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.