Young love…and an ocean

Tis the season for introspection and understanding. I’ve spent many hours in recent weeks on the former in hopes of the latter.  I’m not sure I’ve really landed on anything tangible, but one theme keeps popping up amid all my musings: Presence. Or, more pointedly, being present. I pondered the hectic pace of Christmas here, and the bliss of ignorance here. But after a brief exchange with my kiddo earlier this week, I began thinking about being present in a different way.

{I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even remember I have a blog, so I’m not too concerned that he’ll be embarrassed by this. But for those that do read this and know him, please use all due discretion this situation warrants. We were all there once!}

In a few weeks, he’ll be going back to school while his girlfriend of more than six months leaves for a semester abroad. Five months in the life of a mom is barely the blink of an eye. But five months in the life of a young 20 something is a lifetime. The mom in me wants to shield him from the anguish of separation and long distance love, but despite my extensive experience with both of those things, I’m at a loss for how to help him.

I recall with painstaking clarity the weeks and days leading up to a separation caused by wacky deployment schedules or duty station transfers. Knowing months in advance that you would be forced to live apart from the one person that you had grown to count on for companionship. Jammed between the packing lists, logistics plans, and hectic last-minute administrivia (passports anyone?) were the stolen moments meant to cement the relationship, solidify traditions, and establish trust. Crafty plans were made to do this or that before it was too late. Often those plans never lived up to their hype. A date made to celebrate an anniversary six weeks early started off flawlessly but quickly deteriorated into sobbing “what ifs” and “I’ll miss yous” and never really seemed to be the celebration intended. The closer the date got, the snippier the snide remarks – perhaps subconsciously intended to lessen the blow of the separation.

With each deployment or transfer, and through a few different significant others, I tried to get better at it. Even with my own kiddo. Rather than focusing on the dreaded departure, I made concerted efforts to live in the present. I failed miserably at times, but when it worked it was awesome. It’s not that I ignored what was coming, but I chose to focus on the moment. The early birthday celebration, the fun day at the park because it’s nice and sunny out, the romantic evening at home amid packed boxes and overstuffed luggage. It wasn’t easy and I never did get great at it. It’s like breathing during yoga, you have to focus on each breath separately to the exclusion of distractions. The muscles (legs, shoulders, heart) may be screaming in pain, but you breathe through it. And you feel so much better for having done so afterward. Once separated, instead of memories of stressful squabbling and ruined dinners, there may be a few happy moments of just being present.

So, while I can’t protect kiddo from heartache and despair and the anguish of separation maybe I can offer him a few tips I learned along the way. First – Just enjoy what you have when you have it. Second – establish parameters. Don’t leave room for misunderstanding and mistrust. Figure out what you will do with your time apart before you have the time to do it.  The same as you must be present together before the separation, you must be present in your life during the separation. Don’t live your life waiting for the reunion, the perfect day, the end of the agony. And be thankful for email and cell phones!

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self about to face a romantic separation?

4 thoughts on “Young love…and an ocean

  1. Communication. It’s all about communication. Expectations, feelings, all of that – do NOT assume *anything*. And remember the feelings that got you to *this* place to begin with ❤

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    1. olathegis, you are SO right. It’s easy to focus on the “how will we keep in touch” and think that email and text messaging will be the solution. But what really matters is what is SAID during those conversations and how it is interpreted. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Always remember that ‘lost in translation’ can occur doubly so with texts and emails. Having grown children who experienced long-distance romances, and then finding the love of my life (second time around) who lived in the US (I’m Australian), I find that although the written word is vital to keep the connection strong, leave the important ones to the spoken word.

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    1. Gypsythinking, I couldn’t agree more! So much is missed with today’s abbreviated texts and hastily send emails. The tone, the smile, the intent…none of those can truly be gleaned from print. Thank you for your comment!

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