One of the reasons I started writing again is that my husband and I are going through a separation of sorts. It is hard to know what to call it, how to view it.
I met Carl almost seven years ago, a year after I had ended a physically and emotionally abusive relationship that left me reeling. I wrote like a fiend in that year I was single, processing my pain, trying to fit things in perspective, purging all the things I didn’t have the safety to feel or acknowledge when I was with my ex. It was such an intense time, a roller coaster of emotions that had been repressed for so long, and so heady with self-discovery. Right before I met Carl I had gone to northern California by myself, for my first trip I ever took, planned, and paid for by myself. My mother had fretted about me going alone to “such a big city!” “Mom, I live in New York City – I’m in a gigantic city every day.” “And I worry about you every day!” she cried. I come from a very anxious family, and don’t exclude myself from that description, but the trip to California was amazing, everything I had hoped for and more, with no anxiety at all. When I came back to New York, I felt on top of the world.
(The picture at the top of the blog is me stepping in the Pacific Ocean for the very first time.)
Perhaps a month after I returned, Carl replied to an ad I had put on a dating site and since forgotten about, as it hadn’t gotten a single response in months. He wrote me short, sweet emails that were curious and respectful and well-composed (all rarities in internet dating!), and although our first encounters were a bit awkward, I soon fell in love with his intelligence and calm nature and dry sense of humor and the knowledge that I would be safe with him.
Not long after, I stopped writing.
One reason is that I didn’t feel comfortable writing about Carl online, since he is a much more private person than I am, and I wanted to respect that. (I still do, and am trying to keep the right balance here.)
I also thought to myself, I am so happy – I can only write when I am miserable. What could I possible have to say now? So I stopped with the daily checking-in that writing provided me, even in my own personal journal.
Last year Carl decided to apply for a fellowship to do research overseas, for a two year period. The application process was grueling in so many ways, but particularly because we had absolutely no idea how to talk to each other about it, about making such a drastic change in our lives. He wanted the work and the change and the adventure so much that he couldn’t hear how dreadful the idea of being a trailing spouse was to me, and I was so scared of the change that I didn’t listen to how important the fellowship was to him.
So he sent the application in, and I figured that statistics were on my side – I would just assume he wouldn’t get it, and shoved it off to a dusty corner in the back of my mind.
Well, I am writing this post in Europe. So much for denial.
We have been here for a year, and it has been an incredible strain in so many ways. After much fighting and depression and sadness, we mutually agreed that it made sense for me to go back to New York, while he stays to finish his work, and we will re-assess our relationship when he is done. I write this not to air our dirty laundry, but because of what has changed in my life since committing to going back.
Like I said, I haven’t written seriously in years. I didn’t even feel like writing; I felt numb. But suddenly words are just pouring out of me, like water out of a collapsed dam. I can’t sleep at night, with all of the words racing in my head. I felt fuzzy and dulled for at least a year and now I have this calm, razor focus.
It might seem that I’m suggesting that Carl is somehow responsible for my writing slump, seeing that I stopped writing when we met and am only starting again now that we’ll be living apart. But really, it has so little to do with him, and so much to do with me.
I wanted safety so bad after my ex that I sacrificed a part of my life that I found useful and fulfilling because I didn’t want to rock the boat. Because it might make Carl uncomfortable. Or because it might force me to realize my dissatisfaction with various parts of my life. Because if I grew or changed, I might lose my safe haven. Yet this stubborn denial of myself turned a safe haven into a small, suffocating box – for both of us.
(Pretty clichéd, right? But it’s a cliché for a reason. I know I’m not the only woman to fall in this trap.)
It’s only now that I was able to say hey, I really need to go back, I really want this, that things started to change. So my goal here is to exercise my rusty voice, aiming for clear, compassionate honesty. Let’s see how it goes.