This is the worst time of the year for me.

For 5 weeks in a row Tim flies out of town on Tuesday and doesn’t return until Friday.  During that time he is often too busy to even text me much less have a real phone call.  When he does have time to talk he’s usually so tired that I can see the cartoon bubble popping out of the side of his head and the text inside says “God, will this guy shut up so I can go to sleep”.  I know this because I have been with him on some of these trips so I have first hand experience on how hard they are on him.  I never realized how hard they would be on me.

I know couples that spend large amounts of time apart.  Maybe that’s how their relationships evolved, maybe that’s how they started, I don’t know.  Tim and I have always spent a lot of time together and now that we share a home there are days when we are within 40 feet of each other from around 8am when he gets home from the gym until we go to bed.  I’m usually in my office and he works off of the kitchen table but I know he’s just around the corner.  I have no idea if he takes any solace knowing that the reverse is also true.  His presence usually calms me unless he’s having a “Day” in which case I can always take the dog for a LONG walk.

There is a Star Trek episode where “Data”, the Android, is trying to explain how he feels friendship. Forgive me if I don’t get this right but he says something like “I have become accustomed to your presence”.  I must be part Android because I have become accustomed to my husband’s presence and it sends me completely off balance when he is gone.

Like I said and to add insult to injury, he is often so occupied with his work that he can’t text or even respond to a text.  Phone calls are out of the question so he’s just gone.  Normally we have a rule that we will always respond to each other.  This arrangement is more about being angry with each other but we have agreed that no matter how upset we might be with each other, we will always respond even if it’s just a quick text.  We do this because both of us know how random life can be.  We’ve both seen how quickly people can be swept off the planet and as unlikely as it might be that either one of us will suffer that fate, for a host of reasons we agreed a long time ago not to torture the other by going dark.  So when he does go dark during these periods of agreed upon radio silence, it can send me into a bad place.  Sometimes I can’t eat, my head feels fuzzy, I’m constantly tired; it’s depression and it’s pretty full-on.

I try to stay busy.  I try to stay busy when he’s here so it’s no different when he’s gone.  I can muddle through my days and generally not feel too beat up but it’s the afternoons and evenings that suck.  I hate eating alone, I hate cooking alone, I’m not a huge fan of watching TV alone so I live on Pot Pies and Santa and I watch old movies on Netflix.

I don’t know how many of you have heard of the documentary “Bridegroom”, but it’s about a Gay couple that had been together 6 years when one of them accidentally fell off of a 4 story roof while taking pictures of a friend.  He died and his family took his body and would not let his partner attend the funeral.  Thanks to the internet and Crowd Funding, what was going to be a You Tube video was turned into a full blown movie.  It’s pretty apparent that the surviving partner was a kind soul because he could have viciously attacked his partner’s family but he did not.  But watching a movie by yourself that is centered around having your partner suddenly die was probably not the best idea.  I knew Tim was fine but I felt much better after I heard his voice that evening.

After almost 8 years I thought these feelings would fade away.  I had years of gut wrenching anxiety and fear of loss when we first met but after we got married I think I finally realized that neither of us was going anywhere.  But now the dreaded 5 week separation is here and all of those senseless feelings of anxiety and fear of loss come exploding back.  He does text me when he wakes up, texts or calls before he goes to bed and generally sneaks a few phone calls or at least a handful of texts during the day and yet I can still somehow find a way to make every moment of silence a tiny little piece of torture.  After 5 weeks it’s like death by a thousand cuts.  I didn’t mention that when he returns from these trips he’s usually so exhausted that any explosions of romanticism and passion simply don’t happen.  That bland reception which I know is exhaustion and nothing else, still cuts away at me.  By the end of week 5 I am as beaten down as I ever want to get.

There is a solution.  Last year I did two 500 mile treks.  One Trek was done while Tim was at home alone so I think he got a taste of what it’s like to be alone; completely alone.  The second trek was done while we were both on the road so we exchanged texts and emails when we could; Skype or phone calls were almost out of the question because of the time differences, but we were both content to hear from each other often enough.  I was with a group, he was with his co-workers, we were surrounded by people that would protect us and certainly knew how to reach out if there was a problem.  That was a good solution.

This year our 16 year old Labrador requires daily attention.  She’s pretty much incontinent, has gotten fussy about what she will eat, and even though we have people  that would step in and help with her, the Doberman also requires a lot of attention.  At two years old, Santa requires a lot of exercise and affection.  This is a crucial phase in her development and for Bailey, the Lab, it’s her winding down time.  This is not the time for both of us to be gone at the same time.

I envy the couples I see that can somehow spend weeks or months apart and seemingly have no anxiety.  For those of you who have mastered this trick, please share your secrets with me.  I’m tired of feeling this way every time I drop Tim off at the airport.  I know he’s coming back and it’s really only a few days, but it seems like a fucking eternity.

I guess the good news is that you wouldn’t feel this way about someone you didn’t love.  I just wish love wasn’t so cruel sometimes.

Joe Jeter, February 26, 2016