Life in a Skinner Box: A Memoir [Chapter 7.7]

The pain was getting to Jonah, too. A few days later, I received this email.

To: Me

From: Jonah

Subject: Destination

I can’t really explain what’s going on in my head right now except to say that I’m only recently realizing how unhappy I’ve been at home and in my marriage. There were perennial issues that weren’t getting better, and probably never will. I feel like I’ve been denying or downplaying it for a long time, and now, a lot of it is finally surfacing. This isn’t your fault or the result of whatever it is that we are, so please don’t feel bad about that. You and I probably just accelerated an inevitable process of realization, and that’s not a bad thing. If anything, I’m just being more honest with myself now.

Your situation and mine are similar in a lot of respects, and very different in others. I had never come to the conclusion that mine was over and dead as you had. Perhaps I never put the thought into it, perhaps I lacked the courage to do what you did, and perhaps, as I’ve said, I just thought, “Well, this is as good as it gets, and life’s not perfect, and there are lots of people who have it worse off than you do, so just soldier through it, and there are other things in life—friendships, kids, books, experiences—where you’ll get some joy out of life.” I wasn’t planning on getting out of it any time soon, if ever. I had a sort of vague idea in the future of not being with her, but nothing more than that.

And then you came into my life.

And I know you are farther along in ending things with Chris. But, I’m not in that place with Amy yet. I’ve had two discussions with her, neither of them went anywhere or came to any kind of conclusion. I think she’s just fine being in a shitty marriage so long as it doesn’t mess with her status quo. Once again, it just reinforces the idea that I don’t matter to her and that she couldn’t care less. I mean, I don’t wish her any harm and she will always be the mother of my children, and thus deserving of my regard and consideration, but at the end of the day, she doesn’t, I think, have any regard for me, any loyalty to me, or any affection for me. And you just can’t force someone to have that, or threaten them into having that.

I can imagine that you want (and deserve) some kind of commitment and some kind of timeline, and some kind of hope. Something concrete. And I’m sorry if I can’t provide that to you right now beyond something nebulous, because I simply don’t know. I am torn. Horribly. I love you more than I thought it was possible to love another human being this way, and I think you know both the genuineness and the depth of my feeling. And yes, I want to be with you in every sense of the word. But on the other hand, I have a life here, and you have one there. And turning that life upside down, pulling my family apart, basically knocking down all the foundations of everything that I have—EVERYTHING that I have—is a huge undertaking, and something that I just don’t know how or when it’s going to work out.

But the more honest I become, the more I must admit that I’m not happy here, it’s not going to get better, and in so many ways, I’ve been living a lie, haven’t I? I’ve been playing a role.

Point being, I’m not going to worry about destiny and whether this is fated. I’m going to destine it myself, somehow, if you’re willing to do it with me. So, it’s not a question of if. It’s the questions of when and how.

I can’t see the road ahead, yet. I’m sorry I have no idea what the journey will look like, I only know what the destination looks like. But, please don’t worry, Love. What has become clear to me is this… we only get one shot at life, to have the chance to be happy and to give that, truly, to someone else. If I make you happy and bring you joy…that’s the reciprocity I’ve only ever found with you.

Just know that I love you passionately. I really, honestly, genuinely do. And you know that, I hope. I hope you know how very secure in my heart you are.

To: Jonah

From: Me

Subject: Permanent Resident

I want to start by saying something I’ve failed to say explicitly regarding your children. I do understand you absolutely love and adore them. In many ways, they are your reason for living and the result of all the living you have done to this point. They bring a higher purpose, beauty, fulfillment, and joy into the world, and more specifically into your world. You would long for them as people if they weren’t with you. Leaving them would crush your spirit worse, fill you with regret and remorse. You know it’s your duty and obligation to suffer and sacrifice for them. “Don’t have kids if you aren’t willing to put them first…their happiness before your own.”

I know you would do anything to protect them and bring them as much joy as possible. They are very young and need you enormously right now. I get why you can’t leave now. I really do. I get it more than you know. And I respect you tremendously for it. I would not for one second want you to feel genuine regret or remorse from thoughts that your actions were truly damaging them. I can see that these are qualities in you that should be cherished, adored, loved, admired, respected, and protected. I know with everything I am that these qualities are beyond admirable and you have them in spades. And this makes you utterly lovable.

I was just trying to imagine you not in my life…and it’s completely impossible. You are a permanent fixture. There is waiting and there’s not. I must wait to have you in every way, but I can have you now in ways already beyond my wildest dreams. I couldn’t not wait if I tried. You are critical to me. I don’t know how you could possibly go away. You are inside me and so dear to me, and when I do the math…the pain of losing you is much greater than the agony of waiting.

Please know I live for the day I can be with you to hear firsthand how the world and everyone in it gets filtered through that unbelievable and beautiful mind of yours.

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