It’s the Sudden Stop at the EndBy Andrew Nonadetti
July 13, 2010
Ego is a funny thing. It can buoy you in times of need but it can also raise you to dangerous heights from which to fall. Deadly, even.
I’ve had an interesting life or at least I think I have. I’ve learned over the past weeks to question most all of my self-perception and the colors of my memories. I had thought myself a self-made – and therefore heavily scarred – survivor. A man who started life as a violent borderline sociopath, emotionless and cruel, manipulative and opportunistic. A man who then found love, turned his efforts to good and heroically carried himself and his bride to redemption. Over the past month, I have found that I was, in fact, little more than a terrified, sensitive and brilliant child who became what he did to avoid the physical and psychological abuse that surrounded him and that preyed on such displays of weakness. Who saved no one but was, in fact, saved by the woman he married. And who, in fact, then victimized that woman, making her into a sacrificial lamb for his insecurities and fears. My insecurities and fears. My self-hatred and self-loathing. My own Dorian Grey portrait.
And I was oblivious to myself as both victim and beast.
Over recent years, I found myself changing, mellowing, being a little – a very little – more self-aware. Then, in writing for this site, I found that I was unexpectedly freer, that I could touch real emotion, let it flow from my fingers onto the keyboard and, with each outpouring, let more spill out. And it didn’t end with the posts but rather liberated me everywhere in my life. I felt like Pinocchio, finding flesh instead of wood. I could feel. I could see. And I could share. My family became not just an obligation and a duty but something to bask in, something to appreciate and enjoy. I began to allow myself to feel “a part” rather than “apart”. And it felt wonderful. I directed my wife to the site and loved getting her feedback… until the post in which I declared that I had saved her. And her own dam broke. It was enough.
We fought and I foolishly thought it was over the piece. I soon found out how wrong I was. When she saw that I wasn’t shutting her down or storming away, she took a chance and pushed. Thank God, she pushed. And so much came tumbling down. I was revealed to myself for what I’d been. An abuser, of spirit if not flesh. I hadn’t saved her, I had condemned her to two decades of mental torture, public humiliation, passive-aggressive crushing of her desire to do anything, to express a differing opinion, to feel good about herself. To leave.
I am grateful that she didn’t but oh, God, how I wish she had for her own sake.
All the self-hate, all the cruelty, all the destructive capability I had learned from both my family and my environment hadn’t gone away, hadn’t been left behind. It had been turned first inward and then onto her, “just punishment” for the crime of loving me, of accepting me for who and what I was. And I didn’t even register it or its effects.
Immediately after we married and moved, the disrespect started. I began spending all hours of the day and night with another woman, ignoring my wife’s growing discomfort, even when I knew that this woman wanted me. I complained to my wife that she was “letting herself go” when she was a gorgeous young woman, weighing barely more than a hundred pounds. I criticized her clothing, her makeup, her cooking, her existence. I was worse than my father had ever been – he at least tempered his pedantic, martinet behavior with manipulative passivity, unlike my perfectionist ferocity. I flirted shamelessly wherever we went, thinking of myself as simply “being charming” and not seeing the embarrassment in my wife’s eyes. And, after over a decade of this abuse and humiliation, I simply talked myself out of love with her, convincing myself that she was an unsalvageable burden, unresponsive to my years of support and unfairly holding me back. Then I used this “knowledge” to justify allowing feelings of friendship with another woman to develop into something more. The worst betrayal of all – not of body but of heart. I am ashamed to admit that it is likely only that friend’s rejection of the notion that kept me from crossing that line. Yet I told my wife I loved her, daily, despite it all.
It seems like such a tiny list. Small words, composing a small paragraph, describing a small man. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg and offers no insight into the well of suffering beneath it. The self-doubt it inspired. The isolation it inflicted. The honest and happy soul it ground into the dirt.
Since June, I have learned many truths. Hideous truths. How she would lie awake, wondering if I was coming home. How she wondered how many women I had been with since we were married. How she worried I’d give her some disease or that my hatred would translate to physical violence some day, violence she had seen wielded against others with horrific viciousness. How she resigned herself to being childless, unloved, abandoned. How my memory of shared grieving over our miscarried pregnancies conflicted with the reality of the single night we wept together and nothing further by way of support. How I once complained that she had “ruined a fun hike with her sulking” when, in fact, she’d gotten word that her aunt had died as she was walking out the door to the trail. How most every good memory was tainted with some corruption at its end. And the lies, spanning a lifetime. I have always been very good at them. Even to myself. They have protected my sanity, profited me well, kept me out of prison… and crippled my humanity, something I’ve been able to cling to only with her sacrifices.
When I wrote a first draft of this, I equivocated, splitting hairs on what I truly did and did not do. But I’m revising that because I am not plea-bargaining degrees of guilt. I have been a cheater, an abuser and a liar. The fact that I was blind to it – sometimes willingly, often not – doesn’t make me any less a monster in my own eyes. This is who stares back at me from the mirror – the man that I have offered to kill when described to me by female friends. I am “that guy”. I have been for my entire adult life, sans the past few months, apparently.
Of the awful things I have done in my life, these are the actions for which I find self-forgiveness to be… elusive. Impaled on my new found sense of empathy, I find myself weeping uncontrollably, grieving not over the pain I feel but for the suffering I have caused. I drift through my working hours, lacking focus, skipping meals. I’ve lost almost a dozen pounds in the past month. I live in constant fear of a new discovery, another transgression to acknowledge and own. It is bitter medicine but I choke it down, thinking that I’ve only had to live with it for weeks, not decades. It’s tough to wrap my brain around at times. Tougher still to hold my children and feel their love, worrying what foul lessons I may have already inadvertently taught them. Toughest to face my wife’s involuntary flinching sneer when I profess my love now. Nearly unbearable to see forgiveness in her eyes and hear her whisper, “We’ll get through this.”
I am working with a therapist now – the first time since I was a young teen – and my wife is in counseling with me, trying with me to reconcile what I am with what I was. Trying to rebuild trust. To finally have a real marriage with a real person. I cannot say what the exact outcome will be but I do know it will be real… and loving… and human. Because we both deserve at least that much.
Well, because I am inhuman and selfish, the first thing I thought of when I was halfway through this was, “Fuck. I was going to post tonight. I don’t want to follow this.”
So you know.
You’re not alone on the asshole tip.
Though mine, too, is a parade of suffering, if not so explicit as yours, so maybe we could unite in an endeavor to get most of the TNB readership to off themselves.
We don’t do that anymore.
That was not meant to be as shitty as it sounded. I was honestly identifying.
Heh. I get it. Just as I’m sure you’ll get the fact that, if I was the type to get the readership to off itself (self-defeating, not my style, just sayin’), I’d first set up a website offering various consulting services on how to get the job done without tipping off local LEOs and/or insurance companies. Of course, there would be a “for entertainment purposes only, no refunds if attempts are unsuccessful” disclaimer and… um… we don’t do that anymore. But I’ll always be a capitalist.
Post at will, Becky. And thanks for commenting.
Oh my God.
Never thank me for commenting.
Or reading, for that matter. I realize we’re not bosom buddies or anything, but we write for the same site. Of course I read you. Of course I comment.
“Thanks for commenting..”
What the fuck?
Anyway, you and I obviously have different motivations. I mean, you and I–in a former, more destructive incarnation, of course–have different motivations.
I just like to get people to do things for my own amusement and you want to make money. Certainly there’s a cash cow there.
Not everyone comments on everyone else’s posts, and I seriously doubt we all read them, for that matter. I mean, there’s a lot of them about.
You’re right, of course. Thanks for reading. And for commenting. Again.
Ugh. Gross, Drew. Can I call you Drew?
Will, speak for yourself.
I wasn’t thinking I had to speak for myself, just of numbers, but then I realized you were commenting more on motivation than on statistic, Becky.
Speaking for myself, I wish I managed to read more posts and comment on them. I always mean to. It always gets away from me.
Oh! Oh! Becky, let’s see if this one makes you toss your breakfast!
Ahem. I appreciate your input.
I’ve always been stronger than you gave me credit for. Many bad things, unspeakable things, had already taken place in my life by the time I met you; most of which you now know. You were 16 and I was 17; you opened the door to my blind date’s apartment and our eyes met for the first time; I was able to see deep into your soul. I saw someone hurt, scared and craving love – flat out demanding it – but refusing to show it to anyone in fear of being rejected or worse, mocked. You were tough, no questions asked, but deep down you were lost. You covered it well and no one else seemed to notice. That’s what first drew me to you. Upon meeting my blind date I was, well less than interested, but could not stop thinking about you and wanted to be with you.
I never intended us to be serious or forever. We were only supposed to be a three month fling and nothing more. I had hoped you would realize that you were worthy of love, you could have it and most of all you deserved it. For many reasons we were extended to six months, then a year, then two; we finally broke down and said “I love you”. We married after six years of dating.
I have always known the truth about everything you’ve said and done, you thought you hid it well but your eyes could never lie to me. I’ve always been able to see deep into your soul and see the truth. At times I have believed worse than what is true, flirting instead of cheating, just a kiss instead of sex with someone else. I’ve tried talking to you so many times over the years only to be crushed into silence. In June you listened so I pushed, then talked, yelled, cried and talked some more. You still listened. Thank you for listening. You have explained things well. I do not need to explain further. We have been talking for a month now – really talking. Through everything I have loved you, I have accepted you for who you are and were. Through everything I had glimpses of the man you are becoming. The man you wanted to be and were for everyone else. I have found my voice, my self respect, my strength and I will never go back to being hurt and silent.
I believe we can make a new start; one that is full of love, respect and honesty. We both deserve it, our children deserve it. No one is perfect. No one will ever be perfect. If we talk, share and are honest, we, as individuals and as a couple, can come out of this stronger, wiser and closer than we could have ever imagined. In time I will learn to trust again. I’m not whispering….we can get through this.
I have always loved you and will always love you, faults and all.
Sigh. I’ve replied in person. With gratitude.
You know, there’s not really any response that is worth anything other than the response you had from Debbie.
But I would just like to say that the very fact that you are admitting fault on your part and that you can see your mistakes – and most importantly – are genuine about wanting to change them, says a lot.
As Simon Smithson is fond of saying ‘The only way out is through.’
Smithson is a smart fellow… among other things. And you are a dear and equally wise friend. Thank you, Zara.
So does Simon go around quoting Alanis Morissette a lot?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The only really embarrassing part is that he started pre-“Jagged Little Pill”. I think I heard him humming bits of “Too Hot” when he showered here….
Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?
Now, now.. I won’t take any dissing of my little brew!
Who’s dissing? Isn’t Alanis the best-selling female artist of all time? Or did Shania Twain beat her with Come on Over? I own all of Alanis’ work after Jagged Little Pill. Well. For varying definitions of “own.”
Okay! I’m good with it!
The fact that he’s admitting his faults and wants to change means everything! That’s why I’m still here and why I love him.
This takes real guts to admit these things to yourself – let alone publish them for the TNB readers to digest. I applaud your honesty and your courage to take on your demons… and the first step to overcoming, is to see them, acknowledge them and move through them.
Debbie is truly your soul mate – she says it all with her statement “I have accepted you for who you are and were”.
It’s a tough journey you have embarked upon, but one which will bring you the peace and acceptance you are looking for. I wish there were more people in the world like you – as Michael Jackson’s song “Man in the Mirror” says… (regardless of whether you like him or not – the lyrics are good ones…)
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”
Thank you, Jude. I’ll even refrain from the usually-mandatory MJ diss. I must be feeling humbled.
Oh my, Andrew….Your honesty and Debbie’s honesty….wow, powerful, powerful stuff. I believe once we admit these types of things about and to ourselves, it becomes difficult to continue the behavior. We have no choice but to become the good person we are meant to be.
Your wife is a gem, treasure her.
Best of luck to you both.
Thanks, Lorna. Anything I could type would sound trite and I am so most definitely not feeling that way of late. She is amazing, more than I ever knew. And, while I may not be the devil, I am far worse than I ever saw. A time for reevaluation, compassion and honesty. And change. Thank God.
Good luck, Andrew. And you, too, Debbie.
Best wishes to you both.
Thanks, Gloria. And I apologize for airing this level of my personal life here but…. I felt that blithely posting stories after going radio silent was – I don’t know – disrespectful. Disingenuous. And I’m tired of being that way.
Lordy, lord. Please do not apologize to me. I think this public airing has more power than the guy who proposes to his wife on the stadium scoreboard. That’s a public airing of love of sorts, but there’s something about it that feels like showboating. And is kind of precious and nauseating. This…this is more of a public airing of love. I will admit to you, yes it makes me wildly uncomfortable. But I think it’s because it hits at something that we normally don’t see in the public domain: Love is sometimes ugly. It’s sometimes painful. Love doesn’t always feel good. Change is difficult. Fault is not fluffy. But still, it’s a public airing of love and I respect you for that.
I want to see the post when you publicly air your love for yourself. That’ll be beautiful, too.
Took me a little effort to figure out how to move your comment (ended up just deleting and reposting). I expect it will take more effort yet to post that other love letter ;)… but I’m working on it.
You are a gentleman and a scholar. Thank you Andrew.
I fell from Grace once. Luckily, the bed wasn’t so high, so I wasn’t too badly injured, but I’d prefer not to repeat the experience.
I haven’t kept up with all your posts, Andrew. I read the first and loved it, but, well, things come up, as they often do, and I sometimes went a couple of days–or even longer–without checking in around these parts. So I don’t know the posts you’re referring to.
I’m not a psychologist–though I edited many for several years–but there seemed in this a certain catharsis. I hope that’s true. I hope this becomes a first stage–is it me, or do there tend to be several–on the way to healing. To better.
I wish you, and your wife, and your relationship, well.
And I am in awe of your wife. May I humbly make a suggestion? You mention a lot about self-awareness. You obviously train an unflinching eye on yourself here.
Train that on her and why she is amazing. Forget self-forgiveness; up above, realize why she forgave you or is working with you toward forgiveness. There is pain and past, but reading the words of both of you, there seems to be hope and future, too.
I hope that’s not out of line. But then again, you put something like this out there and not much steps out of line, right? Like I said, I wish you well.
Thank you, Will. You are not out of line; we both put it out there for the world to see. There is forgiveness, love, hope and a future. If we both want it and work for it, which I believe we do, we can and will make it through this. Love is a very powerful emotion. I’m very proud of him and I never hesitate to tell him.
Sorry, Will, but I immediately thought of a wildly inappropriate joke about your only sleeping with midgets from now on to avoid such mishaps and finding yourself nuts over those girls. But I’ll let it go. Too buzzed on margaritas to make it work anyway.
There are always stages in all things, a progression, a process. I don’t know right now if I’m just ramping up, in a mid-storm lull or reaching the denouement. But it will be what it will be and I will see it through. You’re not the only one in awe of my wife. And you are quite right – there’s not much off limits when you expose yourself at this level. Except Alanis.
I was going to write a post very similar to this. I’ve been thinking it through seriously for a few days, and I guess it’s been in the back of my mind for a couple of months. Last night I even wrote the first few lines of a poem (first poetry I’ve written in 3 yrs) as a way of getting around to the essay.
Problem is: I didn’t/don’t have the strength to write something like this. I think I scare myself when I begin to think properly about such things. Then, if I do manage to get it on paper (or rather, computer screen) I tell myself it’s no good. Maybe it isn’t any good… but more likely I’m telling myself that because it’s so hard to actually confess… to actually admit fault and explain why.
Hell, I’m bad at even uttering the word, “sorry.”
I guess I’m a child. But I’m impressed by your ability to be so brutally honest. (And by your writing – but you already know that.)
David, I’m no expert – ask dwoz 😀 – but I think the writing isn’t the hard part at all. Facing stuff like this doesn’t require strength, it provides it. And don’t be too impressed – it’s easy to be brutal to someone… you’re not particularly fond of. Like I said to Gloria, working on that last bit.
(please, I say this with love, respect, and not unmindful of how easily it could be taken wrong)
You do this to try to bake “it” under the white-hot light of day. How can you hide from it now? You’re OWNING it. That’s a good thing, right?
What you need to understand is that you’re absolutely, completely bog standard typical. Your myth is legendary, like mine, like his, like them, like her. Everyone has a myth, just like yours.
Oh, the pain.
So dump the myth. STOP owning it. LOSE it. You’re still canonizing it even as you denounce it.
Me? I’m just some fucking schmoe on the internet.
So are you. So is your wife.
What IS amazing about us, is that we’re only the 6,023,563,674th, 5th and 6th person to think there’s something amazing about our personal myth.
Self-flagellation is so last millennium. Fuck that shit.
If there was any one single bit of advice I had to give, it would be that you need to not spend another SECOND, not another INSTANT on feeling pity or sorry or chagrin or grief. Just decide. Decide that it’s changed.
Be done with it.
The act of holding on to it and begging yourself and your wife and 100,000 of your closest friends for forgiveness can AND WILL turn into a passive-aggressive whack-stick that will be used to bloody each other for years to come.
You only need the span of time that it takes to think the word “yes” to completely change everything. Sure, it will take a bit of time to disassemble the day-to-day behavior mechanics, but the hard work is done in a blink. You merely decide. Joy comes to you in an instant, and then of course a bit of housekeeping to sweep out the corner cupboards.
You haven’t taken that step yet. You haven’t just decided to live a joyful life. Bang, just like that. I know it sounds stupid and hippie-flower-child like. Well, those patchouli people got at least one thing right.
oh, and also, “get a room.” Truly, that’s the only real medicine.
…and best of luck to you both.
Dwoz, I love you. And hopefully that isn’t taken wrong! I hear what you’re saying and agree with a lot of it. But we actually have taken that step, the step to decide “now we move forward”. And we are.
But this reminds me of a discussion I had with one of my older brothers. His advice, without knowing precisely what was troubling me, was, “You don’t get extra points for suffering.” And then he told me his latest escapade about cheating on his girlfriend, with whom he had cheated on his now-ex wife. I believe that maybe sometimes you don’t get the point without at least some suffering, without empathizing with the people you’ve hurt.
I’ve been a fuck in a lot of ways. I just didn’t see this one coming. And I will let it go… eventually. But first I have some questions to ask it, find out where its friends are hiding. I don’t think I’m special or transcendent or any crap like that. But I’m not ready to shrug it off, either.
As for the room, we’ve got several and have made copious use of them these past weeks. I’m hoping I can get a punch card for the therapist once my five-year-old eventually stops repressing what she walked in on the other morning.
very good news, my new friend. And I love you too, in a very gruff, vaguely embarrassed manly way. I hang on your every syllable when you post something. Good stuff.
Realizing now, late of course, that the moment I was talking about was some weeks back in the editorial process, and that unlike me you probably reread your stuff at least once before posting.
You’re right, you don’t just get a “get out of jail free” card merely by deciding you’re different now.
…and while we’re on the topic of TMI, I’ve got a wife that went to bed all alone 20 minutes ago. That’s MY problem now and I have to fix it. Good evening to you!
And to you, sir. May your fix last longer than the twenty minutes of neglect! 🙂
According to the label on the bottle, I’ve got 4 hours before I ought to seek medical assistance.
Ha! And somehow I’m mentally tying this into the “Jagged Little Pill” conversation going on above…. Salud, my friend. I’m turning in as well….
Friends of mine and I discovered that any phrase can be uttered between two men and then turned gruff and masculine as long as the party speaking gives the party listening a manly pat on the back after they’ve finished speaking.
Dude. Dwoz’s comment summed up my initial reaction. The joy of self-immolation. The lad doth protest, and in the zealotry of his protestations might there be redemption. Like, lay it bare for the Internet, the digital equivalent of self-flagellation, punish rather than redeem, etc.
But as I read it, I thought of how I recently experienced stages of healing. I’ve heard there are five or seven, but there must be more, or less, and they must differ from person to person.
The Internet has become so full of posts whose reason for being seems to be “Look at what a doucehbag I’ve been. I’ve been such a terrible person. I hope I can get better. But it’s so hard, and I’ve hurt so many people.”
“You only need the span of time that it takes to think the word “yes” to completely change everything.”
Fuck. Truer words ever set down? Not sure. But goddamn, I’m putting that on my wall.
You know, it’s funny that you wrote this. I was initially going to use a custom title for the piece and call it “Look at what a douchebag I’ve been. I’ve been such a terrible person and I’ve hurt so many people.” Seriously. 🙂
I’ve done my self-flagellation in private, believe it or not. And I’ve had Catholic and Jesuit training – I know a thing or two about self-flagellation. But something my wife said during our tempest struck a chord with me – “No one knows who you really are because I’m the only one who got to see it.” And I was a little uncertain about posting what I’d written but…. Now it’s on display. I don’t think it changes who I’ve started to become, it’s just a touchstone, a road marker for me. “This field used to be the bunker where I kept my douchebaggery.” So to speak, anyway.
I’ve thought many of the same things during the process I’m going through, dwoz. I’ve always been of the very literal, linear, logical thinking type and it seems to me that the steps are: Identify a problem, discuss it, name it, accept it, adjust as necessary, move on from it. But what I’ve learned is that sometimes we do need to linger in the steps before moving on.
Writing things out gives new perspective. When I do the Jumble in the newspaper I write the letters in a circle so I see them differently and can spot the word easier.
Discussing things with others, third, fourth, fifth-party outsiders helps. Granted posting online may be taking that to a slight extreme but it might help.
“Just decide. Decide that it’s changed.” I like that, I’ve tried that and sometimes it does work. Sometimes the decision is the easy part while sustaining the change and/or adjusting to it is hard. Just deciding to DO something different is much simpler than just deciding to BE something different. Changing actions can be instantaneous whereas changing self takes time and conscious reflection and effort.
well, that’s why the second part of my statement was “…it will take a bit of time to disassemble the day-to-day behavior mechanics,…”
I hope YOU aren’t going through a relationship bomb too..?
Rich with the amazing cowbell performance, and now you with this compelling confession, Anon—-and it’s, like, only Wednesday!!
TNB folk and especially Brad Listi have a lot to answer for.
OK, ok, I’ll get serious, right down to the bone, Anon, as you have so effectively exampled.
To David’s concern that he couldn’t face and write such a post as yours, you replied: “Facing stuff like this doesn’t require strength, it provides it.”
Facing stuff like this makes us stronger.
Being *open* to facing stuff like this; that is, feeling that you can open your mouth and say what has hurt you (or others)—-is key. It helps to practice and to be in an emotional environment that permits it.
But facing stuff like this runs counter to nearly every aspect of our life conditioning—-from our mother and father, teachers, church folk and friends. Saying what hurts you runs counter to much of our experience in this culture. How can we change conditioning that seems to permeate us?
How can we make it easier for our children to say what hurts and angers them? How can we make it easier for a 10-year old to tell how she or he is being bullied—-to say it to the bully as well as to parents and school folk? How can we make it easier for a 15-year old to say to friends or parents that she prefers not to do what they’re doing? How can we make it easier for someone to say “I love you, and I disagree with you about….”? Or “I need to tell you something….”? Or “I keep worrying about….”?
How can we make it easier for people to bring up a difficult and upsetting subject about us? How can we make it easier for them to tell us what is vital to their flourishing?
We can make it easier by starting with small steps and a full foundation of respect for ourselves and the person we’re about to address.
To practice and build confidence, we could write down what we want to say; it helps to “hear” how we might say it, to revise it and rehearse it.
One thing I think is a huge help: We could tell ourselves that our past negative behaviours are over—-because, in fact, they ARE over, they are *past*. The people we live with will be most helped by us if we’re free from brooding guilt and worry, if we’re engaged in what they’re (and we’re) doing, and if we’re affectionate, supportive and human. I think that’s what most of us want for ourselves, too.
Quite right, re: the past. There’s a reason we’re designed with eyes facing forward. I mean, besides the whole hunter-gatherer/binocular vision thing. And it’s a little embarrassing how much I’ve taught myself in trying to teach my children things like communication, compassion, restraint, respect. Valuable lessons, though, all around.
HA! Righty-right, Anon. Amazing how much we learn while teaching our kids. 😉
Once I realised that my son was A Person (he was 11 and said something witty), my mind was blown with utter fascination for his store of knowledge, humour and engaging analyses. He just kept getting cooler every year. What a miracle, I kept (and keep) thinking—-a little squirming thing whose diapers you keep changing and face you keep feeding and washing—-and then suddenly A Person!
We’re so fortunate, Anon.
Indeed, Judy. I always thought it terrifying and intimidating, the notion that everything I do and say in front of them is a lesson for them. Now… not so much. There is benefit all around. It makes me a little more cautious, a little more thoughtful and yet, conversely, a little more carefree. We’re all learning together.
“I always thought it terrifying and intimidating, the notion that everything I do and say in front of them is a lesson for them. Now… not so much. There is benefit all around. It makes me a little more cautious, a little more thoughtful and yet, conversely, a little more carefree. We’re all learning together.”
Beautifully put, Anon, and coming from your turned-around perspective. Astonishing how quickly a turn-around can happen.
Here’s another memorable thought you’ve offered which resonates powerfully:
“I believe that maybe sometimes you don’t get the point without at least some suffering, without empathizing with the people you’ve hurt.”
Jesus, man. I suppose I’m following dwoz and Will with typical male perspective, but since I’m unabashedly male, I suppose that suits.
My first thought was “genius anarchist move throwing such a messy bomb into a public forum”
But I think you deserve more than a glib summation. But is there really anything to be said in response that isn’t ultimately glib?
I guess the most important thing to say is that I genuinely wish you and your family well through everything. Last time I muttered something about messy humanity, and this is even more of that, but shame on me if I ever lose sight of the fact that metaphorical messiness means heavy work by real people have to clean up.
Be well, friend.
Heh. Thanks, Uche. I appreciate gender-centric perspectives and have had more than my share of reactions along the lines of “BFD – suck it up.” But here’s the grand encapsulation of everything I wrote above: I treated a good person horribly and inflicted pain for twenty years. This requires more than “Oops – my bad.” Even for males like us ;).
And I’m more of an “anarchist lite”, really. Is there such a thing as pragmatic chaos?
Do you think my perspective is male-centric? Not challenging you here, If it is, I’m blind to it.
“suck it up” would be a completely wrong interpretation of what I meant to say (which may be hell and gone from what I DID say)…
I was trying to say that anon has this “bad boy myth” and that he idealizes it. At least he does in the writing I’ve seen from him. Look at his sig: Prima facie.
My notion is that he has to stop doing that. He has to just drop that. At least, that is what I would have to do, if it was me.
Can’t speak to Uche’s male-centric interpretation (and actually can’t speak to much – at work, meetings looming) but my “suck it up” reference was more to stereotypical guy responses, not my take on your reply. I agree with your notion and it’s something I’m working on. I *have* been a less-than-stellar human but, by harping on it, I’m still clinging to it. That’s something I started to realize before this blow-up and a good part of what precipitated it. Perpetually revisiting past behaviors isn’t mourning, it’s keeping them on life support and yourself in limbo. But this requires honesty – is it something you *want* to change or something you feel you *must* change. Previously, it was the latter. Now…? I’ve done a bang-up job at accepting self-delusion but it certainly feels like the former to me.
I like you, dwoz. It seems like a downgrade after telling you I love you last night but I had been drinking, after all.
Not to go all sloppy on you here, but I bet we could choke down a couple beers in a pub or on a porch together without feeling like it was wasted time.
We have to figure out how to make Colorado-NH a short hop.
Okay, first off, that’s a sneaky bit of non-complimenting because indulging in whistle-wetting is almost never a waste of time. But I’ll take it anyway. As to the short hop, my money is on wormholes. Not only does it sound cool and almost brainy, it’s cheaper to offer a non-existent solution than to finish getting my damned pilot’s license and renting. I’d offer to meet you halfway but, especially after Zara and Simon’s reports, there doesn’t seem to be a damned place between us that’s worth spending beer money in.
Challenge is fine, as long as you don’t expect stiff resistance 😉
I’m not accustomed to the belonging-to-group thing, so possibly I got the stereotype of male response all wrong.
I am really bewildered about the “bad boy myth” bit. For me, A.Non. has always seemed a real caliber of person, imperfections and all. The sig speaks to me of style, and I guess I hope we don’t have to shed out style to make ourselves better people. What’s the point of our individuality if we do? And maybe I’m particularly affected by having read his story behind that hat, so I don’t see it as much of a distancing prop.
What I was going with was the few bits of writing that I’d seen here recently, which really is all I know of our friend Anon. In all of them, he’d made constant allusions to his dangerous and inglorious past, giving the impression even that it may have dabbled in the sociopathic.
So, really, that’s all I’ve got.
I was actually going to touch on what you just mentioned, about how writing in persona is affected by what and how we do in “real” life. It’s a fantastic point that deserves chapters.
I suppose my point is more to the idea that if we, as writers, have a “dangerous myth” persona, it behooves us to maintain that persona at arms-length. You’re absolutely spot-on with the idea that style has to be given a long leash, and I’m in complete agreement.
Another example of this would be the new writer on TNB who is an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn, who’s posted in first person about exotic dancing in Eastside. So, I don’t feel that Anon should or must shed the persona that he writes under, at all…but if I take this essay at face value, I have to ask the question about the arms-length thing.
Because I agree also…Anon’s writing persona IS a very solid and intriguing character, that would suffer greatly if it had to undergo a 12-step program.
Hey! I’m right here! 🙂
Seriously, in a nutshell, I grew up in a horrible, violent environment and I engaged in some really shitty, sometimes violent, sometimes felonious behavior to get by. But, instead of escaping it, I played the role of someone escaping it… and felt obligated to keep it going in spirit if not much practice. Then I got stuck. The usual trap of “I can only be this mundane because I so used to not be” and the more I tried to acknowledge the reality, the more I had to dredge up the past. Limbo. Nostalgic desire for that which I had rejected at the time. The mistreatment I referenced above? Certainly related but a whole other topic to me.
I expect I will not be boring, post-recovery ;), but the whole persona thing…. That needs to go. It served a purpose but has turned from storm shelter to prison. I still need to maintain a certain anonymity – that part was no affectation – but…. I want to let go of things and move on.
It’s funny – I always thought of it more “asshole” than “bad boy”….
So, Anon…what DO you think of the Brooklyn elementary school teacher posting in first person about stripping in London? It’s an odd kind of parallel, no?
Given the topic of my post, I am uncomfortable discussing any stripping not involving removing paint from furniture ;). But I do need to catch up on my reading, so I’ll comment after I’ve accomplished that.
Individuals are saying publicly what I have said privately over the past week. It is now time to accept who you were, forgive yourself for your mistakes and never forget so it does not happen again. It is time to embrace the person you have become because who you have become is someone people can admire, love and respect. I know I do.
This was uncomfortable in its relentless, uncensored frankness, and it struck me as a good thing. Sometimes getting slapped in the face with someone else’s reality is the source of the new perspective we need at a given time.
I’m going to avoid my natural co-dependent urges, and though it’s not easy, I’m going to dodge my impulse to impart platitudes that you already know. So I’ll say this:
I hope that you derived a tremendous amount of relief and clarity from writing this piece and from the dialogue that is now unfolding. I hope that this is the beginning of better things for you and your wife. And I hope to hell that you continue to write such savagely thought-provoking pieces as this for me to read.
As an aside, I think it’s entirely appropriate, if and only if it feels right, to thank someone for taking the time to read and/or comment on a piece. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- there’s an infinite amount of brilliant, beautiful, shocking, revelatory literature, music, and culture available at our fingertips. For someone to choose to select something I’ve written from that vast sea of emotion, to read that thing, and to then comment on it, is something that I feel is deserving of some kind of acknowledgment. I thank them as much for myself as I do for them.
Keep it up, brother.
Yeah. SOME person. Some random person who could conceivably be reading or doing something else.
Not me. I’m not some person. Neither are you.
Lots of authors on here don’t comment on the works of others here. It would be nice to think that we all feel and carry out the obligation to support each other’s work, but that’s just not the case. So I’m appreciative when someone does it for me- author, reader, friend, enemy, or sea turtle.
Like I said, I thank them as much for myself as I do for them.
Thanks for your comment on my comment!
And thank you both for commenting on each other’s comments while commenting on my piece.
I try and comment as much as possible. Recently that hasn’t been possible because of limited internet access/general business. But when I can, I do.
But then… there’s an awful lot of stuff on this site. I started writing here last year when it was 2.0 and you could post a piece and it’d still be top of the page the next day, and it would stay on the front page for at least a week. My last post was knocked off the front page the day after it was posted… an awful lot of stuff.
Automatic comments (but not automated) for friends and people who have commented on mine. Also new contributors, and then any piece that provokes a genuine response.
Not commenting is one thing, but it’s much better than leaving a forced comment.
The etiquette is all very strange and confusing. There are rule, but there aren’t any rules. I comment on most of what I read, but I don’t read everything. I don’t read enough on here, which is a shame because the standard is so utterly high.
Andrew’s piece here, for example, is wonderful. It’s one of those pieces, like Becky mentioned, that no-one wants to follow. In a good way.
You’re right about the conundrum about the volume and quality of writing on here. I certainly can’t read, let alone comment on everything, but when a window opens up, I try to get up to speed and comment as I find appropriate.
The fact is that not everyone can comment on everything, but like you, I definitely try to reciprocate when regular commenters publish pieces, I do my best to check in with new contributors, and after that, it’s just a matter of how much time I have and how good the piece was.
And yeah, I’m very happy I don’t have anything preceding or following this piece here. It would be my luck to have a piece I wrote about hitting a home run in little league following a piece like Andrew’s. Phew.
I quite like the ledes we have to write. Usually I can tell whether it’s something I’m going to get something wrong/leave me way out of my element. Of course then there are other times when pieces defy expectations and are superb.
Haha, yeah. The piece I’m writing at the moment is probably the most effort I’ve put into a single post, and I really hope it doesn’t have to follow a piece like this. I mean, you can’t really follow something as powerful as this with ‘so this one time I watched a sport that wasn’t soccer.’
We shouldn’t set up a thread in the forum for contributors writing inconsequential pieces about sports so we can all just post them one by one in ascending levels of solemnity so none of us have to feel bad…
Anon, I just wanted to comment on your comment about Joe and Becky’s comments:
“And thank you both for commenting on each other’s comments while commenting on my piece.”
I forgot what my comment might have been, p’raps bcuz I don’t commonly comment on comments. (Where’s the emoticon for a spinning head?)
I should have said “emoticomment”, Anon.
@James (and Joe, again), thank you for the kind words. I feel more than a little stupid – or maybe “at a loss” is a better way of putting it. I hadn’t intended to write anything “powerful”. As I mentioned somewhere above, I’d thought it rather self-indulgent instead but needed to get it out, especially in a public forum, and this place has been – as others have noted – cathartic for me. I can’t say it wasn’t powerful because it was sincere and about something beyond central to my life and identity. That kind of defines “powerful”. But I hadn’t considered whether that would come through and rather thought it would elicit a few raised eyebrows and a smattering of general comments. And I’d be thrilled to read about a sport that wasn’t soccer ;).
@Judy. Well… I…. No comment.
I think more than anything honesty in writing equates to power. Certainly admiration and respect.
I watched a documentary recently about a soccer player who spent a long time doing drugs and he was talking about it honestly and openly and all his regret came through, and it wa sincere and powerful.
As for self-indulgence, it can only be expected when writing about yourself. I think anyway. My next post is incredibly self indulgent. You’ll also be thrilled that it’s about a sport that isn’t soccer…
Aren’t we all random people?
Not to the people we know, I didn’t think, but maybe we’re working with different definitions of random.
Joe, sincerely thank you. I did (and am), it is and I will, though I am sorry for any discomfort. I wondered how much selfishness was “okay” and figured the worst case would be that I’d catch a bunch of crap from folks here for being self-indulgent and Brad would ask me to take it down. I could live with that. Hopefully you’ll still read if my next few are a little bit lighter – cranky old folks, masturbation, stuff like that.
Brave move, sharing this. Well-written, too.
“…trying with me to reconcile what I am with what I was”: Sigh, yes. The difficulty inherent in this. Another course might be to forgive yourself and proceed promptly to *here and now.* It’s all you really have, right?
Kristen, thanks. The forgiveness thing, I preach it alot. I just sometimes 1. fear it’s a cop-out, skipping proper reflection to allow understanding and 2. skip it because, as dwoz astutely noted, some part of me still clings to – revels in, even – those old things and old ways. But here and now is so much better. I’m not going to blind myself to it anymore.
Yeah, I hear ya, though I do tend to question our seemingly inherent tendency to complicate things unduly. I don’t know. Perhaps you’ve ‘properly reflected’ more than your conscious mind indicates. I don’t know. Complicated! Ha.
Ongoing peace to you/Debbie…
I have read this many times.
I am proud of you for writing it.
I am proud of your wife for commenting on it.
I am relieved that you are both getting counseling.
You said before
that you were bad.
I didn’t believe you.
I understand that you were, now,
but I still, still, have faith in you
and your wife
to make over your lives,
to make them
Irene, I did try. As my original bio stated, I tend to deliver awful news in a manner that prevents belief. A curse from my Irish side, apparently. Another reason why I wanted to be so explicit here. But over the past weeks and even reading and replying to comments today, I’m starting to see there’s no reason to wallow in the cesspool – I’ve spent enough time there of my own volition. It’s not that deep. Just stand up, step out, clean up, walk away and enjoy life.
After staring at this empty comment box for about half and hour, I must confess that I am genuinely torn about how to respond to this. On the one hand, this sort of public confession is very, very brave (and well-written), and on the other, well…..minus the sudden insight into your faults, you sound just like my stepfather, which triggers a distinct Pavlovian response in me.
Ultimately, though, I suppose my response isn’t the one that matters; it’s your wife’s that does, and she’s done so quite eloquently. Good luck to you both.
Damn it, forgot to mention: the new self-awareness is one thing, but it’s the regret that’s important, and means you’ve got a shot.
Ah, brother, don’t I know it, that knee-jerk response. Imagine how you would feel if you looked in the mirror and saw him looking back. I think that’s what freaked me out so awfully, that hundred-and-eighty-degree yank from what I’d told myself about myself. Starting to feel some compassion for my own dad… that was another big piece of the facade crumbling. The “you are here” moment in reviewing his life. Time to let the past be the past, including his.
Wow, man. I didn’t see this until today. I’ve read through all the comments now and I don’t know what I could say that hasn’t already been said. Except you are a lucky man. Lucky that you’ve had this confrontation and that your wife is willing to stand by you, and lucky that you now have a chance to reboot and find life all over again.
Good luck to you both.
Thanks, Richard. I made that observation during the heat of this. My dad never had this moment or, if he did, it was literally in his last seconds, once he was beyond hearing and speaking. How awful a vision that is – 56 years of treating your wife and kids like shit and not even being able to croak out “I’m sorry” much less do right. While I’m not religious, the only word that comes to mind is “blessed” when I think of having this opportunity and being smart enough to use it instead of hiding and prolonging it further.
i think it’s a huge and important step to actually want to take the effort and look closely at oneself, to acknowledge both the big and small mistakes (maybe acknowledging the small mistakes is more important?).
one of the problems with my ex was that while he was incredibly remorseful for his affair, he still wasn’t willing to think he was anything but right on everything else, to the point that after his affair – and yes, true, after i forgave him and took him back – he was still assuming that i’d take care of his mom, and my protests warranted only an angry “whatever.” neither of us took the time to look more deeply at ourselves, and all parts of our lives.
the fact that you and debbie are doing this is really brave, maybe braver than people realize. i was TERRIFIED to talk about the things that we were wrong between us. more and more time passed, we talked less and less, and it just got more and more difficult.
Oy. I have a meeting in ten minutes but always want to reply. I do not feel that I’m in a position to throw stones at anyone so I’ll leave your ex out of it. I’m glad you’ve done what you’ve done to make a better life for yourself. And I appreciate your recognition, truly. There is so, so much to do. But…. I don’t know if I believe in “redemption” but I do believe in evolution. I’m earning my humanity and that is worth any amount of effort and patience.
I’m aware that this will probably sound hollow, but: I’m thankful that you wrote this, and thankful that you shared it.
It doesn’t sound hollow at all and I appreciate it. I hope it helps someone in some way.
I met this really crazy
once who told me
the Good News was
that no matter where you are
its never too late to start
making better choices.
I like that.
You’re a braver man
The past – not irrelevant –
cedes to the future.
Bravery is relative and often means little more than pointing your fear and horror at your past instead of at your future. Thank you, brother.
We’re all just people, at the end of the day, you know? Flawed and human and all too easily given over to letting the fears that brood inside of us act out on other people. And it’s important to understand, and forgive, these things – in others, and in ourselves.
But here’s the thing about forgiveness, and I learned it from my old boss, Mike.
‘Don’t say you’re sorry,’ he used to say. ‘Just don’t do it again.’
I think it’s OK to say sorry. I think it’s a good thing. It shows understanding of suffering.
And I think it’s a good idea to learn.
Wasn’t it Goethe – ‘Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do’? Or something along those lines?
And then there’s a Robert Louis Stevenson quote I like. I bought a card in LA with this quote on the cover, left it in a bag that I then left at Zara’s, and, because it was stashed in that bag which she recently sent to me, I have it by hand.
‘Everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.’
You and Deb are here. You are now. Wherever you go from here, you will go from this place. And that’s just the way it goes.
I’ll be wishing all my best for the two of you, and your family, that the place you go to is one of strength, and forgiveness, and happiness.
Jesus, man. You’re a braver man than I, to write a piece like this.
I think I’ve mentioned a few times myself – inadvertently paraphrasing – that I couldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t who I was. I may not have like the latter but I’m growing fond of the former. Thanks, friend.
“Everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was”–well put, S. I mean, nice quote-find.
This may sound an odd thing to say but I am very happy for you and your wife that you had this massive blow up. Nothing will change the past but without this turning point things would have continued to degrade down the path you were on.
I am currently reconciling with my ex/future husband. It has been over two years since we first separated. Remaining parenting partners we still talked to each other nearly every day so our major blow up like you had with your wife wasn’t a blow up but a slow, drawn out pressure release, like a volcano or series of small earthquakes or some other natural disaster-related metaphor. The point is it took us over two years (and counting) to get it all out and now we’re beginning to build it back up. Unfortunately, it has been two years that our kids have been without both their parents under the same roof. We separated long after our blow up was due and by that point neither had the energy to blow up at the other.
So I am extremely happy with the path we’re laying in front of us and the guidance that counseling will give us and I can only hope that your turning point came in time. I know nothing of you or your wife other than what I’ve read here but the baseline love is plain to see. Everything else is details. Hard work, but detail work.
Also, I think it is brave for someone to put their extremely personal issues out for everyone to read if only because you not only have an online life where you can potentially be judged but because you also have an extremely personal life that is affected by what you write online. This comment is the last of my deeply personal information I’ll be sharing online for quite some time. I have said quite a lot before and I’m sure people reading this either don’t remember or don’t care what I’ve shared in the past but people I love remember and were negatively affected.
Good luck to you both.
Sarah, it has been a tough month reliving everything over the past two decades but I believe it is all for the best. You are correct, his online life has affected our personal life but I think it was for the best. I don’t think I would have had the courage to push us to the blow up point without some of his writings. I also believe that his writings had already begun the process of him seeing things on his own and allowed him to be open to talking about our past. Without this I think we would have probably separated never facing or resolving our problems. The baseline love was always there and will always be, it’s now a matter of working on rebuilding trust, respect, having a real marriage/relationship, along with so much more.
I’m happy to hear you and your ex/future husband are reconciling and working through your past together. I wish you both all the best in your future together.
Sarah, thank you for sharing what you have (I don’t believe I was “in on things” whenver you posted your details) and for your support. Best of luck to you and your family as well.