The work of rebuilding oneself emotionally is not for the faint of heart, nor is it a nice, neat linear progression. In the course of this work many things can be gained, and unfortunately some very beautiful things can be lost. The experience begins with a recognition that something in your life is not right. Something is off; a plan, a goal, a pattern, whatever it happens to be, it is just off, it no longer aligns. But you aren’t sure what, much less why. So you begin to search; you search others, you search yourself, you try to express yourself a little louder, but maybe it isn’t in the right language. You question yourself, you question others, your behavior and patterns begin to change as you seek out a new comfort, and new place to nest, a way to make this new thing fit. But it still doesn’t.
One may fumble along this path for weeks or months or even years before getting to a place that is so uncomfortable, that like the frog in the gradually warming beaker of water, you realize, hopefully not too late, that you are about to become frog soup, if you don’t change.
This is how it started. A very unhappy marriage with two individuals too afraid to speak up or speak out until it was far too late. Entrenched in our own indignance and set so inexplicably far apart, we simply lashed out at each other when we should have come together, but for another two years we fought over the failing of our marriage and the damage the ensuing divorce brought to each other and our sons.
Much like any loss, there is a genuine grieving process that one should, or must go through in order to actually heal. Sometimes this newest trauma lays itself over older wounds, and other times it digs deep into the earlier upsets and sends one to the edge of their sanity, scrambling for any source of comfort from the grief. For me it was a strange combination of the two. In one moment I would be hiking one of the many mountains of Colorado I’d promised myself I would some 20 years earlier, the next I would be begging for forgiveness from the one I’d hurt, in the next I would be finding absolution in a new relationship, swearing to death that I was healed, and whole, and ready to move on. But, I didn’t know how ingrained one pattern of behavior was, and I didn’t understand how debilitating and alluring this would be.
There’s a false sense of security that comes in grief, a sense of victimization. You can justify any behavior when you view yourself as the victim. This didn’t help the fact that one of my oldest wounds was that of my oldest brother dying, then when my next brother died, I fell into a pattern of behavior that I wasn’t even aware of possessing. I had lost so much respect for myself that the only sense of value I could gather was externally. So, I bought car after car, and climbed peak after peak, ran mile after mile, and courted whoever I could all in order to fill myself up. And then I met love.
To meet love, is both the most painful awakening and the most profound experience. To say it stops you in your tracks is such an understatement. I think the only word that can even come close are the ones that say “it’s like a punch right through” your chest. Yes, the wind was knocked out of me. The lies were knocked out of me. The presence, gratitude and grace were all knocked out of me in an instant when I met love. For a few day, weeks, months, we tottered on, not relinquishing the old resentments, not fully falling into trust, but then one morning it happened; it washed over me like a the warm light that it is, the gift that lifts a veil, and any doubts you might have. I will never forget that moment, it will be a part of my memory from now on. There was a wink, and nob, a coy smile, and I felt that love so completely and so true. Thinking of it now, I still lose my breath; writing in this moment 7 years later I can feel the weight of the shift, and unfortunately the loss that would eventually follow. Going on just over a year we worked at it. There were moments of real resistance, of disbelief and denial, but always punctuated by such joy, such amorist. Underlying it was not just my fear, but worse my lack of recognizing my own frailty, my own faults. Instead of turning into that love, I picked up my old pattern of turning out. I found faults, and built upon the myths of older wounds. I pushed, we fought, we reconciled, we rehashed, I vacillated. And over time, like any centrifuge that begins to slow, the orbit oscillates, and instead of a magnetic attraction there is a flinging of disparate and desperate energies in all directions, and all of them wrong.
The days, and weeks, and months once allotted to time together now became time apart. No more journeys, no more adventures, just scuttled plans and secretive conversations. Secretive utterances and promises that wanted so much in vain to be real, and genuine, but were simply that, utterances in vain. Two months, six months, a year, how can anyone hold hope in that time, why should anyone hold hope in that time. They shouldn’t. Simply they should be concerned with their preservation, with their heart. And ultimately, this is when love dies.
A few years ago I wrote about a letter I shouldn’t have sent, a letter that was dripping with grief and accusations, a letter that pushed a relationship past the breaking point, unfortunately that was a relationship that was undermining this – one that was sent to test me, and a test I failed miserably in. So, I have another letter written, one I should have sent a long time ago, but didn’t. I needed to understand my behavior, I needed to dig into this pattern and understand why it kept repeating. Unfortunately, once I finally did, that most important love was dead. As the collective grief of 2020 washed over humanity, I began to see where the pattern began, and why. I began to better understand what set me on this path, and why those patterns infected my current love, and why the presence, gratitude and grace would be poisoned, and why it would ultimately run away.
“The Presence of your Absence”
There are so many things I would say to my past self – so many things about presence and gratitude and grace that I sorely needed to know.
I’ll never be able to explain how sorry I am that I couldn’t accept those gifts from you. I’ll never be able to explain how much I wish you’d met the right Matt. The healthy one, the one who knew how to face everyday with excitement and joy. Instead you had to meet the broken Matt. The Matt who was stuck in a pattern so ingrained that he couldn’t see out of it. A pattern that was rehearsed and repeated so often that it felt like the only way to live. A pattern that demanded constant validation, constant conquest, a constant dialogue of self-adulation; validation and conquest and adulation that was do deafening I couldn’t hear anyone else’s story, or pain or gift.
I will forever regret feeding the Matt that showed up for you, instead of the Matt that you saw. I know you saw him, and wanted him, and cheered him on. But I didn’t believe in that Matt anymore – I so wanted to, but I didn’t.
I’m so sorry that I let you down. I’m so sorry that I didn’t show up. I’m so sorry that I hurt you and pushed you away. I’m so sorry that the broken Matt is who you had to work with. None of his behavior deserved the presence, gratitude or grace that you tried to show him. He knows that now and absolutely regrets it. “