At some point this year, my boyfriend Zane may take off for Italy or Spain, Turkey or Argentina.
He may go for two weeks or two months, or maybe even six — and all without me.
And, yes, as madcap and risky as it may seem, I’ve signed off on the plan, championed it from the very first even, while imagining, with bittersweet joy, the grand adventure he’d have.
I know: throwing my support behind such a journey does not sound like a decision someone in a loving, committed relationship would make. It’s in fact more likely I’ve waded too deep into the crazy pool or taken to courting disaster. At least, these are the assessments I imagine others will make. Some may even wonder if this is perhaps my own sneaky attempt at leave-taking or a bid, drastic and ill-conceived, to shore up a faltering bond.
But the truth is Zane and I are still very much in love, and his desire, long-held but denied, is one I have always believed would positively transform his life. In the four years we’ve been together, I have heard the hunger, and the fear, in his voice when he talks of chasing what always feels so impractical, seen the light in his eyes at the thought of so fully immersing himself in another culture he begins to dream in its tongue. And I have felt, too, his sadness, at confining himself to much less — which is why I have remained open to the possibility he may one day trade in his yearning for a wild and sweeter calling.
Nothing is definite, but we have been talking about now being the perfect opportunity. For quite some time, Zane has been ensnared in a painful listlessness. His many hopes and plans, so large and electric when I met him, have fallen to fallow ground amid bouts of depression that make motivation a fleeting companion.
The flint of resolve needed to steer himself toward more expansive possibilities has been at best flimsy, but with his lease up in May, and no option to renew, it seems life has decided to force his hand, to quite literally push him out of his inertia.
It would be easy for him to simply find another apartment or house to rent, easier still to invite him to move in with me. We have talked noncommittally about both of those options, but I admit I get excited at the prospect of him packing up his life for a six-month sojourn abroad. Maybe it is naivete or foolish optimism on my part to believe this would not be a burden to our relationship, that somehow, over such a span, our happily tethered hearts would be immune to tendrils of doubt and mistrust.
I know it will not be easy. I know I will be sad. I will miss him terribly, worry, at times obsessively, and no doubt question the choice we have made. He may decide to stay wherever he goes. His life, and mine, may take completely different paths that sunder the ties we hold dear. It might even be wiser, especially if he decides to travel for six months or more, to make our break at the start rather than face a yawning unknown.
There is so much to weigh and consider. Zane himself has said being away from me and his family are his biggest reservations.
But this, too, I know: I will celebrate every moment that feeds his spirit, wakes his dreams and opens him up to his life. This, to me, is what you wish for those you love, the courage and freedom to inhabit the very marrow of joy, to rouse from their slumber the most vibrant of imaginings. To be so fully alive and immersed in what brings us deep fulfillment may require leaning into our fears and releasing their weight to the past. And, without trying to be sacrificial or saintly, this is what I want for Zane, that in daring to tear down his own darkness, he will discover the gold in its wake.
It was he, after all, who first reached for me with such a generous love in his hands. Years ago, when we’d gone our separate ways, these words, in a text he sent, baffled me: “I want you to be completely free in your life,” he wrote. Considering they were followed by “I love you always,” I was thrown into a tizzy of analysis. Was he saying he was letting me go, even though we were already no longer together, but that he would always love me? Was he saying he’d been hoping for reconciliation but was now abandoning hope? Did he mean there were loose ends he wanted to talk about so we could both move on with our lives? What was he trying to say?
As it turned out, he, too, wanted all I am now wishing him. By saying he wanted my freedom, he later acknowledged he was supporting the highest vision of what I hoped for my life. He was looking forward to the day when I would be released from all that was holding me back and cast, willing and eager, at the wide-open gate of my dreams, even if he would not be there to witness that surfeit of joy.
When I talked, after we reunited, of a yearning to work with kids in Africa, I joked I might not return from whatever country I chose to visit. His simple response was, “That would be a sad but glorious day.”
That absence of neediness, even while we both realize how difficult that kind of separation would be, has made me feel more loved than a vow of eternal devotion ever could.
Yes, I do think it would be amazing if we took off together for distant shores someday, and I have been known to utter many a sentence beginning with, “When we move to Brazil ….” But for now, while I’m rooted to a house I just bought and other commitments that will see me well into next year, I am open to Zane doing whatever it will take to shake him from this stasis.
Even if the experience of living in another country challenges him in less-than-comfortable ways, it seems a more exhilarating path than walking the one he’s been on. And if not now, then when? We’re young, unmarried and living in an age of instant global connection. We’re also so much in love I can only hope that connection is the one to ultimately sustain us wherever his heart may roam.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times