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Jekyll and Hyde

Monday, June 4, 2012
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This piece is reposted from Widow's Voice, a blog sponsored by the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  Matt is one of seven writers who share their experiences as widows/widowers.  If you have not checked out Widow's Voice yet, be sure to do so especially on Sundays when Matt posts his blogs.

I like myself – I like being me.

What’s not to like:  nice guy – live a clean life – adoring father – good at fantasy baseball.

What’s the point of change, this system works for me. People would just have to put up with my bad to get my good. I must be doing well; I have people who love me for just being me.

Then cancer takes one I love most.

Lisa’s death rattles my confidence. Months go by and I struggle with being a parent by myself. With no one to bounce ideas off of, I start to question decisions I am making. My indecisiveness shows and I find I have too short of a fuse with my girls. I can hear them yelling at me, “But Dad!” as I say, “No, this is how we do things.” Followed by, “You don’t understand me.” I walk out of rooms thinking, “Am I that unapproachable, that unbending?”

For the first time in my life, a deep reflection of who I really am sets in. Sleepless nights let me ponder what I’ve taken for granted. I have not put in the effort to grow my personality; I have relied only on the basic skills I’ve been born with.

I start to ask myself questions. Questions that are painful to face. Are my three daughters dealing with a man who is not listening to them? Even though I may see these issues as crazy, silly, over-dramatic; to them it’s important, and am I pushing them away where they grow up lying to their dad and then in the future to their husbands. Why not?  Isn’t that what strong male figures do-- not listen?

I see my flaws and in an unexpected way, enjoy this new awakening of how I missed the boat and what I did wrong. I emotionally start to punch myself in order to change my ways.  The soft blows feel nice, the pain causes me to alter my current path.

I can feel myself start to change.  Our bedtime routines are becoming more pleasant. I notice I no longer cut off the girls when they are arguing their point of view. I walk in the door from work and even though my coat is still on, I stop and listen as three girls all talk at once telling me their “news” of the day.

However, there are still days of blown opportunities, laziness where the girls are being punished for no real reason at all. In the back of my mind, I know the battles I am fighting are not battles at all, just a reason for me to be upset. And more realistically, I am taking out on the girls the toll of my long, lonely, tired days. They have done nothing wrong, but end up getting blamed for all of my outside frustrations.

I have not changed enough. I continue my personal inquisition. The deeper I dig, the more punishing I become on myself. After a night of making the kids cry at bedtime, I go downstairs and emotionally tear myself apart, going over every minute detail, every single word I’ve said and convincing myself I have ruined these girls forever. The punches get harder and my body starts to bruise. I’m too busy hitting myself that I can’t see the marks.

Soon the punches are at full strength and don’t stop. The list of how worthless I am gets longer. Now, not just on the bad nights, but every night when I go to bed, I lie awake replaying the mistakes I made that day. I wake up exhausted and disliking myself that much more. Night after night, week after week of focusing on my weaknesses, I am getting lost in my own disgust.

I hate myself. What’s not to hate: bad father, crappy human being, took my wife for granted, don’t listen to others, try to win too many arguments. I hate being me.

Lying awake one night, I can finally feel the bruises on my body. I’m covered in them. Why did I do this to myself? I call off the dogs, and tell myself to stop hitting.

For the time being, I stop the interrogation. I let the bruises heal first.

I then call a meeting of the guy who liked himself and the guy who hated himself. I tell them there is only room for one Matthew. I ask them to please leave the most useful parts of each of them on the table and I’ll create a new normal based off those.

I like myself. But the difference is, this time, I do know what’s not to like. And I will try my best to make those corrections, I may fail, but at least I now understand a healthy way to progress my personality.


Phenomenal! I feel like I narrated this story to you - great job!

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