Married

The week after Christmas, I married Sarah Bray, my dearest and closest friend in the universe.

Hearing I’m remarried may be a lot to process, especially given that some of you likely didn't even know that Kristi and I haven’t been together for two years, and you’ve probably only heard me say how awesome she is. And that’s true. Kristi is a great person and I feel lucky to still call her my friend.

Our divorce wasn’t stereotypical.

After several years of counseling, I came to a compassionate conclusion in early 2017: I could let go of a lot of choices I’d made solely because I didn’t ever want to hurt anyone.

Mary Oliver‘s poetry often captures my heart, and her poem, “The Journey” speaks to one of the main themes I’ve been working through in counseling:

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice --

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voice behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do --

determined to save

the only life that you could save.

I will say with confidence that I believe Kristi and I are both in a better place today than we’ve ever been in our lives, regardless of how excruciating parts of the last couple years were for each of us.

In splitting up, Kristi and I have been 1000% committed to being a team for our kids. I spend time with Katie and Ephraim almost every day. By our assessment and their own, as well as their very loving teachers, the kids seem to be doing great both at home and school. One of the many books I read talked about the idea of a bill of rights for children of divorce, and the first one was that kids deserve to have as close to the life they would have had without divorce. We’ve pretty passionately stuck by that and I think it’s made a difference.

Most people hate divorce and I've certainly been one of them, but I wrote something this month for Tumbleweird’s[1] February “love” issue that sums up my thoughts on the matter:

An ode to divorce

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together in the presence of these witnesses to join two people in matrimony who don’t know know themselves well (let alone each other), who have very little life experience, and whose prefrontal cortex—essential for rational thought and grappling with long-term consequences—will not be fully developed for several more years. May they be shamed by all who love them if they ever live to regret this moment.

The last couple years have been a very challenging but ultimately great experience for me. Through being on the receiving end of alienation and others' judgment that have understandably resulted from my decision, I've had the opportunity to truly let go of what other people think of me. More than anything I've learned I don't have to care what you think about me in order to care about you—and I do care.

There are also a number of people who have been wonderful and empathetic and kind and supportive and amazing and I couldn't possibly begin to express my gratitude for those people.

But enough about divorce. Let’s talk about marriage.

I blame Erin Anacker. Kind of.

The one great thing about (a) having made many friends first on the Internet, and (b) having a digital record of most of my conversations is that it’s often very easy to go back and find the first moment I met someone.

August 8, 2013 was the day I first talked to Sarah.

Me to Erin:

I have a phone call with Sarah Bray at ~11am. Thanks for that prompt, by the way. She’s totally on my shortlist of people I’d love to get to know better.

Erin:

Yes, I've been meaning to connect the two of you. I think you have a lot in common and approach business in very similar ways. I also think she could be a great asset for you.

Sarah first came on my radar quite some time before this for the funniest and most ridiculous sales page I’d ever read, which seems to have since been lost forever in the sands of history. I’d been following her on Twitter for awhile, but we hadn’t really talked until our mutual friend Erin Anacker prompted us to meet.

That day, we got on the phone and talked for like 3 hours straight. It was the most wonderful call.

After the conversation, &yet hired Sarah as a consultant to work with us on the marketing strategy for And Bang. (If you don’t know what And Bang was, imagine Slack before Slack, but add short list tasks, and also more fun.)

While Sarah was consulting with us, she came up with the concept for Leadershippy as a newsletter that would talk about organizational values and hard decisions leaders have to make, aiming to build an audience of folks leading teams who would be prime audience for the product. (We were moving in the direction of renaming And Bang to Shippy.)

After some time, we hired Sarah full time at &yet during the most ill-fated season of its existence. Things were so busy and we had hired so many people and were trying to do so many things and then save everything from crashing into the side of a cliff. As a result, I didn’t really get to work very much with Sarah.

And then less than a year after Sarah shuttered her own successful consulting business in order to join our team, I laid her off.

We truly became friends after I laid her off. (Not quite the typical start to “And then we lived happily ever after.”)

But over the next couple years, as I struggled to figure out whether I should stay involved at &yet or not, we had a number of conversations about whether or how we might team up, given how much we enjoyed working together. We considered starting our own consultancy together, or doing independent consulting and collaborating through that. Sarah looked in earnest to move to the Tri-Cities given how many friends she had made in the area (and how good the coffee is at The Local).

Sarah came to &yetConf the fall of 2015 and we had a very long conversation after it was all over, standing and talking in the foyer of the Red Lion for several hours while a poor exhausted Luke and Phil waited for me to take them home. It was probably one of the single most memorable conversations in my whole life. Sarah just has this way of looking at the world and this depth of curiosity and she is the most active and engaged listener I have ever known. Once I start a conversation with her, it’s hard to stop!

Even though we both really wanted to find a way to collaborate, we ultimately decided that given both of us had a history of being overly idealistic and not great at running sustainable organizations, any decision we’d make to collaborate from a business perspective would require us to put on our “capitalist hats”, which we decided was this emoji: 👒 (The hat is solid gold, and the green ribbon is made of ‘dolla billz’.)

The summer of 2016 found exactly that opportunity, and Sarah became a partner at &yet and a core part of our leadership. Despite the fact that we were primarily a remote team, she decided to move here shortly after that.

During this entire time, our friendship just kept growing. I saw us as friends and collaborators and expected we would be indefinitely.

Sarah and I spent several months working closely and collaborating on writing The Call of the Wildling. (We only realized when we were 90% done with the story that we’d unwittingly named the mythical creature after the good people of Wildland, the web shop next door.) In writing that experience based on things we’d learned in our own journeys, we discovered so much about each other that we had in common and believed very deeply about the world. We probably walked a few hundred miles on the old abandoned railroad track behind The Local—and in all kinds of weather, including one day when it must have snowed two inches while we paced and talked.

It’s funny because in January 2017 I actually said (and believed!) that I couldn’t imagine actually being in a relationship with Sarah because we were too like-minded. 😂 I now know we have a ton of differences in the way we think, though we do share a lot of strong values. But I really had no intent to pursue a relationship with Sarah beyond kinship and collaboration, even after she’d moved to my home town.

Even when I decided to end my marriage with Kristi, it took several months for me to decide I did want to pursue a relationship with Sarah that was much deeper than friendship. But once we jumped in, we did so with both feet. And every single day, every single week, every single month, it just got better, deeper, and more laid bare honest.

On December 28, we had a very small wedding ceremony with our parents and kids. My vows sum it up:

There’s nothing about my thoughts or my feelings or my heart that you don’t know as well or better than I know myself.

You have truly taught me how to accept and love and value myself.

You inspire me. You excite me. You center me. I have grown and learned and celebrated the most I have in my whole life simply from living alongside you.

I would have done anything simply to be your friend every single day of my life until the day I die. But I am beyond thrilled to be able to share the rest of my life with you.

My promise to you is simple:

You will always have all of me I will always accept all of you I will always take care of you I will always allow you to take care of me

There are other words that better express the sentiments that are deep in my heart:

Back on my track if I’d passed you, [2]

where would I be now?

Cause I only live just to love you

and I’m dead when you’re not around.

And I get scared

when I’m not there

cos no one can take care of you like me.

And I’m not strong

but if something’s wrong,

well, I’ll carry anything that you need.*

...

So what if we rewrite the stars? [3]

Say you were mean to be mine

Nothing could keep us apart

You’d be the one I was meant to find

It’s up to you and it’s up to me

No one can say what we get to be

So why don’t we rewrite the stars?

Changing the world to be ours

Sarah and I are currently planning on having a wedding on May 4 beneath stars under the darkness of a new moon in the darkest part of our state.

Whether it’s overcast or clear, I’ll be on Cloud 9 :)

——

[1] In November, Sarah and I bought Tumbleweird, a local community driven alt-monthly progressive newspaper. More here and here.

[2] The Consequences of Not Sleeping by Little Green Cars, a song that Sarah once sent to me and absolutely wrecked me. The “back on my track” bit is also apt given how much conversation we had walking along those railroad tracks.

[3] Rewrite the Stars from The Greatest Showman. Back when MoviePass was a magically unsustainable solid gold thing, Sarah and I would show up at the theater shortly before the scene with that song and just hold each other tight while we watched it.