Two Seek Counsel

When I was first falling in love with Savanna, she once said, “Being self-aware is a radical revolutionary act,” without even thinking about the words. The depth of this comment in such a light hearted fashion revealed the vast wisdom of her being, and she continues to teach me every day of our lives that being self-aware is truly radical! So how do we become self-aware?

In many cultures, a primary source of wisdom and self-awareness comes from observing and participating in nature by seeking silence and solitude in the forest. A form of meditation. This is a forest in Kansas, where we went to take a break while visiting family in Missouri.

The other night we had a tizzy. Not an all out fight with bad words and hurtful names thrown like throwing stars, but a heated conversation about crop planning, seed orders, feeling overwhelmed and supporting each other by doing tasks together instead of alone. It started, if I remember correctly, by me asking Savanna if she was going to work on creating a crop plan and she said, “I can’t do that, I’ve never done that, but I would be willing to help you and to learn.” Of course, I didn’t hear anything passed “I can’t do that, I’ve never done that…” And the large list of things I have never done but will do this season piled in my head and I got frustrated.

Sometimes I resort back to the airborne infantryman I was trained to be. And while there is a time and place to be a trained killer, when it comes to talking about seed planning with your wife, it’s really not the time.

On top of having a 40 hour a week job (47.5 including the drive), something I am really not used to, I plan to build a platform this summer for a yurt, an outhouse for bed and breakfast tenants, two wood sheds and a chicken coop; not to mention having a baby in June, nesting in preparation for the baby, feeding and tending fruit plants, promoting the health of native fruits, beekeeping, growing food in a 30 x 48 foot high tunnel, attending AA and 907 Vets meetings, fishing, canning, preserving, selling… To add to it all, we cleared out a large tract last summer with a friend’s tractor that we talked about turning into a beautiful sun shaped garden with a hedgerow of flowers and fruit.

Sometimes the things that happened in Iraq creep back in, and I become hyper aggressive, defensive, paranoid, and afraid. I also have a tendency to pile too many things onto my plate and carry the load without help until I collapse and retreat in embarrassment. Let’s just say the military didn’t teach me how to ask for help.

In the middle of the multiple hour talk, which included multiple breaks, my guilt ridden/awaiting another abandonment mind wanted to pack my duffle bag with surf shorts, wallet, and tank top and fly away to India to act like some kind of holy person with everything figured out. But then I remembered, I am married; and that includes a long term commitment to provide and support my family. So I bit my tongue, rubbed my feet and waited for things to cool down, instead of doing what comes “naturally”– running away or pushing. Our conversation was resolved in bed on Saturday night at about 1 am, 4 hours after our normal bed time. I had tuned her out when she said, “I would be willing to help you and to learn,” regarding the crop plan. She reminded me that WE would do the building projects together. WE are having a baby this year and SHE will not physically be able to do the amount of farm work that she would hope. WE want to have fun and enjoy our summer as well as work to achieve our dreams. So in the end, WE won’t worry about the new garden space this year, instead we will pick the sticks and roots, rake out manure and soil, and plant a cover crop to build soil fertility. We fell asleep holding each other.

I am learning that marriage isn’t about being happy all the time, sometimes we get pissed, sad, disappointed or depressed. We have to accept each other and support each other through these emotional states instead of running away.

All of this is new to me. Tools I have learned in a recovery program, combined with years of counseling, dozens of books, thousands of pages of journal entries, mentors and heartbreak. About a month ago, Savanna and I started seeing a counselor together to talk about the good, the bad, and the difference between inspiration and control. Confessing to a stranger some of the awful things I have yelled at my best friend is embarrassing, shameful and humiliating. To see and feel her tears as she confessed some of the things she has said during rage made me realize how bad she feels about it too. Our counselor told us that it is totally unacceptable (in more intelligent words) to continue saying horrible things to each other, and that those boundaries need to stay firm and never be crossed. Never! He said that when people try to control others, such as partners, spouses, friends, it only lasts a short time as the person being controlled grows more and more resentful, eventually leading to divorce. To inspire is different. By being our best selves, people recognize the goodness in us and grow to truly love us; they want to honor our goodness and choose to do things that bring happiness to their loved ones instead of harming them.

I have been learning how to take deep breaths when anger, rage, sadness and discomfort come forth. It’s a lot better than saying hurtful things to my best friend and self, words that can never be taken back. Learning how to say what is on our mind and in our heart in a tender way instead of acting like everything is cool all the time or being mean takes hard work, surrender, acceptance and guidance.

Since we started seeing a counselor, we have been able to talk through difficult topics like sex, money, child raising, travel, and purpose with breaks, breaths and kisses instead of harshness and defensiveness. It is incredible!

Who is my wife and best friend? Not only a tender, loving, nurturing woman; she is also a fierce, tough, powerful warrior. When one side shows more than the other, I try to remember that the other side will shine through soon, and I choose to be accepting and understanding. The infantryman/American Boy/lover of novels and Hollywood was trained to think that women are supposed to be permanently sweet and kind, how wrong that is!!!

Transitions can be tough. Savanna recently quit her job after 9 months of working us together. And while we agreed it was the best thing for her, us, our farm and family, it is difficult to say goodbye every morning instead of car pooling to the office to work together. It is not something I want to get used to, but it is necessary to achieve our common dreams and goals of making a living from our home. She takes care of our animals, our home, our baby; I take care of our money… or so it seems. But in reality, by her taking care of the animals, home and baby she is also saving us money, making us money, and taking care of the money. Just like I am taking care of the animals, home, and baby by going to work to make money. Sometimes it can be difficult to see other sides, so it’s really nice to be reminded by Savanna as I leave for work how grateful she is for me going to work. Do I need consistent validation and approval? Yes. Either way, I never thought I would be with somebody who I enjoyed spending every hour of the day with until I met Savanna. So to drive away from her every morning at 8:15 and not return until around 6 is painful, but it is not permanent. Nothing is.

Savanna is a nurturer and farmer of thoughts, animals, and creative ideas. Here she cleans chicken eggs while playing with our new bunnies and growing a baby. She is .

Being self-aware isn’t easy. Making amends for hurtful things I have said and done doesn’t feel good in the moment, but it certainly makes me not want to continue being hurtful. As a man, being forced by culture to be straight faced and emotionless caused more damage than good. And when I expect my wife to be smiley and chipper all the time, it causes both of us more harm than healing. I know a few of my biases and stereotypes, and I am working on changing them. I just hope that my warrior wife will be patient as I continue to grow into a better me.

Published by secretgardenalaska

We love each other, we love our family, we love our planet, we love our sobriety.

One thought on “Two Seek Counsel

  1. Every relationship has its storms. It’s so great that the two of you are aware, mature and brave enough to realise yours and to take the steps to overcome them. Your positivity and love are an absolute inspiration and i am so pleased to have come across your blog. I look forward to seeing your journey progress and learning along the way with you. Brightest blessings, waving madly from Australia 🙂

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