I started this blog to write about things that mattered to me. It was part therapy ( well, mostly therapy) and a way to work through feelings I was having about the big change. I’ve found that the more honest I am the more it helps me, and hopefully the more it helps other people who might read it. Then along the way, I got some readers and you find there is some pressure (don’t know how else to explain it) to censor yourself. Let’s face it: no one wants to look like an idiot, and I don’t want to inadvertently upset anyone, but if I censor too much I lose the point of the whole thing. So I want/need to write about friendships on the road, but I do it with heavy trepidation as these relationships are very precious to me and I don’t want people to stop being friends with me because they are worried about what I might say…actually that is the very last thing I want. But, it’s 3am and I can’t sleep, and sometimes I just need to write. So please keep in mind these are my truths and my issues and I absolutely don’t speak for anyone else. Well, Lee gets a final edit, but I don’t speak for him either.
Last summer as we were preparing for the transition Lee and I realized that in order to be OK as a couple we first needed to be OK individually with what we were doing. It seems self-evident in retrospect, but it was a pretty big breakthrough for us at the time and the acknowledgement that we each individually had to be responsible for managing all the emotions we were dealing with was a big deal. Once you get yourself solid (the best you can) then you start to deal with it as a couple. Let me give you an example. I have some issues with claustrophobia. That is 100% a me issue and has nothing to do with Lee…so I had to decide whether or not I could live in a space this small, whether it was worth it to occasionally feel closed in, etc. Once I dealt with that, then Lee and I as a couple had to talk about what he could do to make this better. He’s a very touchy person (which I love) but sometimes in the small space it makes me feel more claustrophobic. So I had to communicate that in a way that wouldn’t hurt his feelings and make sure he understood I was asking for help with a “me” problem. Long story short, in order to make sure he didn’t feel rejected when I moved away from him or put a hand up, I needed to say the words out loud so he understood. Again, it sounds simple, but it wasn’t…at least not for us, and working through that one thing was a bit of a breakthrough. There have been many things like that, and I assume there will be many more.
So you are working though the changes individually, then working through them as a couple, then adding more people. There are lots of dynamics going. Everyone has their own stuff…then they have their couple stuff…and that couple has their individual stuff and couple stuff and there’s a lot of emotions flying around. What’s interesting is on the right day with the right group all of those individuals can make magic, but not always of course, because we are people and we have bad days and frankly we are all dealing with a lot of stuff. Wow, this is vaguish… OK I will give you an example; My mom left her hometown and went to Philadelphia with my dad and me while Dad went to medical School. Some of the wives in that group bonded in a way that they would not have under normal circumstances, because despite their differences they were all going through this huge thing together. They needed each other, they helped each other, and formed a support system that is still in place over 30 years later. I watched that happen as a child, and now going through something similar myself I can see the similarities.
The people I have met in this lifestyle are all very different. We have different religious backgrounds, different politics, and in general different life experiences. What we have in common is a willingness to color outside the lines, a desire for a high level of freedom, and an attraction to the wide open spaces. And I don’t know if this is just dumb luck or representative of full-timers in general, but the people we have become close with are all very intelligent and have a great sense of humor. So, it’s perfect right?…well, no, of course not. First and foremost we are dealing with long distance relationships here, which are complicated under the best of circumstances. And don’t forget we are all dealing with our individual stuff, then our couple stuff. So it’s complicated. Plus (and this is where I am totally speaking for myself), I am not so great at friendships. I spent the last 15 years having work relationships (which can be very meaningful and special) but are different from friendships in outside life. Work people come and go in each other’s lives and generally there are rules that govern those relationships. People don’t cross certain lines (at least I didn’t) because you could impact your livelihood and possibly end up in HR. Those were cleaner in a way and easier because you always had something to talk about that was impersonal. Not to generalize, but it’s like guys and sports. They can talk forever about sports and never delve too deeply into their emotional connection. Not that they don’t care about each other, but well, you know…
Wow, I really am taking the long way around here. And it’s largely I don’t want to say this wrong, but let me just jump in…thankfully Lee will tell me if I am over thinking all this. So here I am, woefully ill-equipped to manage friendships and for the first time since college finding myself with an embarrassment of riches in this area. Add to that the fact that I am not necessarily at my best due to all the individual pressure and couple pressure and whew, it’s tough for me. Now at this point I am sure many of you are thinking…man she is wound tight…and you would be absolutely correct. That’s a big part of why I decided to do this…to loosen up and let go and these friendships are an excellent way to do just that. Believe it or not I am slow to trust, yet I find myself jumping into the deep end of the emotional pool with people I barely know. Frankly it’s scary as hell, but if I continue my old ways in this new life…then really, what’s the point? It’s just a change in geography rather than an opportunity to grow as a human being.
But as you know, growth can be painful. You screw up, you get hurt, you hurt others and it can be supremely uncomfortable. So why do it? It’s a good question. Lee has been my best friend for over 30 years and generally we do just fine with just the two of us. For me, having one person who truly gets me and one person who unconditionally supports me has always been enough. So I know I don’t have to have it. Lee and I could wander around the country together and be just fine. I choose to have more people in my life, and by making that choice for myself I am also making it for Lee. And let’s face it, life is more complicated with other people in it. I need to invest in these relationships to keep them going. I need to make sure I give more than I take. I need to be on guard against emotional vampires who take and take and take. I need to lighten the hell up. And while I am doing all this, Lee needs to do it as well. Because these friendships come in pairs and it’s not just about me and what I want and need, but also about him and what he is comfortable with.
So why do it? Because I love these people. Really love them, which is odd because truly I am not that quick to love. Is it situational?…sure. (The same way you may have bonded deeply and quickly with people in high school, college or the military) Will it last?…I have absolutely no idea. I imagine some friendships will deepen, others will trail off and become nice memories, and still others will explode in a fiery blaze. Because that is life, and people are people, and not everyone gets along with everyone no matter how much you want it. The important thing I realize as I write this for me is to try. Be willing to risk myself and accept the outcome. Be who I am and allow others the same courtesy. And to some extent it will be what it will be. Dr. Jo is probably really proud of me right now 🙂
I did want to say, that I had a chance to talk to Linda briefly about this at the rally. She’s been on the road over 8 years now and as much as an expert in this lifestyle as I know. I asked her about how hard it was to go months maybe years without seeing people, and she smiled at me and said not to worry (she says that to me a lot..lol), when we met up with people we hadn’t seen in a long time down the road it would be like we had seen them yesterday. To a large extent we would pick up right where we left off. I find comfort in that.
I feel better writing this…there is power in saying something out loud (metaphorically speaking). I would just like to add to my friends…you matter to me. I would ask that you would forgive my craziness the best you can. I am really not that good at this, but I am trying. To the rest of you, thanks for listening.
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