Garden for Sale or How to Grow Apart

I am currently experiencing the first official separation of my marriage and it might end in divorce. I realize now though that each season my husband has returned to California to work on the vineyard his house in Portland has become more and more a place he visits but doesn’t live in anymore. We have been together for 10 years now, and we’ve been married for almost 8 of those years, but it hasn’t been easy with him gone and with my ongoing health and injury issues.
Only 10-40% of trial separations end in resolution and although emotionally I’d like to be a winner, I am doubtful. I cannot speak for my husband, and that makes this post awkward, but I can speak for myself and I can now see how much damage has taken place. He may not have meant it when he said that he wasn’t sure if he’d ever been in love, and that he isn’t sure what love feels like, but I am pretty sure those meant something. I know what they meant for me. What I’d been feeling was true. I’ve been feeling his lack of love off and on for several years now.
We have agreed to 6 months apart, and although he requested that I not contact him for a month, I’ve had to do so already. We have a house and responsibilities we agreed to and just because I’m left holding the bag doesn’t mean I can hold it. Right now I want to leave. I want to walk away.
I am in a house that I see as a house full of my attempts to make it a home while year after year my husband’s heart was in his winemaking work. This explains why there are so many unfinished projects and a messy garden. They are all great representations of my anxiety. I have been so anxious about so many things and I have felt horrible having my husband working in California. I’ve longed to be with him so badly for years now but we never committed to a plan to sell the house and figure out a way for me to be with him. I waited for him to ask me and I missed him so much but now I feel kind of stupid.
I am still in love with him, but I am wondering how that is possible. I know I sound like an idiot. When someone says they probably never loved you that’s not good. For years I’ve told people how amazing he is because he works so hard and has had a chronically ill wife. I really admired him—but of course I did. I was the ill wife. (Obviously, I have not been a perfect wife either and there are a lot of other factors being considered, but I couldn’t imagine ever telling anyone I didn’t think that I loved them without it really meaning that I was over them.)
Our house just happens to be in my garden, and now I must decide what to do with it. If we decide to get divorced in 6 months, we will have to sell it, and if we make this marriage work, we will still have to sell it because that would mean moving to California—but in my heart I feel the odds are against that since so few couples get back together. It makes me sad too because who knows what kind of garden I could grow there.
I don’t think I will sow any seeds this year. If I do, they’ll be annuals because I think otherwise I would look like the woman not facing the reality that her whole life and garden are about to change. If I am angry about anything, it’s the frustration I am beginning to feel that so much of my own little seed and garden business takes place right now and he used to help me with some of it. I don’t think he liked it a lot, but he was supportive most of the time. I just wish my life wasn’t the one being torn apart right now, literally, piece by piece, but I know he’s suffering emotionally as he tries to sort his feelings out.
I realize now too that the furious attempts to germinate so many different plants probably also stems from anxiety about my marriage. I kept trying to get my marriage to sprout growth, but I couldn’t do it so I sprouted seeds instead, but I was more successful with them. I realize that now.
I don’t feel very interested in gardening at all right now, but maybe that’s because I need to focus on how I will survive when my husband tells me it’s over. I’d be really dumb if I did nothing and just hoped he’d come back and everything would be fine but if he started this process four years ago—when he left for California the first time—and we’ve not done any marriage therapy at all since then, I cannot imagine he’ll want to continue.
Instead of the gardening I love to do, I think I will sadly have to spend the next few months editing my garden for its eventual sale. This will be very painful and I have no idea how or where to even begin—especially because without help I must still place limits on my activities even though I am at least feeling better.
So right now my future is a blank page, and not a garden blog. No matter what happens though, I am a still a gardener, and I know for a fact that no matter where I land, I will plant seeds and grow plants at that time. If it’s going to be with my husband, that’s difficult to say, but I need to be prepared. Now is not for gardening and I know and can feel that in my heart. This time is about my growth, and it’s no longer about the growth taking place in my garden or in anyone else’s.
(Ironically my blog started when he left for California four years ago so maybe it makes sense that I should take this break. He once told me he left at that time because he couldn’t handle living with a chronically ill wife and as much as he tells me I am a wonderful writer, he never realized how much this blog had to do with my feeling so alone and betrayed when he left me and I needed so much help. I see that now too and I need to discover what all of this means to me. But don’t worry, I’ll let you all know what I decide. Good night.)

16 thoughts on “Garden for Sale or How to Grow Apart

  1. Oh Ann! My heart is breaking for you and with you. Your agony and sadness come through so strongly in this post. You are obviosuly hurting so bad. I don't know if it will help, but I'm sending virtual hugs and positive vibes.


  2. Alison,
    I think that the words agony and sadness are 100% accurate. Thank you so much because, in a way, so much of this has to do with the garden and I knew that other gardeners would understand. Somehow, the garden has become like some kind of third party in our marriage, but maybe that's because we don't have any children. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and virtual hugs. I really need them right now. I am in a weird place and everything feels so much different.


  3. Ann, I am so sorry. If you can take any strength from the goodwill of strangers, you have mine. I would try to plant those annuals. We're gardeners and our gardens exist in some alchemical sense as microcosmic reflections of our lives. When life is difficult the gardens we've created can give strength back to us.

    Your gift with words, with language, seems to be a blessing and a curse. Words, even at the best of times, can't accurately reflect feelings or situations. We go over and over thoughts and we get trapped in that fraudulent calculus. Plant your annuals and wait for them. We're gardeners; we know some stuff about time.


  4. Ann,

    I don't know you or your husband, but I hope it all works out for you both in the end. I would like to thank you for sharing something so personal on your garden blog though. It's rare to come across a garden blog post where we are given access to the person's life and inner workings.


  5. Heather,
    It is probably more fair than I let on. There are so many things I left out. It is true that I was not a “perfect white angel” as my husband just put it. I agree with him. I was the chronically ill hobbit of a wife who turned gremlin on him when I was feeling bad and I will take total responsibility for that—maybe another post is coming…


  6. Mr Brown Thumb,
    Thank you for wishing us the best. Since we're not bad people, I think we'll rest a bit and figure this out.

    As for the genre bending, I think I truly am more into this whole garden blog thing for the writing more than anything else, and I'm not sure my honesty is all that rare, but maybe that's just me wanting more from folks. I think we need to spice things up a bit around here. Gardens are meaningless without us and with the amount of time some of us pour into these blogs I always want to know more about the critical triggers inside of folks.

    I think you all just learned a lot more about mine!


  7. Very sorry to hear this. I recall always being concerned when you said he was in CA all the time. Being separate is never good for a marriage or any other relationship. take care of yourself, as you know the stress is not good for your illness. Take each day at a time, be strong , chin up. Pray for God to do what is best for you both. Remember even if you ever have to leave this garden, another is waiting to be created by you somewhere else, always.


  8. Anonymous

    Hello Ann. This is the first comment I have made on your blog. This is a very difficult time for you. Change is always hardest when its forced upon us. But isn't change what gardens are all about? It sounds like its time for you to move on. From him, from the home you really didn't fully share, from the dream of being together and thriving, like a garden. You are a gifted and generous person, and maybe when his shadow moves on from blotting out your energy, you will come out into the sunlight and THRIVE. The truth will ALWAYS set you free. Your journey is a beautiful one. Thank you for sharing it with us. Take heart! It is always darkest before the light. Keep writing. Keep playing in the dirt with the rest of us. It is always forgiving, always giving back to us. When you are feeling down, JWA: just walk away. Down the street, around the corner, out into the sunlight, or rain, or out into the garden. I wish you health and happiness.


  9. Ann, my heart goes out to you. There are many stories within every marriage. To me, it seems bold and generous that you acknowledge your husband's having his own stories. None of us knows what the future holds, which makes it all the more important that we like-minded gardening folk hold each other with gentility and uncommon care. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.


  10. Thank you so much and it is wonderful you mentioned walking! Now that I am less swollen than I have been in years, I've been doing a bit more of that to sort through my thoughts. As I've walked along, I've seen the future and have been eased in my journey by admiring the gardens of others in a different light. I see hope in the hard work of other gardeners right now and realize that so many other folks have been here too. This gives me strength in a funny way.


  11. Ann,
    I'm so sorry to hear about your situation. During the hardest time is when I've learned the most about myself and what I can accomplish. Please don't give up on your garden. Gardening has taught me so much about growth and renewal. Remember you can do it!


  12. Anonymous

    I have been reading your blog for a few months, but this is the first time I've posted a comment. Although I haven't been through what you're going through now, I totally get why you don't feel much like gardening right now (I still haven't completely regained my garden mojo after various losses in my own life, and am just kind of going through the motions out there).

    I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, that you will have the strength to deal with whatever life throws your way, and if things have to change in your life, I hope they only change for the better.



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