My longest-term lover and his girlfriend have been renting separate rooms in the same house for a couple of years. Now they are moving halfway across the US and renting a home together. When he emailed me updates from their housing search earlier this week, I had a moment where I had to lay down my head and shut my eyes and fight back tears. Truly it was only a moment; the urge to cry passed in the space of a few deep breaths. But it surged back later that night, and I have been pondering that moment ever since, trying to tease out the tangle of feelings that suddenly knotted and stuck in my chest.
There is envy in there, I know this much. Not jealousy, but envy. I don't want to take my lover's partner's place—she's his domestic partner, now, in the literal sense of the word—I don't wish I was in that place, precisely. They are getting a three-bedroom place, one bedroom for each of us, and that is a sweet offer of an always-place to land, should I need it. Lord, I am so happy that my lover has found someone to share a home with, since I am not able to promise that kind of stability and shared domesticity with him, in the way he wants. I do, however, envy the quality of home that they will have together.
For all that I feel the urge to tour, I feel almost equally the nesting impulse. I want a kitchen of my own (with a corresponding crap drawer of my own), a bedroom of my own, an office of my own… I wander the world and pause for a few nights or weeks in other people's homes, with the glimpses in their homey lives. I envy not only my lover, but everyone who has ever shared their own space with me. I don't envy their relationships, but a space in which those relationships can be anchored.
I can articulate these feelings, and the tension between them. (Oh, yes. This is a show in progress.) What hinders me from moving further is an underlying sense that I have no right to those feelings. I made my choice, to create and travel and bring my works as far out into the world as I can. That automatically rules out a certain set of other options, say these voices in my head. What do you expect? You can't have it all.
Ah, yes. I can't have it all, and I'm selfish for even wanting it. I know this feeling, of being drawn to two seemingly mutually exclusive lifestyles, more than one lover, multiple careers, trying for years to merge it all together, resenting… what? the cruel physical realities that prevent me from cloning myself and exploring two (or more) paths, and enjoying those paths with one mind and soul? I should have let this go. Anything else is childish and unrealistic. I should get over my grief and my greed. I should suck it up and brave it out; I certainly shouldn't ever complain or fret or even privately mourn. What do I expect? I made my choice.
The punitive voice-overs in my brain, they buzz with a subtle but inescapable undercurrent of judgment. You decided to pursue poly, they say, you tore up your own life for self-produced theatre. Twice. You walked away from committed monogamous relationships in shared realspace, you dumped your tiny little retirement fund into 2012's tour, and you'll never get it back. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it. And if that bed is someone else's bed, if it's not that comfortable, if you have to move on in a few days, well, that goes with the territory, doesn't it? You had a posh king-sized bed 15 years ago and a freelance journalism career, you had a nice firm futon 10 years ago and boxes of cookbooks. None of that was enough, so what did you expect? You don't even deserve your own pillow.
A few of those voices are echoes from past lovers, whose true feelings about my roaming habits I can only guess at; maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm making it up, but I don't think so, not entirely. I suspect most of the inner critic comes from a society that doesn't really trust wanderers and sluts and artists, or offer many role models for building one's own reality unless you are rich enough to get frequent flyer miles and invest in real estate. But I can also hear my own voice, confused and querulous, in that chorus, and I know it is borne of a lifetime of wanting more than what is presented to me, distrusting the paradigm that is placed on my plate. What do I expect?
Well. Underneath the tears, I expect nothing, except that I will have to keep working, keep hacking away the underbrush to create a new path. I want, someday soon, to look down and see that the path that I'm building has more room than it feels like right now. There is room for me and others whom I love. There is room for real rest along the way (although I will certainly have to build those rest stops, too). There is room. There must be.
I don't expect anything. I can only keep trying.
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