Despite (or perhaps as evidenced by) my multitude of serial monogamous intimate relationships, I am a runner. Over the years, and after two harmful formative relationships, I have developed the beautiful capacity to check out. And, by check out I mean that I pack my bags and leave.
Over the past three years, K and I have experienced our challenges: divorces, the illness and death of this mother, job loss and search, a short break-up, depression/anxiety and addiction struggles, PhD program searching and acceptance, move planning, surgery. These have not been easy years.
Yet, they have been beautiful years. We have separated and returned to each other. We are negotiating the structure of our relationship- creating together. We are learning to navigate stress and appreciate the skills that each of us bring to challenging situations. Me- planning. He- deep calm. We have figured out that we need to and how to communicate (and we are trying to practice this each day). We are committed to marriage and supporting the best in and for each other across our lifespans. We are learning to disagree, argue, listen, and reconcile. We are practicing active love; challenging the “we should” and building “we want”.
I still default to running in difficult times. This spring has been especially trying as we navigated choosing a PhD program and relocation, took a good hard look at our differing attitudes and styles towards job searching and finances, begin to make and fulfill commitments towards moving tasks and decisions, and enter the process of leaving and grieving – all while maintaining healthy communication, acknowledging feelings, and an actively intimate partnership. It is a lot.
There have been moments in which I have felt overwhelmed by the long to-do lists. Discouraged by our differing styles of planning and work. Moments in which I have not recognized his gestures of intimacy and romance and so felt isolated and distant. In these moments, I have reached to friends, family, and my therapist to talk through experiences, identify the uncomfortable spaces, practice self-care, and plan communicative connection with my spouse. Each week, with each difficult conversation, I have recommitted to my spouse and our relationship.
I am choosing to run toward love.
Today, K and I spent the morning enjoying mani/pedis in his preparation for surgery. We packed overnight supplies; he in charge of technology and meds and me in charge of paperwork, clothes, and food. We drove out to Springfield; talking about surgery, life and our relationship. And, through the pre-op preparation we smiled and joked- readying for 2:30pm. I did the things spouses do; tie up the gown, insert the plastic nose ring, offer my hand during IV placement, listen and take-in operative and post-op instructions, give the kiss, share the “I love you”, watch the bed roll away, tell the doctor I’d be in the waiting room, text shared love and concern with his sister, and cry.
Tears began to swell as they inserted anti-anxiety medication into his IV. As they placed the cap onto his head. As the nurse pointed out the time for “bye for now” kisses. As he rolled away, they poured down my cheeks. Silently, with red eyes, I locked myself in the waiting room bathroom and sobbed out fear, hope, and love. A silent prayer to G-d to take care of him. A silent acknowledgment to my self that I love him deeply. That he is my person. And that I’m not running away any time soon.