I have been given a great gift. I have been awakened, and I didn’t even know I was asleep.
I have awakened from a long period of taking my marriage for granted. Not that I didn’t value it…but I had forgotten how much I value it. I was asleep with nearly 30 years of acceptance, complacency, familiarity, and assumption. Not that it was always that way, of course. In the beginning, and for many years, it was different. But if time brings good things to a relationship, it can also rob it of its freshness, its excitement, the thrill of the unknown. And for all of the sweetness and joy, for all the added richness children bring, there is also a cost of time, money, and frequently, priority. The primary relationship makes room for the family. But you know the story. The children grow up, launch, move on. And while the relationships with both our son and daughter remain vital and loving, the dynamics have changed. We are two again, have been for a few years now.
Living in Alaska has been challenging in many ways. It has been exciting and an empty nest adventure, but it has also been stressful and difficult. Work, logistics, climate: they have all been stressful personally, professionally, and in this most recent location, stressful to the relationship. I find that I don’t like living alone while Rob works out of town.
How is it that I can be 50 years old and yet feel like a teenager inside? How is it that I once again find myself excited when Rob is coming home? Thinking about little things to show him that he has been missed, is loved, is appreciated with a renewed sense of anticipation and joy? It is surreal. I am in the same relationship with the same person who has been my husband and partner since 1981, and yet when we’re together now I feel 16 again. What is that about?
Separation doesn’t always lead to a good thing. Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder. But time apart can illuminate how important it is to be together. Time apart can remind you that there is someone you want to be with, that you’ve chosen to be with, that you long to be with. That is where I find myself. This past two years of living a commuter lifestyle has shown me that after all this time, I am still satisfied with the choice I made long ago. Over 30 years a lot has happened. Neither Rob nor I are the people we were…of course not! We’ve matured, aged, changed, grown, evolved into the adults we are now. I admit, looking back, the 20 year olds who got married with such naiveté were babies…how did we even have the courage to take that step at that age? I suppose the answer is that the young are fearless. Anything seems possible at 20.
Now, at 50 (alright, he’s still just 49, but who’s counting?!) we’ve had the roller coaster experience that life brings to most people: the ups and downs, good and bad. We have had our times of disillusionment, of discouragement. Without experiencing any visible tragedy, we have known the wearing down of heart that comes from the accumulated toll stress takes on the human spirit. We have reached burnout.
So we began to look for new direction, and the challenge of going through this together has awakened in me interest, excitement, hope, desire…for the future, for my partner, for myself. I feel like I’m on the brink of something amazing. But this is not just about a change of address or a change of job. This encompasses a change of heart, a renewal of commitment, the energy to focus on the partner in my life who has been with me all the way. I am hopeful and full of anticipation. And I’m 16 inside…an exciting experience for a 50 year old, and a good place to be, after all. I don’t know where life is taking us, but I’m excited to be part of the journey, and to experience it with my partner, my lover, my friend, my husband.