On September 4, my husband, Eric Masterson, and I celebrated our 18-year wedding anniversary. Two days later, he headed out on a six-month bike trek to follow the migratory path of the broad winged hawk from New Hampshire to South America, a journey that will cross 5 time zones, 40 degrees of latitude, and 5,000 miles — research for his next book. For some reason, I’m oddly calm about the whole thing.
Letting Go of the Known
Eric’s been thinking about this trip for more than four years. During that time, I tried to not-so-subtly steer him towards book projects that kept him closer to home and closer to me, in the delusion that proximity to me would keep him safe (did I mention I’m all powerful?) and the misconception that living together at all times was what married people did. We were already challenging that last idea — I’d begun spending several months away from home in Nashville working on my own creative endeavors and our marriage was surviving just fine, if not flourishing in a new way. Eric’s proposed trip, however, had a large element of physical risk. I am not good with physical risk. I also have some control issues.
One day, Eric looked at me and said, “Tricia, I know you worry about me being dead on the side of road in Guatemala, but if I don’t do this, it’s death by a thousand cuts.”
And that logic, if that’s what it is, I completely understood. I wrote and performed an 80-minute one-woman show, How to Draw a Nekkid Man, based on that very premise. In fact, the exact line in my show is, “I knew if I did this consulting work for much longer I was going to die. Slowly, but I was going to die.” Right after that line (and in real life), I left everything I knew and moved to Ireland to become an artist. From that perspective, a 5,000-mile solo bike trek to South America made perfect sense to me.
A dear friend once summed up both of us: “Neither one of you breeds well in captivity.” He was right. So after 18 years of marriage, we are finally figuring out that the best thing we can do for ourselves and our marriage is to give each other the freedom and space to grow, whatever that may look like. For now, while Eric’s cycling to South America, I’ll be back in Nashville working on my own creative projects. I’ll also be serving as mission control for Eric’s journey and peddling with him in spirit (goodness knows I don’t want to actually peddle. I’m more of a support vehicle kind of girl). As our friend Jack said to me, “Eric may be riding the bike, but you’re on the phantom tandem seat.”
Guardians of Our Solitude
Just last week, a good friend sent me some writing about marriage by the poet Rilke — something to strive for indeed.
The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.
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