My wife and son are going out of town for the week starting tomorrow afternoon, and I have absolutely no one I can call to do anything with.
If I put in pin in my house on a map (remember those?) and drew a circle with a 50 mile radius, there isn’t a single person out there in that territory whom I could call and say, “Hey, let’s go get a beer” or “Come on over and watch the tournament” or “let’s go smoke a cigar” or anything.
I realized that this afternoon, and it’s made me incredibly sad.
It’s not that this is new knowledge. I just do a really good job stuffing that shit down and going on about the happier parts of my life.
And those are, indeed, happy.
I have an amazing wife with whom I will celebrate 25 years of marriage in less than 10 days. I have two amazing boys, one who is proving what I already knew — that he was going to be tremendously successful at the University of Missouri and in life — and one who is so damn much like me in so many ways it’s like I’m raising myself (which, sadly for him, gives me some distinct advantages). The kid is kind and compassionate and quirky — he has taught himself how to solve a Rubix cube and can do so in less than 35 seconds, no matter how much I mix it up.
I have a great job and, with one sad exception, get along well with my coworkers. I’m doing some of the best creative and strategic work of my career, and I still have the capacity for a side gig with Northwestern University to write articles for its publications aimed at attracting new students to its masters programs.
I have a beautiful house out in the country, no debt and money in the bank.
Life is, in so many ways, good.
And the thing is, it hasn’t always been this good. In fact, until quite recently, there are large parts of it that have sucked. Mightily.
I nearly blew up everything that truly matters to me — my family, my marriage, my career, my life — because I never addressed the true nature — the origin story, if you will — of what was leading me to do some incredibly stupid things. So earlier this year, I decided to finally face the demons head on.
And let me tell you, those demons are fucking assholes. I have spent much of the past six months looking happy and strong and bold to the world around me while feeling as if I was being torn apart inside. And still … I handled it and did it and got myself back on track for the first time in decades.
Here we are today, and I have not only faced those demons but repeatedly whooped their asses. No, I’m not foolish enough to think they’re gone forever, but they now know I’m not someone who is so easy to fuck with, and they know I’ll have no problem facing them again should they choose to try any dirty shit.
Which feels pretty tremendous, let me tell you.
Having done that, my attention now is turning to something I haven’t been able to do for a long, long, and when I say “long,” I mean it — long time: Enjoy life. The feeling is so damn weird because I’ve been struggling and floundering and collapsing and working and rebuilding and refining for so damn long, this new place I am is strange. I’m not saying I still don’t have more work and refining to do, and like I said, I know those demons would love another shot at me, but I’m at a point in which I feel like I can actually breathe and smile and have some fun.
And outside of my wife and a few people who live anywhere from one to 20 hours away, I’ve got no one.
When I say that, I don’t mean that there aren’t people who would say something kind or at least neutral if you asked, “Hey, what do you think of that John guy?” As I said, some of my coworkers like me and respect what I’m doing there. There are a few people at the yoga studio I go to who would tell you my energy is pretty damn groovy sometimes.
But as far as people on the other end of a text or a cell phone call who would make time to be an actual in-person friend? When I tell you there is no one, that’s not an exaggeration. When I was thinking about this earlier today, I felt the familiar, “Well you have to put yourself out there and make the phone call or text,” but here’s the thing: I could think of not one person with whom I’m even remotely in a position to do that with.
And it’s not for lack of trying. I have. Repeatedly. The Army dude who can’t make time between lifting weights and being ready to fight America’s battles. The new guy at work. The dads from the kids I coached on my son’s basketball team. Some strangers in a Dungeons and Dragons group. The old “friend” from a previous job, who proved to me that he really was the asshole I thought he was when last I was ghosted by him.
And the very fact that I reached out to that former coworker to see if he wanted to hang out is a sign of how bad the situation it is… That I would reach out to someone who was a complete dick when things were really dark in my life — yeah, not a good look.
In some ways, I understand why I’m where I’m at today, and I’m familiar with that place. Like I said, I did a pretty good job of blowing up my life. I wasn’t an easy person to be friends with. There were times I dipped for a few weeks. The people I did seem to attract were the broken who saw me and used me as free therapy but who were strangely silent if I was the one who needed a friend or if I merely wanted to hang out and not talk about how fucked up their life was in the wake of them not taking the advice I’d spent an hour giving them the last time.
There is literally no one in my life outside of my wife and boys in that 50 mile radius who knows a damn thing about my life in any substantive way. Not one person. And as I said, that isn’t because I haven’t tried. It’s because no one has given a damn to care.
I am 100 percent, unflinchingly and angrily sick to death of hearing how fucking busy people are, how many kids’ soccer games them have or how many trips the need to make to a gym to feel adequate. My life, also, is anything but boring. Funny how we make time for things that are important to us, and I have heard and felt through words and actions how unimportant I am.
Which doesn’t make me feel bad about myself anymore. It used to. I used to think there was something wrong with me. And ya know what? There is. Of course, there’s something wrong with all of us, and my wrong shit is certainly no worse than the wrong shit of the fine folks I’ve described above. I’m no longer feeling as if my bad stuff marks me was a scarlet A for “asshole.” I’m a good person. I’m kind, compassionate, friendly, funny, intelligent and, in my own weird way, fun to be around. I like what I like, am willing to try different things, am willing to make time to be social and am not so damn caught up in my marriage that I don’t have time for anyone else. My wife is pretty damn amazing with that.
So what am I? I am so fucking sad that I’m going to basically be a bachelor all week and there is absolutely no one with whom I will do anything.
I’ll work. I’ll go to yoga. I’ll play DnD online with my far-away compatriots. But when the work is done and the class is over and the party does its thing to the monsters we confront, I’ll still have no one anywhere close to me who gives enough of a fuck to be my friend.
That hurts. That makes me sad. I’m lonely. It sounds pitiful as hell. And I’m not really sure what to do about it.
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