Two years ago, on Good Friday, I left my wife.
I leashed up my dog, slung the orange backpack of clothes over my shoulder, looked her in the eye and told her I needed to go home and think, or whatever I babbled so I could leave. I gave her an empty hug. Her body convulsed. She begged. I am your wife. I turned my back on her and walked out the door.
For the first time in our relationship, I told her what I wanted.
I got in my car and drove away from a marriage I got into because I was too cowardly to be honest with the people who mattered most in my life. If I told anyone the truth – my family, my friends, and my wife, then shit would change. How do you turn to your wife and say, I know I shouldn’t have married you, but I am trying to make to the best of it – then expect your world to say still? How do you tell your intimate friends, I am not happy here then expect them to stand down? I felt like an enormous dam, holding the force of water back, while I looked at my life there on the dry plain, and I knew if I sprung one leak, one call to a friend, one honest conversation with Emma, I would collapse and the water would rush down, washing everything away.
In time, nature asserts itself despite man’s most elaborate efforts to divert its course. I am not sure why I thought my effort was different.
When I met Emma, I was a mess. I had a broken foot, a dead-end job, terrible depression and a lot of charm. I was abusing weed, popping a pain killer now and then, and living on skittles and Cheetos. I was sad. I had recently graduated from college was buckling under the realization that this, this was it? Nonetheless, thirty pounds overweight, on one leg, I got a wonderful woman’s attention.
I have a way with words, particularly when I want them to be true. Through words and action, I constructed the man she could love and hid the rest of me behind my books, right in between my stash of weed and the truth.
The truth is that I wanted out of the miserable life I was floating through so I latched onto Emma and confused my love for her with the security she provided. She was smart, stable, and would save me from myself. She was my parachute against the forces of gravity that pulled me towards an adult life.
This is what you do. You meet a woman, a doctor, no less. You get married. You buy a house. You have a family. It is good enough for everyone else; it will be good enough for you… jump… everyone is watching. Just jump…you’ll land.
I was too embarrassed to tell the pilot and everyone that I was afraid and to land the plane, put me right the fuck down. Instead, I was a coward. I strapped the parachute to my back, mustered a grin to the people around me, jumped, then silently hid the truth for the seven year descent. Unsurprisingly, the parachute never opened and our life together hit the earth with a tragic thud.
Sadly, it took not loving someone for me to understand what love meant, and yet, even now my understanding is incomplete. I do know that love is an action verb, not a noun. You wake up and love. The person next to you. Those kids in the other room. This world. Your life. Waiting around to feel love is futile because if you love something, you are already doing it before you even have time to question whether or not it is love.
And this is how I knew I didn’t love Emma. I had to remember to do it, like taking vitamins or putting out the trash. It required a discipline I didn’t have.
My motivation to write this is not derived from some cathartic public lashing of myself in order to purge away my feelings of guilt. I will always feel that guilt because it is, ironically, very much a source of my current way of life, and subsequently, my happiness. I live a rather straightforward and honest life these days with a deep sense of self that allows me to write about my shortcomings in personal, and often revealing ways that I hope will be useful for someone else. On a more selfish level, I write about my divorce to remind myself how far I strayed from my core in search of a happiness I falsely believed others could provide. In time, I learned that happiness comes from taking a good hard look within myself in search of the phony stuff that gets in the way of the man I am trying to be. For me, writing is the spotlight I use on my journey into the dark places I used to fear.
Writing about my divorce is important to me because I see so many men living in total fear of their innermost thoughts and I know, through personal experience, how dangerous that fear becomes, particularly when it affects other people’s lives and their own. For me, my silence was the most insidious sin and these days, I am not so quiet. My personal cowardice was merely one slice of the deadly pie my ex-wife and I cooked up and ate for seven years. I will write about the other pieces of that pie, but it is hard and exhausting to accurately portray what happened in ways that are honest and fair to Emma, myself, and our marriage.
Each year, Good Friday will remind me of Emma and the importance of honesty.