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Apparently I’m an Author Now

(Writtin December 2021)

Of all the airbnb’s in all the world… or in all of the city of Austin, Texas… I somehow ended up lucky enough to stay in this one. Super cute, minimalistic with an awesome backyard, AND it was pet friendly? Sign me up! I only thought it was cute online, but once we got there I was in love. It was the owner’s actual house and I could totally feel that they have the same vibe as me. Plants everywhere, a really cute backyard deck that wrapped around a giant oak tree, and I even found a sage bundle next to the kitchen table. 

This seemed like the perfect place to come have a little writing retreat with one of my besties, Miranda. I mean, aside from the fact that I had to bring my kids and dog along with me, and she wasn’t actually staying here at the house with me… this was technically still a writing retreat. Oh also, I wasn’t really here to write, I was here to have an in-depth, in-person VIP coaching day with her to get my thoughts and ideas organized into some kind of a plan for my book. I guess that’s not exactly a writing retreat but oh well that’s what I’m calling it. 

After a potty break and a quick facetime tour for my friend back home, I was instructed (by my friend on the phone call) to grab my laptop and sit outside under that huge ass tree and get to writing. 

Every trip I’ve been on since Jason died is so surreal. I mean, everything started out surreal, him not coming home, day after day, but on vacations it’s different. Being in new places, making new memories and having new experiences without him feels so strange. We’ve all started cataloging things now as before vs. after Jason died. Just last night, my kids were arguing over when they’d downloaded a new version of a video game, whether it was before or after he was gone. 

It only took me a few hours after Jason’s death to have the realization that my kids' lives would be forever chronicled as memories with or without their dad. The timeline of their lives, forever fractured by a canyon of grief. I’ve had people ask me if I’m angry at Jason. If I hate him for what he did. And although I can’t deny the feelings of rage that took over me when I initially found out he [took his own life/purposefully left his kids here without him], I can’t say that I’m angry at him. 

Don’t get me wrong, I get a little mad when my kids ask me why their dad didn’t love them enough to stay, because although I know that isn’t the reason he killed himself, they’re too young to know that. But those feelings pass just as fast as they come in. I work through them, because not only do I not want to hold feelings of anger for a dead man, a man who held my heart for half my life and helped shape me into the woman I am today, but also because I want to hold feelings of love and compassion for him instead. 

If anyone saw his suffering while he was on this Earth, it was me. 

I got a front row seat to his anger and rage. I watched him stuff down his pain and pretend it didn’t hurt when his life wasn’t what he’d wanted it to be. I watched him criticize and judge others when they were guilty of nothing but having what he desired. I saw how he would numb his feelings with virtual worlds in the form of online gaming. I saw him project his negative emotions onto everyone around him. 

And while those things hurt for me to watch, what hurt more was watching him try to fix it. 

I saw him reluctantly (yet still willingly) ask his doctor for medication when he knew he was depressed. I was there when he first started going through anger management online and saw his “aha” moments of clarity when he became aware of what his underlying emotions were that caused him to be so angry. I sat next to him on a couch in a counselor’s office for 3 and a half years… and he did all of these things because he knew he had a problem. 

A lot of the things he did helped. Truly, they did. He learned and he grew, and he gained a lot of perspective as he tried to better himself. I’ll always wonder what might have been, especially now that we lost him to suicide… what might have been if he’d been able to get different help, the right kind of help. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Antidepressants, anger management and counseling all helped Jason in some way. They really did. The problem [at least how I saw it/in my eyes] was that all of those things were his version of putting a bandaid on a bullet hole. I think most people will agree that the stigma around mental health, while less than it once was, is still affecting the way that people get (or don’t get) help. 

I am not a doctor, I cannot diagnose anyone’s cough and cold, let alone a mental illness. However, I would bet it all on the face that Jason suffered from far more serious issues than he was ever diagnosed with, let alone treated for. I searched for answers out of sheer frustration and with the desire to help my husband change back into the person I’d originally thought he was. Only, that was never going to happen. 

Our love story was fun and exciting and romantic… and so, so very toxic. We fell into a trap of codependency very very quickly and by the time I came up for air and realized what was going on around me, it was a decade and a couple of kids later. Sure, we repaired a lot over the last few years, and it’s entirely possible that we could have kept things going the way they were for another 10, 20, who knows how many more. 

The problem with that was I knew deep down that my soul’s true purpose was NOT going to take shape as long as I had myself stuffed into the box I’d created to make him comfortable. Now I could very easily say that HE was the one to put me into a box. But that’s really not fair to him. He never asked me to be that way, I did it myself. I sighed and said I was fine when I wasn’t. I had chosen my battles… translation: I hid my emotions to keep him happy instead of trying to effectively solve conflicts. I gave in and gave up to avoid arguments and undesired outcomes. I completely forfeited responsibility for the results of these things as well. If I was the one to tiptoe around and then Jason inevitably blew up, I would look at it as all his fault, instead of owning my own part in the situation. 

So in January of 2021, when I finished reading the book that I’d made Jason get me for Christmas, I knew what I needed to do. 

It was time to get a divorce. 

How funny was it that the book I’d thrown in the shopping cart while we were getting stocking stuffers for the kids just a few weeks before would end up being the catalyst to my decision to change my life irrevocably? Was it some kind of crazy karma? Or maybe some continuation of an Alanis Morrisette lyric? Whether the odds or the irony, it didn’t matter. Something in this book just spoke to me. It illuminated parts of me that I didn't even know had gone dark. It put into words feelings that I didn't realize I felt. It was one of those books that changes you, makes you a different person. 

I couldn’t possibly ignore what that book had uncovered in my soul. I couldn’t continue living my life and trying to force myself to be someone I wasn’t. I’d felt ready for a divorce a few years earlier, but this time it was different. WE were different. We weren’t fighting. We weren’t hurting each other. There were little to no harsh words spoken between us. I mean sure we still had occasional arguments, only this time we were kinder, slower to anger, and quicker to a resolution. So you might be wondering if things had gotten so much better than they had been, then why did I want a divorce? 

I started questioning things. I mean, what was marriage, anyway? The more I went down my path of spiritual awakening, the more I realized that I didn’t believe in the institution of marriage anymore. Looking at it through a different lens really made me question what I was still doing in mine. What did I want for my life? The real question was why am I here? How can I live my life’s purpose? I knew the answer was that I was put here to help people. And in order to fulfill that, I would have to show up and be transparent, honest, open and vulnerable. All of which made Jason very, very uncomfortable. Actually, uncomfortable isn’t a strong enough word to describe how those things made him feel. Terrifying is probably more like it. 

Vulnerability felt like weakness to him. I’d venture to say that it likely feels that way for most men in our society. And it’s really too bad, because without vulnerability, we can’t be strong and courageous. Honesty is something else Jason struggled with. For someone as smart and good hearted as him, he still felt the need to talk himself up and make his life seem grander and more fantastic than it really was. He had a difficult time admitting faults, even on his best days he was still human and I feel like it bothered him that he couldn’t be perfect. Like a Ricky Bobby quote “if you ain’t first, you’re last!”, he felt like if he wasn’t the absolute best, first, top dog at whatever he was doing, then he was a complete and utter failure, fuck up, disaster. 

This kind of thinking is super detrimental. Believe me, I watched first hand how Jason’s minor and major accomplishments turned sour right before my eyes. Either he could acknowledge his success at something and he was dissatisfied with the way it was received to others (especially me) or his good works were not only accepted but praised, only he refused to believe or even hear it. He talked himself out of so many things because he didn’t feel like he was worth the praise, and in the same breath, he would get pissed if he didn’t get the right amount, right kind, or right flavor of praise that he felt he was owed or deserved. 

I knew that in order for me to get through to people, I had to be 100% me, out loud, for all the world to see. I knew that I had to share my story, in order to encourage others to be able to do the same, and in order to show people that they weren’t the only ones going through shit. That it was okay to feel all of the feelings, that it was normal. I also knew from our past and from our current conversations, that Jason wouldn’t be able to sit back and allow that to happen. He had spent his entire life building up this facade of who he was and what he was about, and he wouldn’t be able to allow me to come and poke holes in all of it. He couldn’t bear for people to see the real him, and he was never going to be okay with it. So I was at a crossroads, one I’d found myself at before, only this time I could really see it for what it was. 

Do I stay in this marriage, keeping my head down, not rocking the boat and continuing to force a square peg into a round hole? I mean, I could do that. I’d seen dozens of other women do it. Dutifully bound to their husbands and families, they squeezed what little drops of joy could be found in their lives out like getting the water out of mozzarella through a cheesecloth, careful not to spill any of it. Was that the life I wanted for myself? Better question, was this the life I wanted to model for my children?

The answer was a resounding Hell, no!

I wanted to live my life and be who I was meant to be, not this caged animal I’d turned myself into. I had no desire to hurt anyone, to damage my kids or break Jason’s heart. All I wanted was for all of us to be free from this toxic trap of a marriage we were in. I wanted us both to be able to grow and move on from this, to find happiness that wasn’t dependent on the other. Some deep, connected kind of joy that we were never going to find within each other. I wanted to be able to let myself out of the box I had put myself in. 

It was as if I’d been handed the keys to the kingdom, taking a peek behind that curtain and seeing Oz again for what it really was. I was scared, excited, nervous and still a little unsure of my decision. Yet somehow I found the courage to sit down and tell Jason how I truly felt. I didn’t want to waste any more time trying to pretend everything was okay, that this was the life I wanted. The truth is, it was never what I wanted. I had spent my entire adult life and our whole marriage doing what was expected of me, what I thought was “right” and I was sick of it. I couldn’t live another day forcing myself to be this person I wasn’t. I wanted to be free, I wanted to be my wild self, 100% me, not this watered down shell of who I was meant to be. And I knew that by being released from our marriage, we could both grow into who we were supposed to be. 

So we sat down at the kitchen table, on a Sunday afternoon, and had a talk. I told Jason that I didn’t think we could become the people we were meant to become as long as we were married to each other. We got so close to separating so many times throughout the years, and instead of fixing, changing or resolving our issues, or actually parting ways and growing from that, we got scared and fell back into each other, usually with some kind of big financial commitment and basically just tied on more strings to be connected to each other. We definitely enjoyed the creature comforts that two incomes provided, we usually enjoyed each other's company and had fun together… but fundamentally, something was missing. 

I realized as the years passed, there was something Jason wasn’t able to give me. And I was afraid that it was something he would never be able to give me. 

He could only love me so much.

I had a love inside me that was massive and deep and expansive and ready to be poured out of me and into those around me. I’m certain that Jason had that same kind of love inside of him too, only it was buried beneath something that he was incapable of uncovering. He could only love me so much, so deep, so true, so honest… He wasn’t going to be able to reciprocate the love that I needed reciprocated. I could spend years speculating on what it was that kept him from being able to access that holistic, expansive kind of loving energy that I know was inside of him, that’s inside of all of us. I mean, I did spend years wondering what it could have been. Childhood trauma? Most likely. But what? Did he even know? Did something happen to him as a child that he blocked out, and by blocking it out he locked part of himself away so tightly that it was impossible to get back out?

If I can write a book about the year since he’s been gone, I could write a library full of books explaining every minor detail about how I wish things would have been different. I suppose these questions don’t matter anymore, except to share so that someone, somewhere, may see a similarity within themselves and it’s my hope that this ignites something within them, something so strong and bright that they no longer suffer through, but instead get the help and support they need. 

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