The State of the Union

When I started writing newspaper columns, I was the greenest of greenhorns.

I wrote for the newspaper and yearbook of every school I attended.  I was even the editor of my college yearbook for about five minutes.  But I’d never written this type of essay for a publication before.  I had no idea what was expected of me and needed to know the rules.

As it turns out, there’s only one rule.

Be honest.

That’s it.  When I write, I tell the truth. 

Well, Gentle Reader, prepare yourself for the toughest, most honest 600 words I’ve ever written.

In one more depressing example of what a profoundly sucky year this has been, I’d come to the conclusion that my marriage would end before this most annus horribilis of 2020 did.

It was all over but the legalities.

We were both stuck in our own separate quagmires of anguish.

Petey had shut down.  A man who’s made taciturnity and stoicism into an art form raised the bar to mute, celestial heights.

My misery took the form of overspending on ridiculously unnecessary trivialities.  I also binged on the darkest of music with optimistically titled songs like, “The Gallows”, “Cradle On Fire”, and “Blood For You” and feel good lyrics such as, “They will come and find you, bringing out the dead” and “Nothing lasts forever in a God-forsaken town.”

Awesome music, perfect for wallowing.

I didn’t have anything left in the tank to cushion myself from the assaults which this misbegotten year seems to deliver in a constant and unending fashion.  The daily litany of appalling new updates hit me like body blows from a disgruntled sumo wrestler.  I had a never-ending stomachache. 

In times of normal stress or deep concentration, I clench my jaw.  I was clenching so often and so fiercely I was giving myself earaches and migraines.  I’d begun wearing a mouthguard day and night.

I wanted to be alone.  I daydreamed of a hermit-like existence in a cabin deep in the woods where there was no plague, no sputtering economy, no disheartening political drama, and no spouses to hurt and disappoint.  My plan was to retreat and re-emerge, Rip Van Winkle-like, into a future where hate, fear, and the Kardashians had all disappeared.

But I wanted to be sure that we had given our marriage of almost four decades every possible chance before it was abandoned.  Petey agreed to accompany me to counseling. 

Which, for my reticent island of a husband, was a huge statement.

Our first visit was in early July. 

The first few weeks were hard but illuminating.  The therapist was surprisingly, sometimes uncomfortably, observant.  Early on it was clear he saw us and understood our dynamic as a couple.  Our homework that first week was for Petey to talk more, and me, shockingly, to talk less.

We needed someone to hold our feet to the fire and ask the hard questions; to force us to ask rather than assume.  He enabled us to reset and remember.

Turns out, we were both laboring under false impressions and wading through stagnant pools of hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

After more than thirty years of joy that came so easily, we had never learned how to navigate real, grinding hardship.  Our therapist gave us the tools we needed, and the confidence to anticipate happiness on the other side.

But I think the member of the Matthews Family Band who is the most relieved about our rapprochement is our dog, Crowley.  On our walks, he’d become the repository for my every grievance and affront.  I’m sure he’s euphoric to end his tenure as my furry, four-legged, father confessor.

Happy Crowley

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

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