It hit me in the checkout lane at Safeway five years ago. Somewhere between double-bagging the eggs and making sure he selected the unsweetened version of my almond milk, we looked at each other and I knew:
I want to be with this guy. All the time. Even during the mundane doings of life.
We’re going on week two of being apart at the moment, he in London, me in Boston going about my daily life of teaching yoga, cuddling with my cat, teaching more yoga, shopping for eggs and unsweetened almond milk, and explaining to friends who ask, that no, I do not like being apart from him. Not even for a couple of days.
Which is shocking, really, given my past affection for quality solo time.
One reformed gotta-go-it-alone pal understands my predicament, who beamed as she recalled her boyfriend too asks to tag along when off to Staples or the market. But others in relationships have responded more typically:
But isn’t that kind of nice? Being apart for a little while?”
Years ago I would have concurred vehemently. And not just during the sorry days of my previous marriage. I’ve always craved time alone. Even before the heartbreak, I looked forward to quiet walks through the soggy trails of Seattle’s Discovery Park with my standard poodle Bentley prancing alongside (in essence not alone, of course, but as anyone with a companion dog can relate, they innately mirror our current state without ever encroaching – something humans aren’t always so good at). Loved smelling the salty air and listening to hungry seagulls’ caws as I ran along the waterfront. Trolling the aisles of Elliott Bay Bookstore’s travel section for tips on planning my next adventure – maybe Morocco this time. Perhaps even solo.
Fear or sadness of being apart – from anyone – never really crossed my mind, even as a kid. When the parents signed me up to spend a summer in a small German village with a family I’d never met (“you need exposure” was a common phrase in our household), I simply shrugged. Brushed aside my angst-ridden teen pals horrified reactions to the thought of forgoing a summer working a tan, chasing idiot boys in Ray Bans playing beach volleyball or watching MTV. Nah. Time to get a passport and trot the globe my 16 year-old spirit cried. Since that trip, I’ve been trolling unfamiliar streets alone in earnest: discovering how much better tea is when a splash of milk and honey is added to it at crepe shop on London’s Kings Road; marveling at the the magnificently repurposed railroad tracks on New York City’s High Line; dodging motorbikes crossing a Ho Chi Minh City intersection. College campus courtyards have always held special appeal – lounging on a lawn surrounded by the revered halls of Harvard, Princeton, or Trinity in Dublin. Lovely and best appreciated alone.
But now I’m in love. And not so much interested in going it alone. Walks around my new town of Boston without him have morphed into daydreaming imaginary conversations as though he were next to me…
Baby, look! Isn’t this the bench Robin Williams and Matt Damon sat on in Good Will Hunting?
Our daily emails, texts, (I refuse to Skype as the screen reveals an alien-like version of myself with hollow eyes who hasn’t slept in a month) and phone calls are a combination of daily recaps and future dates when we’re together again.
In spite of being apart, however, I must point out that I am not sad. Far from it, actually. A massive sense of gratitude has enveloped me with the following insights I never imagined back in the day when I insisted on always flying solo:
- Long after one of us is gone (unless we are blessed enough to go out of this world together), the other will have a deep reserve of warm memories to recall of special times together. And yes, those times doing simple, mundane things like high five-ing after hauling a desk up two flights of stairs. My auntie Paula visited me last spring and shared memory after memory of precious moments spent with her late husband. I can’t recall the details of those memories, but the twinkle in her eye spoke volumes of the joys she felt when by his side. And still feels now every time she shares.
- Our time together allows me to view what’s in front of me through a new lens. As the only girl yawning in an audience of aging air guitar-ing fans inside a packed Beacon Theater bobbing along to “the greatest guitarist alive, Shannon!!” Joe Bonamassa, I began to appreciate his talent. Even if I’d much rather have been watching dancers pirouette across the stage at Lincoln Center instead.
- I expand instead of shrink in his presence. My naturally introverted side wanes when I encounter a lovely young couple and their rambunctious pup on the path, knowing we are absolutely going to stop, smile, pet, connect. Regardless their reaction because my man always greets everyone he sees with a warm smile and hello. I carry that with me every time I step in front of a class I’m teaching, channeling his innate nature of connecting with others to help me bridge the distance with my students.
Five more days until we are together again.