This Thanksgiving my husband Bill and I put 1,000 miles on our car chasing down our kids and siblings. It was an “unblended” family Thanksgiving–typical of how we live week to week. We wanted to be with all of them for the holiday–full stop. We were on a journey of love.
Fatigue from excessive workloads – no matter — we put the pedal to the metal as we were committed to showing up despite the miles between each of our families. Bill’s gathered Wednesday night on Cape Cod and my family’s celebration began the next morning, many miles north near Burlington, Vermont. We were ready for downtime by Saturday so we headed to my home in New York to relax with the plan of being back at work at Bill’s house in Boston on Tuesday morning. This is a snapshot of our “unblended” home base lifestyle.
As I write this I wonder how much longer we can continue this excessive to and fro-ing, because the Thanksgiving madness was not an isolated event. Bill and I have become nomadic road warriors searching for a common home base since the day we married four years ago.
So, when people ask me, “where do you live?” they get a bigger story than they bargained for. Through the years I’ve streamlined my response, but it remains convoluted nevertheless. Sometimes I say, I live on 95N and 95S and inevitably stumble my way to some answer that usually confuses the listener. (Hey, it’s not clear to me so how can I make it clear to anyone else?) This is the fallout of “blending” two adult lives that have been independently established–in our case–two homes compete to be the primary place of residence.
When Bill and I decided to get married, he lived in Boston and my home was in New York. Merging our lives meant making geography work for us. We both had faith that we could figure it out. So, the first semester of our marriage, I stayed in New York and continued teaching at NYU and, Bill continued working in Boston. He would come to stay with me on weekends. After four months we needed a new plan. I landed an adjunct job teaching one day a week at Tufts University so we could be together more often.
Bill and I try to balance our lives between Boston mid-week and New York on the weekends. It’s our compromise. It works until we get tired and don’t feel like getting in the car. It works except Boston has become a city of all work and no play and New York the opposite. I get no work done in New York as I melt into old routines the minute I hit home. Life there is a playground of distractions, and I love it. Boston is a place where I can be incredibly productive as I am able to focus without the lure of a full social schedule. Bill also has embraced New York as his playground but craves his desk back in Boston after a full weekend of socializing.
So what’s the issue? Well, it would be nice to just stay put for a while but we can’t figure this out because neither of us is ready to give up our respective cities. And thus we’ve come to explore the art of rationalizing our decision by redefining our new normal.
Bill and I have exhausting philosophical conversations about what “home” really means, and I love his take on it. He makes an analogy between himself and a rechargeable cell phone battery that once depleted needs to go back “home” to its energy source to recharge. That place is his office, his desk, and his daily routine in Boston. My energy source is my kitchen table in New York and the comfort of friends just a doorstep away.
So what happens when you are living your life outside your home base? It turns out–there’s an upside. Take the comforts away and familiar routines give way to gaping voids that beg to be filled. And that’s when the growing really starts. Suffice it to say we’ve expanded our lives. Bill has fallen in love with New York City and all its cultural offerings. He has a great group of new friends in New York with whom he loves hanging out and traveling. I too have met amazing friends in Boston, launched BA50 and found a great business partner.
We’ve chosen to focus on the positive, living “double/two-city” lives and although we are a bit weary–we are richer for it. We have even expanded our definition of what makes us feel at home–and visit this list regularly to give us a boost when the miles have drained us.
So where do you live? We live in a place that has:
- A comfy bed;
- Our doggy Jazz at our feet;
- Our sports equipment nearby–bikes, racquets, sneakers and snow gear;
- A Sunday night routine to ground us for the week ahead;
- A home-cooked meal;
- Clean underwear in a dresser and clean clothes in the closet;
- Our toothbrushes by the sink;
- Familiar photographs;
- A home office;
- An internet password we remember.
My guess is, we’re not alone in this “Where do you live?” conundrum. Weaving together lives in a second marriage challenged by geography requires some compromise by both, a reliable car and a good gas budget.
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