The Divorce of a Dreamer

“You’re living the dream.” I hear that a lot. And yeah, this is my dream, at least the start of it. It’s a bit surreal honestly. I’m in Alaska! ALASKA! There’s snow everywhere. I can go sledding anytime I want. Explore ice caves. Conquer mountains, or at least try. It’s better than any Narnia. But four years ago, I would have never imagined this.

Rewind to the end of 2011…

I pull up to an old white house in a small Oklahoma neighborhood. The house is falling apart. The only thing level in it is the water in the toilet bowl. If you set a ball on the floor it will roll into a valley made by the kitchen and the living room. It breathes better than I do. There are plenty of cracks to keep a nice crisp breeze flowing all winter long. It’s siding is painted white but comes off like chalk on your fingers when you touch it. The roof sags like a wet diaper, one good snow and it’s gone. It has character and has been our home for close to a year.

I’m a bit of a romantic and hope this unexpected visit will be a happy surprise. I knock on the door. I have the keys but don’t want to scare her by barging in. We’ve been married for almost 5 years. Sure we’ve had our ups and downs. They’ve been mostly ups. We’ve hit a pretty big wall recently. I want to show her how much I care. That I’m willing to do whatever it takes.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Not too hard, a sincere knock. My stomach jumps when she pokes her head into the living room. Our eyes meet through the diamond shaped window in the door. She’s just getting out of bed. Her eyes say “Oh no…” as she shakes her head and lips a plea. Now’s not a good time. She doesn’t want to hurt me, but she is not alone.

I found out a few weeks ago. She told me. I know it was hard. I can’t imagine having to tell someone that. Especially, someone you love. Now, I’m determined to fix it. We’ll make it work.

I try to keep my mind clear. She’s already crying. He’s in the bathroom. I’m not yelling. I’m not mad, I haven’t had time to be. I don’t even know if I’m in my body. I’m floating somewhere near the ceiling. I escort him out and hear myself speak in a quiet shivered voice “I think you need to leave.” I open the front door. He jerks his arm away from my hand and walks off the porch. I’m shaking on the inside. I imagine I’m shaking all over. Once he’s gone. I express the “How could you?” and walk out leaving her crying on the floor.

10. 20. 30 minutes later, I return to that rickety old house. Clearly as stable as our lives. I walk in to find she hasn’t moved. She’s still crying. So I wrap my arms around her. “Why can’t you just let me hurt.” She whispers. “I need. to. hurt.” She genuinely means it, but I can’t understand. I just keep holding her, “because I love you”.

Over the next year…

The carpet is long but not quite shag. It’s as comfortable of a floor as could be asked for. I lay sprawled out on my back like the outline of a corpse at a crime seen. The situation is not getting better. My eyes are fixed on the ceiling fan. It has a slight wobble, but I think it’s securely fastened. I chase the blades with my eyes. I’m trying to process all that’s going on. Did you know if you blink fast enough you can almost freeze the fan blades in place. I blink rapidly and try to get a clear view of the blades. Breath in, exhale.

I understand depression. At least on some level. I keep telling myself. Tomorrow you will feel a little different. Next month, you won’t feel the same. In a year, who knows where you’ll be but you won’t be here. I doubt this ceiling fan will be either.

I was right. It’s the end of 2012 and we’re divorced now. It was the right thing to do. It would be wrong to force a relationship where one feels an unbearable guilt every time they look at the other. That’s not love it’s torture. I don’t want her to feel that way. That might hurt me more than her. It was time and I was ready. I’ve moved back home. And if you’re wondering about the ceiling fan, I’m not sure what happened to it. I just know I’m not looking at it.

Fast Forward…

I have had my share of ups and downs these last few years and I’m sure I’ll have more. They’ve been mostly ups and I’ve continually found new things to be excited about: White Water, the Appalachian Trail, Coaching Soccer, Bryson City Outdoors, Napa Valley, Seattle, Leadville, Wyoming, Montana, and now Alaska! It didn’t just happen over night. It has been years in the making. I’m not same the same person I was 4 years ago. I’m not the same person I was last year. I like to think I’m being molded. Somehow the worst circumstance of my entire life has become one of the best. It has been the biggest catalyst for change. I’m becoming who I’ve always wanted to be, who I’m supposed to be, and one day I’ll be that wrinkly old man with the great stories. A published writer (Nat Geo even *wink*). Or just a normal dude with a family. All good outcomes. And in the end I hope I leave you inspired. Not to follow in my footsteps but to find you own. To live your dream.

8 Comments

  1. Dwayne, your story is heartbreaking but I’m so glad to see you picking up and moving on. I’ve done a bit of it myself. Hang in there and enjoy your journey. Blessings from Bryson City to where ever you are. P.S. Every Thanksgiving I remember coming to your house to spend the night to baby sit so your mother and Mrs. Dugan could go Christmas shopping. That hamster did not let me sleep a wink but you made me eggs the next morning. Sweet memories! I hope you are making a ton of them!!! God Speed to you and Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!!!

  2. Dwayne,
    That is brilliant writing! You are a very talented author.
    As a Mama, I am very worried about the slight wobble you see in that old ceiling fan. I’m really worried that it might fly apart, and I’m glad you think it is securely fastened.
    You are the age of my children. The story you shared with us hurt my heart, and I reach out to you as a parent who reaches out to help a child. You are one of the best of the best. You will overcome and be better and stronger. Don’t hold on, move on. Don’t let a bad experience rob you of the joy of having a family and children of your own. The right person is out there for you, and when you find them you will be glad all that happened, and you will be happier than you have ever been before.
    Brenda
    P.S. I’m an eternal optimist, and I want you to be one too!
    Wow, Alaska is beautiful!

  3. Dwayne you are a awesome writer but that was quite heart wrenching I have been through it myself and still deal with the depression from it . I love you cousin and I am glad to see you moving on. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Bob-o .

  4. Dwayne you are a good writer. Sometimes cardiac adversity puts our feet on another path. I know it did for me 25 years ago . I watched the back side of someone who could not commit to family life walk out the door . But if he had stayed I would not be in Montana enjoying the wide open spaces of the West . Every day is a new adventure . Thanks for sharing your writing .

  5. Oh my goodness. i am living a similar life. Dwayne congrats! I myself experienced a major breakup in 2013.. I have lived in Montana, Minnesota, Utah, North Carolina always knowing i would find my way to Alaska. Well, that break up motivated me to make the move. I moved to Skagway last March and am now living my dream of seasonal work. Alaska in summer and on the off season travel/work. Headed back up in January, but for now travel and visiting with friends and family. I finally gave myself permission to live the life I wanted… no more cities and chaos for this girl.

  6. Dwayne, my email to you a few days ago would have been crafted differently had I read your most recent post before writing you. I have only had the time so far to read a couple of months back into your blog and the Smoky Mtn. News article didn’t touch on it, so I had no idea until this morning what ultimately led you down this path. Knowing your history now makes you that much more inspiring and admirable.

    We are all eventually jolted out of “life as we know it” at some point. Mine happened five years ago when my beloved mother died in her 50s from lung cancer (she had never smoked a cigarette in her entire life, so it was a complete shock to hear her diagnosis). It’s what we choose to do with that pain and how we let it mold and shape us going forward that counts, just as you reflected on in your post. My mom’s death shaped my life afterwards in ways I could have never imagined, just like your experience is doing for you.

    Enjoy the journey, wherever it leads you each day, and know how much this reader appreciates and grows from your candor.

  7. It’s if you flipped through the pages of my life, down to the years and wrote about it. For me 4 years later has brought many travels and more happiness than I knew life had to offer. Best wishes to your journey in life

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