Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Point of Nomadic Return

I wasn't nervous the day of my wedding. Giddy perhaps, and in desperate need of redirecting circulatory flow to my mid-section by removing my Spanx, but not anxious or nervous or wondering if we were doing the right thing. The thought of "this better last forever" never surfaced, and from the day he put the ring on my finger and asked me to marry him (and then later told me he was going to put the ring in a hotdog and propose to me whilst I chowed down in front of a campfire but then thought better of it), I cannot recall any thoughts of hesitation creeping into my consciousness. I wanted to marry this man within two months of securing our long-distance relationship (although, I never told him that), and was dreaming of a family, a home, road trips, camping, gardening... incessantly talking him into watching mindless chick-flicks every Saturday night on the couch for years on end... long before he was considering a life with me.

Nearly eight years, two kids, several career changes and one intrastate transplant later, that naive, unwavering, this-is-a-sure-thing attitude has undoubtedly been tested more times than either of us would like to admit. Courtship is a blissful whirlwind, jam-packed with highs that you assume will remain undiluted. And at the time, it seems incomprehensible that any doubts could sideline the commitments you've made to one another. But, the reality is, life will laugh in your face, with its hot halitosis humor, and sufficiently shake your solidarity and lead you through a series of introspection and self-questioning.

Thus far, through every Listerine-inducing episode, we've managed to emerge hand-in-hand, and usually more minty-fresh than when we started. However, this whole nomadic gig that he is now undertaking, and doing so with incredible success I must add, has introduced an entirely new level of stinkyness to our commitment-freshening efforts.

The nomad is amazing at what he does. His ability to talk to absolute strangers, quickly build a foundation of understanding with them and thereby knowledgeably advise them on an intangible product of which it is his job to sell blows my mind. (My only experience in sales was in the fourth grade: Girl Scout Cookies. And my pitch went something like, "I'm sure you've already bought cookies, haven't you? And I doubt you want any of these?" I'm sure my troop leader handed over that badge out of pity.) So, seeing how affluent he is at what he does never ceases to amaze me. And, he LIKES it. I mean, this man LIVES to sell. He enjoys meeting new people. (Yuck.) And he nimbly interprets cues and body language, deftly working his subject without aggression. And while taking the next step in his career meant significant travel for him,  for me it meant embracing his passion and desire to provide for his family and willingly accepting that he would sometimes be gone.

And, I can say I accepted it. I can say I understood and that it's just "part of the job." But, the humid, hot-breath reality of it all is that, not-so-deep down, I resent it. I resent the whole thing. The day before he leaves, I feel myself hardening. Stoicism creeps in, and my defenses tighten. "Another trip? Sure, no problem. I'll handle it like always. Be safe. Call me when you get there." (Insert unfeeling hug, short peck, and a superficial attitude of "I gotta run. Laundry to do and lunches to pack.") And no matter how many times we've been through this preliminary routine, I can't seem to swallow down the bitterness that creeps up.

I don't WANT to be a single mom. I don't WANT to be the only caretaker of my children. It's scary knowing you are the only nurse in the ward. And as much as I want to be able to say "We're in this together, we always have been, and we always will be," I can't let go of the unwavering reality that I will never, not ever, be happy when he leaves.

And yet, there he stands, suitcase and business-shirts in hand, hesitant to walk out that door for the week. He has no more appetite to leave us than we have for him to go. What's the advantage? Yes, some well-deserved quiet and a few nights of uninterrupted sleep. But at what price? Five nights in a lonely hotel room, eating alone and subjecting his brain to the anethestic that is crappy reality TV? And, before opening the door to leave, he silently supresses guilt and masks his desire for me to simply hug him like I mean it... for more than two seconds... and to say, "I love you. And I'll miss you. And we'll be fine while you're gone."

I know that's what he wants, because that's what I want. I want to give him the support he deserves, and I want him to know I love him and that I understand he doesn't choose to be away from us. And as ardently as I've tried to embrace this reality with love and squash my resentment, I can't seem to walk away unscathed, and therefore neither can he.

Looking back, do I wish things had turned out differently? Or do I hold fast to those early years together, remembering the commitment we made to each other? A bit of both. But, when it comes down to it, we started down this road together, the nomad and I. And we vowed we'd never turn back. Look back, yes. There are amazing memories back there, after all. And turning around to look over them now and again realigns our perspective, and helps me get through these sometimes lonely days. I cling to them, and hold them dear... until the day the nomad returns, and we continue on our journey... together... as minty-fresh as we can stand.

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