I’ve been together with David for 11 years – married for nine – and in that time, I have discovered who I am in a couple and what I’m like as a wife but have forgotten what it’s like to be alone and who I am on my own. So when David suddenly announced that he needed a break to clear his head and was not only going to take some time off but was going to travel to another country – Portugal – needless to say, I was filled with apprehension. And butterflies fluttered in my stomach. In the nearly three years that we have owned AlteArte, there has only been one time that I was on my own – when David had to go to Paris for a weekend for the funeral of a close family friend. During that time, there was no way to avoid him being gone, so we quickly planned for his time away and arranged for a friend of mine to help me while he was gone. Knowing that his presence was needed at the funeral, I wrapped my head around the idea until it became familiar and not so daunting. And besides only one small mishap with the keg when gas started spewing out and the top covered over in frost, everything went fairly smoothly.
But this time, things were a bit different. This time, David had reached a point that he was tired and burnt out and needed to get away. Right then. Right there. Immediately. The intense heat and business of the Summer had required all of the physical energy that we could muster and had left both of us tired and drained. Indeed, every day of August had felt like a battle as we struggled to meet the demand, to keep the mint, limes and crushed ice constantly stocked, to keep the tables that lined the street constantly bused, constantly attended to, constantly turning. From the moment we opened to the time that we closed, we had to be “on” both mentally and physically. So when the end of August finally greeted us, we embraced it, proud that not only had we survived but that we had surpassed sales from the previous summer.
So when David came to me, telling me that he needed to get away, that he couldn’t create anything new because he didn’t have the energy, I understood why for I felt the same way. But I couldn’t help but feel hurt that he wasn’t taking me with him. And I couldn’t help but feel shocked that, of all places, he was choosing to go to Lisbon, one of the places that I had most desired to return to now that a good friend had just moved there and another friend had just opened a cute taco stand business. And I couldn’t help but feel alarm that he wouldn’t be nearby during my 5 day period alone, should anything go wrong, should I need him.
But I knew that he needed to leave. I saw it in his face, I read it in his actions, and I knew that it would be disastrous try to keep him any longer. So I let him go. I even helped him go, and I tried to put aside the hurt and the nervousness and the apprehension that I was feeling inside in order to step up to the task at hand: run AlteArte. And I did. And I was once again touched by the show of support from Pepe, the previous owner, and Olalla, one of our customers/friends, who both told me to call should I need anything – just as they had the last time I was alone. And I got through each day without incident (fortunately, I have finally mastered the technique of changing the keg!).
And I began to see things a bit differently.
I started to understand how important it is to not lose yourself in another, that, even if you’ve been with someone for a decade, you need to be able to stand alone. Because there may come a time when you have to fill both shoes. I realized how many small things I have come to depend on David for. When something breaks, I wait for David to fix it. When we run out of something, I tell David so that he can pick it up from the market. When someone has trouble with the wifi or the computer for rent, David is always there to take care of it. But what if he wasn’t? Without him, there would be no one else. And it would all land on me. Without him, I understood better everything that he takes on. Without him, I realized that if I was feeling burnt out, he must be feeling it 100 times moreso. And I understood that it’s important to not take for granted this person in your life and everything that he does.
And when the five days passed and both I and AlteArte were still standing, I realized that I can do it on my own if necessary. Things won’t fall apart if David’s not there. But I needed to see that, I needed to be tested – and to pass that test – in order to gain confidence in myself and my abilities. And to see that I’m a complete person – in and of myself.
As for the way he did it, well, at the time, the lack of warning made me feel resentful and abandoned. But with time and reflection, I realize that his leaving me to take care of everything was his way of leaning on me – just as I had leaned on him so many times before.
And I suppose that that’s the advantage of being with someone for 11 years – of having someone in your life who you can trust wholly to pick up the pieces – at a moment’s notice, to stay when you need to run, to understand when you need to be selfish and leave… in order to find yourself once more.