A week ago this past Tuesday, Chris drove to Castlegar, where his father and stepmother live. You'd think I'd be used to these trips by now; in one form or another, they've taken place since 2004, when Chris and I bought our first car together. Those first trips made me a little crazy. We lived in Victoria at the time. Chris was on the road, by himself, for over ten hours, including the ferry ride to the Mainland, and he was gone for not one but two weeks at a time. Sure, I had work, both at my job and at home, to keep me busy, but evenings and weekends were the hardest. I hated being apart, even though I knew it was only for a brief period.
Then I came up with an idea: Chris and I would go together. We'd drive to the Okanagan first and spend a number of days there with my mother--hit the sights, do a little shopping, take a wine tour (I was the designated driver since I don't drink). Then Chris would travel on to Castlegar while I stayed a few more days with my mother. Finally, Chris would return to the Okanagan, pick me up, and we'd make our way back home to the Lower Mainland. What I loved about this idea is we'd both spend time with our families, and I wouldn't be by myself while we were apart.
Worked for a while. Then circumstances became a little challenging for me in the Okanagan (family stuff). So, last year, Chris took his trip to the Interior of the province by himself, and I stayed home. I'd hoped things would be different this year--that some of the issues for me would be resolved with my mother and her family by now--but they weren't, so I stayed home alone again. Now, I await Chris's return. I can't wait to wrap my arms around him and know he safe and sound.
All of this is a long way of saying that, nothing would make me happier if I could avoid being alone altogether, particularly since I waited so long to find a life partner. While the time Chris has been away this trip went fast, and I've kept myself busy, I hate being reminded of what life was like when I was a single person. I hate having no one to care for but me. I hate how big the house feels. I hate having to do everything myself. I hate preparing what-I-call sad-little-meals-for-one and having no one to talk to about his day as I eat it. I hate how quiet everything is. And I hate having no one to live for but me.
The fact is--and I've written about this before--when you're in a relationship--and maybe this is characteristic only of my relationship, although I doubt it--everything is tied up in one person. The center of my universe is Chris. We moved to a place where we have no close friends (not that we've ever had a lot of friends as a couple, anyway)--no one we socialize with on a regular basis; no one we can call up at the last minute and invite over or join in whatever he's doing; no one whose house we can scoot over to and spend a couple of hours talking and laughing.
I suspect a lot of people, gay or straight, are in the same situation. Our lives are busy with some type of work, we're focused on our partners and families, and there isn't much time left for anything else. But what happens when our partners or families are temporarily not there, and we find ourselves alone, facing the big hole all around us, and wondering what would become of us if the unforeseen happened, and we found ourselves permanently alone one day.
Every time Chris is away from home for an extended period, either travelling for work or visiting his dad, I'm forced to consider the possibility, after being together for over nineteen years, of something awful happening to him, of learning to be by myself all over again, and of being without the love of my life, the man who has in so many ways transformed me for the better and given my life so much texture and depth and meaning. How do you start all over again, this time twenty years older, wondering if you can adapt to being single once more, if experiencing love a second time is possible?
I'm sure my single readers are crying crocodile tears for me. I hear the word pathetic cross their lips. I've been alone for however-many-years, you think, and it's no big deal. So what if you're by yourself? So what if you come home from work to an empty house (unless you have a pet, of course)? So what if there's no one special to share your evenings, weekends, dreams, and future with? So what if you have no one to love, or to love you back? Why is he making such a big deal out of this? After all, it's not like he doesn't have someone in his life. Enough already. Stop getting so worked up about a hypothetical situation.
Fair enough. I hear you.
But--you knew there'd be a but, right?--perhaps you've never been in a long-term relationship before. Perhaps you don't know what it's like to invest so much of your life in another human being. Perhaps you don't realize how dependent you become on your partner, for everything, really--from companionship, to support, to love, to the list-is-endless. In my case, I'm even financially dependent on Chris, as he supports the two of us while I learn to be a writer (the result of which, in the end, may never yield much of an income). As they say, all of my eggs are in one basket.
Over these past nine days while Chris was away, I've had some time to think about what my life would be like without him, and there are no easy answers around what I'd do. Obviously, I'd have to put some plans in place if the two of us suddenly became one. I guess it doesn't hurt to think about what those plans would look like, what steps you'd take first, where you'd go from the shock of losing your one-and-only to getting on with your life. I don't like to dwell on it, and I haven't--not as much as I have in the past--because I have had other things to do, too. But I don't believe putting our heads in the sand, and denying it could ever happen, is the answer either.
Whether we're gay or straight, our lives are rocked by the devastating news something unexpected happened to the person we love and have devoted our lives to. The reality of that happens to people all the time, and, as morbid as it may be, I believe we do ourselves a disservice if we don't at least consider, from time to time, what we'd do to pick up the pieces and move on. All of us have heard unfortunate stories, particularly of older women, whose husbands passed on, and who not only never overcame their overwhelming grief but who never recovered completely, who become shadows of their former selves. No one wants that to happen to them.
*(To read the posts I wrote when Chris was away last year--with a different theme--please click here and here.)