I usually look forward to this annual reflection. This year is different. On December 31st, for the past several years, I have been able to look back on the year and assess it as one of the best years of my life. While there have been many really good events that have occurred in most any given year of my 51 years on the planet, one, or even several great events does not necessarily make for a good year. The years in which my children were born, for example, are forever memorable, but for a year to be a good year, there must be a consistency about it; it should be marked by steady forward momentum that carries into the next year. While forward momentum certainly exists today, and 2014 holds much promise, that promise exists despite a dismal 2013. It has not been a good year.
Exactly 365 days ago, the signs were already there. Still a “newly wed,” that marriage was already experiencing trouble, but I had no idea that it would disintegrate into the divorce that is in process right now. By the time New Years Eve night rolled around, my wife and I were at odds about what the plans for the evening should be. She wanted to go to the casino – a place that recent experience had shown to be a bad idea – I didn’t, because of the problems gambling had already caused. She got pissed. Happy New Year. But the gambling was only the tip of a very large iceberg, one that slowly revealed itself as the year progressed. Before we got to our one-year anniversary, I could no longer trust my wife in any capacity. Any capacity. As much as commitment means to me – and marriage is a commitment of solemn proportions – I could no longer carry the burden myself. My commitment was not enough to overcome her lack of it. It also meant breaking a commitment I made to her kids, but again, it was one that I could not follow through on by myself.
It was not the only commitment I have made in the recent past. I also committed to complete an education that was once beyond what I ever thought myself capable. That commitment is ongoing, but it was nearly derailed by the turmoil that was present in my personal life. My wife and I were separated by considerable distance for weeks at a time, a hardship for any couple, but not an insurmountable one. Many couples – especially when one partner (or both) is in the military – experience much longer and more difficult separations. At least we were able to be together every four to six weeks, for five weeks over the holidays and for the entire summer. Not the best situation, but better than many – and temporary. In addition to that, she lived in my house in California (with the utilities paid by my parents), had the use of my car and did not have to pay for insurance or many other monthly expenses. Meanwhile, I lived in a shit-hole apartment in Baton Rouge. I guess we all have sacrifices in life to make…
As a result of lie after lie, financial mismanagement, infidelity and other “issues,” my head was never really in Baton Rouge, at LSU, where it needed to be. It nearly killed my career, but thankfully I had a lot of support and the wherewithal to pull through. My work was not stellar by any stretch of the imagination, but by whatever grace I was granted, it got me through. I would say it is remarkable how this relationship could turn my whole world upside-down the way that it did, but in a way I am glad it did; I’m glad it meant that much. There was nothing superficial about it to me. I was in it because I was in love and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I was committed to helping her raise her boys even though my own kids are grown. I wanted to make this new, “blended” family work. But there were too many obstacles – and the external influences of so-called “friends” – that prevented it from even getting a start. And the signs were there even before we got married. I am not a victim, I volunteered.
The end result is a shitty 2013. I am glad to see it go. The good news is that 2014 is poised to be another record-breaking good year. While not 100% entirely “past” it, I am close. I am far enough past the bullshit that I can now focus on what is in front of me rather than what has happened. The reality is that if I want to go there, it only takes a few seconds before I get pissed off, sad, wistful, emotional… whatever, all over again. In have shed enough tears, and it helps knowing that the feeling isn’t and likely never was mutual. I am free; free to pursue whatever my heart desires. It looks as though it will be a happy new year after all.