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Back To The Start: Breakup to Begin Again

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I’m starting over. Again.

Back to the bare walls and rebuilding from nothing. Back to the feelings of being booted from my former “happy life” as a dad and husband, and into some unknown, stripped bare, emotional roller coaster of the last 8 years of my life.

I am beginning again. I have a new place to live. I have no furniture, no bed, no comfy chair, but I’m making it. I’m putting myself back together again. What a long strange season it has been, this breaking down of my relationship, my career, my ambition. I was struck down in July of 2017 with the collapse of a relationship that had grown toxic and depressing. Neither of us was happy. So we broke up. And in the process, I lost everything.

Picture this: a 55 year-old man, living with his 85 year-old mother. He’s so emotionally spent that he goes to daily al-anon meetings to keep from being completely alone. Well, except for his mom, that is. He has a career that’s teetering on the brink of collapse. As a social media director, his livelihood relies on his ability to be a rock star of inspiration and executive functioning, and he’s got none of it left. He’s afraid in a way that feels hopeless. How can a man, without a home, without a career, without much of a support network, find his way out of the darkness of depression.

  • I prayed.
  • I asked for help.
  • I went to al-anon meetings and sought out other people who were making a run at bettering their lives.
  • I took a job as a cashier at a fancy grocery store.
  • I regained something hopeful within myself.
  • I learned a bit more about my inner resilience.
  • I did not give up.

Today, things are moving towards a different life. Today, I am starting again. Even as I have been stripped of most of my previous identity, even as I am re-prioritizing my life towards my kids and away from the hyper-performing marketing manager, even as I have been given yet another chance at happiness, I am starting back at ground zero.

A lot of wonderful things are in place in my life at this moment. And still, there is a residual ache. There is an aloneness in my rebirth. Still, I have doubt about my own ability to overcome the challenges ahead.

When you walk out of your house for the first time, as a divorced dad, you have a sense of being in free fall. There is no net below you, to catch your scared and aching soul. Even your children are taken away for large chunks of time. And alone, you begin to face your fears. The fear of being alone.

None of us wants to be alone.

Tonight I am alone in a mostly empty house, with scattered remnants of my previous life. A few newly purchased sparkles of this present life, and a glimpse of a better future.

As I have hinted in previous posts, I have a new woman in my life. (Dramatic pause.) And she is not here tonight. And even in this quiet moment, as I type, I can feel both the aloneness and the beginnings of a relationship, that feels quite different from my previous three attempts at finding my lifetime partner. That’s what I’m in this for. That’s what I lost, each time my partnerships decoupled and became former partnerships. Each ex comes with a story and the lessons I learned. And each new beginning comes with the hope of something better, and the anxiety that something might still break, even with both of us working to keep it fresh, new, and healthy.

The truth is, none of us know how to do it right. None of us know how to be in a healthy relationship. We all have to make it up as we go along. Some of us (not necessarily me) are better at it than others. Some of us (me) have family trauma and historical struggles that we’ve got to attend to in addition to figuring out the basics of being a healthy partner. Each of us brings our own baggage and issues into a relationship. And some of us have different challenges in our emotional mix.

I have and will have, periods of depression. This is a fact. Fortunately, this is a fact that is out in the open in my new relationship. And even more, fortunately, I have a new therapist and a new strategy for unraveling my historical struggles with career and money and … as the cycle continues… relationships.

You Are What I Want

I am holding nothing back here. I am even allowing myself to explore and examine the hurts and fears, at this very moment, at this simple evening alone, where I’m feeling no fear, no pain, no emotional stress. Yes, my new friend is a few cities over, but she is nearby in my heart. Yes, she is aware of my mental health challenges and welcomes the discovery and adventure ahead. (At least, that’s what I tell myself.) And yet, she is telling me, too.

  • You are what I want.
  • I adore you.
  • We are a good fit.
  • I am not afraid.

It seems the chemistry and physical connection between us is easy. The fire was enraged and hot as we rolled our circus trains towards one another a month-or-so ago. With Brené Brown as our patron saint, we reached out for the other person and accepted the honest, fearless, searching, and willing partner in front of us. We accepted each other, just as we were. And today, we’re still in the process of learning how to do that continuously.

  • She is away. But she is not far from my heart.
  • She is away and yet I can feel her smile, hear her laugh, and recall the warmth of her hand on my chest.
  • In the simple photo on the piano in my new place, I can see and believe in her smile.

None of us want to be alone.

Tonight I am ready to start, I am alone, and I am as hopeful as I’ve ever been in my life. That’s the best I can do. #blessings


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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