One of the things they don’t tell you on your wedding day is that it doesn’t matter where you get married – it only matters where you get divorced.
California, where I currently live, is one of six states in the U.S. that practices community property law, which means that anything created or earned while married is 50% owned by your spouse.
And since my soon-to-be ex-husband is using California law to claim ownership of the two brands I created, Turf to Surf (blog) and Chase the Story (YouTube Channel), the only way to continue writing and publishing on my own platform is to start an entirely new brand where I can create content without being stopped by divorce lawyers.
If that all sounds kind of grim and jaw-clenchingly angrifying – well, yeah. It’s been quite the year so far.
But here’s something I wasn’t expecting to feel: excitement. I mean, it’s a feeling that has only just started to rise up out of the ashes of sadness and depression. But it’s there.
You know that moment when you crack open a new journal and write your first few words on the very first page? Or the way your stomach clenches when the gun goes off at the start of a marathon you’ve spent months training for? So much possibility lies in waiting in those moments.
Fresh starts are amazing – and sometimes, they fix everything. They can also be terrifying, because they require a leap into the unknown.
But let’s back up a second, so we both know exactly what we’re getting into as this thing leaves the harbor.
My blog Turf to Surf (where I’m currently not permitted to publish) is a sailing-travel-adventure blog that I started in 2012 when I sailed out of New York with my ex on our Catalina 34, Hideaway. The YouTube Channel, Chase the Story, where I’m also not permitted to publish, I created as a sailing video blog in 2015 when we bought a new boat, and I wanted a creative adventure to keep me engaged and stimulated while Ryan was on his dream mission to sail around the world.
It was never my dream to sail around the world. My dream was always to write and make a living as a writer – a dream I am now clawing my way back to. Don’t get me wrong – I was more than happy to live on a boat full-time and support my husband in achieving his dreams, so long as there was room for me to achieve my dreams.
Unfortunately, I later discovered there wasn’t.
“WTF Happened, Tasha?”
Over the course of the last year and a half, since Ryan and I went our separate ways, I’ve received countless emails and messages from fans who’ve followed my sailing and travel adventures on board Hideaway and Cheeky Monkey. The messages have ranged from expressions of sorrow that Ryan and I have split to inquiries into what went wrong. After all, the people who have followed and supported my adventures – thank you, by the way — often dream of doing similar adventures with their partners.
Understandably, some of these people have asked me if I could describe what went wrong with the relationship. Was it being on a boat together for 5 years, was that what did it? They want to know because they are looking to sail away from safe harbor themselves with their loved ones. So, they see me as a cautionary tale. Is there something they could take away from this experience so they can avoid my pitfalls and achieve happiness and success? Without the relationship ending?
These emails have been difficult for me to answer, so I apologize to those who have written to me and have not received a response.
To be honest, it’s just hard, you guys. These are not questions I can answer without digging up a lot of emotional pain, and, even still, I’m not sure I have any solutions for the unique conflicts other couples experience in their own relationships, not to mention the unique conflicts that arise when navigating a small boat around the world together. Every relationship is different, obviously. And not every couple will thrive in a small floating space on the ocean with only their partner to rely on for emotional support.
Looking back on the end of any relationship, there’s never just one thing you can point to as the reason for its demise. It’s often a confluence of circumstances that build to a breaking point. That is certainly how I would summarize the roller-coaster of my 12-year marriage, with the last 2 years of conflict death-spiraling around the grief I felt over losing my father, which curiously morphed into an intense desire to have a baby. The intensity of my emotions enveloped me like a lead cloak, making it so much harder to move with confidence in any direction as I buckled under the weight of my pain. And yet I had already committed myself to a dream-come-true mission: to sail around the world with my husband; a mission so intense that it left me with no time or space to grieve.
But the issues certainly didn’t start there. Fertility hormones and the increasing conflicts between my dreams and Ryan’s dreams made a lot of existing issues much more acute and much harder to move past as time went on.
It soon became clear that though Ryan said he supported what I wanted to do with my life, his actions said this was only true so long as my dreams (and my grief) didn’t inconvenience him in any way.
And, well, babies are rather inconvenient, among other things.
But back to this new blog, this fresh new carpet of snow I can’t wait to leave my ski tracks all over.
Setting A New Course
This isn’t a blog about divorce – though that may come up from time to time, in the context of what’s happening in my life. This blog is about setting a new course and creating a future for myself that hopefully brings me greater happiness without anyone standing in the way of my dreams.
In fact, let’s get really specific.
It’s about a single, 41-year-old adventurer who wants to be a mother and a writer and to continue to live the adventurous life she’s been living for the past 19 years.
Do you think that’s possible?
I’m kidding. Of course it is. I mean, I think it is…right?
I guess that’s the question I’m asking the universe…can a single woman in her 40s have a baby on her own while pursuing physically demanding adventures and a creatively demanding career path?
Are you nodding your head “yes”?
(Thank goodness. I knew we were going to get along.)
Let’s Talk Babies For A Minute
This isn’t going to be a blog about fertility, either – although, again, this issue looms large in my life at the moment, so it’s inevitable that it will come up here and there.
For anyone who is interested, this is where things are right now:
Though my journey with IVF (in vitro fertilization) was cut short a year ago, I have started going to the fertility clinic again, this time to see about getting pregnant on my own with a sperm donor. Currently, I have one frozen female embryo that will have to be destroyed because it was created with Ryan’s sperm. And I have 8 frozen eggs that were extracted when I returned to Lake Tahoe last year alone, after I left Cheeky Monkey in Tahiti.
The original plan was to continue the IVF process, but since I returned to the fertility clinic with no husband or sperm, I did an egg retrieval and then took time off from fertility hormones to get some perspective on my life.
One of the pains of being a woman is that fertility has a deadline in a way that it doesn’t for most men. It creates a kind of anxiety that caring, emotionally intelligent men can perhaps sympathize with, but never really feel – the acute and overwhelming sense of urgency that comes with being an aging woman who wants to be a mother before her womb shrivels up forever.
And, sure, the anxiety I feel about my loudly ticking biological clock is distressing. But it is nothing compared to the anxiety I feel about embarking on this journey to be a mother…alone.
Add to that the pressure to find my perfect biological match…in the next few months.
Browsing sperm donor profiles is like browsing online dating profiles, if dating profiles only displayed childhood pictures along with a bio that describes the donor’s racial makeup, career path and what their mothers think of them.
Clicking through profiles, I wonder what drove the research that has resulted in these oddly succinct bios. Are donors not willing to share adult pictures of themselves? Do the sperm banks judge whether donors are mentally sound? How do I know if the family has a history of mental illness or addiction? I feel like that kind of information is more crucial to know than whether the sperm donor likes to go hiking on the weekends or stay in with a book and his dog.
Because of all these concerns, I was reluctant to start online shopping for sperm, though I acquire virtually everything else in my life on Amazon.com. But I’ve ceded to the reality of my situation. Other than deciding to not become a mother, I only have three viable options:
- Go on a man-hunt for the next three months until I lasso a dude who wants to have a baby. With me. (I mean, desperate women are like man-honey, are they not? No?)
- Ask a male friend or a random stranger to donate their sperm for the purpose of conceiving a child they would have little to no involvement with. (I’ve asked – none of my male friends, or the strangers I’ve met, love this idea. Imagine that.)
- Buy sperm from a reputable sperm bank.
Of course there is also a fourth option: adopt. But I’m putting that option on hold until I know I can’t get pregnant myself.
For a while, I was put off by the idea of going to a sperm bank to find a creatively minded, athletic, half Asian donor (I mean, if I get to basically genetically engineer this baby, why not make him/her like me?). Having browsed hundreds of profiles, I realized I had so many more questions about the donors besides the ones about mental health. Like, what if he’s a badass rock-climbing filmmaker…but he has no sense of humor? How would I know that? What are his brothers and sisters like? Is he able to maintain successful relationships with family and friends? What if he hates traveling and likes to participate in Civil War Reenactments? What if he hears “Yanny” and not “Laurel”?
Okay, okay. I kid.
But I started to think that getting sperm from someone I know was less risky because at least I know exactly the kind of person my child would get half of their DNA from. And since I’ve had decades to get to know some of my male friends, I can say that they’re — for the most part – emotionally stable, intelligent, caring, interesting men with good senses of humor.
Reading through donor profiles, it’s hard to say, really, what kind of people the donors are. And, honestly, that frightens me.
But one major benefit of using a sperm donor (whether it comes from a friend or a sperm bank) is that I am guaranteed 100% control over what becomes of my child and how I choose to live my life as a parent. And that is not a benefit I take lightly in the midst of a divorce, when my level of trust in any potential partner is at an all-time low.
Had I been successful in getting pregnant with my ex-husband, I would not just be embroiled in a torturous battle over assets and brands, I would be fighting for custody of a child.
So maybe even the shittiest of clouds still have silver linings.
The Road (And The Blog) Ahead
And that, my friends, is what I’m riding into the future on.
I wish simply telling myself “things could be so much worse” would instantly make my wide-open future feel less overwhelming, less like floating in the middle of a vast ocean with no landmarks and only my internal compass to guide me.
But that’s not how words work.
Instead, I’m just trying to focus on doing things that fill me with joy, while gently reminding myself that I have some pretty big decisions to make rather soon. And those decisions require me to have a sound mind and body.
For now, I’m finding my sound mind and body in the mountains of Lake Tahoe, California, and in Maui, Hawaii, where I have an Airstream parked and waiting for me any time I want to go surfing and check on my new business venture – a little coffee shop.
While I was licking my break-up wounds in Maui last year, sleeping on my friend JoJo’s couch, we hatched a business plan that has now come to fruition. With a great deal of blood, sweat and tears from JoJo and a little support from me, Cowgirl Coffee is now open for business in Makawao, Maui.
So, there’s another silver lining.
And I’ve been writing again. This is a huge relief to me because writing does for my mind what running does for my body. They both give me strength and joy and something to focus on, as well as a goal to work towards. So I’m thrilled to be back. I’ve missed it. In a way, it is home to me.
I have things to share (and, perhaps, things to prove) about this life I’m trying to make for myself. And I know many of you out there have faced or are facing similar struggles. And I want to hear those stories, if you’re willing to share.
And just in case I forget why I came to the mountains and sought out solitude, I created a dedicated work space in my house that I love writing in. My desk, with a window looking out onto the woods, invites me to sit down and focus on writing stories that mean something to me. My bright pink chaise lounge invites me to sprawl out with my furry throw cushions and read stories that inspire me. And the gold magnetic board on the wall invites me to pin up quotes that remind me to keep looking forward.
Like this one by Hellen Keller: “Believe. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted island, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”
Right now, I am choosing to believe in myself.
Despite the fact that my future is entirely uncertain.
But then, isn’t that true for all of us?
One thing I do know is I have chosen to embark on a great number of journeys in my life that I have been uncertain about, including marriage. The only thing I’ve ever been certain of when taking on an adventure that terrifies me, is that no matter what happens, I will learn something along the way. And that certainty allows me, despite my fears, to step forward into the unknown. And today’s step is a new blog and a new website that will lead me who-knows-where.
Thanks for taking these first few steps with me…