- THE FOREST CONVERSATIONS – The Story of Marq & Melody Ross – Before we begin…
- THE FOREST CONVERSATIONS – Chapter One – This is Us
- THE FOREST CONVERSATIONS – Chapter Two – How We Found Each Other
- THE FOREST CONVERSATIONS – Chapter Three – Bonafide Adults
- THE FOREST CONVERSATIONS – Chapter Four – Two Kids in the Big World of Business
- THE FOREST CONVERSATIONS – Chapter Five – The Calm Before the Storm
How We Found Each Other
Once again, I need to tell you some things from long ago that weave into the story in a way that cannot be left out. So bear with me as I try to tell you the condition that we found each other in when we found each other 27 years ago.
If you’d like to listen rather than read…you can do that here…down a little bit further, you’ll see the video of our forest conversation about how we met and found each other….and the audio for that conversation is also included in the podcast below.
So….I will start with this…
Radical honesty is a concept that I have spent a huge portion of my life trying to unravel, figure out and embrace. Partial honesty is the other side of that coin for me. Partial honesty is a way of life that I have spent years and years working to recover from. These days, I need honesty more than anything else. It has saved me and saves me every day. Of course, I stink at it lots of days, but it is a discipline that I’m dedicated to practicing for the rest of my life. People often comment to me that they can’t believe how honest I am being. That is the probably best compliment a person could give to me, because it has been a long road to being able to say what is true for me and to figure out what is true for me.
Meeting Marq was my first real gateway to the healing power of radical honesty. Once I embraced the effects of connecting truthfully that I had never experienced in quite this way, it became like water and oxygen to me. Getting from a place of partial honesty to a place of radical honesty, however, has been a difficult journey.
I often wonder if he was born this honest, or if it was something he had to learn how to do, like I’m still trying to learn. What I do know, is that I met him when he was almost 22 years old and he was the most honest person I had ever met.
This was both exhilarating and incredibly intimidating.
I tell people when they meet Marq or are getting ready to meet Marq…don’t ask him a question that you aren’t ready to hear the 100% honest answer to. Don’t ask him if that dress makes your bottom look big if you already know it does. Don’t ask him if the burgers were okay if you know you burned them. If you ask him, he will tell you the truth as he sees it. Without guile, without an agenda. You asked, he will tell you what you want to know. He doesn’t see anything wrong with a bum looking big or burgers being burned. He isn’t going to flatter you and tell you something different. To him, truth is a love language.
So you always know exactly where you stand with him. You know he is going to do what he says he is going to do. You know he’s going to tell you exactly what he thinks about something, holding nothing back. You know he’s never going to try to flatter you into doing something.
I’m going to tell you that when Marq and I met, I wasn’t as honest. I was an 18 year old kid who was just trying to make it in the world. For lots of reasons, I was stuck in a cycle of doing whatever it took to survive. I lived in a place of partial honesty. I still have to check myself constantly to make sure I am not only saying what is true, but thinking what is true. I’m still trying to figure out what is true in all areas of my life.
By the time Marq and I found each other, I had learned how to say what needed to be said at certain times and how to only say part of what was true at other times. I learned to hold back details that would lean a story in the direction I wanted it to go. I learned to embellish, flatter, hide parts that I didn’t want seen, make up my own version of what I did want seen. These were sort of survival skills for me that I didn’t necessarily see as dishonest, because I didn’t think they were hurting anyone. Growing up in such a big family, you sometimes had to fashion up your own survival skills to get what you needed in life.
The thing is, I was SO HONEST when I was a little girl. Then I was thought of as weird. Or too much. Or not enough. I didn’t fit in where I wanted to fit in. I didn’t know If I fit in anywhere. I got in trouble. I embarrassed the adults in the room. So I learned as I grew, how to hold back the whole of things. How to add in things that made me more acceptable. How to shrink down my voice, my ideas, my questions and my mistakes. By the time I was 18 years old, I was pretty good at it.
Marq started calling me on these kinds of things almost immediately, without knowing that’s what he was doing. I think he could have been a stellar detective. He could have been legendary in the secret service. He could have pursued and excelled at anything that utilized his natural gifts of noticing every nuance, every pattern, every chronology, EVERY detail of EVERY thing. His obsession with knowing the pure, unadulterated facts. There is not an easy way to get a story past him that is not 100% accurate. I learned very early on that I was going to have to tell him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You will understand why it’s important to know this as the story goes on.
So, how did Marq and I find each other?
Well, he’s telling his side of the story in this video…..and I will tell my side of the story in the blog post below as well as in the podcast….here’s Marq. I love love love hearing him tell this story.
When I was 15 or 16 years old, my oldest brother lived in the tiny little farm town of Star, Idaho with his wife and his young kids. It was a temporary situation, renting a house on a farm. They had never lived there before and have never lived there since. But when he lived there, a very handsome tan skinned, black haired young man worked on the farm where he rented his house. This young man was Marq and he was 19 years old at this time, a few years out of High School.
My sister in law would tell me about this cute boy that worked at this farm. She said he was always out on the tractor working the field behind their house, that sometimes he even took his shirt off to get a tan while he was working. She said they went to church with his family, and that he was a really really nice boy.
You have to understand that by this time in my life, I could have been considered a full on wild child, at least in my family. I had been doing things that I was getting into all sorts of trouble for doing. I had a job and I had my own money and I loved having fun, all kinds of fun. I liked it when people liked me, even if I had to be someone else to make them like me. I loved love. I loved falling in love and having someone fall in love with me. Although I was smart and creative, I was a horrible student. To this day I don’t know how I graduated from High School with the grades I earned. So much was going on in my life. I was feeling jaded after watching my dad lose his business to an embezzler and watching my parents have to start over at 50 years old. I was already starting to feel the fear of what I would do in my life moving forward, especially being someone who felt odd and weird in the world. We moved several times during those years before my parents worked really hard to finally settle in the home they ended up retiring in. They were busy and exhausted by life and not paying much attention to anything I was doing. And I was doing pretty much whatever I wanted to do. I loved going to work, having boyfriends, I loved going out, I loved parties. I was reckless. I drank a lot of alcohol and I got myself into dangerous situations.
This was a big deal because we grew up with a very heavy expectation that we follow a specific and strict set of values and rules that we learned in church. To live your life in any way other than this was the worst thing you could ever do, that’s what I thought. And I loved God. I felt a closeness with Jesus from the time I was a small girl. I knew Jesus, and I knew that Jesus knew me. That has never gone away, but only gotten stronger. So I knew the rules back then, I knew the expectations. When I started to try things out and make mistakes as a teenager, I did feel a lot of shame. I don’t know how many times I heard the phrase “avoid the appearance of evil”. I never understood what that meant or why it mattered what anything “appeared” to be. I just wanted to know for sure what something actually was.
To be truthful, I was in a lot of pain as a teenager. I felt so much deep confusion about so many things. I hid it with big smiles and joking around, but I was actually in a lot of emotional pain a lot of the time. Maybe all teenagers are. I was thinking too deeply and feeling too deeply, always thinking, always feeling. Life just didn’t make any sense to me, and I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere that I landed. I felt like I embarrassed my perfect family who were so good at keeping the rules. I felt misunderstood. I felt like I was always in trouble. I was also selfish a lot of the time as many teenagers are, so I was probably a pain in the neck. I definitely felt like I was a pain the neck to others. I was in my head a lot like I always have been. So as I got older, I felt like I was always doing the next thing I needed to do to ensure that I didn’t get kicked out of life. I was in survival mode. I was always so afraid of people finding out I was actually a strange weirdo, without many redeeming qualities to the general public, and that when they found out, I’d get kicked out of wherever I had been welcome to be before that.
So, my older siblings were worried about me and where I was headed, I think. They were seeing my wild ways. I was still very close to my older sisters who had taken care of me throughout my life. I had started drinking alcohol when I was 13 or 14 years old and went through a period that lasted through most of High School where I was just kind of a mess. My younger brothers were so good. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be good.
I remember feeling like I was not as good as the other girls, that there was something inherently wrong with me, something deep inside. But I knew I was a hard worker, and that I had good ideas. I was friendly and kind and funny. I was fun to be around. I was a good friend. And I had grit. So I knew I could do pretty much whatever I set my mind to do. I decided early on that I was always going to have work ten times harder to make up for not being one of the good kinds of kids. And I learned how to do that.
I have healed from these broken beliefs, I want you to know that. And I also want you to know that I’m only telling you these things because of how they weave into this story.
I have to tell you that I would also try really hard to be good. And then I would mess up again because there was just something I HAD to experience for myself. By this time, I knew the rules, but I wanted to understand what the big deal was…why did these rules exist? What are you keeping from me? What is the big deal about all of these rules?
So when I was just starting to think about where my life was headed, my sister in law was talked to me about this cute boy…she asked me to come and babysit for the weekend. It was the summer of my 16th year. Marq was on the tractor in the field behind my brother’s house most of that weekend, and I was on the back porch in my bathing suit playing with the kids and pretending like I wasn’t spying on him. We spotted each other a few times, he waved, and sure enough, he was a very cute boy.
But then he moved away to Australia for a couple of years. To do church service. Because he was a golden boy.
When I was still 16, shortly after that first time I had seen Marq out in that field, I started dating a 20 year old man and ended up in an abusive relationship for over a year. It was a twisted kind of love I had for him, a dependence on the way he was obsessed with me and wanted to control me. This went on for a couple of years and really messed with me. He told me he was going to take me away and marry me as soon as I graduated from High School.
When I finally found my way out of that relationship, miraculously, I made a vow that I would only date boys twice. That I didn’t want a boyfriend again until I was at least 30 and that I wasn’t going to even marry until I was through my twenties. I also stopped drinking. This was right before my 18th birthday.
Meanwhile, Marq was in Australia, doing volunteer humanitarian service for God. Keeping the rules, staying golden.
He was there for 2 years and when he came home, he was 21 years old and I had been 18 years old for about 3 months. I had been through enough by this time that I really wanted to do better. I wanted to be better. I was going to get my act together, go to art school, move to New York City and not get married or have children until I was at least 30 years old. I had it all figured out. (although I had no idea how I was going to accomplish any of this)
By this time, my brother and sister in law had moved to another town, bought a farm of their own and my parents moved in right next to them. I still lived with my parents so I lived there too.
On a Sunday in the January of my senior year in High School, I was sitting at church with that same sister-in-law, and I looked down at the program for the church service. Unbelievably, Marq’s name was on it as a speaker. It had been 2 years since I had seen him or heard his name. We were in a different town at a totally different church. But there it was. Marq with a Q. Marq Ross, Jr. scheduled to be a special speaker to share with the congregation what he had been doing for the last 2 years in Australia.
My sister in law and I looked at each other and she whispered..”that’s that guy from Star!” and I said…”I know!”
Well, I listened to him speak. He was so funny. He was so engaging. He was so confident. He looked like Tom Cruise. My heart was beating and I was having a serious crush. He said so many things that made my heart leap. Then when he was done, he went and sat down next to a very pretty blonde. He sat really close to her. I could tell that they were together. It was his girlfriend.
So I thought that was the end of it.
Little did I know that my older brother, the one who was renting the house on the farm where Marq worked, had gone up to talk to Marq afterwards, and given him my phone number and said…”you need to call my little sister and ask her out” – and Marq quickly put my phone number in his pocket before his girlfriend walked up beside him.
So let’s talk about his girlfriend. Only a little bit. She was a beautiful, lovely young woman. She and Marq had dated through high school and when he went away to do service, she went to college. She’d had an unfortunate one night stand while he was gone, and when he got home, she was pregnant. He had fought with what to do about that situation and he was planning on marrying her and adopting that child.
He’d been advised, however, by several adults to maybe date some other girls before he made such a big decision. Right around that time, my brother showed up and gave him my phone number.
He didn’t call me. Not at first. He had my phone number in his pocket and I didn’t even know. My brother didn’t tell me he had done this. Well, his talk at church was so great that the youth leaders had asked him to come and speak specifically to the boys the next week about going away and doing service. So there he was again, at my church a few towns over.
Before he had left for Australia, when he was 18 or 19…he had been a Sunday School teacher for the littlest kids. One of the kids he taught was my nephew. So that Sunday that he came to speak to the youth boys, he came out of the room where he was speaking, and he saw me walking down the hall holding the hand of my nephew, who Marq knew from 2 years earlier.
He put it together that I must be the girl whose phone number he had in his pocket and he immediately started stumbling on his words while he was trying to figure it out. I was also star struck. I had noticed and seen him many more times than he had noticed or even knew about me. So there I was, standing by Marq with a Q while he stumbled over his words. He finally ended up telling me that he had my phone number, and how he had gotten it, and then asked if he could call me. Of course, I said yes.
So he called me on a Tuesday, in the middle of the day. I was still in High School but he didn’t know that until the end of our first date. I was home because I was getting a haircut that day.
He asked me out and we went adventuring and got stuck in the mud on the top of a mountain. He dug us out with a refillable plastic mug. It took hours. I sat in the passenger side of that old truck with the door open while he laid underneath it, digging us out while we talked and talked and talked. It was like we couldn’t get the words out fast enough. We never ran out of things we wanted to talk about.
And of course I told him about my 2 date rule, and he told me about his girlfriend, which negated my 2 date rule because there was no risk of him becoming my boyfriend since he already had a girlfriend. We just really liked each other, genuinely loved each other’s company, found each other absolutely fascinating and decided that we would be great friends. We would hang out, have fun, go on adventures and then I’d move to New York and he’d marry his girlfriend and we’d all live happily ever after.
Well, we started hanging out, having adventures and talking until the middle of the night as often as we could. A few times a week turned to every day. It didn’t take very long to fall head over heels in love with each other. And that’s what happened.
He made me laugh so hard. He was really so funny. And so fun! So adventurous. So friendly. So confident. He was so interesting and such a good listener. He asked amazing questions and he had an analogy for everything, so he was an incredible story teller and teacher. He knew how to do so many things, and he wasn’t afraid to try anything. And it seemed like he was freakishly good at everything he tried, really skilled and coordinated. It didn’t matter where we went, he walked in like he belonged there. He stood tall and knew his place in the world. He carried a Franklin Planner with him everywhere he went, and checked things off as he got them done. He wore ironed Levi 501’s with a belt and starched button down shirts and cowboy boots or sometimes penny loafers. His teeth sparkled when he smiled.
It felt really confusing when he and I would have a great time together and then he would go and spend time with his girlfriend. Then I would feel confused at the confusion, because I’m the one who told him that I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend and that I was moving away as soon as I graduated from High School.
One night, about a month after we had decided we were “just going to hang out and be friends”, we were sitting on the couch in my parent’s living room, just talking. It was late and we were tired. We were sitting shoulder to shoulder, touching. And we had sort of run out of things to talk about for the moment, but we were still looking at each other. We kept looking at each other, then he just leaned his head over and kissed me smack on the lips. He immediately pulled away and said he was sorry. And I immediately got angry and started crying and said why are you sorry? How could you kiss me and then say you’re sorry? And he said he was sorry because he kissed me even though I told him I didn’t want a relationship like that. And I told him I wanted him to kiss me.
And then we were both confused.
Things went on like that for a few more weeks. Just confusion. We had so much fun together, but it was starting to hurt. One night he came over after work, and after I got home from school, and he told me this was the last time he was going to come over. He said he was basically in love with me, that what he really wanted was to spend the rest of his life with me, but I didn’t want that, so he didn’t think we should see each other anymore because it was going to hurt too much.
And then I just blurted out a sentence that I could neither control the arrival of or take back once it was said. As he was looking at me after he’d basically broken up with me, if you could call it that….these words rolled right out of my mouth, uncontrollably…”If you asked me to marry you right now, I would say yes.”
Well, I gasped after I said it. He gasped after I said it. We both sat there and stared at each other. I don’t remember how long the staring and the gasping lasted but it ended with one of us saying “did you really mean that?” and with me saying. “Yes, I think I did, I know I did.”
And we started talking about what this could mean. I was 18 years old. This was in the Spring of my senior year of High School.
I had those rules. I had those plans. I wasn’t 30 yet!
There was nothing, however, that I could think of in my future that could be better than being with him. And there was no experience I could have in my future that wouldn’t be made better with him as a part of it. So, I decided to blow my plans and get married. He was a boy scout. And he picked me, this wild child. I was a wild child, and I picked him…a boy scout.
He started seeing me on our first date. I mean really seeing me. He saw behind the me I was trying to be to impress him. He saw past my jokes and my pretending that I wasn’t as smart as I was. He saw past my insecurities and my partial honesty. He saw me. He saw the girl who escaped from Kindergarten and the girl who had such big dreams. He saw me. And he was radically honest. He told me exactly what he saw. I couldn’t believe it yet, but I held tight to the possibility that it could be true, that what he saw could be who I actually was. Early on, he became my Savior, my God. He really did. Of course this is something that one human should never do to another human being, to put them on a pedestal like that. But…what did I know. I would learn later. One of the most brutal and devastating parts of Marq’s brain injury was when he stopped seeing me. I thought it might kill me, and it nearly did. I had to finally learn how to see myself….but that’s a story for another chapter.
So…that’s how we found each other. That’s the condition that we found each other in.
Marq and I both believe that our meeting was something that was planned from somewhere we can’t see, maybe before he and I were even born. Too many things happened that were too serendipitous to not have always been a perfectly orchestrated weaving, done with hands far more skilled than ours were at such a young age.
I’ve come to believe after this half of life that I’ve completed, that every one of us on this blue planet are woven in such a way. Your life is woven together just like ours has been. We are all in and out of each others lives, making patterns and pictures and fabric that warms and covers and decorates this life experience. Marq and I were not only woven into a picture that is still in the works, but we were twisted into becoming the same thread in many parts of this weaving, then separated into two threads and woven into separate parts of the tapestry. When you’ve been twisted together, you’re never really apart ever again…even if you are currently being woven separately into other parts of the picture. We seem to get twisted into one thread over and over again, then pulled apart and put somewhere else for a while…only to be twisted back together. This is our journey together.
So…thanks for sitting through more of the setup of what is to come. I love you, beautiful fellow human being, for being beside us as we birth this story and let it live the life it is meant to live. I hope you’re finding parts that are helping you to understand your journey too. I especially hope that you are finding the courage to be radically honest with your own story. We have to learn to be radically honest with ourselves and others about these twists, these weavings. The places we find ourselves sometimes. They all matter. We cannot continue to cover them with such heavy shame that we cannot know anymore where to go to rescue them. We need to know where to find ourselves. We need to know how to tell others where to find us. Radical honesty is the only way to truly heal.
See you in the next chapter. We’ll be talking about the early years of our marriage and everything that happened before Marq’s accident. About our wild and phenomenal kitchen table business that made us millionaires, what it was like to have 5 kids before age 30 and how we built something really amazing out of pretty much nothing….this will be the last piece before we start talking about the accident…more threads that make the whole.. <3
Thank you for being with us. I love you.