Be a damn flower!

 

You’ve heard the analogy, right? The idea that in a relationship there is a gardener and a flower. I heard about this idea years ago from a friend. I don’t remember how it came up or giving much attention to it. I just said, “huh,” and moved on.

Recently, this idea has come up a couple of times, mostly on TV dramas strangely, but it made me stop. I started thinking about this idea in the context of my own relationships and the transitions that have been taking place since the start of year.

What I’ve realized is that, holy shit, I have definitely been the Gardener. In so many of my relationships, I have taken care of the foundation and watched others grow and bloom and find success. To be clear, this is an important role, and it’s definitely not a bad thing, especially if being a nurturer is something that fulfills you.

Here’s the deal. At the start of the year, I started singing with a choir. I used to sing in choirs, a cappella groups, and perform in shows around town (usually there were Drag Queens, costumes, and songs from Rent involved). I’ve loved singing since I was a little kid, and I have  missed it so much. It has been a struggle to find the right place for it in my life as I’ve gotten older and more introverted because the things I was doing before stopped feeling right, but this has been the perfect fit.

For the last several years, I’ve been stuck in a routine of work, home, occasionally yoga, and going to Harrison’s shows. For a the first few years of our relationship, it was his various music projects, and now it’s his comedy shows. I have for sure been the Gardener in this relationship. And again, there is nothing wrong with that. I have loved watching everything Harrison has done, and I’ve loved even more when I can help him manage his many side hustles by hauling sound equipment, working the door, or critiquing a joke. Basically, I’ve made myself EXTREMELY available. My routine became the deepest of ruts, and while I have loved being there for Harrison, I wasn’t being honest with myself about the things I was missing.

Harrison is going from being basically the sole receiver to having to give a little bit, and sometimes take the role of the Gardener. And it has not been easy. So much so that I have felt an ever-so-slight bit of guilt for being less available for him or for asking and even – dare I say it – demanding support. It doesn’t help that women are professionals at this kind of guilt. There’s this silent struggle over whose commitment is more important or who gets to use the car we share to get to the thing they need to get to instead of taking the bus or a Lyft.

It’s a work in progress. Sharing sun is hard when someone has been making sure you get as much of it as possible for years… since we’re using a flower analogy.

My relationship with Harrison isn’t the only relationship in which I have been the constantly available and reliable person who can definitely pick you up from the airport because I definitely don’t have anything else going on. As life has become busier and filled with more commitments, it’s given me clearer picture of which friendships in my life are mutually supportive, and which ones have existed on a foundation of me being available for favors. That’s not to say there isn’t more to those friendships. There is, but you start noticing who shows up when you have something to show up for. Some of the people who show up might surprise you, and the people who don’t might surprise you just as much. It’s a big deal when people show up.

I made a quiet commitment to myself to get back to the things that have made me feel most like myself, and I’m taking small steps in a direction that finally feels right. I’ve always been hyper-aware of the time I ask of others, and it’s generally made me uncomfortable to ask a lot of others. But listen, it’s my damn turn to be a damn flower. Just sometimes. Is that cool?

I hope so. Because I think I was well on my way to becoming something much, much, much lower than an overly available and less than fulfilled Gardner – the doormat the work boots sit on.

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Via GIPHY

With or without you…but preferably with you

Harrison got a new job this year. It’s kind of his first real adult job with real adult pay and real adult benefits. Although, he has yet to go to the dentist, despite the fact that he knows he probably desperately needs to. One thing we did not expect was that he would have to travel for this job as much as he has. He has been to the Washington, D.C. office three times now; the first time he traveled to the D.C. office, his trip was extended, so he could go to the New York office for a day. It was planned to be a five day trip and was extended to an eight day trip, which I felt was quite long. We’ve both traveled without the other throughout our relationship for work and pleasure, but it had never exceeded five days at a time until Harrison started this job.

Whenever he is preparing to leave, I am faced with the initial blow of painful anxiety about the loneliness I am sure to feel while he’s gone. Now, maybe some would think that is a sign of a healthy, loving relationship. Maybe it is, but I can’t help but be reminded of the codependency my mother had for my (former) stepdad, and really, any man I ever saw her in a relationship with.

This same conversation has come up again and again in my head through our 7 ½ year relationship. I am half of a partnership but still one whole person. I am holding on to my independence for dear life. I can’t be like her. I can’t. I’m better than that. I am okay on my own. I always have been, and I always will be.

The first time Harrison went out of town for work, I was a complete mess. As a life-long insomniac who is finally getting a handle on it, a change to my routine or sleep environment completely destroys any progress made. I barely slept that week. At one point, I went to Harrison’s weed stash hoping that what he had would be what he refers to “sleepy-time weed” because I can’t keep the actual strains straight. (If you ever say inidca or sativa in conversation with me, I’ll pretend I know what you’re talking about, but I don’t.) I took a risk that night, and I lost. I had a serious panic attack and was convinced that when I went to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up. This is what happens when I smoke the wrong kind of weed. I am certain I will die.

I went through the same initial motions the second time he went out of town for work and again this week. When he left for his most recent trip, I had a few brief freak-outs, I Googled, “Is it normal to feel separation anxiety when your partner travels for work?” Answer: this is totally normal. Phew.

I also cried  in a Target parking lot. Going to Target has become a weird couples ritual for Harrison and me. We grocery shop there, because Red Card + Cartwheel= getting that money…or um, just spending less of it. And we make a pretty good team. We plan our meals, make lists, we get in and out in under and hour, and we keep each other from buying things we don’t need. When I’m there alone, trying to get the things that only I need for the week ahead, I feel a little lost, and I’m suddenly wandering around putting random things that look okay to consume in a basket.

I do this solo grocery shopping with the best of intentions, but deep down, I know the food may not ever be eaten because I hate cooking for one. I will inevitably be a frequent flyer at the Taco Bell drive thru.

Something was different about his last trip, though. I’d had some practice. I was able to comfortably settle into the solitude of the week alone. And it was very alone. Since his trip had him gone the week and weekend before Thanksgiving, most of my close friends were also away or had family in town. Sure, I still did not eat particularly healthily. I still went to Taco Bell, one more time than is probably acceptable. But I did slightly better than I had before. I stuck to what would be our normal routine in order to prevent severe insomnia, and that went well with the exception of the first night. I made plans for the weekend with only a short period of indecisiveness, and I actually really enjoyed my time alone. It was a great time to go see that movie that Harrison said sounded like “a total bummer.”

Harrison came home, laid down in bed and was immediately engulfed by our cats. And everything was in its rightful place again.

He’s probably going to have more trips in the coming months, and he’s going on a quick comedy tour in February. The thing I have to remind myself of is that I’ve done the solo thing before – before Harrison and for brief stints during our relationship. And damnit, I’m good at it. It’s just not my normal state after this many years of steady companionship. I have someone to go to plan meals with, to shop with, to see a movie with. I love that. But it’s easy to lose yourself in it. I’ll always be excited for him to come home, but I’m getting to a place of content and gratitude for the time I have to be alone and grow and just be.

An actual conversation

Me: I have a question and you’re not going to like my question.

Harrison: Okay.

Me: Have you clipped your toenails since we got back  from New York? (I noticed when we were visiting Harrison’s parents for Christmas that his toenails had reached an uncomfortable length.)

 HarrisonBlank stare

 Me: You’re going to stab the poor woman at the reflexology place. You stabbed me while you slept.

 Harrison: I don’t like the precedent we’re setting.

 Me: What precedent? That I have to remind you to clip your toenails?

 Harrison: I mean, why even get married? A transcript of this conversation should be our proof. (Internet- I’m providing proof that I’m basically married.)

 Later…

 Harrison: Now I have a question for you. When was the last time you took out the trash from your bathroom (yes, we have separate bathrooms) because it’s always overflowing.

 Me: You’re probably right.

We’re disgusting people, and I’m not sure when we’re going to stop living like we’re in college.

My relationship is really a prison of judgment

Me: Can you get me a La Croix (pronounced La Crotch, which is what my co-workers decided on since no one seems to know how to actually pronounce this) out of the fridge?

Harrison: Ugh, I don’t know if I like that (meaning how I pronounce the brand of delicious sparkling water). Are you up to like three of these a day now?

Me: So? It’s zero calories.

Harrison: The only thing you’ve done more than drink these is watch this show. (He’s talking about the almost 4 whole seasons of Billy on the Street I’ve watched this week.)

Me: That won’t be the case much longer because I’m almost done with it. Also, they’re short episodes, and there’s only like 10 episodes a season.

Harrison is really judgmental.

P.S. I bet someone will judge my relationship based on the contents of this post. It’s a never-ending cycle.

It must be true love

This is an actual conversation that occurred between Harrison and me. The names of the friends I was talking about are changed to characters from Daria to protect their privacy, but also because I feel like it.

Me: I know I talk about keeping the house clean a lot, but it’s because whenever I go to Jane’s house or Quinn’s house, everything looks so nice. They even make their beds. I feel inferior.

Harrison: You don’t think they feel the same way about you sometimes?

Me: What do you mean?

Harrison: You’re in a stable relationship.

Me: You think we’re stable? So you don’t want to break up anytime soon?

Harrison: Do you know what a pain in the ass that would be at this point?

He loves me.