To say the last two years have been strange would be an understatement. Beautiful, tragic, confusing, powerful, humbling, life-changing – all of these words apply equally well, and collectively. Any sense of normalcy took a hard turn in the opposite direction last year.
In some ways, that was all expected. A little over two years ago I very nearly died. In practical terms, I was actually dead for a hot moment. I was out of critical care and back home recovering within a few weeks, but the devastating ripple effects of this experience couldn’t be predicted or prepared for. And as a result, I didn’t realize what was happening until it was far too late.
I questioned my own ability to protect myself.
Questioned whether I could protect my family, or my livelihood. Feared for my own mortality for the first time… well, ever. My wife feared what her life would have become had I finished bleeding out that day in the ER – taking close stock of all she’d accomplished and all she hadn’t yet. She turned fearful over how she’d fend for herself and Devin in a world without me. We held these fears to ourself for the even more stupid fear of burdening each other.
In my efforts to heal myself, I started to turn my focus onto physical wounds, not emotional ones. While one type of wound healed, the other only got worse. The sharp, direct pain of losing a kidney faded into the slow, aching pain of a 18-year relationship breaking down.
She turned more angry, vindictive, and distant. I became more confused, scared and withdrawn. A wedge of distrust grew between our partnership and pushed us apart. Once others got wind of our troubles and started interjecting their own needs, wants, and opinions things got far worse. It became clear – painfully so – that despite being best friends we’d stopped being partners and had now taken a turn in different directions.
Sometimes when something breaks, it heals in a way you didn’t expect. By the time we realized that simple truth, we were already caught in the headlights of our own trainwreck in progress.
Desiree and I separated in November of last year.
Being separated felt like a visceral chunk of my soul was ripped out and left bleeding on the floor. I experienced all the expected phases of grief; rage, confusion, sadness, depression- you name it and I felt it. I’ve never hurt so badly, and I’m no stranger to pain.
My job at LinkedIn was incredibly supportive- providing us both an amazing couples counselor while reconciliation was still on the table, and plenty of space and flexibility to get my feet back underneath me again when it wasn’t anymore. I’m eternally grateful for their support during such a dark, scary time in my life. In our lives.
Turning into a single parent overnight was incredibly difficult, but my son is worth every iota of energy inside me. Everything in my life had to turn on end, change about, flip itself inside out, from my schedule, my job, my self-image and worth to my sense of self-reliance. And of course, my expectations.
It was much easier to heal my body than my soul. I’ve struggled to find my path and strength again, but the light at the end of my tunnel is beautiful. It’s also a different hue than I’d expected.
A turn for the better
If you’d have asked a few years ago, my son would have told you his biggest fear was his parents separating. But despite that, he’s been the real paragon of strength and comfort to us both as our separation unfolded. Our scenario isn’t ideal to Devin – but is the best outcome he could expect from the circumstances. He still gets plenty of time with both of us individually and together. We laugh, smile, play and he always fills my day with sunshine and happiness. None of that has changed.
Along the way, Des and I got past our anger and now enjoy each other’s company as friends and co-parents. We had 17 amazing years out of the 18 we were together, which I’ll cherish forever. Together we brought a beautiful son into this world who’s as strong and fierce as his parents, and makes my heart burst with joy and pride. Things could have ended up far, far worse.
I have no idea what the next chapter of my life will bring. There are so many possibilities I’m not sure where to start… but I’m not afraid anymore.
It’s time to move forward with love, understanding, and respect.
I’m going to turn the page now.