Traveling is extremely hard, leaving your relationship on pause because of it is the WORST!
I'd like to say that it's easy for me to just get on the plane and forget about everything except the trip until I return, but I'm just not built like that. If my wife and I are in the middle of some intense relationship process, the moment she drops me off at Departures can feel like a small death.
Once, a day or so before I was to fly cross-country to speak at a conference on a topic I love, we got into it, and that uncomfortable disconnection between us began to expand.
There's a rhythmic expansion and contraction to the closeness in our relationship that, while it can be uncomfortable at times, seems normal. We're at our most-loving best when we're closer—we can talk openly about issues between us or in our family and sometimes make progress toward resolving them. But being in physical proximity when the emotional distance opens between us? That can be painful for us both. Having to leave home and family when the distance is there, for me, feels like abandonment. What parent would never leave a child in distress alone? In that distant-feeling vulnerable place I can easily feel abandoned and, what's worse, travel at those times can make me feel as if I've been forced to abandon my sweet wife.
On that travel day we weren't talking much—only the simplest most essential words. No curbside "I love you" or "have a safe trip" or "come home soon." I really do get how this works on a deeper level, but when some airport policewoman is hollering at you to move along and all you want is a real embrace from your wife/lover/life partner? For me, it feels like a complete, although temporary, relationship fail.
Times like that, I tend to embrace the feelings, whatever they are and however hurtful or discouraged they find me. I'm the kind of being that believes in fully experiencing feelings, good, bad or otherwise. If I have access to music, I find some that echoes the emotions filling me up and listen to it until the feelings have passed. This works for feelings of great joy or great grief, for physical endurance as well as physical intimacy. Trouble was that, on that day, I had luggage to check, security to clear, the boarding cattle call queue ... I couldn't get to my headphones until I was on the plane and someone made the "OK to use portable devices" announcement, all of which happened about an hour later, which was also an hour too late.
I did have access to a pen and paper, and as much as I wanted my music, my music was going to have to wait.
Here's a much-revised version of the thoughts I scribbled down during that flight:
Here's Looking for You
I hate the cruel ease of our airport
romance-free zone ripping us apart
curbside kiss fractured by a barking cop
you spin away, sexy in running shorts
angry for your own reasons,
the goodbye I want crushed deep into my gut unpunctured
as you wrestle into sloppy traffic,
miss me standing around unfriendly baggage
two fingers on my lips, maudlin, not wanting to turn
toward the sterile confined journey away from you
not wanting to remember how it all ends:
only after we admit how much we missed
only after you collect me at this same curb
only after you come toward me through the mist of distance as you do
eyes gently softened
only after that, when I have been back for hours or days
is it safe to be home with you
Doesn't matter if the poem is any good. What matters most (to me) is that I found (accepted? embraced?) a way to express the moment—a way that helped me let go a bit and allow time away to pass without as much worry, without as much anxiety—and this freed me just enough to do what I had to do at the conference. The poem also found me reassuring myself; exhaling the present physical and emotional distance between us would be followed—eventually—by a gathering inhalation of closeness.
And that's exactly how it happened. Again (as the poem reminded me). I'm learning to trust that "again." It can be a good thing ... as good as breathing.