Room Inside a Box

"There is no room inside a box." ~Doug Pinnick

Location: Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, United States

I started this blog as a soundboard for some much needed therapy during my separation with my wife throughout much of 2005. It was truly a blessing to get my thoughts out there through the writing process. Thankfully things have worked out between us. I would have continued to blog, but ever since I started my teaching career, I have found it impossible to do as much blogging as I would like to. So now I hope to periodically post as time and energy allow.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Open Letter to My Wife, Part I

Dear Ann,

I don't know where to begin, where this is going, or how it's going to affect anything. All I know is I have to get stuff down on paper. We had some intense moments last night--both good and bad--and it has been weighing on me heavily all day long. I feel I need to clarify some things I said, apologize for others. Random thoughts have been popping in my head all day, so if this letter is scatterbrained it's because I have so very much to say and I don't know how to best go about organizing it all. And I know that since there is a lot to say, I have entitled this letter Part I, believing that there will probably be at least two more sequels--maybe more, perhaps less. I guess I'll just launch into it.

First, I'd like to think that some of the things I mentioned made you realize how much I truly am changing. It's not just a front. I'm a horrible pretender and an even worse liar. But what I am very good at--what ALL of us as human beings are good at--is living in fear. Living in denial. For thirty years I've lived in various states of repression and self-loathing, self righteousness and selfishness, all symptoms of fear. Doug was right those years ago when we were in Oregon and he looked me in the eye and told me that there are only two things in life: trust and fear. Ever since that night it has weighed on me, this idea of trust and fear. It wasn't until you left me last year that I truly started on a journey of seeing just how entrenched I was in the fear. When you were with me my world was working; life made sense so there was no need to do any deep soul searching. But like Ty Tabor (of King's X) sings, "I grew up when my wife left me." Because my life started spinning out of control, I had to go deep inside myself to see where things started going wrong, why the same wrong things kept happening, and how to go about ending it once and for all. I realized that, even though I was making small improvements in my relationship skills, I was just slowly covering up symptoms as they developed over time instead of immediately going to the doctor and seeking a cure. I started reading self-help books, books--if you know anything about me--I used to loathe. I used to loathe them because I always thought I was too good for them, too smart for them. Those types of books are for people who are dumb, stupid, who don't know anything, who are below me, who don't know a thing about the world or how to live in it and be productive in it. But all this was the fear talking, the projection of my own inadequacies onto other people who actually were much wiser and healthier than me, for they were attempting to get the help that they knew they needed. I denied the help I didn't know I needed--and that comes from fear which begets self-loathing, pride, and blindness.

Not only did I break down and start reading books I used to think were below me, but I started actively seeking out a counselor--originally for both of us, and then for myself. And again, if you know me, that was another milestone because counselors were for other people. They weren't for people like me who had it all together. But again, that's the fear talking. So I'm reading self-help books and seeing counselors--two things that if you told me a year ago I'd be doing I would've told you to get lost because you obviously don't know what you're talking about. But I'm the one who didn't know, and I didn't know because I was blinded by fear. So as I'm walking on this newfound path, I start learning about sick patterns in my life, patterns that were so deeply ingrained in me and that I have been living in for so long that I mistook them for the real me. But the real me--like the real every person on the planet--is a scared little child, desperately searching for security and love. I wrote at length about this before, so I need not go into it too deeply now, but just to nutshell the idea, it goes something like this. We are all born pure. But just the fact that we are born means that we are separated. We are separated from God and we are separated from our mother. This separation is emotionally and physically intense and we immediately know what fear is from the second we leave the womb where once was security and peace. So the first sensation we experience on this planet is fear, and we spend our entire lives running from it and walling ourselves up because of it. Because we are being taken care of by people who are fearful--whether they be our parents, guardians, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.--we are never raised properly. Fearful people living in sin are doomed to make mistakes with their fearful children living in sin. I would like to someday write at length about this depravity, but I won't here.

Just know that I nutshell that to say this: You have told me time and time again you can't stand me and that you hate me and that you can't stand to be around me. And quite frankly, I feel the same way sometimes. But if we were to get at the heart of the issue, we would see that it's not Tom and Ann whom we hate, it's Tom and Ann's bullshit we hate. It's the walls we build, the miles we run, the bridges we burn. We hate how we react to our condition, to our depravity. Some people do better than others in dealing with the shit in our lives, the shit that inevitably builds up when you live in a fallen world. We are somewhere in the middle, but the bottom middle of that continuum. We're not the worst, and we're far from the best, but on that curve we're toward the lower end. And when you have two people who are horrible at dealing with the shit in their lives, then you have two people who are horrible at relationships. And when these two people get married, it's only a matter of time before the shit hits the fan. So you are right when you say you can't stand to be around me, and I am right to say that I can't stand to be around you, but it's not us, it's the stress of our bullshit we are reacting so negatively toward.

And here is some concrete to flesh out the abstract skeleton I have been assembling. Last night you left in a blaze of anger and hostility. I kept saying to myself, "She's like a broken record. She does this all the time. She lets her temper get the better of her and because of it nothing productive gets accomplished." So like I always get in these situations, I became very sad. I just get overwhelmed with grief when you do these things. It's like a funeral I have in my mind, mourning the loss of a life that could've been so beautiful if we would just do away with all this fear which leads to anger which leads to cloudy vision which leads to lostness which leads to separation. But then you came back. This was truly a surprise to me. I really thought that was it. And here's what happened, and I think it was of God. You and I at the time were being controlled by fear. But we confronted it head on as we started talking. The course of our conversation inched ever so slowly toward trust. And at its climax we were there in trust and it was a blissful moment. You were telling me about this dude you kissed and I was telling you about Tanya. If this dude was in a different place you would've fucked him, and if Tanya was in a different place I would've fucked her. We would've cheated on each other because neither of us is currently rendering the affections due toward each other. But God led us to people who for one reason or another wouldn't take our misplaced love and affection masquerading about as sexual fulfillment. I believe he extended a grace to us. I cannot speak for you but Tanya aroused feelings in me that I thought were dead, and she awakened in me a confidence that life can and will go on--with or without you. I know I'll be all right if you leave me. I have confidence in myself. I have trust in myself.

And that's why when I said she made me love you more, and you screamed "bullshit," I meant what I said. Here it is: Love sets people free. Love trusts. Love is the opposite of fear. I didn't want you to divorce me for a litany of reasons, all of them fear-based--fear of a life without you, fear of my reputation, fear for our children, fear of lack of security, fear of being alone, fear of the dating process. And since there are only two things in this world, the only way to healthily cure this ailment and NOT bandage its symptoms like I have always done in the past was to move into the trust. I had to leave my camp of fear and hike up toward the camp of trust. This trip to California was my ticket to this new lifestyle. For a solid week I was in trust and its elixir was euphoric to my soul. Lamott, Buechner, and Palmer--along with the ten others in my group--all steered me toward where I needed to be. And Tanya was the icing on the cake. She showed me that there are people in this world that will knock your socks off. And Jay taught me that there are literally dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of women with my name on them if I am fated to be a single man. So some of these fears I was letting control me were swiped away in one fell swoop because of seventeen hours with a woman who the closest physically we got was an awkward good-bye hug in a crowded airport.

So she was evidence that there is a type of woman out there in this world that I could be with. But here's the thing: I don't want to be with someone else. I want to be with you and only you and nobody else but you. But whereas before I would obsess over this in a possessive sort of way, I am now embracing this in a loving way. If you love someone you set them free. So I am no longer going to say you have to be married to me because I am scared to death to live without you; instead, I am saying I want you to be married to me because I love you and I want you to be with me. That's how God loves us. He created us and gave us a choice. He could've created us and forced us to love him, but what kind of relationship is that? His greatest desire is for us to willingly love him, not because he told us to or forces us to, but because we want to for who he is and what he has done for us. And I, like every other person on this planet who is created in his image, want you to love me for who I am and what I do for you. Now, of course I haven't done much for you by way of loving you, but as I was explaining yesterday, all that is changing. And it's changing because it needs to change because I have to change as a person for myself, not because I want you to come running back to me. (Of course, I do want you to come back, but the chief reason for me changing is because I should for myself--getting you back would be bonus, albeit a mind-blowing bonus.) So I bought a Xmas tree because I need to be more responsive to the culture we live in and stop fighting it like a lazy rebel without a cause. I bought you flowers on Valentine's Day for the same reason, and I got you flowers on our anniversary because that's important to a woman. And those are just the obvious things I need to do to become a better person, being more responsive to cultural and traditional cues. We talked about how I say hi to you now when I see you, about how I try to be more conversational, about how I try to be more proactive with our kids and the housecleaning and the maintenance of the house. I have very recently started to joke with you again and laugh at your jokes and smile more. And then there's the exercising I do to keep fit and to respect my body a bit more. I am making it a point to do more writing and to do more reading to keep my mind sharp and focused. All of these things I am doing for myself. If you choose to be a part of that then I am truly a blessed man indeed. If you choose to go ahead with dissolving this marriage, then I am still a blessed man alone. I complete myself; I no longer need you or any woman to do that for me. Of course, though, it would be nice and something I would indeed pursue if we are destined to be apart, but it would be something I pursue out of trust and prudence, not out of fear and impulsiveness.

So I truly do love you. But it's with a more mature love. I loved Viki and Amanda, but when they broke up with me I reacted violently and impulsively and angrily and resentfully--all adverbs initially describing how it was when you first decided to take steps to leave me. But for some reason I decided to actually do something about the causes of these reactions this time around, which is why I am truly growing and changing. Tomorrow I want to write about why I was wrong when I said you were wrong for divorcing me and the fear that was controlling me when I was saying and insisting that we teach our kids this. I believe you'd still be wrong for divorcing me, but not for the reasons you might think, and certainly not for the reasons I mentioned yesterday. I also want to talk about my relationship with Jesus and how I feel you are cheating me because you never mention your relationship with him and how I am cheating you because of how I have always talked about him in the past. I also want to talk about how people change and the process involved, how forgiveness needs to take place for restoration to begin. And in relation to this I want to discuss why I am so keen on reconciliation and restoration and how this used to be fear-based but I see now it's more of a sadness through trust rather than anxiety through fear. And maybe some other things, too. Like I said, I have a lot on my mind that I need to get off my chest. I'm not doing any of this to try and win you back. I am done with all that. I gave you to God a number of weeks ago earlier in the summer and have left it all up to him. I am doing this for myself to make things more tangible and "real" as Buechner would say, I am doing this for others who have a lot of free time on their hands to maybe help those who are in a difficult marital situation like we are, and I am doing this to provide good fodder for my book, which in some small part deals with a guy dealing with his shitty relationship with himself and his wife. I'll tell you about this letter and I'll hope that you read it along with the subsequent parts and the three past posts that I have offered on this site, but if you don't read it, well then it won't be the end of the world. Yes, it is addressed to you and I want you to get something out of it and ultimately I even would like us to somehow work on our shit and be very happy together which I know very deeply and real we can, but this letter is not for you. It's for me and others, and if something positive happens between us then it's a bonus for me and for you. I love you.



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September 16, 2005 12:07 AM  

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