1 Year Later

One year ago, I sat down to type out my Closing Chapters post, my way of announcing the finalization of my divorce to my world. It seems only fitting to look back on this last year and take stock of the growth and challenges from it.

Over the last year, I’ve contemplated a scene from the pilot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Emissary”. The clip is below and worth watching, but I’ll give you the gist of it and try not to be too Trekie:

Commander Sisko is trying to explain linear time to these wormhole aliens that exist outside of time. Throughout his dialog, the aliens manifest people and moments of Sisko’s life. However, there’s one moment – his wife’s death during a ship attack – that is too painful a memory for Sisko, yet he keeps being brought back there by the aliens.

Their response: “… but you exist here.

At that moment, Sisko realizes that he never really left the pain of that traumatic moment, and let it dictate his life from that point. He lived, existed, there.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “Emissary”

While my ex-wife is very much alive, this scene resonates with me in the way I grieved the end of my marriage, and I often asked myself contemplating questions like, “Do I exist here? Do I keep returning to this moment? How does this trauma define who I am today?

Watching movies like Across The Spiderverse and The Flash has left me wondering how we often use trauma and tragedy in our own lives to shape the future we’re trying to build. I’ve done a lot of contemplating, praying, and feeling over the last year, channeling my emotions towards healthy growth and development of wisdom as I’m writing my next chapter.

Today also marks the day that I finally finished the most painful book I ever read. It was over a year ago when my therapist recommended I read The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel to better understand the choices my wife made, leading her to abandon our marriage. I purchased the audiobook and figured it would be a relatively quick read*, like the other books on marriage and divorce I read throughout this process. I quickly found out that this book was the equivalent of eating raw Brussels sprouts: it would ultimately be good for my health, but it was a matter of dealing with the very bitter taste.

* Yes, I consider listening to an audiobook “reading” and consider “reading” and “listening” synonymous terms.

Every chapter forced me painfully reenact the events of my divorce. I found it harrowing, filling me with painful emotions that ultimately soured upon every read. I quickly learned that I couldn’t bear to read it while my kids were with me, and when they were gone, I somehow found ways to avoid reading this book.

However, after getting through the initial flood of emotions, this book ultimately provided insight and helped me reflect on the choices that my wife made at the end of our marriage, and the impacts they had on me, both then and now. I also thought a lot about the ways I contributed to setting the conditions to allow this trauma to take place. By no means did I agree with everything Perel wrote, but I found this book a painfully necessary read and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone else that has experienced infidelity in their relationship.

In the same vein, I would like to offer an empathic ear and supportive shoulder for anyone else who had this happen in their own relationship. This feels like an embarrassing subject to discuss with your friends, but I’ve found so much strength through the establishment of my support system. I’m here, in large part, through the kindness of my family, old friends, and new friends that have grown through this experience. I’m so grateful and hope that I can continue to pay it forward.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this last year has been sheer misery – it’s been far from it. Over this year, I’ve learned so much about myself, my strength and abilities, as well as my deficiencies – learning when and how to ask for help. As someone who is pridefully self-sufficient, humility and asking for help has been the toughest and most rewarding lesson that I’ve learned.

I’ve also learned more about the strength of my daughters, which inspires me to no end. I previously detailed some of my struggles as a single father and prevent me from being physically present at all times. Christmas this year, without them there, was a particularly harrowing experience, and I’ll admit that I didn’t even get out of bed until the day was half over. I’ve also been awed by the ways we form new memories with my family of three, unlocking laughter and joy out of normalcy and everyday tasks. My girls are such a blessing in my life.

I’ve also been lucky to share love and affection with Shannon, through our relationship which continues to flourish and blossom. Also victimized by infidelity in her marriage, Shannon and I connected through the darkness of shared grief and have cultivated that into something that has been very life-giving for both of us. I’m lucky to share this journey with her and am blessed to have her in my life.

Looking back, one year later, the word would have to be “building”. I’m incredibly blessed and have experienced amazing growth as a father, in my work life, in my passions, and in my relationships. I’ve had my share of tough days and setbacks, but ultimately am so very lucky to lead the life I’ve been given and look forward to existing in new spaces.