He found new life and connection where most men would throw in the towel.
I died a little the moment my wife told me over dinner she wasn’t sure she loved me anymore.
The world kept spinning. Life kept happening.
But not in my house.
I stopped living. Right then.
At first, I was angry. Who the fuck does she think she is?
Then, terrified. What if she leaves? Oh my God. My life. My wife. My son.
Then, introspective. Hopeful. What have I done to cause this? What can I do to save it? How can I be a better husband? A better father? A better man?
But I never shook the fear.
Then I Secret-ed that shit into reality. She walked out.
Exactly 359 days ago. I’ll never forget.
The house was so empty. So quiet.
And then I died even more.
In the beginning, it was pure panic. I could barely move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus.
I started watching The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad on Netflix to fill the hours, but I would have to rewind things over and over again because my mind wouldn’t stay focused on the story.
My favorite fiction writing on television couldn’t mask the enormity of all that real life in my midst—the bare spots on the walls, the messier-than-usual house, and the dead silence that greeted me when I walked in the house or woke up each morning.
I was desperate.
I tried to drink it off with friends, but it was hard for me to engage. Drunken conversations almost always involved me reflecting on the state of my life.
I’d meet a pretty girl at a party or a bar, or I’d be sitting around with my friends with whom I was CERTAIN were tired of me bringing them down when I was around.
Don’t talk about your divorce! Don’t talk about your divorce! DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR STUPID DIVORCE, ASSHOLE!, I would tell myself over and over again.
Within five minutes, I’d have talked about the divorce.
It’s like I couldn’t help myself. It would just spew out of me. The animated corpse. A zombie with a fake smile.
We Need Connection
Like your brain. It’s one big thing. But really it’s a bunch of connected little things. And if those connections disconnect, you die.
Romantic partners require connection. If you become disconnected from your spouse or partner, the relationship will die.
We need—(I think. I don’t know. I just know what happened to me and assume it happens to other people, too.)—to be connected to other people.
I died a little on the inside during the 18-19 months in which my marriage was in limbo.
Life was not being lived. Sleeping in that piece-of-shit guest room. Cut off from damn near everything that mattered to me.
Just sad and angry and crying and scared.
And I was on life support those first few months after she left. Because, literally, every dream I ever had about my future went up in flames. 359 days ago.
And Then There Was You
I withdrew from friends and family.
Became somewhat reclusive for the social animal I really am.
And I attacked the keyboard. It was awkward telling people at parties and other places how shitty my life was, but dammit, it was cathartic telling you.
It was therapeutic.
It was healing.
Most importantly? It created connection.
We need it so bad. Like oxygen. And water. And love.
The writing connected us. The feedback connected us. The ideas connected us. The emotions connected us.
And it brought me back to life. One published post at a time.
I became reanimated.
Like watching your own child grow, it’s so gradual, you just look at them one day and think: Holy shit! When did they learn how to run and jump and talk and think and teach us about ourselves!?!?
One day, I just didn’t post to the blog.
Not because I didn’t want to. I always want to.
But because I didn’t need to.
Because I’m kind of alive again.
Lazarus, come forth.
Never Stop Connecting
As soon as I realized what Twitter really was (an amazing place to connect and exchange ideas, as well as a totally customizable real-time breaking news feed) I fell in love with it.
I’ve never had much to say there. But I used to spend much of my free time perusing my feed for breaking news and hilarity.
Of all the social networks that exist today, Twitter in my opinion best reflects humanity.
And I completely vanished from Twitter when I “died.” And like most things you quit, it’s easy to forget why you liked or needed something in the first place when you stay away from it long enough.
I created the @MBTTTR Twitter account, and it’s been such a treat being reminded each day what an amazing place it is.
So much life and laughter and creativity and genius is exchanged there.
My favorite writer on the planet, James Altucher (@jaltucher), follows me thanks to a kind and generous tweet from Michael Maupin, author of Completely in the Dark (@completelydark) who graciously spends more time than I deserve reading things I write here.
I can’t explain to you the depths of the purely heterosexual man-crush I have on Altucher. Him following me on Twitter is the equivalent of a high school basketball player being followed by LeBron James or an aspiring pop star being followed by Justin Timberlake.
Twitter offers a lot of gatekeeper-free access to some of the most-brilliant minds on the planet. Reconnecting with Twitter has breathed even more life into these healing lungs.
Thank you, Life. I’m so grateful for you.
But We’re Not All Writers
Not everyone is going to have the inclination to connect the way I did. To just send little pieces of themselves out to the world and see what comes back.
That way is not for everybody.
But we are all human. And I am right about that whole oxygen, water, love thing. Those are critical to being alive.
Just like connection.
So you must find another way. The way that works best for you.
I need it.
And you need it.
And we can’t spend enough time doing it. (That’s what she said.)
Maybe you feel dead like I did.
And maybe you want to feel alive.
With your friends. With your family. With your co-workers. With strangers. With God. And if you’re not into that—with the universe.
Just say “thank you.” Try to mean it. Fake it ‘til you make it.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I borrowed a little bit of life from each person with whom I connected. And I continue to borrow that. But we can’t spend our lives taking and taking and taking.
So, we invite people to connect with us. And then they borrow a little bit of our life force.
Giving and taking. Sharing. Connecting.
Rising from the dead.
And then we’re all breathing again.
Photo: danor shtruzman/Flickr
This essay originally appeared on Matthew’s blog, Must Be This Tall to Ride.
Read Matthew every week on The Good Men Project.