Nine years ago, on summer solstice, I met my long-time therapist, Katie, by Boulder Creek in Colorado. I brought a giant vessel of rocks that I had collected since I was a teen from all over the country. I also brought a written document, vows, and a ring set. I was just about to move to Seattle to pursue my dreams on the west coast, where I feel most at home. With her as a witness I threw the rocks one by one into the creek. I thought of and said of things I wanted to let go of as I chucked them in.
Shame was followed by Jaspar
Co-Dependence with Rose Quartz
Fear with Granite
Anger with Slate
On and on it went from larger themes like these, to the specifics of my story. Rape, abuse, violence, poverty, illness. I named names; I told the stories I had worked hard to verbalize at all. These were things Katie and I had worked through diligently for six years of intense somatic trauma work up to then. We’ve spent another 9 together since then via phone building increasing resilience and working with maintenance and support. Everyone needs a Katie, it’s an amazing investment in your health and living an intentional life.
It was powerful and cathartic to let go. The energy of throwing and the plank of the water was deeply satisfying. At the end, I could see the rocks moving and settling in the swift and shallow current, their colors and stories a mosaic. The weight was physically lifting from me. I understand these are issues that you are in process with for life, and it also felt empowering to have a tangible benchmark of intention to let go. I still think of the water running over those rocks as part of my process when I need to let go, to surrender.
When it was done, we stood by the creek bank and I produced a ring set. I handed it to Katie and took out my vows. I still read them out loud every summer solstice to remind me of my commitment to myself. I am not writing the specific piece here, as that is between my wife and me. These are the essentials:
I vowed to take care of myself with compassion. To listen to my feelings and needs and resource for them in healthy ways. To live authentically with presence and integrity. I vowed to ask for help when I need it, to set boundaries. I committed to make time to laugh and play, to create and celebrate. I said I would not turn away from sadness, pain, fear and anger but explore them and grow. I vowed to love myself unconditionally, and especially when I make mistakes or feel depleted. I stated dedication to take care of my body and to love it no matter what. To put myself first and not to self-sacrifice for others. I vowed to live a life of love and freedom and to allow myself happiness and peace. I spoke intention to own my power and beauty and to be of service in the world. I vowed to keep showing up in the moment over and over again.
When it was done, Katie handed me the ring set that I had lovingly silver-smithed and set sapphires with my own hands. They go on my right middle finger to remind myself to tell anyone or anything that is trying to hurt me or drag me down to fuck off. I still look at it daily and smile, it’s a reminder of my ability to protect and care for myself. Katie, with a huge smile and her abundant enthusiasm, announced me committed and married to myself in sickness and health until death do I part. Wild laughing, dancing and hugs ensued.
It’s nine years later and I still love my wife tremendously. We are imperfect together, it can be a complicated relationship as all marriages are. We still argue and fight on occasion. I struggle with self judgement, rage against injustice, self-sacrificing and all the stuff. What I’ve learned is that healing is not about your issues going away. It is about them becoming quieter and more workable. It is about understanding them so completely that you can be in the same body with them and not run or hide, ignore, or push and scream. You learn to dialogue with yourself and those feelings and issues and make friends. Or at the least, have an amicable relationship with respect. Sometimes you collaborate with these issues and do badass shit like write a blog on intersectional feminism, mental health, and sailing. Sublimation is my jam. My wife is moody, she’s a little crazy in good and bad ways at times, she’s neurotic. She is far from perfect. She’s also my favorite company and I can’t get enough quiet quality time with her.
She has the biggest heart I’ve ever seen. She has integrity out the wazoo and shows up rain or shine for herself and others. She is the most reflective listener I’ve ever met, she listens deep with her ears, eyes, mind and heart. She takes people in and experiences them. She allows connection in the mutual vulnerability and offers back witness and love. She’s magic.
That wife of mine, she’s BIG. She’s INTENSE. She doesn’t do subtle well but does honest and direct with compassion. She’s hilarious, I laugh at her jokes the hardest, and especially if no one else laughs with us. She’s inappropriate and is like a twelve-year-old boy much of the time with fart and sex jokes. This woman is audacious and brave. She has no fucking idea what she is doing half the time but tries anyway. She’s an experiential learner and has a habit of jumping in the deep end to learn. She fucks up a lot, and fiercely believes that’s how you grow. She doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty or failing, she’s invested in the experiment of it. With people, she believes that repair is everything and trust is sacred. Shes loyal AF, but also will leave if it’s not healthy.
She’s obsessive and has this hyper focus that drowns out the world sometimes. This happens especially when creating. She works hard, too hard, but also isn’t happy when she’s not doing something. She’s constantly generative and burning the candle of this life at both ends. She hates small talk and likes to discuss deep existential dilemmas and complex social structures and psychology for fun. She might have a reading problem, as in she does it too much. She starts sentences with “the research shows,” at an annoying frequency. She can, on occasion, be the most stubborn person I know and a bit of a know it all. The shitty part is, she’s alarmingly accurate with many things, so I can’t disagree with her authority. It’s like she can predict the future sometimes. She’s kinda scary that way.
People misunderstand her a lot, she deals with projection from others frequently. Many people have a hard time seeing the duality of her and pick a side: fabulous/powerful/confident or wounded/nuts/insecure. In truth, she’s both and neither. She’s just unapologetically human, which is to be ever changing and complex and messy. Some people disdain her because they are threatened. The intensity, vulnerability and authenticity is off putting and an easy target. Some just fucking disagree with all she is about. Her whole life she has been different. She has no poker face or ability to stay quiet if she has big feelings or thoughts, especially if it has to do with advocacy. She’s a whistle blower. She is judged for it, a lot. She has been bullied for it, a lot. She will cry over that with immense anxiety while also acknowledging that it’s “the right people” who hate her with fierce integrity to her values and intention. She lives out loud anyway. Honestly, she has crippling anxiety she copes with daily. Sometimes I am in awe of her Jedi skills to navigate it. She has exhaustion for the world and her efforts to support others in their deep pain and joy. She sees suffering and absolutely cannot turn away. It’s her strength and flaw.
When she cries and is anxious, I hold her with tenderness and compassion. I tell her I think she is amazing and beautiful and strong and delicate. I tell her that I know her heart. I tell her she’s doing the best she can and that is all she can do. I reassure her that no matter what, I’ve got her back. I will be there for her. I let her cry and ask what she needs, which is usually quiet and nature. She feels happiest and most grounded on or by the water. She is a mermaid. So, I bought her a boat and refit it with her and for her. It’s the only home she has ever owned, something she can definitively say is hers. We put a unicorn farting a rainbow on the side to appease the inner child and remind us not to take life too seriously. We live happily on it. We pee in a jug and poop in a bucket. It’s very simple and intimate living. This is a love story that hasn’t been easy. It is definitely unconventional. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is the only relationship that I have full trust and safety in, that I know will never end. I will never abandon her again, as I did so regularly and in so many ways prior to our marriage. I work hard not to cause her pain and make choices that will help her thrive. She does a ton for me in return. She makes life an adventure. She makes life vibrant and alive. Also, I love her boobs, we have amazing sex, she’s hawt!!
To be clear, we have an open relationship. Eric gets to spend time with us. He comes and goes. He also likes our boobs; and the sex is great. But he knows that I will always put myself and my wife first. I am committed to that. He also knows that this is critical to his health as well. It keeps me out of resentment due to self-sacrifice and the many ways women are enculturated to adapt for others, especially men. It makes him have to learn to take care of himself too, to love himself. In life, we lead by example. If you want folks around you to be healthy, model health.
I really think everyone should decide to marry, or at the least make a lifetime commit to loving themselves. Like any good marriage it takes time, intention, and effort. You can’t neglect it or else shit will go sideways. I have dates with my wife, vacations and daily rituals so we always have space to connect. I look forward to listening to her and holding her. In closing, there are several decisions I have made in my life that have been solidly good and shaped my future in powerful ways. Marrying myself was probably the biggest and best. So, Jenn, here’s to you sweetie…and many more loving, growthful, joyous years ahead.