I want to tell one last story about our time on the Rogue last week, and I had to wait to write it because John and I were irritated with each other for a couple days and I couldn’t readily access the feelings I wanted to document (which is in itself a pretty good summation of marriage: the good times don’t always last, but ideally, neither do the bad times).

It’s no secret that the past four years have been challenging for the two of us. We have different political perspectives and different values and we are in general just two very different people in many ways. These contrasts have mostly worked in our favor over time, I believe, each of us contributing our individual worldviews and strengths and if not always agreeing, at least learning from one another.

But it’s been increasingly difficult to find common ground in recent years or even agree to disagree. I see this as a larger issue that the entire country has been struggling with, and since this is my blog and I get to say what I want here, I’ll state for the record that I mostly blame the inept and often downright vile Trump administration for the polarized mess we find ourselves in now. (Second only to Twitter, which I firmly believe is an actual social and cultural toxin that has done far more harm than good.)

There is also the fact that I am an addict, which I say not to vilify myself but to acknowledge that I have always put a strain on our relationship in some way from this disease. Being in active addiction is a burden on those who care about me, and frankly being in recovery isn’t always a cakewalk either.

When the pandemic started it seemed like the two of us banded together, equally worried about keeping our family safe, and then as things went on we took on differing attitudes. COVID-19 somehow became a political thing, even masks became political, protests were erupting and we had opposing thoughts about the topics that were being stirred up as a result of that, we’d been in quarantine with the kids forever, and it all just felt like a lot.

Like, a LOT a lot. Maybe too much. It felt like maybe this was the breaking point for us, which is a hell of a thing to say but I know I felt it, and I know he did too. We both had times of wondering whether our mutual desire to preserve our family unit was misguided, whether everyone wouldn’t eventually be better off if we went our separate ways.

John surprised me by suggesting that the two of us go rafting together. I’ve always deeply enjoyed my times on the river but I never really imagined that we would do that trip on our own. It felt like an enormous adventure, it felt like a much-needed opportunity to reconnect, and it felt … well, like an investment. An investment in us.

From the moment we left the boys with John’s parents I felt a lightness in my body and spirit, the relief and freedom that comes from not having to continually divvy out your attention and energy for other people. We could talk without being interrupted, we could do what we chose, we didn’t have to worry about anyone but ourselves. Every parent knows the delicious luxury of being kid-free for a few days, and it was particularly refreshing after months of being virtually on top of each other 24/7.

So there was an immediate pleasure to that, but as our trip continued I felt as though I were seeing John with fresh eyes. I saw how carefully he watched out for me in the rapids, how quickly he helped me when I was in need, how patiently he explained things so that I could learn some of the skills he’s acquired over the years. The way he gave me the best sleeping bag, held my hand when the trail got scrambly, and made me coffee before I even woke up in the mornings.

I saw how he prefers to relax by staying active, tinkering with gear or re-familiarizing himself with the next day’s rapids in the guidebook. We unwind in different ways, and I think it took this trip for me to finally understand that he truly finds peace through work and that he does not judge others for, say, lazing by the water with a book.

There are so many things I admire and love about John: his strength, his humor, his intellect, his drive, his thirst for adventure, his kindness. I wouldn’t say that I have ever lost sight of these things, but the feeling of being on opposite sides of a battleground has brought a scary myopia at times.

We talked a lot about past memories and shared experiences, often while sitting by the campfire at night. The stingrays we petted in Mexico, the time we had dinner at the top of a Bangkok skyscraper with menus carved on slate so they wouldn’t blow away, our career wins and setbacks, the day we oh so gingerly drove home from the hospital with our first newborn child asleep in the backseat.

I have lived so much of my life with him. We have navigated so much terrain together. We have grown apart and close and apart again. There have been the very best of times and the very worst.

On our hardest days, I have held onto my greatest desire: to keep my family together. That has been the glue when everything else felt as though it was crumbling around me, when the violence in the streets seemed to echo the chaos and unrest in my own heart. Maybe that was enough on its own, but I feel more bolstered now. I have a renewed faith in the two of us, a vision of our future when the children are on their own, a dream of covering even more terrain, side by side, until it is time to rest.

What I can see more clearly is how I don’t want to stay in this marriage out of duty or the fear of hurting the boys or any other reason that is less than the real truth, which is that I want to stay in this marriage because he is my person. Through all of our changes, all the ways that we are no longer the same people who took vows in a tiny church on Orcas Island almost twenty years ago, he is still my person.

I can only speak for what I took home from our trip, but I believe it was a powerful reset that served us both. A break from the news and noise, a return to nature and our most basic needs.

A soul-deep reminder that I love John, now and always. I love him no matter who he votes for, I love him even when we are terrible to one another, I love him despite and because of our differences.

Comments

27 Responses to “Rogue trip 2020, part 3: a love story”

  1. Jess on July 3rd, 2020 8:06 am

    Oh I loved this so much!!!!
    All 3 parts of your Rogue River story were AMAZING and your pictures are SO gorgeous…
    Thank you for sharing thru the years, I have two boys the same age as yours and reading your blog all these years has been such a gift. We are on opposite sides politically and religiously but your blog has always made me feel like you were the non-judgemental mom friend that I always dreamed of having. ❤️Thanks for your words and I hope you continue share for many years to come.

  2. esw on July 3rd, 2020 8:08 am

    This was beautiful. May we all find ways and opportunities to see our spouse the way we once did and bring back to the forefront the admiration we have for them despite difficulties. Thank you.

  3. Kate on July 3rd, 2020 8:34 am

    This is fucking beautiful. Marriage is the hardest work.

  4. Kim on July 3rd, 2020 8:43 am

    Woo, it must be dusty in here…*sniff*

    I’ve been a reader from way back. For whatever reason recently, I went back and read your archived posts. I guess it’s me steeping myself in all things nostalgic lately in order to take a break from the shit show that is the year 2020, but even re-reading about your life as it was back then helped me.
    I’ve traveled a similar path in addiction, recovery and a 20 year marriage that has seen many bumps. It’s a blessing to get to see that person you wake up to every morning through a new fresh perspective.
    Also, that area of the country is downright gorgeous and I wish I could teleport out of the hot humid putrid southeast for a few days.

  5. Donna on July 3rd, 2020 10:29 am

    You made me cry real actual tons of tears. I can’t imagine the two of you without the other.

    And it’s obvious he loves you too. Re read this everyday if you have to.
    And don’t look at the news or listen to anything political if that’s what it takes. The country is a shit show but it won’t always be this way. This too shall pass.
    Hug each other for me. You’re good people.

  6. Barbara on July 3rd, 2020 3:06 pm

    Loved all 3 parts. You are such an amazing writer. Marriage is hard with peaks and valleys. Stay well!

  7. Stephanie Drew on July 3rd, 2020 3:16 pm

    This is just beautiful. In fact, I’m going to go read it again because it really spoke to me. I’ve been married for 21 years and have 2 teenagers. I get it. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Kristen on July 3rd, 2020 4:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Kristen on July 3rd, 2020 4:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing this…

  10. Kristen on July 3rd, 2020 4:39 pm

    Thank you

  11. ML on July 3rd, 2020 11:50 pm

    This was beautiful. It also gave me hope for our country. Like, if we could just see who we are out under the stars and away from the noise of the constant divisions & stoking of tension, maybe we could see what is so lovable in each other, in spite of our differences.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  12. Honeybecke on July 4th, 2020 12:44 pm

    Truth through love. Because of love.
    I’m always rooting for you guys. 💜

  13. sooboo on July 4th, 2020 2:13 pm

    This is beautiful. I wonderful reminder that long relationships still require regular investments.

  14. Julz on July 4th, 2020 7:49 pm

    Beautiful.

  15. nerr on July 5th, 2020 6:53 pm

    the type of love one hopes for. thanks for sharing and being raw.

  16. Lori on July 6th, 2020 6:39 am

    Love this so much.

  17. Nicole MacPherson on July 6th, 2020 8:13 am

    I am new to your blog and I want to say that your writing has really touched me. This is absolutely beautiful. Keep on shining.

  18. Brooke on July 6th, 2020 9:01 am

    Thanks for this. Marriage is hard, so hard. It’s so helpful to know that other people go through these things as well. Marriage troubles just aren’t the sort of thing that people like to talk about. You’ve always written very respectfully about your marriage without sugar coating your problems. Make me feel a lot less alone, and a lot more hopeful. Thank you.

  19. Heather on July 6th, 2020 11:19 am

    Thanks for writing and sharing this. You’ve beautifully expressed truths about you and John, but you’ve also written something incredible about marriage and family. I’ve been married 23 years, and this really resonated with me.

  20. Nicole on July 6th, 2020 3:32 pm

    I can’t count how many times over my years of reading that you have made me cry. I love this. Thank you for writing so well.

  21. Anna on July 6th, 2020 11:30 pm

    I feel like this post is possibly the best piece of marriage advice ever… marriage is hard and you don’t always like each other but if you carve out time for yourself and allow yourself to recognise what makes the other person great and how that in turn supports you to be great it is enough to weather even the greatest of storms. Longest sentence ever but thank you for working this. As someone on their second time around the marriage block in conscious of how my actions need to be intention

  22. Mary Clare on July 7th, 2020 10:39 am

    Wow. You and John are inspiring! Through life’s changes we are pushed and pulled in different directions in our relationships. My husband and I have settled into our middle age personalities, different than when we started 24 years ago. In some ways we’ve grown apart but in others were still deeply connected. What I love about marriage is the partnership. It is most reaffirmed when we do a project together. Putting our egos aside and figuring out something really makes me feel connected. Right now its my daughter and a health issue. I’m so glad we have each other to lean on.

  23. Dawn on July 8th, 2020 12:28 pm

    I needed to read this. Being in a unique situation of being stuck together all the time, and in a marriage that isn’t always easy, myself. Yeah I just needed to read this. Thank you.

  24. Melissa on July 9th, 2020 11:30 am

    Thank you for this. You write such raw truth. Marriage is so hard and something about passing that 15 year mark seems to have made it even harder. Maybe I need to plan a trip like this so we dont forget our reasons entirely.

  25. Jen on July 14th, 2020 7:58 am

    This brought tears to my eyes. I have boys just a little bit older than yours and I’ve been reading forever. My husband and I are going thru some crap right now and we’re not super great at communicating. Thank you for making me remember to think about our history and how things can get better. As weird as it sounds coming from a stranger across the country I’m very happy for you.

  26. Anne on August 2nd, 2020 3:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your life in such beautiful writing. You make the internet a better place to be…

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