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Long distance relationship

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Image by  Bushey on Clker.comEvery once in a while something happens that takes one by surprise – that brings one up short – that shakes one abruptly out of any sense of complacency. Well – such a thing happened to me just this last weekend. The Kickass Canada Girl flew back to Victoria for a brief sojourn to visit loved ones and friends.

Why did this come as such a shock – given that I knew well in advance that she was going?

For the answer to this question one need only look back over this journal to the entries from a couple of years ago. At the start of December 2012 the Girl flew back to Victoria to wind up her affairs there after the nine month experiment of the two of us living on different continents. Her job in Victoria had gone up in smoke, as had our plans of a rapid redeployment into retirement on the Saanich peninsular. The Girl was on her way back to the UK in time for Christmas – and our plans were on the way back to the drawing board.

This visit marks the first occasion since 2012 upon which the Girl has gone to Canada without me – and I have to say that I don’t at all care for the experience. I was not expecting such a strong echo of the many poignant occasions during those nine months when – following our all too brief visits to each other – we endured the abrupt wrench of renewed parting as we went our separate ways for a further six to nine weeks.

This period of absence brings back the sort of memories and feelings that I thought I had safely tucked away for good.

It is – of course – but a brief parting and we will soon be back together under the same roof – enjoying another Christmas together. In all probability the next time we make the journey to BC we will be traveling one way only.

All of this I know – but I still don’t like the sensation…

Sigh!

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Photo by Joey Gannon from Pittsburgh, PA…a year makes!

(With apologies for Stanley Adams for taking a liberty with his English lyrics to María Grever‘s Spanish original).

On this very day a year ago I was doing my best – by means remote – to help celebrate the Kickass Canada Girl’s birthday. She was – the gentle reader may recall – still living and working in Victoria at the time and our celebrations were thus limited to those which might be effected by the good offices of the InterWebNet – and in particular those services rendered by Skype, eCards, Amazon (CA) and the most helpful website of my favourite haven of relaxation – the Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa.

Matters have been greatly facilitated this time round by us both actually living on the same continent! Our merrymaking will – as a consequence – be unrestrained.

I do send commiserations to our dear friends in BC who sadly don’t get to share the Girl’s birthday this year. I trust that our presence at the celebrations in Canada for Christmas and the New Year will go some way to make up for that loss.

I feel sure that all those who are regular readers – as well as those who are only occasionally so – would want to join me in in wishing the Girl a very happy birthday!

Hip, hip hurrah!!

 

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Long distance runaround
Long time waiting to feel the sound
I still remember the dream there
I still remember the time you said goodbye
Did we really tell lies
Letting in the sunshine
Did we really count to one hundred

Jon Anderson

One here for the Kickass Canada Girl, who has a bit of a ‘thing’ about the 300SL Gullwing. Well – who doesn’t?

The Girl is on her way to Victoria – via Hong Kong and Vancouver! This somewhat bizarre route is a result of the complete change of plan between booking a return ticket from Canada to attend our good friends’ wedding in Hong Kong at the start of November, and then later realising that she would also need to get to London by November 6th for a job interview. The only course open to her was to book another return flight from Hong Kong to London and then to adjust the return flight dates so that they co-coincided. As a result she now has a 24 hour stop-over in Hong Kong before carrying on to British Columbia.

Once she has wrapped up her affairs there and re-packed all her belongings for the return to England, she has a relatively simple return journey – in two weeks time – via Vancouver and Chicago! Well – when you are booking last(ish) minute in the run up to Christmas you have to take what you can get…

When she returns one thing in our lives will have changed – hopefully for good. We will no longer be in a Long Distance Relationship – or LDR as the TLA has it. Those who have followed these posts for a while may well have seen some of my previous musings on the subject. If you have come to this post as the result of a Google search on such matters let me refer you here, here, here and here where you might find some slightly more useful material. If you want to know how living apart has been over this last ten months, the Long Distance Relationships category herein will guide you to any number of my grumbles and gripes.

That I am sounding valedictory on the subject (if such one can be) is because the first – and most important – of the many lessons that I am sure the Girl and I will learn from this… unusual… year, is that we should not be apart! We didn’t like it – we won’t do it any more!

To those of you whose LDRs must persist – or to anyone about to embark on such – you have our heartfelt sympathies. Of course, for some people it works… for us it was tough, unpleasant, painful and definitely not to be repeated.

So – raising a wee dram to those that must endure – I say “Sealbh math dhuibh”.

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…and an interesting statistic!

In addition to any casual readers who may have stumbled upon these somewhat eclectic posts (Hello there – and thank you!) there is a ‘hard core’ (not sure how well that will go down…) of regular followers – or at least of those who have subscribed to receive email notifications of postings (on the assumption that these emails are not simply diverted directly and discretely into the spam folder!).

These hardy souls – numbering around 20 in all – represent some of our oldest friends, relatives and acquaintances both in the UK and in Canada – as well as from further afield! To them I say, simply – thank you.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to make this particular connection, but the realisation came to me just the other day that – of this chosen few – no less than three of us are currently engaged in Long Distance Relationships – or LDRs, if you prefer the TLA! Now it seems to me that three out of twenty is statistically rather on the high side, which does make me ponder yet again the nature of co-incidence – on which subject I have mused previously. I have also posted before on the subject of LDRs – herehere, here and here – and I very much doubt that this will be my last word on the subject.

One could delve into the backgrounds of those concerned with a view to identifying some pre-disposition, or to look for some commonality of experience which might result in us arriving at the same place (as it were) at the same time, but in reality our reasons for being so – in terms of distance, duration and indeed intent – are sufficiently different as to render any such essay meaningless. When all’s said and done it is, most likely, ‘just one of those things’ – though so to say will doubtless offend both the logicians and enthusiasts for the scientific method.

It is really rather comforting to know others who are themselves in similar circumstances – to be able to swap notes and to compare experiences. Thanks again to you both – and good fortune for your particular journey. From our conversations I suspect that – if there is one thing that we have all discovered – it is that no matter how carefully we make our plans the trickster that is life will throw them into disarray. More on the trickster in future posts!

On the subject of Long Distance Relationships – today is Kickass Canada Girl’s birthday. It is the first of our birthdays together that has had to be celebrated by way of Skype, eCards, Amazon (CA) and the Brentwood Lodge Spa website. Whereas I am hugely grateful to the InterWebNet for making such things possible I have to say that it is a pretty poor substitute for being able to celebrate the occasion in person

I suspect I will need to make up for this ‘big-time’ – but for now…

Happy Birthday, Kickass Canada Girl!!

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The twighlight shadows the horizon
The lustre fading from the day
I’m stranded on a shrinking island
And you are half a world away

The hourglass has changed direction
The silver sand sliding away
Time running slow on this connection
And you’re still half a world away

Plus ça change
Plus c’est la même chose

How did we come to this position?
If you had known would you have stayed?
Should I have raised more opposition
To living half a world away?

Plus ça change
Plus c’est la même chose

Your shining face cuts through the darkness
And I am half a world away

Plus ça change

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Given that Kickass Canada Girl and I lead what, in the main, what can only be described as a charmed existance it would seem somewhat churlish – if that is a strong enough term for what I am about to do – for either of us to whinge or otherwise complain about it. Indeed some might find such behaviour reprehensible or even – given the manifold ills of the world as a whole – somewhat offensive. My nature is to be an optimist and to look on the bright side – but there are times when even I feel beaten down by things and am moved by the urge to unburden.

To cut to the chase – what I am saying is that if the very thought of my grumbling on about  our lives turns your stomach – look away now! Click through to another, more upbeat posting maybe.

<Grumble on>

The Girl has gone back to Victoria. Boo!! She and I will not see each other again until early in November – which sorry inevitability really is proving pretty tough to bear. As posited in a previous posting on Long Distance Relationships – and is definitely turning out to be the case for us – these repeated partings are becoming more difficult with repetition rather than easier.

The Girl – having been away from Victoria for some time on a combination of leave and foreign work trips – faces what she knows will be a tough period back in the office. She is well aware that things are difficult all over at the moment, but as she is still relatively new to this particular challenge she is finding it all rather daunting and would much rather that I were there to support her (as would I!) instead of being 5,500 miles away.

I have started my last full academic year at work. This should feel good but it has been a very tough and chaotic summer – not just for those of us in IT but across the School as a whole. There is going to be a mad scramble over the coming months to try to get everything working as it should, with the further threat of an inspection hanging over us throughout. There is clearly more to do than can reasonably be accomplished in the time available, and the very thought of heading into the winter – with my commute and long days of work – makes me feel almost resentful that I have to do this final year.

The housing market is flat. The various statistics available online for our area suggest that the average time on the market is in excess of two thirds of a year and that very little is selling. Our apartment in Buckinghamshire inevitably does not fall into the ‘average’ category – in terms of selling if no other. The longer it remains unsold – and with no indication that the market will pick up anytime soon – the more worried we become that a vital element of our plan will simply fail to materialise. There is also the ongoing expense of being the landlord of a rented property. There seems always to be something needing to be done!

I do not much like the autumn. I never have. Spring is my time of year – when new life is appearing and all is being born afresh. Yes – I know that the cycle of death and rebirth is natural and essential, but that doesn’t always help my mood.

Wonderful as it is for the Girl and I to meet each other whenever we can, the cost of flying around the world like this really is unconscionable – let alone being the slightest bit ‘green’. I can’t wait to be settled in one place and to put what monies we have left to some more fruitful purpose.

 

You know – I think that is quite enough of that. This is making even me a bit queesy – and if you have read thus far I am sure that you are feeling the same.

Deep breath – and…

<Grumble off>

 

Sorry about that. Normal service has been resumed…

 

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Now that Kickass Canada Girl and I have each paid a visit to the other, subsequent to her move back to Canada in March, some of the side-effects of living at a distance are becoming more apparent.

We have – in great measure – got the hang of residing on different continents. We don’t like it much, and certainly wouldn’t want to do so for longer than is absolutely necessary, but we believe that we can make it work. Visits in either direction are, in the main, joyous occasions. Meeting each other again – as it were – can be a powerfully emotive experience.

The hardest part though – for me at any rate – seems to be the transition between one state and the other.

I posted last month regarding the Girl’s recent visit to the UK, and how her arrival made me realise the extent to which I had built up a protective layer such that I might live without her with the minimum of emotional discomfort. Close observation throughout the course of her visit has revealed rather more about how these things work – as least for us – both at the ingress and egress of her stay.

Before the Girl arrived I was gripped – needless to say – by eager and impatient anticipation. The last week before she arrived seemed in particular to crawl by. Then, on her arrival – as I noted before – there was a brief period of disorientation which resolved rapidly into joyous harmony.

So far, so good!

A couple of days before she was due to leave, however, we both noticed a slight but uncomfortable tension. She had to pack, of course, and that in itself – signifying as it did the imminence of departure – inevitably created a melancholic mood. There was something more, though. My best guess is that the inclination to plan and think ahead – giving thought to the events and activities of the next few days – caused a rupture in the fabric of togetherness. To that point we had been planning things together and sharing a common immediate future. Once we started to consider events post-departure we were inevitably drawn once again into our separate worlds, even though we yet had time together.

The act of parting itself – particularly given that we are to see each other again in a few weeks – was made tolerable by the brave faces to which we are becoming accustomed. The aftermath, however, was less pleasant. Rebuilding the protective shell seemed to take more effort than it had before, and the melancholic spirit hung heavy for a longer season.

It may be, of course, that what is immediately extant simply leaves a more powerful trace than what has gone before, and that in the great scheme of things there is no such thing as a good parting – at least where lovers are concerned. I find myself worried, however, that in truth Greg Guldner’s observation – quoted in this previous post on long distance relationships – to the effect that subsequent partings can prove ever more unbearable may in fact be worryingly close to the mark.

This separation thing clearly has a limited shelf-life.

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As an accelerated passage to self-knowledge living on a different continent to one’s loved one is not to be recommended, though – conversely – precisely so to be. Such antithetical circumstances are doubtless sufficiently commonplace that I need not expand further upon them here, except to say that I firmly intend to remain humbly grateful for whatever lessons are handed to me.

Learning is, of course, all about the unknown, though I have come to recognise that – at the risk of being swept into waters Rumsfeldian – some lessons come as a greater surprise than others. In the case of my voluntary separation from the Kickass Canada Girl some lessons were easily anticipated. Others came as more of a surprise.

I had – before the Girl’s return – been focusing on the emotional mechanics of living apart – on the maneuvers necessary to maintain a relationship over a long distance… the frequent if sometimes prosaic communication – the need to remain engaged in one another’s life and so forth. I had paid considerably less attention to the things that I was doing to sanction my newly solo existence in the UK. Some of these latter stratagems only really became apparent when the Girl arrived back in Berkshire last Thursday.

It seems that – having shared this living space joyfully with the Girl since last September and having then had to come to terms with inhabiting it alone – I had put in place numerous little routines and rituals that were designed to prevent myself from becoming lonely, or from suffering too many morbid memories. I had clearly applied these defences sufficiently assiduously and conscientiously that I had achieved a sort of emotional plateau, on which – though I naturally missed the Girl hugely – my existence could be maintained for much of the time in a relatively pain-free fashion. Further, this had apparently been done entirely sub-consciously without me even being aware that I had done so.

As a result for the first couple of hours being together again in our apartment in Berkshire felt slightly odd – as though some protective levee had been breached and I was in danger of all my careful defences being swept away in the ensuing flood. Fortunately – notwithstanding my fears – this did indeed turn out to be the case, and the emotional rush of being together again performed its familiar magic as a wave of joy washed us up gratefully on the sun-bleached beach of togetherness.

I’m not sure that I will ever truly become accustomed to that roller-coaster moment when one crests the rise on the big dipper – but thankfully we will not have to do so too many more times.

In that – as in so many things – we are fortunate.

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Those who write, post or comment on Long Distance Relationships (LDRs) – be they academics, altruists, cynics, sympathisers or those who are currently (or have been previously) themselves embroiled in such a situation – all concur that communication is vital, and that the nature thereof should be agreed in advance by negotiation between the parties concerned.

As you may have noted from previous posts, Kickass Canada Girl and I belong to the school of believers in frequent communication, however trivial or brief it may be. We are – for this and other reasons – immensely grateful that we did not have to endure this experience even five or ten years ago. Skype, email, SMS messaging and mobile devices such as the iTablet and smartphones have enabled global communication in a manner that would have been unimaginable to those who went before us. The idea of embarking on such a relationship with only landline telephony and airmail – let alone in the days when the only communication was handwritten and went by sea – just doesn’t bear thinking about. In this way – as in so many others – we are very lucky.

So important is communication considered to be to the health of an LDR that scientists and developers dedicate considerable effort and resource to enhancing it. Mary E. Morrison’s 2006 article – “How To Make Long-Distance Love Work” contains the following example:

“Cornell University scientists, for example, have started researching “minimal intimate objects” as a supplementary means of communication. Imagine both you and your partner spending your days at a computer. In the taskbar of your computer screen, you see a small box with a little circle. When you click on your circle, the corresponding circle on your partner’s screen lights up: a quick, one-bit message that’s nonintrusive but establishes an ambient awareness of you. As you work, you’re right there with each other.”

That’s not all. A UK company called Little Riot are about to launch a product called ‘Pillow Talk‘. Their publicity blurb claims:

“Pillow Talk is a project aiming to connect long distance lovers. Each person has a ring sensor they wear to bed at night, and a flat fabric panel which slots inside their pillowcase. The ring wirelessly communicates with the other person’s pillow; when one person goes to bed, their lover’s pillow begins to glow softly to indicate their presence. Placing your head on the pillow allows you to hear the real-time heartbeat of your loved one. The result is an intimate interaction between two lovers, regardless of the distance between them.”

The eight hour time difference between the UK and BC rather rules this one out, of course – quite apart from any other consideration!

Finally, for those who really can’t keep their hands off each other, Mara Siegler of Blackbook Magazine offers this weirdness:

“Before conquering us in a global revolution and turning the human race into fuel, robots may actually grow to love us, or at least make our romances better. Hooman Samani, a researcher at the National University of Singapore, has been experimenting with what he calls “Lovotics.” He’s given the metal beings the equivalent of human hormones so they can react to love and also created two totally creepy bots to help couples in long distance relationships. 

The “Kissenger,” which sort of looks like a Pokemon reject, can be plugged into the computer while Skyping and supposedly feels like a real kiss.  Don’t have a significant other to use this with? No worries, you can go solo.

Take a look. Either put the video on mute or jam out. Your choice.”

…and at this point I stop looking – before things get even more bizarre.

 

In response to my last post on the subject of LDRs the Girl sent me a one line comment expressing her view. It reads:

“Hmm, nobody seems to sum it up the way I do – it sucks!”

I totally agree. One result of our recent cogitation on the nature of our long distance relationship is that we really don’t want to have to keep it up for two years. We are, therefore, reworking our schedule based on my ‘retirement’ being moved forward to the summer of 2013.

More of this anon!

 

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The sheer quantity of material available online – and elsewhere – concerning Long Distance Relationships is quite staggering. Much of it will naturally not be relevant to any given situation and some of it is, frankly, a little creepy. This post contains a selection of items pertinant to those in a similar position to Kickass Canada Girl and me.

Statistics on LRPs are revealing. These are from America, but as is the way of such things they doubtless echo reasonably closely the situation in Canada and the UK.

  • According to the American Census Beaureau more than 3% of married couples live apart.
  • A 2009 study from UCLA suggests that those couples who do choose to live apart:
    • frequently live in urban areas,
    • tend to be among the better educated,
    • tend to be younger.

However:

  • The American Association of Retired Peoples (AARP) estimates that the number of married couples – of which the partners are 50 years old or more – who live apart, tripled between 2001 and 2005.

Laura Stafford, University of Kentucky professor and author of “Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross-Residential Relationships writes:

“The older you are when you do a long-distance relationship, the less it seems to matter because you’re not changing as much.”

I’m not sure how true this is, though I guess we may find out. The young are probably more accustomed to change and may thus be more resilient. We ‘oldies’ are may be getting more set in our ways, but are hopefully also imbued with wisdom. We have – after all –  been around the block (a few times!) now.

I must admit to only having glanced at Laura Stafford’s book. Indeed what becomes rapidly apparent when browsing the online book stores is that the range of published material available is extensive. Some of it is pretty academic in nature, but the majority would fit more comfortably into the ‘self-help’ category. The sheer volume (groan!) of these publications makes it impossible to make particular recommendations, but does reinforce a long held view of mine that in such circumstances the traditional bookshop wins out any day over the online variant. I much prefer to spend an hour or so browsing physical volumes, to seek out the ones that speak to me – the ones that chime most with my own instincts.

Most of the sources I have studied do seem to agree on basic principles. Here are a few useful tips for those contemplating embarking on an LDR – gleaned in this instance from around the InterWebNet:

  • Establish the ground rules from the start. Do not assume anything – leave nothing up in the air. This should be a no-brainer. Avoiding unecessary friction is key in a situation in which finding resolutions will probably be hampered by restricted communication.
  • Agreed on an end goal for the LDR. A painful time will pass much more quickly if there is a definite end date. It will also help tremendously if the LDR is in itself of benefit to the relationship in some way.
  • Agree on a level of communication. This will vary, but for many people frequent contact – however brief and prosaic – seems preferable to occasional longer conversations. This is certainly the case for us.
  • Alternate visits to each other’s base. A sense of balance and fairness will make things a little easier. Sharing the burden reinforces the relationship.
  • Trust each other. Nothing is as corrosive as jealousy or mistrust in a vacuum. You should not – it hardly need be said – do anything to breach the other’s trust.
  • Make your own life – but be sure to share each other’s vicariously.
  • Take every opportunity for intimacy. Of course! Goes without saying…

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