My husband and I have been together for almost 15 years. That's a significant amount of time. When you're together that long, you go through periods of seeing and not seeing your partner. There are times when you live side by side and you forget to really look at who's over there.
Because life gets busy.
Because we think we know who they are.
Because we often take the people closest to us for granted.
And then there are times that you stop, you look and you really see the person, not in the old way, with all your fixed ideas of who they are, but in a clear and real way. You see them for who they are in this very moment.
About a year ago I had one of those moments. It was our anniversary, which turned into a disaster, which turned into a big fight, which turned into a beautiful blessing. At one point in the middle of it all, I looked at this man I had lived with for so many years and I saw him.
What I saw was a man drowning. I saw that the way he was living was not working. I saw the enormous weight of all the years he’d spent working his ass off at a job he didn’t really like so that he could provide well for his family. I saw the pain of ignoring what was good and natural for his soul in order to do this.
Because he thought he was doing what was right.
Because he's a good man, an honorable man, and he will always do his best for us.
Because society keeps telling men that this is what they must do to be of value.
He was working for what he called our financial freedom -- that sweet spot where the working for the money pays off because you finally have enough of it to allow you to relax and do the things you really want to do in life.
But the thing is, for most of us, this kind of financial freedom is just a myth. No matter what he did, it never came. For fifteen years we chased this idea and it was always one step ahead of us. Even when he was making six figures, the money struggle never fucking ended. And to live like that is deeply unrewarding. And exhausting.
In that moment, even though he couldn't see it himself, I knew the price was too high. The system is set up for our failure and if you're not careful it'll take the soul from you without you even knowing it. Which brings me back to this moment in a hotel room. In the middle of our beautiful disaster.
I'm looking at my husband more clearly than I have in a long time and I see the toll that that all this has taken on him. I see how tired he is. I see how unfulfilled he is, how discontent he is. I see the hungry edges of his soul, the parts that long to be wild and free again. I see how different he is than the man I met.
And all I want to do is give him back those years. To take him back to the beginning and say, "Don't do it like this. If you do it like this it'll suck the life right out of you and someday you'll wake up and you won't even recognize who you are anymore."
But I can't go back, so I ask him what he needs, what he wants, without thought or concern for money or family or obligation. What does he alone want? I ask him if he needs some time away, some time to travel and roam.
(You see, I know exactly what it is he secretly wants, because I want it too. There's so much that gets put aside in the growing-up, the caring for and raising of a family and it's only a matter of time before it catches up to you.)
He couldn't answer me then. The burden of his responsibility was too big and I could see that even indulging the thought of what he wanted purely for himself made him feel guilty. But I kept asking.
Because fuck guilt.
Because fuck what we should do if it does THIS to such a beautiful, vibrant, strong man.
Because I love this man and he is not just my husband, but my partner and my friend and I care deeply about his well-being.
Because we are a family -- and when one of us is suffering, all of us hurt.
And so I kept asking what he needed until he could answer me. When he finally did, he said he wanted to hunt and farm and live a simple life. He wanted to provide in a simple way.
So here we are. It's less than a year later and we just sold or gave away almost everything we own, put the rest into a tiny storage and stuffed what we needed into the back of his truck.
This is something I can do. This is something I can give back to this man who has given us so much. And although there are so many blessings in this transition that I am grateful for, maybe the biggest is that I get to show my kids this kind of love.
I get to teach them, by living example, that this is how you care for yours, this is how you hold your Ohana: When you look into the eyes of someone you love and you see that the light is fading, you do whatever it takes to get it back.
Because soul is more important.
Because people are more important.
Because living is more important.
Because love is more important.