Balancing Axioms

Dearest Rachel –

For all of the places we’ve gone, and the things that we’ve done, we were always limited in what we could and could not do. Indeed, it’s considered axiomatic that we humans, as we go through life, always find ourselves limited against what we truly want to do:

  • When we are children, or while we are students, we have plenty of energy and free time, but we lack the money to do what we want (There’s something else we lack at this point, but I’ll get to that eventually).
  • When we are adults, and making our way in the working world, we still have energy, and now we have some money, but we no longer have the time.
  • And once we are old enough to leave the work farce, we presumably have the money, and now we have plenty of time… but we no longer have the energy to do what we wanted back in the day.

And so, many of our dreams we had in youth simply go by the boards due to the constant lack of one or the other of these things essential for earthly enjoyment. Oh, along the way, we may be given and make opportunities to participate in certain things; not everything costs vast amounts of time, energy and money. But it’s the rare individual who manages to have enough of each to have complete freedom to do whatever, whenever.

And we were among that fortunate few that attained a level of “enough,” and we exercised that privilege – for about nine months. Then, the viral curtain rang down, and we found ourselves dealing with a fairly extraordinary limitation of simply not being allowed to do any of the things we might have wanted to. After all, what point is there in visiting a place where everything is closed down? Not that we would have been let in, or even let to travel there in the first place.

Oh, we made do. Airports and train stations may have been off limits, but we were still free to drive around – there was no way to prevent people from getting in their cars (yet). Of course, at first that was limited to essential short trips – groceries and other food pickups and the like – but we eventually managed a trip to the island (which, now that I think about it, should have been encouraged – what better place to self-quarantine than on an island in the middle of Lake Erie?) and to visit friends out of state. Not exactly sightseeing, but we got around. And of course, there was the camp, where we were still able to enjoy the fresh air and the great outdoors – not that it was ever really our thing, but after a certain length of time, anything was better than being cooped up indefinitely.

And this went on for another nine months.

Until… well, you had to go.

And it would be now that the restrictions are starting to lift once again. But now there’s something different that’s lacking.


Or – and I hope you’ll forgive me for this – someone like you. If there is such a person.

You’ll recall me mentioning a while back about how I more or less gave up watching sports when I married you. It wasn’t as if you insisted I do so; certainly you tried to enjoy the Rose Bowl in which Northwestern, of all teams, was representing the Big 10 (partly because of their perennial underdog status I had taught you about, and partly because of their purple uniforms – They were beaten pretty soundly, as I recall, which didn’t help for future attempts). It’s just that it wasn’t any fun to do so when neither you nor Daniel was interested. And it wasn’t something I wanted to do alone.

So it goes now with pretty much anything I might want to do. Theoretically, I can go and do just about anything, any time I want to. But what’s the point, when I’m on my own? I’ve found that the truly enjoyable things in life really can’t be enjoyed on one’s own; they have to be shared. I can’t quite explain why. Maybe it’s that when the enjoyment is shared with others, the joy itself is somehow compounded. Maybe it has something to do with seeking validation from another that the place or thing you enjoy is truly worthwhile. Or maybe it’s just that companionship makes everything that much better, regardless of whether the activity is really any ‘good’ or not.

And maybe it’s just that I’m so accustomed to having you by my side, I simply can’t imagine doing anything of any great significance without you – or at least, someone like you – by my side. Even the little things are harder to do these days: back in the days before you left, you would rarely let me go pick up a meal or go grocery shopping without you. Not that you were possessive of me – after all, you let me head off to the ‘office’ every day without complaint – but you just wanted to share as much of my time as you could. And while now I’m grateful for having had those little bits of time with you I might not have had otherwise, it almost makes those little errands that much harder to do even now.

And I keep saying it, maybe just to let you know, maybe to somehow get your permission, but I need to find another someone, to make these trips worthwhile.

To say nothing of watching you enjoy something like this, even as I would never try

There’s a problem with this longing, though. It doesn’t take the other person into account. While our household has managed to remedy the lack of any of the three parts of the axiom on limitations, the same cannot be said for anyone “on the outside,” so to speak. And while it might be considered logical to bring them into the household to remedy this, that’s when you run into a whole other balancing act to deal with.

Because while Daniel and I have the freedom to do as we please, bringing anyone into the household on a long-term (can I say ‘permanent’?) basis would be an infringement on their autonomy, their freedom to be what they want. And that’s not something we have any right to do.

It’s hard to remember these sort of things, as I surrendered that autonomy with the words “I do:” from that point on, everything was a joint venture, and I liked it that way. So much so, that even now that I have the autonomy I never had as a kid (and in fairness, no kid should have – see, I told you I’d get back to that one other thing that was lacking for a young person to have complete freedom of opportunity) or for that matter, at all, I have no desire for it – and quite frankly, can hardly fathom why anyone would want it. But if you’ve grown up with that complete freedom, I guess I could understand that you don’t want to let go of it, even if it holds the potential to do, go and see many things you might have wanted to but couldn’t, due to the lack of time, money or energy.

The question is whether the surrender of autonomy is worth it. And that’s not something I can answer for anyone else.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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