Right now (which for me is the 11th of November) I’m still south of Gainesville, sitting upstairs on the Megabus that is carrying me from Orlando to New Orleans. The wifi is painfully slow, and I’ve run down my phone; the few passengers around me are sleeping for the most part, even though it’s going on 10 in the morning.
All of us started at the same little station, a yellow building in Orlando that was previously occupied by a series of failed buy-here-pay-here car dealerships. We’re all going somewhere, though conversation doesn’t seem much encouraged on the bus -- there was an announcement about keeping our phones and voices low at the same time the driver told us about the wifi.
I watched some of the other passengers say their goodbyes before Ed (my husband) and I fumbled a bit through our own -- maybe because we dated long distance and got kind of pretty used to the rhythm of that separation, we’re rather pragmatic about them. After all, whichever of us is leaving is totally coming back.
And while I was going to say we’ve never been that couple clinging to each other in an airport departure area, we’ve already texted and gchatted enough to kill my phone battery.
When I think about partners being separated, business trips and military deployment are the first two things that spring to mind. This is neither of those situations, though I’ve done the business trip thing, too. Military deployment seems extra difficult, because it’s long and because there’s more uncertainty. The world being what it is, I have no idea how people manage this kind of separation -- and it’s becoming more common.
Even so, this is the longest Ed and I have been apart since we moved in together and there’s something about it that feels very strange. I mean, I married Ed because I enjoy spending time with him -- the sudden lack of him, even as I am thrilled to be going on this adventure, is like looking at a room and knowing something is different without being able to see what.
Not that I am comparing Ed to furniture -- because that isn’t true (and also because it isn’t flattering). It’s more that some people become an integral part of our daily experiences and life. And that’s wonderful.
It’s wonderful but if that were to ever stop me from going on independent trips, I think it would quickly become stifling. While I would never begrudge anyone their travels as a pairing or partnership or couple, I think travel by yourself is so gloriously freeing. That’s especially true if you’re a people-pleaser who worries about whether or not everyone else is having a good time.
I am not unaware of my own neuroses; I get that a lot of people can take the “just stop worrying about it” advice but I never can. If I’m in any way responsible for hosting (and sometimes even when I’m not), I want to facilitate the best experience you can have doing whatever we’re doing. If I’ve invited you to something, that experience is my gift to you -- of course I want it to be as good as possible.
Maybe this means that I really ought to suck it up and take a cruise and let someone else take care of me and my experience, but what it has historically meant is that I really like going places by myself. I feel a lot more capable of this lately so I bet that’s what it’s going to mean for me again. (I’m lucky to have a partner who is chill with this -- but that is part of why we are a good match and have a good relationship.)
A friend of mine, though, has always seemed concerned by the way Ed and I travel separately, like it’s a poor omen or a sign that we aren’t excited about being together. That does seem to be the case for some people -- I’ve heard from a lot of folks who don’t seem to much like their partner. Maybe that’s the pivotal point: neither Ed nor I are taking vacations from each other when we travel alone. We’re heading toward something, not away from something else.
People are waking up around me and we’re pulling in at the Gainesville station. People are climbing off for smoke breaks and I want to stretch my legs because I’ve got ten more hours of this bus trip. I walk the aisles and plug in my phone because Ed has texted me again and I want to keep him posted about where I am -- but also I want to take some pictures and read my Kindle and start anticipating where I’m going.
I’m going to miss Ed; I don’t want to say that’s part of the pleasure of being gone but it’s definitely a reminder of why I enjoy spending time with him in the first place. It makes coming home all the sweeter. And I have the comfort of knowing that I’ll be coming home.
What do you do when you’re apart from your partner? How comfortable are you with long separations? By the time you read this, I'll have been apart from all of you for almost a week, too!