Today I’m leaving Mister
Updated: Oct 23, 2019
I'll be gone two months this time. I’m heading to Florida to focus on writing, and he’s staying in Virginia to work.
It took so long to find him; why do I keep leaving him?
For me, like a lot of women pushing retirement, glories of the post-50 life include a more flexible schedule, and a house inherited from in-laws. (Thank you - again - Dick and Peggy, for being such great savers. And for retiring in sunny Sarasota and not snowy Rochester.)
So over the years, those blessings have enabled a pattern of sorts – me going off to be alone. After a busy, loud few days (usually around the holidays), I feel like a planet that’s exploded, my pieces floating away – like I’m no longer whole. I tell Mister I need some time to collect my bits.
The first time I left was when I’d saved enough to go to a wellness resort in California for a month. I’d gained a lot of “celebration” weight since we'd wed and wanted to get back to myself again.
That airport goodbye was miserable, anxious, full of self-doubt. I packed pictures of us in my suitcase, and candles, and I made a little shrine on the dresser in my room. So corny, and so comforting. (The retreat, as it turned out, was an excellent use of time and money – it reshaped my body and my eating habits for several years.)
I've left Mister many times since. A driving trip to New England (where I first had fried sage leaves - a revelation - and learned that virtually all of Vermont appears to have been styled by Martha Stewart). A southern Virginia road trip to visit wineries. And many, many drives to Florida, where I try to have at least one or two tiny adventures along the way.
Each little retreat leaves me with a notebook full of ideas for my work, and clarity about my life's priorities for the next few years: more time with nieces and nephews, moving away from the gridlock of DC once Mister has fully retired, writing a song and playing it on my guitar. Learning how to play guitar ;-)
I have friends who are adamant that they want nothing to do with alone time. It can open the door to darkness, so their protection is to just keep moving, with company. I respect that, but after a lifetime of sleeping between two sisters and sharing a bathroom with older brothers, I scrimped on everything after college to afford a one-bedroom with no roommates. My first night there, I pulled a chair up to the balcony window and sat for hours in silence, in the dark, gazing at the highway lights and off-gassing twenty years of proximity to other people.
But what if your SO doesn't have the same need? Coveting aloneness in a marriage can be tricky. I remember reading that Paul and Linda McCartney had only spent 11 nights apart during the whole of their marriage. I thought that was the most romantic thing I’d ever heard. That’s the way you’re supposed to feel, if you have a successful marriage, right? Me and you, and you and me? So happy together?
So what does it mean that you really enjoy the occasional business trip, and having the tv remote and the bed to yourself?
Well, it probably means you really enjoy watching girl shows and hogging the pillows. AND you still love your Mister. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
If you need time to collect your bits, you should take it, if you can. Taking a break lets your brain recharge, jumpstarts your creativity, and makes you more productive, among other things.
Here's what we’ve learned over the years to make alone-time work -- for both of us.
Saying you want time alone can be very threatening. It conjures up every boyfriend or girlfriend who ever said It’s not you, it’s me. Ask what do you think of this idea? Ask are you comfortable with it? Ask are you worried in any way? Just ask.
Talk about why it’s important to you. Explain what you want to do with that time.
Interrupting your “couple schedule” is a hardship on your partner. You need them to handle their chores and yours. They may need to wrestle with jealousy demons and self-esteem chinks. You will certainly forget your hiking boots and need them taken to the post office.
You are taking some “me” time for a reason; be intentional about that reason. If it’s because you want to remember who you are after your kids leave home, or you want to regain your fitness, or to immerse yourself in a writing project, or just to sleep, do your best to stay on track. Telling your SO you’re going away – sometimes even with joint-account money – and then coming back with bags of new clothes may make them dubious next time. Unless you were clear that you just needed time to shop your ass off. Then, go for it.
Leaving Mister always seems easy enough in principal, but as the day draws near, we begin to sleep a little closer and kiss a little longer. We make time to talk to each other. We notice each other more. We are rejuvenated.
Maybe that’s reason enough to take a sabbatical.