rage. it’s the

hurt of losing her


7:15am

The five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I guess it’s not normal to follow them in sequential order. It’s normal to bounce around between them. I haven’t gotten to acceptance yet. Up until this week I haven’t felt anger. Now I’m feeling (I don’t want to say rage because that feels like it implies violence) whatever is just short of rage. I want to vent all of it on Michelle. So here it goes…I’m not communicating this to her…but it sure is going to feel good getting it off my chest and onto “paper” (so to speak):

Do you remember with some of my friends how long it took me to face facts with them being awful and wanting them out of our life?

By our life I mean our family, you, me, and the boys…do you remember when you thought about us as a family? Do you remember laying in bed holding each other; I would ask if you were happy, and you would nuzzle in close and tell me how happy you were…how our life together was all you wanted? I do. What a fantastic lie!! We faced the first significant crisis of our relationship and you split. You have told me on several occasions how happy you were to be free of me – whether you admit it or not – that also means to be free of my boys. Not our boys, not your boys, you don’t want them…they’re my boys. You don’t want us as a family. You never did. We wouldn’t be almost 6 weeks into a break up. We’d be trying to recover from what I did in Arizona. I know exactly how damaging Arizona was. I know down to the smallest detail. It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was. How Arizona was a symptom of a larger problem I had created for my loved ones. How my drinking was hurting all four of us. I’m making a gross assumption here. I hope I’m wrong. You haven’t gotten any help for your anger issues or your panic attacks. The reason is simple, you don’t care. You only want what’s easy and comfortable. It’s hilarious if you think about it. You’re a cliché. You’re every millennial: entitled, lazy –as it relates to working on our relationship, impatient – you want what you want right now, and spoiled. We could have stitched us back up and been so much better as a family: closer, stronger. I wounded us. I cut us deep. You killed us.

Well imagine having to come to term with those facts with one’s family. The people you spent your entire life with, the people who are supposed to love and accept you. The only way it could have come to this was something like what happened in Arizona. I wish you could have been more understanding and more patient with me.

Do you remember ever doing the same with your toxic friends who treated you, me, and my boys like shit? Nick was openly hostile from the beginning and made assumptions about me and where I come from (I’m successful and a piece of shit because I grew up rich and privileged…I didn’t. I worked for everything I have). Caroline refused to come to our home and spend time with us because I have kids. Both of them, how they treated you when you decided to move in with me and start being a family? How about Laura and how she treats me because I am a man. She hates me because of my gender. She’s a sexist pig!!! Think about those things when you lament how much you “sacrificed” to be in our relationship. You have all of your friends (the good ones and the bad). You have your family. Do you remember the pressure you put on me to lose my friends? I do.

Short of my children and my career, I sacrificed so much to be with you. You sacrificed nothing but your time. In fact, you did quite well: you got your student loans paid off, cut work to part time to concentrate on school – making the dean’s list, were able to put more money into savings than you ever have in your life, (if you take out the California trips) took some nice vacations, took advantage of one the best health insurance plans in the country, got to practice having a family of your own (a dry run for when you are actually serious about being in a relationship), and the sex was always great. On balance, 3 ½ years well spent! Now you can put all that behind you (and you did…in the first week) and look to a bright future unencumbered and free of me and my children.

Best wishes,

The man and children who’s hearts you broke

P.S. The person in your family you said will never forgive me is your mother. I know her history. I know how much love, patience, understanding, and forgiveness she needed from her family. I can see the irony, can you?


3:00pm

Driving to school this morning Brad and I made a joke. He was all mumbling and tired. I told him that he shouldn’t drink in the morning – ha ha – I told him to not be an asshole like his father when he drinks. We both laughed really hard…he said, “that was a good one Dad!!” I’m grateful to be sober. I’m more present with Dennis and Brad. It feels good!!

I adored you

drinking, I adored

you – tried to take everything

I love in this world.


drinking, I adored

you – demanded everything

I love in this world.


9:30am (shared with Michelle)

It was a good weekend. I kept busy with work around the house, movies, and friends. I’m still dealing with tearing up at random times. I am sleeping better. Sunday I didn’t wake up until 7am in the morning. That was nice. It was the first time I slept that late since I quit drinking. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night either. It feels like progress.

Michelle picked Brad up from school yesterday and spent a few hours with him. Dennis still doesn’t want to do that and I don’t think pressuring him would be productive. Brad had a really great time. I had the day off and was at the house when he got home. Michelle came in the house (she wanted to say hi to Dennis). We were both surprised to see each other. She didn’t expect me to be home and I didn’t expect her to come in the house.

It hurt so much to see her. I just wanted to hold her and tell her how sorry I am about everything. Tell her what happened in Arizona will never happen again. I will always support her and will never turn my back on her again. I wanted to tell her how much I love and miss her. How I want her to come home with the boys and I so we can be a family again. I didn’t do any of that. I just exchanged the normal pleasantries and then watched her out the window as she walked to her car and drove away.

I did send her a text about how “it was a nice surprise to see you today”. She said, “yes same here…”and then asked if Brad had a good time. She was just being nice. It’s the same as the last time we spoke on the phone. She was only talking to me then, because she didn’t want to be overly cruel. The same can be said for her “yes same here”. She didn’t want to be cruel.

I have to assume she has moved beyond any desire to be a family or to be with me. That is slowly getting through all of my hope and optimism. She wants her life apart, with all the possibilities it offers by not being tied down with a family. I don’t blame her. I betrayed her trust. Now she wants a world bigger than Dennis, Brad, and me. She is evolving/growing. It is less about lacking the capacity for forgiveness and more about her wanting more possibility in her life. Good for her, I guess.

So back to my mantra: I can’t influence or control anything or anyone but myself. To get past this hurt I must work on: my anxiety, my insecurities, and the resultant control issues. Focus on what I can control…my physical health: sobriety (this shit all hinges on drinking), weight loss, exercise, writing, reading, good movies, and spending time with friends who are healthy and supportive. Peace will come as a matter of course.

All I am

I will let you in.

you can overwhelm me but

you shall not remain


I have never felt

alone. Now, in your absence

it is all I am.


7:30am

I cannot influence all outcomes. I cannot control things. Things will always work out, not necessarily the way you want them to. That is okay.

I had another great meeting with Lisa again. I think I have my head around controlling behavior and anxiety. Controlling behavior is a coping mechanism. If you are in charge of every detail, you no longer have anything to be anxious about. Nothing is going to happen that you can’t directly influence…so, poof, anxiety gone. The problem is, it isn’t gone. It makes you a difficult person to be around. It makes other people have to bend themselves around you. It’s unfair and selfish. I can see my lack of patience is part of that.

Lisa and I worked on having a calming place to go to in my head. I imagine sitting on a beach at night when no one is around. It’s Mission Beach. I think about: the sound of the waves crashing, the feel of the sand on my fingertips, the feel of the breeze on my skin, the glow of Belmont Park up the beach, and the feeling of the stress draining out of my chest. She had me meditate on that a bit. Then she asked me for a word I could use to help associate with that…Belmont.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night. I had all the thoughts that run through my mind about Michelle and I. I immediately told myself I can’t control those outcomes. I then did the breathing exercise and just said Belmont (in my head) over and over until the thoughts stopped. It took a bit but it helped. These aren’t helpful thoughts. I understand where they are coming from, having them is normal and to be expected but I need to let go.


12:00pm

I was cooking dinner yesterday and “The Soldier and the Oak” by Elliot Park came on. It’s such a beautiful and sad song. It broke me. I ended up sobbing in the kitchen. I cried for the shame I feel (over my treatment of Michelle in Arizona). I cried for the love I’ve lost and the mother Dennis and Brad have lost with her leaving me. I cried for the embarrassment and humiliation I feel about having a drinking problem.

I didn’t fight it. I didn’t hold the grief back. I let it in and let it overwhelm me. When it passed, I was exhausted but I felt better. It’s almost like letting it pass through me and not fighting it helped release some of it.

I feel sad. I feel overwhelmed with grief at times.