Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jekyll and Hyde

This is a piece I read aloud at Camp Widow during the Blog Slam.  I thought I would share it everyone. 

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 decision I am making.  My indecisions show 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 whois 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 awaking of how I missed the boat and what I did wrong.  I emotionally start to punch myself in ordert o change my ways, the soft blows feels 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 areason for me to be upset, and more real, I am taking out on the girls the tollof 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 getharder 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 feels 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 thereis 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.


  1. We must be as kind to ourselves as we would to anyone else suffering in the same moment.
    I think it is the thing I miss most now my husband has died, that balance. When you are married the other person can often balance your more extreme parts of your personality and they can also readily tell you when you have been an ass and need to shape up. IT is the constant reflection and consideration that is hard to miss.

    I spent the first year saying "What would he do?" then i would just do it. I was constantly criticizing myself. He would never drive a dirty car, he would never leave the laundry in the dryer, I was aiming for perfection, trying to live both of our lives ALL of the time. It was exhausting. Finally, my wonderful, grown son said "Mom, just live your life. Do what makes you happy. That is what Dad would do if you were gone. So do it for yourself. We will be here to offer an opinion if you want one".
    So now I am trying to do that.
    I think all we can do is commit to being the most kind and authentic person we can be. That is enough.
    Take care of yourself.

  2. Mathew I have done the same thing. I have beaten myself up over things I should have done/ seen coming but did not. I am overwhelmed by it all. Then I realize that I am only one human being trying to do what two human beings are meant to do! I try to give myself a break. Curse myself for letting myself get fatter/ and think how was not a deal breaker for my husband. Although he would have liked a thinner wife he loved me anyway and long for someone else to feel that way. YET still think who will even be attracted to me now? I know it is stupid but I can not help feeling rejected by everyone, including my own children sometimes, our friends who rarely call anymore unless I make plans with them first. Not fair since I am doing the work of 2 and they have each other! But life goes on and I pick myself up and realize it is up to me to create a new life for my family alone. My happiness will arrive when I am ready and it will always have a tinge of sadness others just will not get, but this also will help me not to take for grated the ordinary moments of joy I did before I lost my love and someone else I meet will benefit from it as will I.

  3. Matthew, I love what you share. I look forward to your Sunday writing. You are so real and raw and I appreciate the honesty with which you describe your feelings. Thank you for making me feel normal in this abnormal world of widowhood.

  4. often when I read this blog I feel like someone has been watching my life...tonight is no different. I have been feeling awful and like such a bad mom to my three little ones when I know I am just very angry about losing their dad 6 months ago. It is really hard to try and be everything and
    everyone for them.