As some of y’all may know, J moved back to the PNW last month. It’s been a change for both of us, of course, both with our actual living situations and the new long-distance status of our relationship.
A few years ago (actually it’s been almost six-where has time gone?!) we tried a whack at the whole long distance thing while I lived in Hawaii for undergrad and J was at college in Tacoma. To say the least, it was tough-we were just two 18 year olds, separated by this little thing called the Pacific Ocean, both getting used to college, living on our own, making new friends, and having to deal with that annoying time distance.
Come to think of it, our circumstances are not really that much different now, except it’s the entire continental United States between us this time instead of the ocean, I’m 3 hours ahead instead of 3 hours behind, and I’m adjusting to grad school instead of undergrad.
But our relationship is different. We’ve matured (just a little bit), we’ve adjusted to life on our own and out of our parents’ house, and we’re made the huge commitment to officially spend the rest of our lives together.
This is both better and worse. I don’t feel panicky when I think about being apart from J this time. I feel confident in our relationship, and although I miss him, I don’t worry at all that the miles will come in between us. But the missing him part is deeper. We’ve shared a home for almost 3.5 years and haven’t spent more than a week or two apart in that time. Our lives have become so ingrained with one another that it’s sometimes still a surprise when I roll over in bed in the middle of the night and grab empty sheets. When I come home from a 12 hour day ready for a hug and an ear to share stories with and instead open the door of an empty, quiet house. When I load up my grocery cart at the store with spicy foods and vegetables because I don’t have to plan meals that will appeal to a boy’s carnivorous stomach.
Sometimes, days go by and I feel like we’re nailing this whole distance thing. Other times, little things happen that stab me in the heart and cause a deep ache to reverberate through me, reminding me that part of myself is living 3,000 miles away.
About five weeks ago I bought a jar of pickles at the store. I shoved it in the back of the fridge without a second thought, and then, the other day, I had a craving for pickles and pulled it out. Try as I might, I could not get that dang jar open. I ran it under hot water, I used a grippy cloth, I did a few pushups to get my muscles ready, I googled “how to open a stubborn jar”…nothing worked. At the end of this thirty minute charade I put the jar back in the fridge, sat down on the kitchen floor, and cried.
Do I really love pickles that much? Of course not. If this was a movie this would probably be the part where I sob “it’s not about the pickles!” while an emotional love ballad plays in the background. But this is not a movie, it’s just a blog, so I’ll explain it in words. No, it’s not about the pickles-it’s about having someone there to help you when life (or a pickle jar) gets a little too sticky to handle alone.
Luckily for the pickles (and my stomach) my friend’s husband ended up lending me a complicated looking plumbing tool and I made that jar my bitch (pardon the language). Unluckily for me, I’m still left with a dull ache in my heart when I see those pickles and am reminded that there’s not a strong man on my couch ready to open jars for me (and unclog toilets, and change smoke alarm batteries, and double-check that the door’s locked before bedtime…).
But even though I’ve cried on my kitchen floor and eaten veggies and fruit for dinner (aka popcorn and wine) a little more than usual lately, my love for J has only grown this past month and a half. I feel like a teenager again, texting him in class and staying up too late giggling into the phone. I realize all of the ways he blessed me regularly as I now am the one taking out the trash and scooping out the litter box-chores he constantly did that I used to take for granted. I love him deeper as I think about how much I enjoy the sound of his voice, the size of his hands as they hold mine, and the way his eyes squint when he laughs really hard.
After all, they say that missing someone (and seeing a pickle jar) is just your heart’s way of reminding you that you love them.
“Don’t measure the distance, measure my love.”