State of Mind
This column was published October 29, 2022 in the Manhattan Mercury.
If you listen to the lyrics bent on discerning, then feeling their true meaning, it’s easy to see how one could descend into melancholy.
“Since you went away, the days grow long… I miss you most of all… when autumn leaves start to fall.”
My wife goes away every week. She’s CEO of an organization based in Kansas City. Her normal routine is to leave Tuesday morning, come home Thursday evening, and work from home Monday and Friday. Autumn is her busy season, and she possesses this pesky responsibility gene which lately, has kept her more there than here, weekends included.
A couple of years ago, for a hot minute, we toyed with the notion of moving there, but then quickly remembered she bleeds purple, that I was born in Manhattan and that we’ve lived here together in the same home since the night of our marriage in 1998.
It is here we intend to remain.
In a couple of months we will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. We took the priest seriously when he said marriage is a lifelong covenant. The umbrella under which we stand while life intervenes, circumstances change, and tradeoffs are made. While we are together in the emotional and spiritual sense, we are not together in the same physical space. Since the human experience is a shared one, it seems natural that our expressions of emotion will overlap with one another.
When she’s not around, answerable only to myself, it’s easy for me to set the accountability bar pretty low. Shoes and socks all over-unmade bed-hotdogs in the fridge low. She calls it bachelor mode, and she’s right, it’s a default. I’ve lived long enough to know my defaults intimately. Another one tends toward isolation, which can breed loneliness. Sometimes I delude myself by channeling DeNiro in “Heat,” Michael Mann’s 1995 crime/action thriller. “I’m alone. I am not lonely.”
I’m a big believer in the notion that human beings are designed to be constantly seeking, striving, and reaching. That translates into a more intense sense of longing and appreciation when we are not together.
It’s also a good prompt not to take my marriage for granted. You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Being apart is basically a reminder that we get reinforcement and reward from our spouses. And if you’re never apart, you cannot experience that.
Before we were married, our relationship started as a long distance one. She was in Washingt0n, D.C., working for a Congressman. I was in Topeka, working for a Governor, and became a regular on what was then the Midwest Airlines nonstop MCI > DCA, leaving Friday evening, returning Sunday night.
I do know I am a better person when she’s around. When we are together, she forgives me. We’re purposeful about making time for each other, we have the communications skills honed through 24-years of marriage.
My wife gets me out of my negative defaults and elevates my self-worth. As a consequence, my ability to add value to my community and society is enhanced. My bandwidth is expanded.
I have come to believe absence makes the heart grow fonder. It is a belief tempered by experience, disciplined by commitment and effort. Instead of feeling blue, maybe such circumstances are opportunities for our hearts to grow fonder, writ large. To watch the falling leaves drift by the window and appreciate the beauty instead of being sad because she’s not here.
Distance is a state of mind.