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.