From black to gray, shame to regret

All the love gone bad, turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see, all that I am, all I will be...

~ From "Black" by Pearl Jam

J and I had our one appointment with the lawyer two weeks ago. The meeting was to deal with the financial side of the divorce. It was of course an awful reason to be meeting, putting ten years together on a spreadsheet and discussing where the figures should land. I suppose with that as a lead in, the meeting went as well as could be hoped. We are not confrontational people to begin with, and we have done our best not to antagonize each other during this difficult time.

As usual, I was early for the appointment. I stopped at a coffee shop less than a mile away to grab a cup of joe and to go over some paperwork. When I left the shop, the song "Black" by Pearl Jam was just starting on the radio. Whether you believe in fate, synchronicity, or cruel twists in a random world, it was an odd coincidence to have it play as I drove to meeting. I can think of few songs that more wrenchingly describe the end of a relationship.

The song previously made me think of the girl I dated before I met J. When I met this girl, I had not dated anyone for several years. In that time by myself, I had come to know who I was, what I believed, and was the most confident, strongest version of me. All I needed was someone to share it with. I picked the wrong person.

We were together over a span of four or five years. In that time, she broke up with me three times I think (I've lost count). We worked together, so there was no real separation, just the torture of seeing an ex several days a week. We got back together after each breakup, but I and the relationship were weaker each time.

I put aside that confident man I was when we met, and lived my life in a way I thought would make her happy and sustain the relationship. I lost who I was by living for her. The relationship took me from my strongest point and dragged me down to become a shell of my former self. But I didn't blame her as much as I blamed myself for letting it happen. For returning again and again for more anguish. I was doing it for what I though was love, but I became someone I didn't respect in the process.

I have carried that shame with me, never really dealing with it. I've never returned to that strong, secure person I was in my 20's. When J and I met, I was somewhat damaged goods. After letting my heart get walked on repeatedly, I kept my guard up, never really letting myself feel vulnerable. I had no reason to mistrust J, and it wasn't her I was defending myself against. I just couldn't find a way to open up, to trust again. I withdrew from life and only exposed a portion of who I really was.

I built up a wall with bricks made of past failures, and that wall needed to be torn down for J and I to have a chance. I don't think it doomed us to failure, but it definitely made our path more difficult. When we first started seeing a counselor and getting things out in the open, I assumed the failure of our marriage rested squarely on my shoulders. Even J admits to feeling that way somewhat. Of course it turns out it isn't that simple, but I am still walking away with mountains of regret.

The end of my relationship and marriage to J cannot be compared to my last relationship. The women and my feelings are incomparable. This time the loss is larger by several magnitudes, as is the shame I feel at this failure. I have been to much darker places than I had before, but this time I am turning to others to help light the way out. I am also trying to move from shame to the less tortuous regret.

The walls have come crashing down and I am sifting through the rubble to try and build something new. The bricks remain what they are, but I am hoping to put them to better use this time.


matt said...

Well written.

We all make mistakes - the important thing to remember is that you did your level-best to muddle through in those past moments. Every single one of us would do things differently if we had the chance to do it over again - but of course, life isn't that way.

No sense in lamenting that life does not allow us to go back in time for a do-over.

All our do-overs are in the future.

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