*my courage is roaring like the sound of the sun* - N. Case
he picked me up at sea-tac friday night after i had been living the appalachian dream in the blue ridge mountains of north carolina for a week with my precious jenny. it was finally raining in seattle after the long dry heat summer had delivered so far. petrichor was emanating from the concrete of all things. it smelled like my beloved PNW and i knew i was home. traffic was jammed so when i saw him coming, his big red beard signaling i had the right truck picked out of the dark wet mishmash, i heaved my case into the backseat myself and jumped in the front with a huge grin. between us sat a small cooler with my choice of cider, mineral water or kombucha. it also contained sliced cheese, salami and pickles, washed and sliced strawberries and raspberries, and a bar of my favorite almond and sea salt dark chocolate. This man, i tell ya.
we crawled our way out of the airport toward home, a 45 minute drive at least. we had that careful way of talking, not rushing to talk over one another like sometimes happens, but a slower, deliberate cadence with punctuated pauses and spots of silence. we spoke of our excitement to pick phatBiscuit up the next day from his week away at camp on Orcas Island and discussed what Gus was up to. he asked if i would tell him where i was taking us the following weekend, a top secret trip he’d agreed to me planning without him knowing details, and i said no, it’s still a surprise. i offered him a pickle and he said, no i just ate mints. i said oh, because you want to kiss me. he said, yes i do. so we did.
i’d spent the entire five hour flight writing a letter to our soul family, our constellation of sisters and brothers, the ones who give us lifetime grace cards and always have our backs, the ones who know what’s been going on for the last six months+ between he and i. the letter ended up being well over 4000 words long, a condensed retelling of our histories and closing with a request for what was coming next, concerning my secret getaway plans. i told him i needed him to read it when we got home, scanning for inconsistencies or half accuracies, wanting it to be sincerely authentic and bold with truth. the next day he would be in a knife making class all day and i required the proofreading to happen that night, so i could send it immediately, time being of the essence. he declared his willingness to read it while i took a shower and began unpacking. i was anxious to see his response to the letter, whether he would thumb it up or put the kibosh on it. i was curious.
i arrived home to the kitchen table being covered in a botanical mandala of fern, cedar, dahlias, lilies, sun flowers, zinnias, and antlers. this has become one of his love languages over the last six months and i cherish it without being too expectant. i've come home to them built on and around my bed, on an altar table in my bedroom, on the kitchen counter. his creativity in constructing these ancient ephemeral reunification symbols, colluding with Spirit and desire to create a sacred visual narrative offering on my behalf, speaks like a holy prayer to me. his creativity is flowing out of him like an electric currant these days, high voltage and amplified. it’s a major turn on.
as he starts to read the letter on my computer i open my suitcase and haul out the stack of vinyl i brought back from Appalachia. i find the Wilson Pickett album and set up the turntable. the nostalgic crackle and pop of needle to record pricks up my ears. i unload the suitcase into piles while he engages the letter, then i crack a can of hard cider as i move toward the shower. i notice he scrubbed the toilet and emptied the trashcan which probably means he also changed the sheets, another of his usual welcome home gifts, appreciated and adored. the steamy shower feels good and the sudsy rose soap smells familiar, my body relaxing and yearning for my ordinary bed and crisp clean linens. i finish lathering scented oils all over me and return to the dim lit kitchen, incense smoky and fragrant, where i find him with tears in his eyes, a familiar sight. he likes my writing, he tells me every time, you're a magical wordsmith, and i try to believe him. this time he's moved by the story i told, the one about us, the bare bones of so many details yet untouched, the one that not many know, the one i’m going to risk sharing now. he says, you, me, my dad, our boys, our community of friends, us. it’s been years of blood, sweat and tears. and now its a return to love.
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hello beautiful soul family, our constellation of sisters and brothers
as you likely know by now, chad and i are taking a trip over labor day weekend to renew our marriage vows to one another, to recommit to our 21 year relationship in the hopes we can manifest another 20+ years of deepening our love for one another. it's a rebirth wherein we are calling in deeper relationship with profound trust and intimacy supported by Spirit. and we need your help too, your support. we couldn't continue this journey without it.
i want to tell you a little about where we’ve come from, what we've gone through and where we are now. i will speak plainly.
our relationship has been tumultuous and passionate. it’s not been easy for us, from the beginning, but we have remained determined to go to the ends of the earth in search of healing, commitment, growth and transformation. within 6 weeks of meeting each other in 1994, i was pregnant. I had already been married and divorced by age 21 so finding myself pregnant a few months later, having miraculously never been pregnant before, i took it as a sign to find direction in my life and become a mom. i told chad he was welcome to stay or go but that staying meant he might as well figure he was married. he tearfully announced he was all in and from then on our coupled soul work path was being tread and well worn.
as a young woman who had suffered many years of childhood sexual abuse and not having fully dealt with it, i was in for a rough rode to recovering myself. to my moms credit, when i told her at age 11 what had been happening for the last seven years, she made sure my three younger siblings and i never had to see her second husband again. what she wasn’t able to do was get me any kind of help, whatsoever, no counseling, support or therapy. she was certain my bio dad would take me away from her if he knew what had happened, so she carefully swept the entire incident under the rug and sealed her lips shut, ensuring i did the same. along with the abuse and confusion, it really fucked me up to keep it secret and have no one to help me make sense of it. i became promiscuous, angry, reckless and suicidal, swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills at 16 when my 21 year old boyfriend broke up with me (yeah, 21 and 16. ew.). when i awoke from being in the hospital, having my stomach pumped and a psych evaluation, there was my bio dad soothing my hair back, sitting at my bedside, none the wiser as to why his daughter was so fucked up, and i couldn't tell him. from early on the pressure and fear manifested as ultra perfectionism and i was a straight A student hoping to go off to college but the guy i met after the other “adult” boyfriend left became my high school sweetheart and i moved in with him the same weekend i graduated high school, happy to be out from under my moms roof. my parents never spoke to me about the possibility of college but i slowly took classes at community college and worked, marrying the guy at age 19, crying the whole time, and not from happiness. a year later i divorced him, after being unfaithful, and within months i (re)met chad (we’d know of each other in high school) and got pregnant with August. having a baby brought up all the old childhood wounds and it wasn't until i was going to night school when he was a year old that i started seeing a counselor there and began diving into all the childhood stuff. the counselor there told me that it wasn't my job to be the secret keeper in my family and that if my mom choose to be, that was her path, not mine. it was revolutionary, shocking and began the unraveling of so many pent up emotions, feelings, thoughts and patterns. i am not sure how chad and i survived those first couple years because we were in couples therapy together from the get go, but i wasn't willing to go beyond admitting what had happened to me, with him and/or the therapist, for fear of everything imploding. i attributed our staying together to sheer survival and co-dependence. somehow we managed.
for chad, being raised by an abusive drug dealing outlaw biker and being the older brother of three little sisters, he had his work cut out for him too. his mom was an alcoholic and not only were his parents extremely physically and emotionally abusive to him but his uncles were too. like me, he wasn't well cared for or looked after and it had its consequences. he grew up with weed, meth and weapons around as a very normal part of life. his dad spent nights in jail and when he became the “sergeant-at-arms” of the outlaw motorcycle club he was part of, was being sent to Australia to represent them. when he was home he was training chad to fight for his life. chad was told to always hit first and that if he ever came home beat up, his dad would beat him next. he was told to never back down and never look away, which also made fighting his dad an exercise in survival. his dad beat him so bad one christmas morning for saying a swear word into his new microphone recorder that he’s hated christmas ever since. he has pissed his pants in fear, being held up against the wall, his fathers hands around his neck. he’s been knocked out from getting head-butted by his dad, whose biker nickname was “head-butt bob.” he watched his dad beat a guy bloody in the grocery store for staring and pointing at chad’s mohawk. he watched him beat another guy bloody at a gas station for looking at him sideways. his dad picked him up from work one night and took him for a ride-along down a dark alley with a pistol in his lap, looking for a guy he was going to shoot. the weekend before we moved in together, 5 weeks after meeting, bob, in a rage, threw a hammer at chad’s head, barely missing. this gives you a general idea of the chaos and just barely touches it. trauma, trauma, and more trauma, for all the formative years of his life. what a disaster.
so when we met we just did the best we could. i was 21, he was 20, we were total hippies and poor. chad had made some bad choices in his later teens (go figure!) and was just trying to get his feet underneath him. between us it was all sex and raging libido, dreadlocks and stellar weed, reggae and dancing, bare feet and grateful dead, carefree and in the moment. it was not any talk of the future, planning, being careful, or thinking beyond the end of each weeks paycheck. nine months after meeting chad we had baby august and we did the best we could with what we knew. luckily i had some outside influences coaching me toward success in parenting and we choose attachment parenting as a way of life, bucking the script we’d inherited. we were determined to do it different, do it better, and to not let our son be sacrificed to the multi-generational patterning we were handed. it was time to break the cycle and many times in our attempts it almost broke us.
when august was a baby, chad and his dad miraculously reconciled (i know!) and due to a major injury, bob was no longer running hard with the outlaws. initiated as part of a violent brotherhood he was caught in that web until the end but he was softer, kinder, gentler, regretful and sorrowful. chad accepted his dads attempts to redeem himself, forgiving all his trespasses, and i followed suit. bob played the guitar and read tarot. he carved runic symbols on his staff and topped it with crystals and feathers. he told me i was a goddess while i was in labor with gus. he helped send us to paris for my 27th birthday, january 1, 2000. and every time chad and i fought he would tell chad to get his ass back home and not lose the best thing that would ever happen to him. he watched out for us and rooted for us. i loved him for that. he was our token weirdo extra-ordinary non-status-quo grandpa for gus and we counted on him as such. and he doted on gus like he was the best thing in all the land, under all the cosmos. and then we lost him suddenly and chad began to unravel, losing himself to grief and alcohol.
bob died when august was almost five, a month after we’d returned from paris. before that, during august’s pre-school years, i managed to get my college degree and we bought our first house. by this time i was coming out of the closet as a survivor and had even told my dad, not giving two shits what everyone knowing would do to/for my mom. chad was a union plumber and we were managing, still going to therapy on and off, trying to learn the ropes of responsible adulthood. we were super responsible, and yet still we were twenty-something hippies. so we occasionally did psychedelics, smoked a lot of pot, which was chad’s drug of choice, and would drink once in awhile. but when chad unexpectedly lost his dad to a massive heart attack at 44, from a life of hard drugging, chad’s drinking slowly and sneakily spiraled out of control. the rock bottom a year and a half later was gus and i fleeing to my moms, of all places, that’s how desperate i was, seeking refuge. we no longer had Bob around to talk sense into chad, sending him home to straighten up and get sober, reminding him of what was on the line, what he stood to lose. i gave chad an ultimatum, rehab or divorce and without missing a beat he came to his senses and went to inpatient rehab. our life was about to change drastically again.
living with the clean and sober chad brought our unconscious co-dependence into the light of day and boy did we struggle to find our way. i was grateful even though we were so raw. being sober after numbing out for so long opens all kinds of cans of worms! we found a therapist we would continue to work with for years. on our first visit she said, what do you want? our answer was that we wanted to still be sitting on our front porch in rocking chairs, holding hands, in our seventies. damn if she didn't hold us to it every single time we went to see her over the years, every time i said i want a divorce, every time he said i cant take it anymore, and somehow we hung on. she did what she could to help us, she was a soothsayer of sorts, and out of comfort we stayed with her for too long in hindsight. now we wish and see that we should/could have been doing much deeper soul work all those years but for whatever reason, if we choose to believe in right timing, it wasn't time yet. we limped along, our broken childhood selves still needing so much care and mending. i would resent, blame and despise him. he would project, yell and shut down. we were a mess and yet still we would often find our way back to one another, time and time again.
enter phatBiscuit. baby biscuit came along unexpectedly when gus was eight years old and chad and i turned toward one another in sheer surprise/terror. we had jasper at home a year into my three year herbal apprenticeship and we began again raising a baby. pB was feisty, demanding and not chillax whatsoever which made blissful partnership no easy feat. at this point chad was still an exhausted residential plumber, working long hours doing lots of side jobs so our ends would meet each month. we managed to hang out with others on a healing path and gleaned all we could to increase our happiness, adjust to two kids, heal our wounds and love one another. it was still rough. we were still rough. chad has always been a big softie and very loving but lacking glaringly in communication skills and appropriate modeling, as was i. so we would fight hard and play/makeup hard. it was tumultuous one day and peaceful the next. we became used to it and got married, as one does.
i tell you all this to give you some insight into our past since you may not have known us through our entire journey to this point. it’s important to me that you have a sense of our struggles, of our triumphs, of our commitment to keep at it and win. you might be able to imagine the challenges of shirking off the wounds from our dang blasted childhoods! the wounds ran so deep and were so ingrained we’ve had to revisit the spiral of healing over and over and over again. yet we always knew that when we could act from our preferred selves, we would shine but it still was few and far between that we were conscious enough to bring our preferred selves to the boxing ring. we kept trying.
when jasper turned three and stopped nursing, my/our world opened up a bit. i found blogging, other creatives and wounded healers, and took a much deeper dive into my own personal healing. the kids got bigger and were soon at an age where chad and i could go see live music often and hire babysitters. this helped us, a little, as did chad becoming a union foreman, easing our financial constraints. so, we love to dance together and music is a huge connector for us. i think this period of our lives came right in the nick of time before we cut ties and called it the best we could do. we still struggled mightily to communicate without going straight to attack mode, the old patterns dying ever so hard but we had enough experiences of 2 steps forward and one step back that we kept at it. but don’t get me wrong, we were often an utter train wreck and doubted we’d ever be bound for glory. i will spare you all the gory details but we were becoming pros at annihilating each other, me a wicked name caller and he a classic stonewaller. we would fight and make up, then do it again, then do it some more. it was rarely peaceful for long. but i had my dad telling me how much he regretted letting my mom go all those years ago, wishing he had tried harder, gave more, and he encouraged me to not give up, to keep trying, to keep seeking. i didn't want to be married and divorced twice. yet as the avett lyrics go: three words became hard to say, i, and love, and you. still, we each held on for dear life.
in the last five years we've had long periods of disconnection, ships in the night, with me venturing further from home and continuing to heal me but not working too diligently on the us part. some of this drifting away was due in part to unfortunate/unconscious bad choices made around finances that created huge rifts in trust, which have been nearly impossible to overcome, but have ever so slowly been healing over this time from him continuing to rebuild that bridge between us, strengthening the bond of trust necessary for us to have a chance. also, early during this time, chad was experiencing whats called a mental health/mood disorder, with high highs and low lows. he would go from being depressed to being manic. they called it bi-polar and true to our system, put him on drugs and said good luck. he has had to fight like hell to regain his stability and is now drug free, many years later, due to his determination to find the root causes and not just treat the symptoms that were showing up. it’s been a battle and another very difficult spot for us to maneuver through together. chad has always been our workhorse, our bread winner, our rock. his work ethic is a result of the pattern breaking he has managed to do in spite of his up-bringing dictating he fend only for himself. because of his steadiness and desire to “do the right thing” he has not had the free time I've had to do nearly the depth of soul work I've been able to. please, hear me now, i am in no way better than, more healed, or more evolved then chad, not by far. in fact, in so many ways, despite not having the actual free time like i have, he is far more evolved, never ever having stooped to name calling, throwing things, or screaming bloody murder, like i have. i tell you this to say that had he had the same kind of time on his hands, had i been more supportive of him having the time and not hogging it all to myself, it’s more likely we’d/he’d be further on our/his own healing path by now. i’ve been a monster and still he sees the good in me. still he sends me love notes almost daily, brings home flowers weekly, compliments and appreciates me constantly and bends over backwards for my happiness. it’s impressive though undeserved. and i don't take it for granted anymore.
six months ago he moved out. we decided mutually, after a particularly nasty and vicious fight, to call it quits for a while. we knew we needed the space. we’ve always known we needed the space. but we always said we could never “afford it” and tried to create space in the ways struggling couples do: sleeping in separate rooms, silence, disconnection. now we couldn't afford not to separate if we were to have any chance at cleanly and appropriately turning toward one another again. this time it felt imperative and i did some quick reallocating of resources to make certain we’d have the time and space to consider our future with a break from the seemingly increasing and/or constant bickering and displeasure. we weren't being good to each other often enough. he would try and i would resist. i would try and he would resist. there was a lot of nastiness, resentment and low simmering rage, all misplaced, but nonetheless, present. we had to give each other a break. we are too young to keep bitter hearts.
in the meantime, i had already committed to my vision quest with chad as my main supporter and promptly broke three bones within a week of him getting another place. time was ticking as i neared the quest and everything became more intense, amplified and called into question. i needed so much help to just live each day, to eat, bathe, and rest, that i had to lean into receiving in a way i could hardly stand. first born capricorn survivors don't do well with receiving but i had to get over it. i needed chad, i needed my friends and i needed my relationship with Great Mystery to lean on. it’s just the way it was and i had to give in a bit, i had to soften. i can be such a tough nut, so still i resisted, still i flailed. i pushed on chad and pulled him back. i dismissed him as my main supporter, holding his desire to be in camp with “my people” hostage, accusing him of not being supportive enough, then daring him to not show up for me. i was scared out of my mind and acting like a whack job! i shoved him away spiritually then groveled on my knees in shards of glass, begging him to do the work with me it would take to set us free, free to just love one another and let the past be the past, to rid ourselves of the old broken dramas and sad stories we clung to, to remember ourselves. to live again. and true to his word and manner, chad was all in. he dove in head first, as uncomfortable as it was for him, to heal his wounds, his shame, his self-worth and his spirit. he found elders, mentors and guides and began unraveling his habits and past, finding new language to, more often than not, speak from a heart centered place. he endured his own ordeal, a primal and transformative weekend rite of passage where a lot died and he was reborn a different man among men. it’s so sexy to see a man step into his soul work, claim it, live, breathe and eat it. we cried a lot during the last six months, went to our separate corners when it got heated, tried again the next day, and slowly proceeded to move toward one another again.
at some point during the first few months of our separation he asked me if i would be willing to consider making new vows with him if we did in fact choose to reunite. i agreed and prayed and hoped that my heart would find his again after my vision quest, and that his would find mine. you see, the quest put everything in a bit of a holding pattern, a constant spiraling of questions and what-ifs. we both had to get through it, to see what would happen to/with me, who i would be on the other side of it, and him too. we were both reckoning with what it might induce in me, move me to do. would i get a clear signal to stick with it, keep on keeping on, or would i get a clear signal to move along, and stop keeping on? would i know anything at all concerning us? would this living apart go on indefinitely or find its end? neither of us knew what to expect and both of us were terrified of what could happen. the timing was exceptional, the quest, the separation, the broken bones, all of it culminating in a massive supernova of metaphor, shedding, remembering, release, supplication, endurance, softening, hope and faith.
i wanted to believe i’d know something solidly once i walked off that mountain, that i’d no longer be a woman with a head full of doubt, and after being in silent prayer for four nights with no food or water, fantastically, i did know without a doubt. not only was it all worth it, it was all welcomed and blessed once i completed my quest and quietly rejoined my community. i know we are stardust and moonbeams and human all at once, glorious and fallible. we’ve walked through fire, chad and i, and we are not unscathed; i recognize the consequence of the burnings are the holy scars, lest we forget what it took to find ourselves and one another again. it is clear to me i am meant to stay on path with this beautiful man as my partner and i am so grateful i didn't quit before the miracle because something mythical happened to him as he prayed mightily for me and us in quest camp. he was even more transformed as he danced daily with Spirit, tending the fire that kept us connected while i was away. all present got to witness the deepening magic in him, the embodied man among men, infused with love and light. i am so blessed. i am so grateful for all that i have.
so here we are, he’s moved back in and we are breathing more deeply into the freedom that is activated in trusting loving partnership. we are about to make our new vows, recommit to one another for the foreseeable future, and i/we am/are asking for your support. it’s not like its just easy now between us, it may be harder than ever actually, so we need some help to keep remembering. we need those who walk in partnership well and with more strength and healing then us, to share what works. we want to have reflected to us that it’s worth it, that its not in vain, that our valiant efforts will be fruitful. what makes you turn back toward one another when forces and stories needle in to divide you? you know us at least a little so what would you say to us to encourage reconnection, continued growth and perseverance? what should we do when our union is rattled, goes off kilter, dares to shake apart? tell us beloved friends, how do you do partnership for the long haul, to join the love of legends, find lightness when it gets dark?
sacred space will be held for us to speak our heart centered words to one another next saturday september 5th. we are desiring your support in the form of a note, a novel, a saying, a motto, a reading, song lyrics, poetry, or the like. which/what ever you think would suit our re-union. there will be a sweet soul present who is willing to read your offerings to us. and if you feel called, i would love to also have your words handwritten by you if possible, even if you send us something via email to print for the actual reading, you could send the handwritten my snail mail simultaneously. your handwritten keepsake would be an extra generous gift. please honor us with your loving blessings and lived wisdom. we would be so grateful. thank you beloveds. thank you.
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i’ll tell you we smudged ourselves with white sage this morning and prayed before leaving the house. almost a week has gone by since i returned from Appalachia and we are back at sea-tac airport, together this time. i pulled off planning the top secret mission even with the constant borage of emojis with question marks, i.e. *palm tree ?*, *umbrella ?*, *sunshine ?* - he had no idea where i was taking us for our reunification ceremony. now we are Kauai bound and we are like little kids in a candy store! I still have some surprises up my sleeve. he knows we have upgraded seats and are renting a convertible, that we are staying at a friends rental and that i know where all the nude beaches are, but he doesn't know about all the other little perks and surprises that come with me having free reign on making our travel arrangements. he’s never been to Hawaii and it’s going to blow his ever lovin’ mind. this is going to be so fucking fun and epic and beautiful! and i could care less if it rains the entire time when its 80 degrees every day. baptize us Kauai rain Kahunas, bless us.
i want to tell you something else. the letter above was originally meant solely for our beloveds but as i wrote it and as our soul family began to respond to it, i felt like it was time to step into trust and be a living, walking, breathing example of the ink emblazoned on my forearm: *i choose authenticity. i am brave, vulnerable and imperfect. i am enough.* i believe strongly that there is most certainly a place for privacy and boundaries, and just to be clear, i am posting this with Chad’s permission. i employ both, boundaries and privacy, to my benefit in situations every single day and i expect you do as well. but i think there’s a time, especially after you’ve come out the other side of a knotted, sticky, fiery walk, whether claiming full and absolute healing, or as in my case, claiming the holy scars and what they stand for, no doubt about it, that it’s more than OK to share parts of our journeys, how we’ve survived and what it took to do so. some might says its essential and crucial to speak of the swampland of the soul challenges, for the sake of ourselves and for others, to not only self-proclaim our victories over the tough shit, but to share experiences that might give others a hand up, to know they aren’t alone. for me, after holding so much close to my chest, it feels like a relief to let it all flow out and away from me, like its here for all of us to decipher and do right by, it’s not just mine to pick apart by myself anymore, and i’m OK with that. i think the darkness fades around the edges when light seeps in from risking cracking ourselves open a bit, when we allow others to witness the excavation of our saltwater souls and honeycomb hearts. i know i feel more empowered and breathe easier when i give myself permission to be seen as my perfectly imperfect self. and i’m convinced that those who matter most to me will grant me lifetime grace cards when i act human and make mistakes, since i’m far from slick, shiny or well put together. i’m messy, raw, savage, and wild. i’m out about it. it’s just me.
epilogue: woke up in Kauai this morning to the sound or birds and roosters. we’ve just come back from Auntie Angeline’s where we had a 2 hour experience of steam, salt/clay scrub and two on one massages. holy heck, we are melty, slack jawed and drooling on ourselves. now we are going to drive our convertible to get a picnic lunch and take it to the nude beach until sunset. catch ya later, loves. xx
post script: it's now Autumn 2016 and we are almost done dissolving our marriage contract. it didn't work out, friends. many lies and much secrecy was unveiled and with this knowledge, i choose to burn it all down, step away, and rise again, holy, in a new life, drenched in sovereignty, agency, autonomy and freedom. all is well and i am happy. blessed be.