chris and me + moving away: how maryland's been on our relationship

 My handsome, handsome love | Catoctin Mountain Park | August

My handsome, handsome love | Catoctin Mountain Park | August

Let’s talk about the ways we love, and fail to love each other. Let’s talk about them even though it’s hard.

This move brought with it a storm of homesickness that stunned and stunted my first days and weeks in Maryland. Like everything in life, the move was harder than I expected, and hard in ways I didn’t expect.

I didn’t expect the sadness, no, but I also didn’t expect how I’d respond to the sadness. How it would make me both silent and combative, how it would shape this season for me and Chris.

I don’t like sharing my failings (who does?), but I’m been learning about myself, about who I am when I’m vulnerable, who I become when I feel lost, and I like sharing what hurts and what heals.

We got out here, and in the first, borderless week, I felt these gaping holes open—not just missing Minnesota, or missing family and friends (though both were there), but missing the stability of knowing the place on the globe I occupied. It was bigger than homesickness, but included homesickness, but also needed a language separate homesickness. Something that included loss and being lost, but also included brightness: notes of curiosity and excitement.

Before all these knots of pain and fear and dislocation, I became what I’ve never been before—a stonewall. I went silent when I couldn’t find a way to explain what it was I was feeling, and when I could explain it in ways that made sense to me, but not to Chris, I got harsh.

(This is what I didn’t want to talk about—the ways I responded when I was hurting. I get why babies scream, and toddlers hit. We want to give our pain a name that someone else will recognize.)

Who knew that I, overly articulate and expressive to the point of exhaustion, would meet my sadness, and fall silent before it? Who knew my emotional interior would become so complex I’d lose my arsenal of language?

One night, I sat on our kitchen floor and cried, so angry and ashamed that my first experience of our adventure out here was one of sadness and retreat. Chris took the floor next to me, and took my hand, and said “I know you feel safest when you’re alone with your pain. I don’t know how to join you in that right right now, but I want to. Can we find ways to let me care of you too?”

It’s heartbreaking and humbling to have your partner ask you to make room for him. Chris is a warrior for us, and he keeps us strong when I flounder. He’s tender and brave in ways I’m still learning, and while I’ve thrashed through my discomfort and sorrow, he’s waited for me.

This move is our first striking out on our own. We’re each other’s only people out here. It’s just us, and when we decided to move, that was the exciting part: who were we going to be when there’s no one and nowhere else for us to go?

--

One month in, and I think we’ve come through the worst of of the dislocation. We’ve named the varied sadnesses of living away from home, and we’re learning to negotiate the ways those sadnesses manifest themselves. It’s only been a month, but in relationship years, it’s been long. We’re grown and stretched and fortified ourselves. Built new forms of trust, and stripped away more layers of year. Hard work for four weeks time, but good, good work.

I’ve called him this before: Chris is my miracle of love. He’s my radical re-education in how to receive love, how to be loved. We wouldn’t have moved here if we didn’t trust completely that the love we share would hold us. But it didn’t take long for us to find these bumps, these failed experiments and wrong turns and accidental crossroads that can weaken relationships not ready for them.

We talk in terms of lessons, and Chris has been kind enough to approach my frustration, and stonewalling, and furious sadness as lessons. Already, we’re stronger for what we’ve learned. More intimate and more attuned to one another. Already I see the playing out of the single faith that brought us here: That the together is the home, and that inside the together, we can do anything, be anything, become anything.

I am grateful, and grateful, and grateful for a partner who is patient with me. Who is tender and empathetic and willing to weather my storms. He’s learned the extraordinary lesson that it’s pain that makes us painful, and he soften when I harden. His is a love of returnings, of circling back and back to my points of pain and shame. He’s showing the love of unconditionals. In turn, in all my messy, frustrated, frustrating ways, I hope I’m showing him the same.

Right now, this move feels like a half-framed house. Please stay in it with me. It’s in the building that we’re finding all this beauty, that we’re strengthening and steeling our love, that we’re becoming, together, ourselves.