A few weeks from now, my husband is leaving me. He’s leaving me, his home and work to go on a 3-month bicycling journey; dipping his front wheels first in the Atlantic Ocean and then 10 states later, into the Pacific Ocean. He has wistfully spoken of this desire for years all the while being the responsible father to our family, working hard and providing the means for a lovely and beautiful life together. About a year and half ago, he wholeheartedly committed to it on the calendar.
Upon hearing of this trip, a friend asked Mark, “how did your wife allow you to do this?” I shake my head in wonder at this kind of comment. Have we fallen for too many sappy love songs with the "I'm never ever in a gazillion years going to leave you" theme? Sure I’m his wife, partner in parenting, washing dishes, and co-owner of a business for the last 26 years. I have faith in our relationship and I've already disclosed to him my deep down fear; "after these three months, what if you don't want to come home? You know, living the easy life out there on the road care-free of messy responsibilities like a dirty garage and bills to pay?" His reply, "well I'm glad you aren't worried about some mack truck barrelling into me on the highway somewhere." There are many agreements we've worked through in this marriage, but I just can't find it in me to say, "No, you can’t do that--that thing you so obviously love." Taking the oppositional stance as is my wont; I ask simply, “who am I to not allow my husband to do this?” (I’m pretty stoked to have some time to myself, in case you are wondering.)
We have two daughters in their early 20’s. We are both in our early 50's and blessed with excellent health. We have the choice to make today more important than that culturally popular "I'm gonna do _____ (fill-in-the blank) when I retire phase. We have both lost our fathers in the past 5 years and in that sacred place close to mortality, we have vowed to each other "gotta do what we want now." Looking into that fuzzy future called tomorrow; we know it is a shorter and always an uncertain path than the one previously walked.
I have seen us share more tenderly with each other knowing around the corner, I’ll be eating garlic-infused meals without him; griping about daily events to an empty space and going to bed without his oh-so-warm body to snuggle against. I’ll be living the familiar life with friends/environment/favorite summer happenings for those three months; while he’ll wake up in a tent in a new campground for 90 days straight.
When we first met in Austin, TX in 1985, I had three days of training before moving back to Phoenix. Our relationship began long-distance and grew fast and furious until four months later Mark moved to Phoenix. Within a few months we spit out the "marriage" word. How do we cultivate a relationship long-distance at this point in our lives? Don’t really know. We look into each other’s eyes a bit deeper right now before this separation and I love the feeling. I have fully supported this adventure for him, yet I know the real truth will be in the experience of living through it.
I love to talk about the concept of being afraid of dying; and if I’m afraid of dying, am I afraid of living?...... taken from the “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” How we prepare for our death is similar to how we live our lives. How we manage the myriad of transitions in our life; whether in chaos, kicking and screaming, or with gusto and passion, can be a reflection of the BIG transition we all must go through. Is it easier to hold onto or let go of something so precious and alive like my man? I realize this isn't a painful position to be in like divorce or death of the partner, but it's still a transition. It's not about being easy, really. The challenge is in adapting to the situation; adapting to being without the other in those small moments when I'm desparate for a back rub and he's not around with his warm and caring hands.
I say, "Go, my husband. Go and live the cycling life." I'll be singing Patty Griffin's oh-so-beautiful song "I"m gonna left him fly" as you cycle away from me (even though the lyrics of that song don't carry the sentiment for our separatioin.)....... And may your butt be all the better for it.