But I’m not gonna live my life / On one side of an ampersand

February 17th, 2013 - filed under: The Farm » Family

A big one, August.

At the very start of the month we traveled south to Shasta county, our annual trip to see my brother and his family. My father came up too, like he does every year, and we stayed in the same little cabin right on the river. I love this place.

Do you see her?


It was great to spend time with my family and especially to watch Waits with his little cousins – the two boys are only 6 months apart. But it was also strange, because Damian and I just went on as if nothing were wrong. We’re really private people, I guess, and prefer to keep things tight and tidy.

On the trip I read a book that sort of blew my mind:

And one afternoon, while everyone else was off at the lake, I was reading that book on a blanket under the big apple tree. And I heard a strange sound and I looked up, and what did I see but a teeny tiny kitten in the crook of the tree right above me!

So of course, I climbed! And look what I found:

There were four of them up there, just wee little mewling babes. Feral, but too young to know any better, so they let me touch them. I almost died of cute, and when my family returned, I climbed back up the tree and lowered them down:

They spent the night in the hamper and we dropped them off at the shelter on our way out of town the next morning. Rescue successful!

I kind of didn’t take any pictures in the middle of the month. Our days were spent savoring the last bits of summer, and evenings on our long walks, talking talking talking. We dreamed about moving back to Santa Barbara and schemed over how we could possibly pull it off (Sell at a loss? Impossible. Refinance and rent the house out? Where would the money to refinance come from? Not refinance and rent it out? Rent wouldn’t cover the mortgage so we’d take a hit every month. And on). We went round and round like that; nothing seemed financially smart. But mostly we talked about us, our relationship, our history, and our future.

Amanda Palmer. This was the song:

We started seeing a couple’s counselor in August, too.

And then at the end of the month, another trip. But just Waits and I. We went home to SB where I holed up with my bestie in her parent’s house (they were away all summer). Two weeks of beach walks and late-night wine, pool fun and vegan cooking in that incredible kitchen. Two weeks of processing and perspective. Two weeks of being away from each other, and feeling better for it.

Ready to fly!

Damian and I talked every few days. And the truth was undeniable. Over the phone, still 900 miles apart, we agreed to a trial separation.

September, coming soon . . .

  • smoothie

    dreading your next post-hope from the bottom of my heart that you did not decide to throw your marriage away like a used take away container because you hit a bit of a rough patch. WOW. it takes courage and patience to be married. anyone can walk away from a marriage. there is nothing courageous about that. it is just a terribly selfish cop out, and a terrible cliche. gorgeous photos!

  • The Cookie Fairy

    I think you’re judging a bit quickly here. You don’t know their marriage like they do, you weren’t there for the happy AND the bad moments like they were. If it didn’t feel right for them anymore, then that’s the way it is. Sayward didn’t “throw it away like a used take-away container”, she made an informed and well-calculated decision (whatever it is, we’ll see it in the next post). That’s what the last few blog posts were about: she showed us that the thought process toward the trial separation was long and carefully made, she and Damian didn’t rush into anything. I think you should show a little more understanding and compassion.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Sayward, it’s really inspiring. I can’t wait to read the next instalment.

  • Lina

    You know, you can’t put love in a cage. You can only hold it gently
    in your hand, offering it a place to stay. If it needs to be somewhere
    else, it needs to be somewhere else. If you love someone, you want them
    to be free. Nothing needs to last forever. See the beauty and the love
    that you have had together, be thankful and if it feels right,
    leave it at that. In peace. Then go look for the place where you need to
    be right now. And you know what? That place doesn’t need to last forever,

    Sayward. Thank you for sharing. It’s beautiful, as
    always. I listen to Amanda Palmer, too. Have you heard Nick Cave and the
    Bad Seeds? You might like them. Right now I’m listening a lot to their album No More Shall We Part. You should give it a listen.

  • Eva

    Admiring your honesty and willingness to put yourself out there and share this journey. So glad to be able to read your blog again. Thank you. Hoping you ignore the judgey @ssholes who feel the need to post negativity.

  • andrea

    If your intuition is so clear about sth. and you felt always better being away than for sure it was right to do.
    And regarding that “smoothie” comment: there are no such things as universal right or wrong neither courage or cowardice, there is just something that is right for that moment or is not, and that depends only on the person in that situation. It’s always easier to criticize someone else especially someone that you briefly met through some posts.

  • http://twitter.com/rachelkyle0402 Rachel Jacobs

    Congrats on the kitty cat save! I am sad and happy for you at the same time. Sad that your union may be coming to an end…but happy because you two worked together to come to this decision and want to do what is best for all parties involved.

    Those are some gorgeous shots of the beach…always good to keep soaking up the sun.

    Looking forward to September’s post.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oof, I honestly wasn’t expecting to be judged so harshly in the comments, but now I see how that was silly of me. Sometimes (most times) I forget that I just see the world really, really differently that most people.

    That’s okay though! I want everyone to feel free to speak their mind here, as long as they keep it respectful and free from insults (this comment borders – verrrrry closely – on both disrespect and insult, fyi). Anyway, I am fine with disagreeing. I don’t regret anything; I’m proud of where I am and how I live my life.

  • Cassie

    Disagreeing and alternative views are one thing, judgement-filled comments that offer no real purpose other than to offend and upset are another beast entirely. Sayword, your response is much kinder and more respectful than I would manage. Further proof that you’re a kind, thoughtful, gracious lady. Continued thanks for sharing your journey here, I myself am finding inspiration for my own relationship in each post. I only hope to attain the level of respect and communication with my husband that you and Damien seem to have in these posts.

  • Lacey

    Walking away from something that’s not working takes a strong person. Staying in a miserable situation is bad for you, it’s bad for Waits, and bad for Damien. IDK what’s wrong with people.

  • http://twitter.com/PixelFrau Julia Sydnor

    Wow, talk about unnecessarily critical and judgemental! I hardly think going to counselling is “throwing a marriage away like a used take away container.”

    Sayward, thank you for sharing your journey. I always love your posts and am so glad you’re back! This one particularly resonates with me as I’m struggling with the same difficult decision. Wishing you happiness in whatever form it comes in.

    Also, Amanda Palmer, fuck yeah!

  • Anonymous

    How is it a selfish cop-out if both parties involved agree that they are better apart than together?! People grow and change – sometimes closer, and sometimes not. It’s not just “a bit of a rough patch” if you don’t see eye to eye anymore! It is, in fact, VERY courageous to start all over again as a single woman and mother. Shame on you, smoothie, for such a mean-spirited comment. You are obviously not in Sayward’s shoes, and you have no right to pass judgment!

    Love reading your new(ish) posts, Sayward! Wishing the best for you and your family! <3

  • Veronica

    I think criticism is okay, and I often reserve the right to judge others. But, I think it was Plato that said, “quit being a dick. everyone has their own shit to deal with.” I may be paraphrasing (be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.)

    Anyway, dear Sayward, most people that have been married a while will tell you, if they’re honest, that there were whole years they didn’t feel like being married anymore. I will tell you that there was a long time (like, most of the time) in my marriage that I felt crushed and suffocated. I hated being around my husband and dreaded coming home. I called my commute my “cry time.” I almost left. I’m not sure what stopped me. I guess because I made a vow. I had this thing about believing there was something bigger than myself. My happiness and unhappiness were relatively insignificant and unimportant. Then, I found an article by a rabbi (I’m not even Jewish,) that said, “The heart wants what the brain tells it,” and “Happiness is a choice.” Everyone wants to be happy but misery is so easy. I could choose to be happy with my life as a wife and mother, or I could choose to be unhappy with it. I tell my heart what to do. I tell my heart to love, hate, be sad, or be happy. I control this bitch. Surprisingly, for someone as crazy and tragically impulsive as myself, it works. Don’t get me wrong, there were some real things that had to be worked on and we’re still not perfect but I definitely like myself a lot more.

    I also think the media has tricked us into believing that our spouse is supposed to be our soul mate; that they are to fill every emotional need. False. I mean, they could, but ask anyone who got married 40+ years ago if their spouse filled all their emotional needs and they’re likely to laugh at you. That’s just my 2 cents on the evolution of marriage. That expectation was hard to shake off. I have a lot of outside interests, friends, and academic pursuits that don’t include my husband and it’s all good.

    Anyway, I wasn’t trying to make this about me. Just trying to tell you that I feel your pain and what you and Damian do isn’t about right or wrong. You’re still a family no matter what and you got a wee babe to raise into a grown man. Take care.

  • smoothie

    Darlin’ I am truly sorry if I sounded harsh and judgmental. I just don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made. I hate seeing people getting hurt. I am in my late fifties and I have been married five times-yup, that’s four disposable marriages. Each time it is the same thing-after about five years or so the wheels start to come off the relationship and then separation and divorce. Then I figured out (duh) that after about five years the first phase of passion fades away. It is a normal, natural thing. Marriage is always going to have flaws. The sad thing is that all my husbands in the end were uncannily similar to each other. I just tried to replace the fizz which had gone out by getting a new husband. Husband number five and I went through the same thing. Couples therapy never helped us. Then we decided to just make it work simply by giving each other more space in the relationship-(no other people-we wanted to remain faithful). Now we have worked out how to be together yet separate-we are very different and we have totally different lives and friends even yet we still adore each other. You know what, after all these years husband number 1 was still the best guy. Wish I had known then what I know now!

  • Beens

    The only thing you can be certain of is that everything changes. The only constant thing is change.

    I remember being a little worried about you when you hibernated from your blog, but I had faith that whatever was going on, you would handle it with grace, dignity and courage, and it takes two very strong, secure individuals to say, “Let’s give x a try,” as opposed to clinging onto something that was not working in the way it had used to. We grow, we evolve, we adapt and to read about your journey here is a privilege. Sometimes there’s an awful lot of projection going on as evidenced by your comments. Ah well, you catch more flies with agave ;-)

  • Katie

    I can’t even imagine what misdirected intention led to this comment. As someone who was raised by a single mother, I will tell you that it was infinitely better for me to be raised by someone happy and healthy and well-adjusted, rather than by two unhappy people swallowing their feelings and/or fighting all the time. A “marriage” is an abstract construction, so why should it be valued more than its participants? Furthermore, a comment like this ignores or rejects the intelligence and compassion of the people involved, and for what? You might have a lot of experience with marriage and separation, but you have exactly zero seconds of experience being Sayward (or anyone else for that matter), so this sort of judgment is both needlessly rude and entirely baseless.

    I think it says a lot about the community that usually reads this blog, however, that such a comment seems so out of place. It is far, far outweighed by thoughtfulness and support, and ooh boy we need a lot more of that in the world. :)

  • Christine

    I’m really, really, really enjoying these monthly updates. Your ability to share your personal life with your readers (coming from another fairly private person) amazes me – in good ways! :) I cheer for you and congratulate you on your strength and allowing your vulnerable pieces to show. It makes me like you even more! You’re my blogging hero, an amazingly beautiful woman and mother, and oh so strong.

  • http://twitter.com/fridgescrapings Lou

    Awesome response right there!

  • Taylor

    Good for you, Sayward! I’m glad you’re following your heart. That is truly the most important thing in the world.

  • Katrina

    I went through a difficult period in my life and learned a lesson that become permanently etched in my cells: always be kind and gentle to people who are going through a difficult period (or anyone for that matter), even if their actions don’t make any sense to you. I direct this not at you Sayward, but to some of the commenters who have questioned your decisions and thought processes.

    I lost our first and only pregnancy a few years back and went through some pretty devastating complications afterward that ultimately resulted in a several surgeries. For about two years, other people’s pregnancies were torture to me. I’d always felt myself to be a nice person who was genuinely thrilled for others’ happiness. But hearing about pregnancies and watching babies pop out left and right (particularly with those I was closest with) became nightmarish. It was hard having that amount of jealousy and grief take hold of my heart. I hid it as best I could and would avoid confronting those situations whenever possible so as not to ruin others’ moments in the sun. Sadly, several of my inlaws noticed my sadness and withdrawal during some pregnancy-related moments and were critical of my inability to cut my losses and “just be happy for _____.” My mother-in-law even staged a couple of ill-timed interventions, which really disappointed me after all I’d done to support her during a difficult time. My grief wasn’t something that could be fixed. I just had to get through it and I needed people to love and support me until I was on the other side of whatever it was. (And I did eventually get there and became happy and whole again, despite not having children. Heck, I even started learning to play the banjo recently. And as Steve Martin once remarked, it’s impossible to be depressed and play the banjo.)

    Long story, but it helped me realize that you can never truly understand another’s pain unless you’ve been in the same situation. (And when is that ever the case?) Thus, you may not understand their actions. That doesn’t make their feelings or actions wrong, however. They just are what they are.

    Only Damian and you know what’s right for you. Nobody else. That you are sharing this so publicly is a show of faith and trust in others. I applaud you for being so honest and for helping others who might be treading on similar paths.

    As Shakespeare so wisely said, “to thine own self be true.” That’s all you can do. And you’re doing it.

  • jill

    Well you’re obviously not taking your relationship issues lightly. Talking lots, getting a counselor opinion, spending time together and apart, making your own decision, not something just because a professional or a book tells you to…I don’t think anyone could handle this sort of situation in a better way. I’m very proud of you both, especially since you’re both parenting intensely the entire time. But oh, I am not good with suspense!!!

  • Annie

    Thanks so much for sharing this.
    I don’t have full insight and even if I did, I wouldn’t really have the right to make any judgement, positive or negative, but I’d like to say I think you’re brave.
    People think that breaking up is an easy way out, avoiding issues and not making an effort to resolve things, but that isn’t always the case.
    It took my mum ages to muster up the courage to say out loud, ‘this isn’t right’. Things don’t have to be completely ballsed up horrible for something to not be right.

    Anyway, this song reminded of this situation, and maybe you will like it.
    It’s called The Condition by Defiance, Ohio.

    The condition is so crushing as if all the world is crashing,

    all the world comes crashing, world comes crashing down on me.

    The news is a distorted view through someone else’s glasses,

    reprinted for the masses and so I killed my TV.

    And are you the type to let yourself get scared?

    We all go swimming naked, or at least strip to our underwear,

    am I the type to miss you when I’m gone?

    Well I guess it won’t be that long…

    Driving to strange places,

    seeing even stranger faces and am I the type to let myself complain?

    Everything’s so foreign and so I plug my guitar into a broken amplifier

    I am happy, I am sane and I am growing every day in every single way…

    And I’m already gone,

    and I’m feeling so free,

    I will sing my victory song.


    (No video, song only)

  • Daria in Santa Monica
  • http://bittsblog.blogspot.com bitt

    Thanks as always for your honesty. Do you think the book is a worthwhile read? I really enjoyed two of her other books.

    I have had some tough times in my relationship and even some counselors who suggested it was not a good match. But in the end we really did want to be together, and I think what you are saying is you felt better apart, well I’ve never felt that so I can’t relate. But I think wanting to be together is what held us together, if not, I am not sure what would. Getting perspective and time apart is good, but I always longed to be back together again.

  • Berkeley Jane

    This book will blow your mind. It blew my mind and it was a great help:

    “Judith Wallerstein’s book is just awesome. It really helped my husband and I make some tough decisions. She is an academic, a therapist and retired lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (Hyperion) she argues that the harm caused by divorce is graver and longer lasting than we suspected. Her work raises a question that some folks felt was settled back in the days of Love, American Style: Should parents stay together for the kids?

    Listening to children from broken families is Wallerstein’s lifework. For nearly three decades, in her current book and two previous ones, she has compiled and reflected on the stories of 131 children of divorce. Based on lengthy, in-depth interviews, the stories are seldom happy. Some are tragic. Almost all of them are as moving as good fiction. There’s the story of Paula, who as a girl told Wallerstein, “I’m going to find a new mommy,” and as a young woman–too young, it turned out–impulsively married a man she hardly knew. There’s Billy, born with a heart defect, whose parents parted coolly and amicably but failed to provide for his pressing medical needs.

    It’s the rare academic who can make a reader cry. Maybe that’s why, with each new installment, Wallerstein’s study has created shock waves, shaping public opinion and even the law. Her attention-getting style has proved divisive. For experts in the field of family studies (who tend to quarrel at least as bitterly as the dysfunctional clans they analyze), she’s a polarizing figure. To her admirers, this mother of three and grandmother of five, who has been married to the same man for 53 years, is a brave, compassionate voice in the wilderness. To her detractors, she’s a melodramatic doomsayer, a crank.

    What drew someone from such a stable background to the study of marital distress? At the end of the 1960s, Wallerstein, whose Ph.D. is in clinical psychology, moved from Topeka, Kans., in the ho-hum heartland, to swinging California. “Divorce was almost unheard of in the Midwest,” she recalls. Not so on the Gold Coast, the state had just passed its pioneering no-fault divorce law. Wallerstein took a job consulting at a large community mental-health center in Marin County just as the social dam began to crack. “We started to get complaints,” she says, “from nursery school teachers and parents: ‘Our children are having a very hard time. What should we do?’”

    The prevailing view at the time, she says, was that divorce was no big deal for kids. So much for the power of positive thinking. “We began to get all these questions,” Wallerstein remembers. “The children were sleepless. The children in the nursery school were aggressive. They were out of control.” When Wallerstein hit the library for answers, she discovered there were none. The research hardly existed, so she decided to do her own. She had a hunch about what she would learn. “I saw a lot of children very upset,” she says, “but I fully expected that it would be fleeting.”

    Her hunch was wrong. Paradise for kids from ruptured families wasn’t easily regained. Once cast out of the domestic garden, kids dreamed of getting back in. The result more often than not was frustration and anxiety. Children of divorce suffer depression, learning difficulties and other psychological problems more frequently than those of intact families. Some of Wallerstein’s colleagues, not to mention countless divorced parents, felt they were being guilt-tripped by a square. They didn’t want to hear this somber news.

    Now, decades later, some still don’t want to hear her. For parents, her book’s chief finding, to be sure, is hardly upbeat or very reassuring: children take a long time to get over divorce. Indeed, its most harmful and profound effects tend to show up as the children reach maturity and struggle to form their own adult relationships. They’re gun-shy. The slightest conflict sends them running. Expecting disaster, they create disaster. “They look for love in strange places,” Wallerstein says. “They make terrible errors of judgment in whom they choose.”………………”

    May your life be blessed with true Grace.

  • Daria in Santa Monica

    Sayward, I am praying for you.

    I pray that God may heal the pain in your heart over the loss of your dear mom, the pain of the beautiful, unborn baby you never got to hold in your arms, the sadness and frustration of years of trying to fix yourself, the pain of your broken family. May He replace it with His peace and the hope He gives, which transcends all understanding. May your life be blessed with His grace and His mercy and His forgiveness which endures forever.

  • trd3358

    You honesty and eloquence are inspiring as always. I am so sorry that things were rough for you, but appreciate your ability to share your story. One’s truth is never wrong.
    - Tara

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you EVERYONE for all these sweet and supportive (and other – those too!) comments. I am currently in New York attending the Main Street Vegan Academy and gosh, I am WIPED OUT after just 4 1/2 hours of airplane sleep on the red eye last night, followed by a very full day in NYC today. I’m not going to be able to reply to each comment individually, but I read them all and I appreciate every one.

    Thank you guys so much. ♥ ♥ ♥

  • Fanny

    I don’t have the time to leave a long comment, but I just wanted to let you know that you are an amazing woman. Amazing! Stay strong.

  • CgC

    Why are the little girl’s lips blue in the first picture?
    By the way, I think late night wine and two weeks of beach walks is excellent therapy.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, blue lollipop!

  • Pingback: Moving Forward From Here | Bonzai Aphrodite

  • http://obatkeputihanonline.com/ ayu febriana

    have more time together with children is fun exceed had a lot of cara menghilangkan keputihan yang gatal

  • Mimi Lee

    All these 30 years of marriage have taught me that Veronica is very correct~no marriage is perfect & my contemporaries & my children know this to be fact. What we see today is “serial marriages” not generally “life long marriages” until those with multiples under their belt get to an age that they finally just “stick together” because they are old; realize “no marriage is perfect”; and or have one final divorce never marry again but have continued “relationships” but no “lifelong” partnership/relationship/marriage. WORK on finding a good mate and work on keeping them~it IS worth it. IMHO

  • Mimi Lee

    Please do not get “married” or if you do please do NOT vow anything except to stay together until you are both no longer happy. You hurt someone that deeply~who still wants to preserve the relationship and they are scarred for all time.