I Love You So Much, But Not Right this Moment!

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If you live in the Northeast or know anyone who does you already know what a horrific thing this past winter was. There were monster piles of snow. Then it warmed up and they turned into monster piles of slush. Then the temperature plunged and the slush turned to rock-hard ice. And stayed that way for months. When Bill dropped me at the Poughkeepsie train station on my way to the ASJA conference in late April, I gasped as we drove in: Piled up against the side of the station, more than a story high, was a mountainside made of dirty, hard-packed snow that obviously had been transported there to get it out of the way somewhere else. I bet some of it is still there.

A few things turned this past winter even worse in our household. First, there were kidney stones. Bill was told he had large stones in both kidneys that required serious medical intervention. He hates Western medicine so he decided he would treat them himself with lemon juice and then apple cider vinegar diluted in endless glasses of water. It worked, to my amazement, but it took much of the winter, during which time Bill stayed mostly stretched out in his white leather recliner.

The recliner is at the exact center of our rather small house. There is no way Bill can speak or even belch in that spot without my hearing it, wherever I may be, unless I put headphones on. It didn’t help that he was miserable and in pain and generally inclined to gripe, or that he couldn’t go much of anywhere else.

I couldn’t either. A massive amount of work kept me at my desk most of the time. Plus, early in the winter I managed to injure my rotator cuff on the right side. I was in a fair amount of pain myself and at one point the two of us shared a hot-water-and-ginger compress in an attempt to cure both his kidneys and my shoulder. Unable to put any weight on my right arm, there was no way I could go to yoga class, and yoga is one of the things that keep me sane.

So there we were, trapped and grumpy. Bill craved attention. I mostly craved being left alone. The more I wanted space, the more he wanted interaction, a perfectly unhappy spiral. And so, for fleeting moment, I asked myself the unthinkable. Why was I moving across the country (in an RV!) with a man who, most of the time, I just wanted him to get away from me? Was I sure I wanted to do this? Should I consider splitting up instead? This line of thought didn’t get me very far. One of the few things I’ve known for sure for the past 19 years is that Bill and I belong together. Any serious thought of separation was met by the certainty that if I ever made that move I’d regret it immediately and forever. But in the moment, all I could feel was trapped and claustrophobic. There seemed to be very little joy in our marriage.

Time passed, and things got better. It helped when, around Christmas, I read an article about a woman who literally worked herself to death and began slacking off my own work schedule a bit, letting some things happen late or not at all in exchange for one work-free day every week. The worst of the winter went by. Bill’s kidneys hurt less, and he became more mobile.

The joy was still missing though. I was still working too hard, or Bill was too focused on planning the move, or for whatever other reason. So we did two things that always work whenever our marriage hits a snag. The first is, we talked about it. I told him how claustrophobic and unhappy I’d been feeling, and how I was much less connected to him than usual.

He apologized for his kidney pain-inspired grumpiness. But then he said something that surprised me: He thought our disconnect was because his heart was already in Seattle, whereas mine was still here. And he was afraid that my subconscious didn’t really want to move.

“Of course I have mixed feelings about it, I love it here,” I said. “And I’m sure my subconscious may not want to move. But I’m confident that my conscious mind will get the rest of me to the West Coast.”

That seemed to satisfy him. Then we did the second thing that always helps, we went out together for some fun. We had brunch in Kingston and then set out on our favorite stroll by the edge of the Rondout Creek, past the tugboat museum, and the marina full of pleasure boats, the PT boat being restored, the waterside restaurants and leftover warehouses.

As we started on our walk, I thought back to a night early in our relationship, years before we married. We’d been fighting all evening and were now going out together somewhere, though I don’t remember where. I don’t remember what we were fighting about either—probably nothing of substance—but I do remember that I was completely furious at Bill, and had been for hours and hours. As I opened the door to get in the car I thought to myself that I would be perfectly happy if he left and I never saw him again. But the reasoning part of my brain reminded me that this was temporary, that he was the man I had chosen to be with, would likely be spending my life with, and that, at least most of the time, I was a lot happier with him than I was without him. Having remembered all this, I got in the car with him.

Now, standing next to him more than a decade later, I thought back to that evening. And I knew that I would always remind myself again, and again, any time, as many times as I needed, that my life without him would be immeasurably sadder and emptier. That he was my life’s partner and we belonged together.

I put my hand in the crook of his elbow. I wanted to say all this to him, about how I would remind myself as many times as it took that I loved him. But I knew it would come out sounding wrong. So instead I just said, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I hope not,” he answered. He put his other hand on top of mine.

Then we walked off together along the creek.

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To RV or Not to RV?

295799422_a02e151ca1_oBill and I are moving to the Seattle area. We know that much. And we have a target, if challenging, departure date: September 1.

Pretty much everything else is up for debate. Beginning with where, exactly, we’re moving to. “Do you have a place?” friends and colleagues asked at the ASJA conference last week. Well no. We’re planning to start out by renting and you can’t rent a place in May if you don’t plan to move in till September. We’ve looked at plenty of rental listings and rentals from the outside and even a few on the inside, and that’s about all we can do.

Besides, we don’t quite agree on where to rent. About 45 minutes from the city proper is a town named Snohomish that we both like a lot, and even if we didn’t, it would be tempting for its name alone. It’s a gem of a small town, as Bill calls it, with bars where he’s been getting gigs. Our very good friends Drew and Cindy live just a few miles away. There’s a nice Thai restaurant, a lovely used bookstore, a gorgeous yoga studio, and, this being the PNW (Pacfic Northwest, for the uninitiated), several great coffee shops. And a theater where a lot of his musical pals play every Friday night.

Not only that, unlike most of the towns around there, Snohomish has buildings that date back to the 20s and 30s. That’s a big plus for me. I’ve spent my whole life in places where history was all around. In Ulster County, stone walls built by farmers a century ago still run through the woods. Moving west I’m likely to go through Old Stuff Withdrawal.

Snohomish v. Seattle

All signs would seem to point to Snohomish. Except. That will put me a 45-minute drive outside a vibrant, happening city. How often will I actually go to Seattle? Will I really get to know it? This concern mystifies never-been-urban Bill. Woodstock is a small town, he says. You love living there.

I do love it but only because I already thoroughly know Manhattan. If not, I might find it frustrating. This is a sentiment he cannot understand no matter how many times I try to explain. He grew up in a small city 70 miles from New York and that’s about as close as he ever wants to get to it.

We talked about living in the city but the more that seemed like a reality, the more Bill couldn’t bear the idea. We talked about living in Snohomish, but the more that seemed like a reality, the more it felt to me like stepping onto a path in which nearly everything would be pre-decided for us. I’m moving 3,000 miles for your music career and you can’t live in the neighborhood I choose? I say. Snohomish is where the places I play and the musicians I play with are, he retorts. You’re moving 3,000 miles for my music career, but making it harder for me to play.

Then there’s the question of how we get there. With three cats to whom we’re absurdly devoted, we can’t fly. Maybe they’d be OK riding in a car for ten days, maybe not. But stuff has to come with us too. To Bill, this all adds up to one solution: “RV.” Or maybe “RV—at long last!” He’s been suggesting an RV trip almost since we first met. I’ve been resisting the idea for just that long. Now, with an entire continent to drive across, especially with three cats, the RV solution is sounding more logical, and he’s planning a lovely-sounding itinerary through several national parks, and studiously shopping the used RV market with my somewhat uncertain blessing.

But then he upped the ante: “Let’s live in an RV park when we get there,” he suggested, mainly because they’re inexpensive and, let’s face it, he loves the idea of RV living. My feelings about living in an RV park are similar to his about living in the middle of the city. “Maybe you should live in an RV park and I’ll go find an apartment in town!” I snapped at him.

The following morning, he burst into my office with excitement. “I think I’ve found a solution!” he told me. “We’ll have an RV in an RV park and a studio apartment in the city.”

“I said that.”

“But you were joking,” he said. (That’s a lot nicer way to put it than “being snotty” which might be closer to the truth.) “I’m serious. I’m looking at the rents of studio apartments. We could get one, and rent a space in an RV park, for less than we’d spend on a one- or two-bedroom apartment.”

So he’s found some good deals on real estate sites, but will they turn out to be places one would actually want to live? I don’t know. Will we really be able to berth an RV as inexpensively as he thinks? No clue there either. Is this just another wild idea that will evaporate in the harsh light of reality? Could be.

But this is the kind of reason I married the man. Faced with a complete disconnect of our desires, he mentally jumps the track and thinks up a solution that gives each of us what we really want.

And so, at least for now, this is our plan.

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Image: Bruce Fingerhood (Image is for illustrative purposes only. We don’t have one yet…)