Sunday, June 10, 2007


I don't usually write about my more personal issues on this blog, but today I wish this were an advice column and my readers were the Dear Abbys of blogland. So here it is:

Dear Abbys of Blogland,

My husband is hurt and angry because I told him yesterday that I plan to travel to Germany, either alone or with Elisabeth, sometime this summer or early fall.

I have been to Germany many times, before I met Tom when I was 16, while we were dating when I was 23 (on that trip I fell madly in love with a German man -- who is still a dear friend -- and that broke Tom and me up for almost two years), in 2001 with my mom after her cancer diagnosis and when she was in remission, and in 2004, a few months after Mom died, with my dad and my twins. I invited Tom to come with me on one of those trips (ironically, the one in 1980 that broke us up), but the two trips since then were more parent/kid-focused and I left with his blessing, but no invitation. He says that each time I "promised" that I'd go with him on the next trip to Germany. I don't remember promising, but I know that spirit was there -- part hope, part guilt.

Now I'm at a place in my life where I want a short "sabbatical" of sorts -- not from the marriage (we are generally happily married, and also very committed), but from "my life as a I know it." For almost 25 years I've been a wife, a mother, a career woman. My identity has formed more around my role than around my soul -- and I feel sometimes that I've lost my soul and my identity as a person, as a woman. My quest at this unique time in my life -- between jobs, in mid-life, with enough recently-earned money to make this possible -- is to have a chance to re-discover myself, as well as to visit people who mean a lot to me. My dear 90-year-old aunt in Bavaria has been in the hospital recently and I fear that she might die before I have a chance to see her again. My (no, "our") exchange-student daughter has been gone now for a year and I (no, "we") miss her terribly. Maybe I've fantasized this situation, but her family has a small "house in the woods" (or did I make that part up and it's really in town with a few trees nearby?) and I've been invited to hunker down there and write my novel. I envision the sort of cottage that Cameron Diaz lived in when she traveled to England in The Holiday. Surely I've romanticized the whole thing!

Why a solitary (or with Elisabeth, which I'd love but which really muddles my reasoning) trip to Germany and not to, say, Brazil... or Nova Scotia... or Yakima, Washington? Because I have a connection to Germany and people there. Because it's distant enough to be another world, but close enough emotionally to feel familiar.

Why without Tom? Because it's -- yes, selfishly -- about me as a woman, not about me as a wife. (Although, muddling it again, I love the idea of going with my 23-year-old daughter, and wish SO much that Mom and I had done this before we did!) After being together for 30 years and married for 24, I want a break. NOT to "try on" being single and certainly not to have an affair, but to just simply explore a different side of myself on the other side of the world. Beyond that, I can't really explain it (so how should I expect him to understand it?!) other than to say I feel an incredibly strong drive to do this, and to do it now-ish.

But the idea has caused great strife.

In trying to explain myself, I brought up the very fast, very "sexy," very yellow "crotch-rocket" motorcycle that Tom bought last week. I have never wanted him to get a motorcycle and fought it all along, but knowing that this was important to him for some reason I didn't understand (and never would), I transferred 4K from the sale of the boat into a "motorcycle account" for him. I couldn't support buying a fast, dangerous motorcycle, but I did want to support whatever it was in him that felt the need for one. Being more youthful? Moving really fast? Feeling sexy? Clearly, it was more that about just the yellow motorcycle for him.

And clearly, this is more about an Orbitz ticket to Frankfurt for me.

But he doesn't believe that there's any correlation between the drive for a motorcycle on his part and the drive for a trip on mine.

So now I'm stuck. He'll resent me if I go. I'll resent him if I don't. He'll "hate" me if I go. I'll hate myself if I don't. I really believe that having this opportunity now, preferably with his support, would actually HELP our marriage because otherwise my resentment will brew and grow. But his resentment will brew and grow if I do this, causing strife that will grow over time, too. We're in a no-win situation. One of us comes out of this hurt and angry and feeling not supported and listened to. One of us will carry resentment into our future -- and that is a REALLY bad thing for a marriage.

I have a free trip on a domestic airline coming, and I need to use it before mid-September. We also have a $50 companion fare within the US and Mexico... so I suggested that we go to Mexico together. I DO want to travel with him, just not to Germany and just not right now. But right now I don't think he wants to go anywhere with me. He's too hurt and angry to speak much with me right now (which feels like "punishment" and I absolutely hate it!), so I'm sure the thought of sharing a margarita with me on a beach in Mazatlan holds absolutely no incentive at all for him.

So how's THAT for airing my dirty laundry to my blog readers? Some of you might be professional cohorts, making this more than just a little awkward... but oh well!! This is primarily a personal blog, not a professional one and if I can't write about my "real" life, what's the point of having a "real life blog"?

So am I being completely unreasonable? Tell me if I am... I need to hear it! Or is this a justified request? And even if it's not "fair," is it OK to be selfish sometimes and just say "Please understand and try to support this, even if you don't like it, because it's important to me, and when I feel good about me, it helps us..."? Kinda like him and the motorcycle. Or is that a convenient and irrelevant stretch and I'm actually being selfish and unreasonable?

Should I apologize and dump the whole idea or should I stand by this very persistent notion, even at the expense of my most important relationship?

And now, heading back to the ad agency for another insane day. I came home last night with my stomach seizing and I woke up this morning with my head pounding. I really wonder how the people who actually are emotionally involved and financially and professionally invested can put in these hours and live with this sort of stress day-in and day-out. Truly, it's nuts! But I got an e-mail late least night from the VP of Project Management, saying that she put another PM on this for the day today to help me... and she listed four names as PMs for this next week... and they were all internal PMs so my name wasn't on the list. I wonder if she discovered my blog and read my entry yesterday?! (Nah...) Or maybe she's just a really good PM manager (I think she is) and realized that having a freelance PM on this project at this critical late stage is a dumb idea, so she's releasing me for rest of the week. (Damn, there goes over 5K!)

Carpe diem and all that.

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Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a toughie! It looks like no matter which way you go, there will be great resentment on one person's part. Am I right in assuming that you will be in Germany for a lengthy stay to write your novel? If so, how about compromising and having Tom join you for two weeks or so? That might satisfy his need to share a part of your life that's obviously dear to your heart.

vailian said...

Naja, ich habe es kommen sehen.
Stay calm.
Be glad his midlife crisis involves a new motorcycle and not someone 30 years his junior.
He should be glad your reaction is travelling to Germany with your daughter rather than going alone to Morocco (which is the preferred destination for unhappy German ladies).

Anonymous said...

Is he concerned about your relationship with the man who broke you up years ago? If so, would a promise from you that you would avoid this gentleman soothe his ruffled feathers?

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking along the same lines as Renate. Could you go with your husband to Germany for the first 1 or 2 weeks and make that time about the two of you and then he flies back and you stay on and maybe stay in the house in the woods and be on your own and write your novel if you want to.

I'll just be frank and say that I don't think you should go with Elizabeth if he feels so strongly about being left behind.

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