I never expected to be walking the path I’m on right now. It’s an especially terrifying path for me because I can’t see where it ends and each step is excruciating. I’ve been laid so low that at times all I can do is weep. Friends, acquaintances, or Rec League teammates who say in passing, “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” have been getting more than the bargained for from me lately.
“Hi, actually things are going very badly.”
“Hey, yeah, it’s been a really terrible couple of weeks.”
Some people engage immediately and others were caught off guard. I don’t blame them, who answers that seriously? I never have before, even if things haven’t been going well. I push those things under and say “fine” or “good”. Inviting others into my pain has never been something I was brave enough to do. It’s only just now coming about in my life because of an arduous and ongoing journey in a counseling office, and under specific circumstances.
These are the circumstances. I’ve honestly never felt this low before; my world feels like it’s been unraveling before my eyes. Jess made the decision to move out, and yesterday she did. I won’t risk misrepresenting her by trying to explain why. It’s not my goal to move all of this into a public debate. I just want to continue to share my story, invite people in, and normalize struggle.
The best way to describe the last few weeks for me is like being lost in huge, dark waves. In the low points, there has been nothing for me to do but weep and cry out. And it is in these places that I’ve felt deep gashes and crippling fear. I’ve been faced with utter personal rejection. I have heard that my wife wants someone who is everything that I am not. That crushes me and haunts me.
Also in these deep places, I’ve wrestled with my insecurities while sensing deception, and have sat with the anger and breathlessness of a trust-shattering event. How can any of this be repaired? Can wounds like this ever heal? I’ve slept terribly, and have noticed that sometimes I put off going to bed because I know it will be torturous to sit with my racing thoughts. I see now that there’s really nothing to do but ride the waves. But I’ve definitely tried other things.
Anger has poured out, white-hot and loud. It can come out fast, especially around my deepest insecurities. That’s when I have been demanding and hard towards Jess. Luckily those moments haven’t gone on too long, because either she or I will exit the conversation. There are better places to vent that anger, like in the counseling office, towards a safe ear, or onto paper. Even though I bent my good pen during some particularly furious writing, my journal has been a good place to dump my rage. Some of those pages are filled with the most cutting words I’ve wanted to shout, the most shaming things I can think to say, and the most vindictive paths I’ve wanted to take.
The anger is a mess but I’m not ashamed of it. It is real and expressed in a safe way. We should never feel the need to continually bury our anger or make it disappear. It spends itself if you interact with it and reveal it. Just do it safely. It may seem like a never-ending source of darkness, especially if it’s built up over a lifetime, but you’ll only get to the bottom by continuing to pour it out and engage with it in a way that is not harming others. I’m only starting to lift the lid on some of my anger from these last few weeks, and it’ll be a long road.
At times I’ve been proud of my boundaries. I might say, “I’m not able to talk about that right now.” or “I’m not in a good place.” I’m still learning how to make boundaries well, and it’s hard for me, especially now. My bad boundaries easily lead me to take on a victim mentality and harbor seething resentment. Without boundaries, I notice I have felt terribly rushed during this separation. I’ve felt blindsided by a mediator and swept off my feet with the speed of Jess’s move. The decision was made, and the logistics started coming. It caught me off guard. I still want to learn to say “Wait!” in the midst of this.
This storm has me clinging to God for dear life. My time with him has been consistent and my prayers unceasing. Messy prayers. Accusatory prayers. Shouting prayers. Broken prayers. Pleading prayers. The whole works. He’s uncovering things that I never knew I needed to look at. I saw more clearly that the tone I had established towards Jess and the kids had many elements of shame. I see ways that I still try to control my life to feel safe. I’ve seen new depths of my failure to cherish Jess. My insecurities have been exposed and laid bare. My pride has been flattened. I’ve been made to face that one of my deepest fears was Jess leaving me. All of my patterns of performing were an effort to control my marriage in a way that made me feel safe. Well now that very thing I feared is coming to pass, and God is asking me to sit in it. It strikes me as funny that while I’ve felt completely trampled, there have been more things heaped on top of me. Really hard.
When I’m not in the depths of them, the high points of the crashing waves can be relieving, beautiful, and merciful. I’ve found I’ve needed wilful distraction, support from friends and family, help with the kids, and breaks from the emotional intensity. Self-care. The Lord has really astonished me in this. Here is some of what that has looked like:
A last-second weekend visit by Jess’s parents to help with the kids. Men who ask caring questions and engage in real conversation (get yourself some friends like mine). Safe fortresses of people to process with. People reaching out to me who I haven’t talked to in years. A welcoming atmosphere when I broadcasted my story. A friend praying for me in the coffee aisle at Target. A Rec League teammate praying for me on the bleachers. So many people praying for me and with me. Fortnite with my squad. Rewarding workouts. A timely meal. A trip to the movie theater. Getting into a new show on Netflix. Supportive coworkers. Hanging out for lunch. Being able to build my dream gaming PC. Losing myself in the garage for a few hours while the kids were awake. And basketball. Probably my favorite thing in the world. I’m on two teams and it’s the best. I just received a hugely encouraging text message tonight:
“You got the game ball tonight! Good work bud! Everyone was talking about how good you are. Played with confidence and passion. Glad we got you on our team!”
My soul needed all of these things so badly, and writing them all down makes me feel so much gratitude, even though agony has surrounded and penetrated everything. It’s been unspeakably painful but I suspect utterly important. Walking this path continues to be terrifying, painful, and obscure. I plan to focus on whatever is next, find my boundaries, invite reconciliation, share my pain, own my part, and avoid lashing out. I woke up this morning on the downside of a wave, but am finishing the day feeling better. I think I may just sleep ok tonight.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”