Well, my apologies. The firm plan was to write a short piece on Sunday evening for the usual Monday posting. But each hour and minute faded away and before long it was bedtime and then the alarm went off. And then I found myself on a plane.
Those who read my blog know by now that my spouse, Marc, travels for his work. He has always done so. The last few years more than usual. I have had opportunities to go with him on some business trips but frankly, sitting in a hotel room doesn’t seem too appealing. And if he must entertain customers and cohorts in some packed steak house with lots of alcohol involved (by others as we don’t imbibe spirits) at the end of the day, you can see where that might leave me. Dying to get outside for fresh air, quietness and then a good book while propped up in bed. I mean, I’d happily go to a concert or take evening stroll by a lake, garden or even a tinkling creek. Or a fun venue where we could dance–but this is work time for Marc, not time to hang out, have a blast with his wife. No, travelling with him is like being at home–he goes to work, returns home tired and full of work talk, and we eat and so on.
Plus let’s face it, going to an area, say, in Mexico where one needs to be escorted from airport to hotel to manufacturing sites and back again–well, this rules out leisurely meanders along fascinating streets. Not to mention the uncertain clean water issue, since I would not be ensconced in a luxurious tourist resort. (Trust me, in all likelihood I’d become stricken; I have an unpredictable stomach as it is.)
Marc used to go to Japan frequently. I have few excuses for not going although I was working full-time back then. And way before that I was tending to a slew of kids. His European trips elicited some envy from me (Italy, Scandinavia, Germany, England, etc.–how I longed to shrink and stow away in a pocket), but quite likely that company would’ve declined to send me along. This despite my most invaluable business advice gleaned from decades of a counseling career and my Taurean common sense, as well as always balancing a budget and schedules for a family of seven.
No, he travels alone, even in the U.S.A. It is a lifestyle many must undertake due to career requirements. I have my family and friends, my daily priorities (plus my own job until four years ago) in Oregon. I am comfortable with solitude as well since the last adult child left 15 years ago. But his side of the story is that he asks me to travel with him and I do not go. For example, two or three weeks ago he asked me to fly to Ohio with him. The Midwest, just a state away from Michigan where we grew up. It was to be a short trip, about 5 days. I declined. I had things to do, I said. Maybe another place. Like Chicago or New York City or Miami or San Francisco, anywhere in Hawaii or Alaska (the last two states I have not been to yet). Not Chillicothe, Ohio, not that week, despite some attractions.
Do I sound a tiny bit petulant? I am not ungrateful for his offers and consideration. I just have my own preferences and for the most part they do not include flying, then digging in for hotel living.
And then a little over a week ago he asked me for the tenth time if I wanted to accompany him on a trip to North Carolina. I’d always had one reason or another to decide against it. The small town he goes to to holds little allure for me. And it was starting to heat up out there, the sort of hotness imbued with moisture that builds all day. Even if it doesn’t rain, one’s skin and hair thinks it has. The air can seem oppressive to this northerner; walking fast and long is out of the question. There is good reason why Southerners speak and move more slowly. We once lived in Tennessee so I offer that opinion from experience.
But I said, “Okay!” A trip can be one worth taking just to try something new, of course. And to see one’s spouse a bit more. Marc was surprised and pleased and we found a good hotel in a metropolitan, interesting area.
I then noted the weather: thunderstorms off and on most of the week.
I began to visualize the following: me sitting or pacing, more likely, in a dinky hotel room–okay, it’s a roomy and pleasantly appointed suite, but still–and watching television and reading and maybe writing if I got inspired despite jet lag, chronic thunder and lightning with a drumming rain and a bed pillow entirely unlike my own. I contrasted that with my daily power walks, writing at my desk, talking to neighbors and friends, music I love on the stereo, eating what I like to eat, going where and when I like to go…That is what happens to people who are not natural travelers, I guess: we can easily imagine less than the most satisfying scenarios. We even might catastrophize. But I kept my misgivings to myself a few days.
On the day before we were to fly out, I told the truth.
“What?” Marc said. “We have everything arranged. But if you really don’t want to come, then don’t, of course But think about it a little more.”
I wanted to forego any further discussion and back out, period. I then did think of my husband, how often he out there working, ever working even during meals, how he goes back to a lonely hotel room. Falls asleep with television on, then sleeps restlessly.
And I also talked talked to Naomi. I neglected to mention earlier that my oldest daughter, artist and professor, lives in South Carolina, about two hours away from where we would be staying. That meant we could visit her at least for a day. But she sounded so busy–she is working on art for an exhibit, she is doing some summer work at her university, and preparing to sail soon to…Greenland. She travels.
We also have a daughter, a chaplain, who lives in Virginia but who sounded as if she could not get away at all.
“I don’t know, Na, I’m now thinking I won’t go this time.”
“Why not this time? You haven’t come out yet with him in five years.”
“I’ll get too antsy in a hotel. Nowhere to really go without a car.”
“Rent a second car and explore.”
“I’m not so great at driving all over a new city. And it’s added cost for us–the company won’t pay for that.”
“It’s not that much, but make sure there’s a GPS for the car, then take him to work. It’s only 30-40 minutes to his job.”
I’m thinking: she always has a solution. This is kid always has had answers right and left, and she loves to travel, anywhere at all. I start to feel a bit pressured.
I resume my defense. “It’s supposed to thunderstorm most days.”
“Yeah, it does that off and one out here–remember Tennessee?”
“Yes, I do…I’m a bit phobic about such thunderstorms, remember? And I’ll be stuck inside and will get bored out of my mind.”
“I think I can meet you this week-end, we’ll figure it out if you come.”
“I don’t know, Na.” But she about got me on that last sentence.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Mom. Just go– just for somewhere new to check out!”
I consider this. I do like new places once I get my internal (and reliable) compass realigned and a little sleep. I think of seeing Naomi, too. It has been six months; it will be another six, likely. She is sailing the sea to Greenland! I want to see her.
“I need to go with the flow, right?–have an adventure. I’ll let you know.”
And Monday I was on that plane to Marc’s delight. I also used to not like flying; now I’m better with it and that’s a good thing as it took us all day to set feet on ground in North Carolina.
About when we landed, Naomi texted me: What did you finally decide? I answered: We have arrived! She responded: Oh, good!
What have I done since arrival? Not much so far. Walked for short periods in steamy weather that can take my breath away, though I feel oddly adapted after four days. Read and wrote a bit. Even found a leafy, delightful shopping district so naturally headed over there on foot and had fun an afternoon. But I also packed my swimsuit and after a couple of decades of not once swimming, I eased in, felt that cool water gently cover me and was thus transported. I have worked on my side stroke and breast stroke and just floated about every single day. It has been heavenly to do that whenever I desire. (I need higher SPF protection, however…) We’ve had good meals, with more to come, and evening strolls. And tomorrow Naomi will drive up to meet us–I can’t wait! Then comes the week-end and Marc will be free a couple days. We will explore the region, absorb new sights and I will take my photographs.
The trip is not yet half over and I’m glad I came. There was, yes, a loud thunderstorm already and it was brief. There are more forecast near the end of each day when it swelters. Can’t change that but my attitude is always another matter. So far, that outlook is open and good. In fact, I am very grateful I can do this. Marc was saying last night that he slept so much better with me around. And it’s good to hear that, to be by his side.
I’ll be back next week with a new post. Time to head to that sparkling aquamarine pool!