Today marks seven years since I decided to give up on a marriage that was killing me. It was not an easy decision, though honestly, the marriage was not healthy from the beginning. But quickly into it, we had kids and there was always the threat that it would be difficult, if not impossible for me to spend time with them if I left. So I stayed. Like the old cliche says, I stayed for the kids. I tried to make things work as best as I could. There was a lot of fighting. But I held on as long as I could. Until I couldn’t.
Today would have been my 22nd wedding anniversary too. If you do the math, I filed for divorce on our 15th anniversary. Today is always a day to reflect that moment and look at how far I have come. I am not the same person. I’m getting closer to becoming the person I was before I was married. Though at 46, I’m not as spry as I once was. I’m working through decades worth of damage as well as arrested development. Starting over again is not easy, but it is worth it.
One of the things I am realizing now is that I am tenacious. Which is strange, because in my adolescence I was accused of being a quitter. I quit track and field (though the shin splints didn’t quit me). Come to think of it, it was just that one coach who accused me of being a quitter, and boy did those words stick with me. It just shows he didn’t know me. Like my marriage, I quit track because it was a farce. I stayed with other things. I was in several plays and musicals in high school. I was a State Champion in Knowledge Bowl (we went to state all three years I was in it–we one my senior year). I was in band from fourth grade until 12th, and went on to play in bands for years after. That coach was an idiot, because not quitting things is probably one of the core pieces of my character.
I’ve been accused of quitting on my older kids. I haven’t seen them in years. Which is hard. I still haven’t quit on them. I just know that right now they think they are doing the right thing, and one day that will change. It did for me. I’ll always be their dad. I’ll always love them. Once I love someone I don’t quit that either.
There are times in my life I have really struggled with the idea of giving up. It’s hard to give up, especially if I believe in something. Especially if I see value in it that others might not see. I’ve been told by friends and family on these occasions that nobody would blame me if I gave up some of the things that have been so hard. My tenacity sometimes makes me annoying. I’ve had friends give me the advice to just give up. I’ve done all I can. I’ve put in all the effort. What I’m doing–and I know this–is treating others how I would love to be treated. If someone is worth fighting for, then I keep fighting. To hell with that emotional bank account where people keep tabs of the things they’ve done for others. You just do it. Sometimes they can’t give back. I know there have been times when I couldn’t.
But wouldn’t it just be great to have that load off my shoulders? A friend of mine used to say that she hated people telling her how strong she was. When you are strong, they just keep giving you more weight to carry. It crushes your spirit, it takes its toll on your body. The weight is nearly impossible to carry. Which is why I tried to not add to her burdens with my own. I sorta missed the point though. Our friends, family, loved ones, pets, sometimes random strangers we chat with in line help us carry our burdens when we are doing it right.
I suck at asking for help. I’ve shouldered my burdens on my own for a long time. I have let in maybe half a dozen people at a time, and I don’t even share much with them. I talk mostly. I vent. And then I pick up my bag of shit and I keep walking. Uphill. Against the wind. And then I try to pick up the bundles of other people along the way. I walk (metaphorically) until I collapse. In a most spectacular way. I push people away. I tell them everything is fine. I shut down. But I get back up again. I always do, because I suck at quitting more than I suck at asking for help.
I don’t know if I am a good man or not. I hope to be one someday, but I try to be better than I was yesterday. I have flaws. Many. Anyone who has gotten to know me over the years has seen my good side and bad, and I’m grateful for the ones who put up with my shit and haven’t given up on me either.
Lately, it has been rough. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Custody battles probably beat out death, loss of a limb, and any number of things for most stressful situations. I’m up to my neck in one right now. I’m managing. I’m really in the greatest fight of my life right now. I suck at letting people see that.
If you know me, or if you don’t, let me say this to you. Don’t quit. Please don’t. Keep fighting. Keep going. It is going to suck, but when it’s over–and you can rest–you’ll see it was worth it. I didn’t quit my marriage, I just started fighting for myself. Fighting for my kids. It was worth it. I’ll help you along the way. Even if I am just a voice in the dark or some words on paper. You aren’t alone. I believe in you and I always will.