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I Fell Into a Domesticated Coma (Part I)

One thing I have found out about myself in the midst of all of this marriage separation is that I am a man of many interests, and that those interests are saving my ass. It’s funny and even a little bit scary just how much we get wrapped up in our own lives as we grow older. As adults with kids and jobs and bills and all that stuff, we often find ourselves stripped to the bone when it comes to free time and hobbies or whatever.

The thing is, and I think this is important to say and could really help other people in the thick of failing marriages, we tend to be driven by this insatiable need to keep up with all of the races we’ve set ourselves up to run. All of these responsibilities and duties we have to our spouses and our children and our homes and pets and vehicles and utility companies and blah blah blah, they come at such a high cost that I think a lot of people, myself included, begin to look at any kind of relaxation or downtime as — are you ready for this, here it comes — THE ENEMY.

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Modern life is hyper-focused on production. We need to produce money to keep all of our various wheels spinning at once, and we need to produce time, literally. We need to produce actual time in order to get everything done to produce the funds to keep them going. When you stop to think about that, it kind of becomes clear why a lot of us begin to fail in the marriage department sometime down the line after the honeymoon phase fizzles out. What began as pure romance, as unfiltered passion and the unique, almost artistic emotional drive that young love fosters, that all pretty quickly becomes a small business venture.

And if you ask me, there are really no similarities between art and business. They are two separate animals, fueled by two complete opposite desires. One is centered on creativity in the name of creation and joy. The other is centered on making some more goddamn money. So when a love affair moves from Phase One of childless newlyweds into Phase Two of kid-wrangling partners tangled up in a money-making scheme of survival, it makes a lot of sense how the dynamics of every single aspect of a relationship between two people can change. And suffer.

Over the course of my marriage, I went from a guy who played in a band and traveled the globe and swallowed fat novels one after the other to a dude who barely had time to look in the mirror. And along the way, in order to keep up with all of the self-imposed demands that a common family man places upon himself, I went from doing things that I loved to do — like exercising and caring about my physical appearance, loving fly-fishing and hitting at least a movie a week in the theater — to this point 10 years later when I woke up and saw a guy who barely could keep up with a book, let alone find the time to get out fishing.

I think the coma swallowed us both. ... What was once a pretty cool if imperfect marriage of two unique people had been digested into a slimy skid of whale shit.

I put down my guitar and never picked it back up. I stopped exercising but I never stopped eating, and that began to show in the fact that my driver’s license photo from a few years ago appears to be a version of me with a bloated head that appears to be melting like a hot lard candle on some old whaling ship’s galley table.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though I know real well that I gained a helluva lot with the birth of my three kids and all the different jobs and homes we set ourselves up in, I also think I gave up a lot too. And the things that I gave up, things that I just slid aside to make way for all of my money-making and time management, those were the things that really defined me as a human being. I had met a girl and fallen in love with her as a guitar-playing, song-writing, outdoorsy, sex fiend who loved to stay up late and drink wine and talk about everything from religion to music to movies to food and politics and travel and art and just about anything else, really, since you could never shut me the hell up once I got going, I guess.

Then, as I suspect it goes with a lot of married people, you kind of slide into the Domesticated Coma. Years go by and your old self, the one that you were so familiar with, the one that actually did shit and had fun that didn’t involve Chuck E. f-in Cheese or binge watching HBO series on the couch — that person dies away a little more each day. But the smell of their decay is so perfectly timed that you just get used to it the same way you get used to that floury/cake-ish old lady smell that you whiff the moment you walk into an elderly woman’s home, but you forget all about it after you’ve been eating cookies at the kitchen table for like an hour or so.

It may seem easy to an outsider to just say, “Well, don’t let that happen, man. Keep the fires burning! Keep surfing, dude!” But that’s bullshit, and anyone who has ever fallen into the Domesticated Coma will side with me. There are trillions of us, by the way. Even if a lot of them haven’t even realized it yet.

I think the same thing happened to Monica, my wife, too. I think the coma swallowed us both and by the time it began rolling us around in its giant whale belly and trying to turn us into something new, that’s when we finally realized (or she did at least, thank God) that what was once a pretty cool if imperfect marriage of two unique people had been digested into a slimy skid of whale shit.

But then a funny thing happened.

We separated.

We split up.

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We went two very separate ways, and in that time, and in our new spaces, I suddenly found myself waking up out of the coma. I started breathing real air again. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t with Monica either. I mean it was, in a sense, but it wasn’t either. My awakening (oh wow, that sounds so freaking New Age and lame!) came about mostly, I think, because it HAD to. I was now no longer immersed in the web of a union that had been allowed to eat our very souls with everyday living. Instead, I began to open my eyes to the fact that, in order to continue to survive, I had better get up off my sleeping ass and rediscover a thing called living.

So that’s exactly what I did.

(Pssst. Next week, I’ll tell you how.)

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