The Hard Stuff

Spiders cower in hole-pocked wall crevices. Bags overflow onto cluttered tabletops, computer cords dangling out like disemboweled hunt kills over long-neglected CD cases with 90s-era pop band icons plastered across their yellowed covers. Boxes packed and repacked line every available space – constant reminders of blocks to begin building new lives.

Birds chirp in the rising sun, and wind gusts through overgrown flowerbeds and hedges, creating the illusion of a giant, larval caterpillar undulating across the yard. Beside me, the tendrils of a newly sprouted plant shiver slightly, reminding me of all the cottage’s cracks and gaps I’ve yet to discover – known only by the cool morning air, the nests of freshly hatched brown spiders. It’s a little after 7:00, and the fragments of morning light refract in the jadeite mug I’m holding, offering very little in the way of welcoming warmth.

Staring out at the unkempt blackberry bushes and sprawling decades-old English ivy, I reflect on how much work there’s still to do to reclaim this little piece of existence from the bramble. The pink-tinged sky brightens a bit, and I tip back my mug, sighing heavily as I peer out into the jungle of weeds.

And then the clouds swallow up the light for a moment, and there’s just me – puffed hair and six-o-clock shadow reflected in the dirty window panes.

Still so much to do.

Somewhere in this mess is where I must begin again – suss out the cherished from the painful. All of it’s part of a new recipe, and I don’t know what I’ll make of it.


Not that long ago, I wrote that life is a string of unscripted, unknown experiences, from which we can either choose to grow or wilt. Lately, this phrase haunts my shallow sleep and momentary daydreams; it frightens me. It empowers me. And, at times, it crushes me.

Life has changed, and I must change with it.

Andy and I are separating. Albeit amicable, it’s still the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make.

I gulp a mouthful of cooled coffee, closing my eyes and letting my thoughts thread this new reality together as my body adapts to the daily machinations of fledgling routines.

Joanna stretches out in a patch of sun and stares up dreamily with a bloated breakfast belly. And I’m overcome.

I’m a ball of exposed nerves; daily minutiae can thrust me into a mental brier patch. But rather than fleeing from the welter of conflicting feelings, I have to embrace it all head-on – grapple with the hardship, ambiguity, terror, exhilaration, anxiety – and fashion a different future from it.

I must once again become my own knight in shining armor. And remind myself that I don’t need to be rescued – that I am enough.

2 Replies to “The Hard Stuff”

  1. Matthew, this breaks my heart. I know there are times and reasons we don’t always understand, and I wish the best for both of you, but I know how much it can hurt. Just know that there are people who care for you and are thinking of you as you learn this new road.

    1. Thanks so much, Linda! I – and we – really appreciate it! It’s been rough, as one can imagine, but we’re resolved to be there for one another and be supportive. That’s a lot more than most people are fortunate enough to have in such a situation. <3

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