Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead
I came home a day early to share my success with Maria. I got up early, and drove straight home from Nashville, TN. Other than being long, I don’t remember much about the drive.
The event in Tennessee was the Info Summit with Glazer Kennedy Insider Circle (GKIC). GKIC is a results and action oriented company that teaches business owners about direct response marketing. The Info Summit focuses on information marketing and marketing systems. It's an ideal environment for a direct response copywriter like me, and my status is raised by having had Dan Kennedy as one of my first marketing and copywriting mentors.
The success I had at Info Summit was signing six new clients. It meant $264,000 in first year billings, and a percentage of sales created in the following years. Six clients is a full year’s roster in my business. This was the success Maria and I had been working toward so I was happy to leave early and get home to my wife.
When I got home, Maria wasn’t there.
“Hey, Skyler. Where’s Mom?”
“Oh, she’s out at a party,” Skyler answered casually. Skyler was Maria's middle child and daughter. Brian Jr. was the oldest, and Skyler the youngest daughter.
“Did she say when she’s going to be home?”
“No, not really, but it’s usually after midnight. Why?” she asked.
Choosing to ignore the mostly reflex question, I asked “Did she say where the party is?”
Skyler’s attitude was casual until now. Suddenly there was that caution kids have when they know something they’re not supposed to tell, and they especially know you won’t like it.
“Well, she just said it was with friends. I don’t really know where it is.”
“Aha. I see,” I said with emotions crowding in. “Okay, Skyler. Thank you.”
“You could try calling her if you want. I think she has her cell phone with her,” Skyler said with the urgency of wanting to fix a mistake.
“That’s okay. I’ll just talk to her when she gets home or in the morning.”
It’s impossible to describe how thoroughly crushed and excluded I felt. Maria and I had a Facetime chat the night before, and she said nothing about going to a party.
That was when I realized Maria, my wife, had built a life that didn’t include me. The pain was just like being a kid again, knowing my parents were shipping me off for the summer.
My father was an only child. His mother wanted lots of kids, but his birth was difficult. I’m told she took her disappointment out on my dad, and I know he never got past that.
I was the perfect opportunity for him to vent his spleen for all his mother had done to him. As my mother once explained it, they decided to have two children. (My sister and brother were so well planned; their birthdays are three years and five days apart.) Then I came along three years and four months later – unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted.
It was after I started school that my parents started giving me a special vacation. I’m a December kid so I started school at age four.
I got to go stay with Aunt Bessie and Cowboy for the first half of the summer, and the Sager’s for the second half of the summer. These were folks who lived across town, and they were friends of the family. I remember being in love with Mrs. Sager, and asking her to wait for me to grow up so I could marry her.
Life was good. Aunt Bessie and Mrs. Sager each gave me a lot of attention, and Cowboy used to let me watch wrestling with him.
Aunt Bessie and Cowboy were an older, retired couple who had a bird; a cockatiel. You had to be careful about opening the door because he only went into his cage at night for sleeping. He was always out during the day. Usually he’d stand on top of the fridge, or perch on Cowboy’s hat (but only when he was wearing it).
The Sager’s didn’t have a bird. They had a swimming pool, and two daughters. They were only four blocks away from Aunt Bessie and Cowboy, but it was a whole different world.
Aunt Bessie was really big into crafts and sewing. Cowboy had even built her a small cottage in the backyard so she could have all the space she wanted for working on projects. One day when I was seven, she showed me how to lay out a pattern, cut material, and thread a sewing machine. It was great fun because someone was paying attention to me, and I was being allowed to actually do stuff.
After a couple of days learning, Aunt Bessie gave me a small project to do. It was making a star.
“Be sure to cut along the dotted lines, Dear. You need that extra bit of material for sewing.”
“Okay. I got it,” I answered as I focused on the cutting. It was important that I cut everything just right. It was my first project, doing it all by myself, and I wanted to follow every instruction.
Every corner - especially the inside ones - was snipped perfectly. Aunt Bessie even had special scissors for cutting small details like inside corners.
“I’m done!” I shouted. “I have it all cut. Both pieces. Can I pin it now?”
“Let me just double check.” Aunt Bessie looked over the whole job. She paid careful attention to the inside corners.
“This is very good. You did a great job, Conrad.
“Go ahead and unpin the pattern. Then you can pin the material for sewing.”
By the time the whole project was done, I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t wait to tell my Mom about everything I had done.
“Aunt Bessie, can I call my Mom and tell her about the star?”
“Not right now, Dear. It’s almost supper time. Maybe we’ll call her after supper.”
Aunt Bessie managed to put me off that whole evening, but I was right back to asking the next day.
It was “Aunt Bessie, can I call Mom to tell her about the star?” every couple of hours. Aunt Bessie finally gave in and let me call.
The phone rang until the answering machine picked up. It was my mom’s voice telling me my family was away on vacation.
I hung up the phone.
The most valuable asset any person can have is the love of their parents. The confidence and sense of belonging that love gives is irreplaceable. I have been decades learning how to patch over what can never be replaced.
That’s the pain that came flooding in as I realized my wife was living a separate life. She waited until I was away at a conference, then went to parties without me. When I was at home, she would announce she was going out. Whenever I asked what she was doing, she’d say she was running errands. She’d be gone for hours and come back with only a bag or two of stuff.
Occasionally, I’d ask to go along. She never said no, but when I was with her we’d only be out for as long as it took to shop and drive home.This was the break we had been waiting for – that I finally put it all together and landed clients. I wanted so much to share it with her, and to celebrate with my wife.