Today’s post is a guest post written by newbie road widow, D’nelle.
For the last 12 days, my husband has been on tour out of the country, so I’m pretty deep into missing him. Plus, our anniversary is coming up in a few weeks, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how much my life has changed since I became a road widow. When you’re going to that family celebration without your plus-one… or eating warmed up left-overs sitting on the couch alone… or trying to figure out what you can watch on Netflix that your spouse and you don’t watch together… the bright side of being a road widow can seem like a dot on the horizon. It is NOT easy being miles apart from your partner and best friend, no matter how you slice it. The distance is difficult, but it is also sort of obvious. That’s usually what people ask me about when they find out my husband tours: how I deal with him being gone for so long. And it is true that there are downsides to the distance, but lately I’ve been feeling especially lucky. Despite the challenges we face being apart, I feel like we’ve created a pretty great life thanks to the the dictator-like tour schedule. We’re still learning as we go along, but right now, there are some things that we know for sure will keep us close.
We are talkers. When you go for long stretches of not being in the same room, the only option you have for communication is verbally or in writing. At the very beginning of our relationship, after just one date, the tour left for a 30-day west coast run. We were stuck texting each other (or, on a couple of occasions, talking on the phone). We got to know each other so much more intimately than we might otherwise have, since that was our main option for interaction and connection. Those first 30 days trained us to talk, talk, talk, and we’ve never stopped. We usually can work out our differences pretty easily thanks to how much we talk – both about us as a couple and about ourselves as individuals. Don’t get me wrong – I love being curled up on the couch together with a movie, not talking about anything – but getting really good at talking to each other is what has kept us close.
We are creative problem solvers – and clever with technology. When you’re trying to build a life together for the long-haul, tour dates can pit themselves against that life in a merciless battle, and you’re left to figure out how to resolve the conflict. This past summer, we moved from my husband’s small apartment into a house of our own. We’d expected to move in the fall when he had a 4-week strech off, but when we found the perfect house, our schedule was accelerated by two months – smack into the thick of tour season. Combining households to create a new one when one person is absent is no cakewalk! We unpacked and arranged the house largely via picture texts, pinterest boards and shared google docs. After reading Chris’s post about video chatting, we took a cue and started making a point to connect visually using our iPhones. Whether it’s a good-morning video we record that can blur the time zones and allow us to wake up “together” or a commitment to a short FaceTime session when our schedules match up, those short moment where we can see the other’s face makes a world of difference. Maybe I’ve never really missed anyone as much as I miss my husband, but I had never before in my life realized the importance of that visual connection!
We are flexible and laid back. When a show date is added… or days off disappear thanks to a TV appearance… or there’s some in-town errand that’s necessary, you don’t have a choice but to roll with it. I admit that I had a had a tough time with it at first – the disappointment of dashed expectations, the inconvenience of rearranging plans – but I’ve come to really enjoy the unexpected. Even though sometimes my expectations aren’t met, more often than not there are unexpected delights that come our way. From something as small as an extra 30 minutes to sit in the sun with some iced tea while I wait for a slow tour bus to arrive… to something as rare as getting comp tickets and back stage passes to a Vegas show. Being a road widow has taught me that the inconveniences are much outweighed by the adventures. I’ve gained so much by practicing an attitude of flexibility that it spills over into all parts of my life. It has led me to spontaneous nights out with friends that bonded us in ways we could never have planned… time alone with myself to discover new musicians or writers that I now love… moments with my husband that we’ll remember forever. It’s opened my life up to so much more than I knew before.
We are learning to protect our relationship. With no option but to let the tour have first dibs on our time, we’ve learned to say yes – and say no – and mean it. Like I said in my last post, you’ve got to take it where you can get it… but you’ve got to commit to make space for that to happen. When there’s an opportunity for us to spend time together, we take it. Sometimes that means saying yes to a random invitation to a live show in town on a Tuesday, where we can be social together… and sometimes that means saying no to travel plans to see family for the holidays. The time we get to spend in each other’s presence is always colored by the times we won’t have the choice whether or not to be together, and it makes it sweeter. Because we know that Tuesdays are the most likely day there’ll be for us to have a relaxing “weekend” day, I deliberately won’t schedule work meetings on that day (even the ones I’d really like to get taken care of quickly). It’s not something that comes naturally to me, setting boundaries like that, but it’s making me a happier person than I have ever been.
All of that may seem a little pollyanna-ish, but working to deliberately find an upside to things that can make me frustrated or sad is something I practice (not that I’m at all skilled in it), as a way to push out the darkness that can otherwise take over. I go to places I’ve never gone before, experience things I’ve never felt before, and love more deeply than I’ve ever been capable of before… all thanks to this crazy, upside down road widow life. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth every wait.
I’m D’nelle – wife of a roadie – aka drum tech and problem fixer. I call myself an “internet consultant” – because it’s easier than rattling off the really long list of things I do on a daily basis (think: web development, email marketing, etc.) – and run my own business around that. I moved to Nashville in 2001 and have been continually falling in love with it ever since. My husband and I have been together for 3 years and married in 2012. He’s spent his entire professional life touring, but the life is pretty new to me and I’m still trying to figure it all out. Luckily, my work can fit his schedule most of the time, and that plus iPhones help us survive him being away.