Did you miss me? At long last, The Luke Norris Experience makes its 2014 debut and I’m coming out firing. Honestly, I had planned to do a 2013 Year in Review, followed by a piece on what I expect from 2014. However, things got pretty interesting right around Christmastime, not really putting me in a mood where I wanted to write anything. But I did recently promise you my version of the yearly address. So without further delay, I give you The State of “THE Luke Norris” Address.
For the longest time, I’ve been looking for the right answer to one question. I will not tell you the question, but it’s one that everyone has heard at one point or another. I will not tell you the answer, but it’s one that I hope everyone can truthfully say someday. I’ve lied about it before. Hell, I think everyone has. Now, the reason that I even bring this Q&A up without even telling you what it is has everything to do with the state of my existence right now, which is the reason for this address in the first place. Over the past eleven months, I’ve given you a little insight on what I think about certain things. It’s mostly been some light takes on sports or having a little fun talking about the movies that I enjoy and honestly, it’s been fun to do that and there will be more of that to come. However, the things I’ve written about haven’t really let you in to what the REAL Luke Norris experience has really been like and that is my goal here today. I’m going to try not to get into too much detail about certain things (you’ll have to wait for the memoirs for all the real dirt), but for those of you who’ve been loyal enough to keep reading the things I write, here’s a little taste of what my life is really like.
I do not want this to come off as a “God, my life sucks” commentary, so if that’s how it plays out to you and you just want to tell me to shut the hell up, then I think you’ll be missing the point. As previously stated, I’ve been looking for the an answer to a question for a long time, and for a while I really thought I was getting close. I had moved past most of the awful things that I had to endure from my childhood, teenage years and my early to mid twenties. From my parents divorce to my dad leaving us for a while to his returns to prison to a five-year relationship and engagement breaking up and everything in between, I had let these things go. Well, I had let them go after nearly killing myself over a multiple year stretch of trying to find my answer in every bottle of booze I could get my hands on. Honestly, there are a few years of my life that I really don’t remember. I hear stories from my friends and family that were witness to this time and it sounds as if I was just an awful human being to be around. But I had tried to move on from that point in my life as well. I met Cara and after a whirlwind summer romance, I was suddenly living in Florida and we were married the next year. I’m not going to lie and say that I gave the Florida experiment everything I had because I didn’t. I could have tried to make more friends and be more social but I didn’t. I knew we would eventually end up back here and I think subconsciously I didn’t want to go through the torment of making friends I knew I would eventually leave, as it was torture saying goodbye to the friends and family I left behind in Illinois. So, we moved back here and found a nice apartment and things were good. We both found pretty good jobs and were ready to start trying for a baby and life was good. I was getting closer to the answer I’d been looking for. However, after years of trying and doctor’s appointments, we found out it was going to be a lot tougher than we thought to have children naturally so we went the other way. We did the IVF thing and it worked. I’m sure most people reading this have seen the result of what happened. Ashlyn and Brooklyn were born in October of 2010 and for the rest of my life, they will always and forever be the very best thing that has ever happened to me.
So after 44 days in the NICU, we bring them home and life is great. We had bought a house a couple of years earlier and fixed up a bedroom for the girls and later turned our home office into a playroom for them as they would get older. They turned one before we even blinked and Ashlyn took the first steps of either one of them on Christmas Day of 2011 and my dad was actually the first one to notice it happening. She took two steps and fell right into my arms and that day is probably the closest I’d ever come to the answer. I don’t think I had ever been as happy as I was in that moment. I had overcome some pretty big obstacles, some of which I had created for myself, just to get to that point and I didn’t know if life could get any better. Within only a matter of months, however, I found out that things could certainly get worse.
My marriage certainly had its ups and downs to say the least. One minute we were red hot for each other and the next minute we were ice cold. Towards the end, I spent the better portion of my nights on the couch. Honestly, some of those nights were due to the fact that my ailing back felt better sleeping there, but for the most part, it felt as if we were just drifting apart. Our time with the kids was always wonderful and we never let them see that anything was wrong. We were great at being mommy and daddy but just weren’t right being husband and wife. So, in the spring of 2012, we decided to separate. We both still lived at the house, but we basically had times set up where each of us would be with the girls as we both knew that was the most important thing. But she would spend nights elsewhere and so would I. I spent some nights in my car and some nights at the homes of friends or others. After a bit, I started apartment hunting which is just awful and one day, I found a place that I was going to take. I came back to the house and she was sitting on the front porch waiting for me and we started talking and the more we talked, the more it became clear that there still may have been something worth saving. My mother had come over to see the girls, so while she watched them, Cara and I moved our conversation to the backyard where we told each other everything that had been going on during the separation. I told her about a business trip I had taken to Wisconsin where certain things happened and about a woman that I had seen a few times and she told me that she had been seeing somebody as well, which at that time I could not fault her for. But we agreed to end all of that and give our marriage another try.
But that didn’t last very long at all. It started out great. It felt like we were the best version of us that we could be. But something just wasn’t right. The guy she was seeing would constantly call and after a few times of her admitting to me that she was still talking to him, I told her to block the number and to my knowledge, she did. I tried to let it go, but each time it happened I would get more and more angry. Some old habits resurfaced and I found myself taking my anger out at the bar and I would stay out until all hours of the morning. I didn’t want to be doing that, but I couldn’t stop myself. I honestly didn’t know how to deal with it any other way. The last straw came one night that she told me she was going out to dinner with her best friend, but while she was gone, that same friend posted on facebook about something that was on television. So when Cara came home, I asked her if she had been watching it. Of course, she said no and I told her what had been posted and at least she didn’t try to hide it. She told me she had been with him and we talked more the next day about it and I just felt that the life that I knew had been taken from me.
Sometime after that, my dad had gone into the hospital again, which was not an unusual occurrence. He had been through so much in his lifetime that I couldn’t believe he had actually lasted that long. I figured he’d be in there for a few days as usual and then go back to the nursing home. But as the days moved along, my family started to realize that this was something different. I really don’t want to get into the details of everything that was going on, but those weeks were excruciating. Eventually, we took him off of life support, but that stubborn old man still hung on for almost a week and on the night of September 20th at 10:50 p.m., it was him and I alone in a room and I watched him take his last breath. I sat with him for a while and just stared at him. He looked so peaceful and honestly, I was happy that he wasn’t in agony anymore. But the sadness I had been feeling from everything else only worsened because I knew he wasn’t there anymore to talk to when I needed him. My mother eventually came and we sat there for a while together before going to get a drink, at which point the woman I had started seeing, Ashlie, showed up as well. We hadn’t known each other that long, but I couldn’t have gotten through any of that without her. She sat with me when I just needed to talk or cry or laugh and that is something I will never forget.
We would have to wait eight days before burying my father as the paperwork for my dad’s cremation got all jacked up. It was during that time that I was looking for something around the house and happened upon a pregnancy test. I tried not to think too much of it, but in my heart, I knew what was happening and four days after I buried Pop, I confirmed with her that Cara was pregnant with someone else’s child.
She moved out a few days before Christmas to go live with him and the divorce was finalized a few weeks later, just over a year ago. Now, please don’t think that every feeling I have towards my ex-wife are negative because that is certainly not the case. Of course, I was angry about how things ended between the two of us, but I have said it before and I will say it again. I will never regret marrying her. We had some amazing times together and I certainly do not put all of the blame on her for how things went down. I will never pretend that I was the perfect husband that did everything the right way. And I will always be thankful for the two precious gifts that she gave to me in Ashlyn and Brooklyn. She is a wonderful mother and I know that will never change.
2013 became a year of adjustment. It was life without my dad and life without my children half the time, which was the hardest thing to get used to. Even to this day, I still feel a little lost when they’re not here with me. But work was keeping me pretty busy. I had been promoted the year before and gotten a few pay raises along the way, so at least things were going well there. I continued to see Ashlie and things were going well with her and last summer, she ended up moving into the house. Some would say that everything was too soon and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I would just say that it was my decision to make and my life to live and that’s what I wanted. So there was some adjustment there too. But as the year progressed, I felt that things were going pretty well. The girls were developing at an unbelievable rate and they continue to amaze me every single day with how far they’ve come and how quickly they’re growing up. So life was good.
In September of last year, one of my best friends moved to Hawaii and that actually hurt me quite a bit, not that I’m angry that he bettered his own situation, but just that I can’t call him up and say “Hey, brother. Can we go get some drinks tonight?” Raul is one of the closest friends I’ve ever had and someone that I could go to talk things out when I needed to. So just adjusting to that sometimes gets difficult. But, overall, things were going pretty well. Getting closer once again to what I’m looking for, I thought. But back in December, two days after Christmas actually, through a boring to you series of events, I found out that after over seven years (minus a few months away from them) with my company, I’d be losing my job. WHAT THE FUCK??!! This is the point where I don’t want to come off as “poor me”, but I had just about had enough. With all the things I had done wrong in my life, I had started living the way that I was supposed to. I had stopped going out as much. I think I’ve been doing a good job at being a daddy to my kids. I have a girl that I’m certain I’ve been treating the right way. And I had been working my ass off to expand this territory, only to have it taken away from me. So I spent six weeks shutting things down and a week ago today was my last day. Now, I know that I’ll find something else but that wasn’t the point to me. I spent those six weeks just being insanely pissed off and thinking about all the situations where I’ve picked myself back up after something bad happens to me and how tired I was of having to keep doing that. It seemed that most of the things I’ve done don’t seem to be good enough.
But this is not the way that I want to continue living. My mother told me two nights ago that I’ve looked sad for a year and that really put things into place for me. So I’ve been thinking to myself, is she right? Have I not been trying to get past everything as much as I think I have? So the plan is this. Tomorrow, I’m going to leave town for about a week and see some parts of this great country that I’ve never seen and really take stock of everything that’s ever happened to me (so dramatic, I know). But when I come back, I want to be clear. I want to be ready to try harder this time around. Ironically, the day that I return will be the day that my ex-wife is getting married and starting her new life. I want to be ready to start mine, but for real this time. I’ve been saying for years that things would be different, that I was ready. But maybe I wasn’t. This time, I want to be truly ready to move towards the version of myself that everyone has been waiting for. I want to be ready to find the answer.