How to Be a Highly Mobile Couple

Editor Note: This entry was written originally in 2007.

I’m in hell in Houma. Or maybe I’m not? How do you know? How do you know when life is ridiculous and needs to be boycotted or when you are ridiculous and you just need to suck it up? When my boyfriend and I were preparing to move and I was beginning to explore ways to bring writing more into the forefront of my life, he suggested that I write the guidebook of how to be a highly mobile couple. We were dealing with movers and packing and finding an apartment and a myriad of other random tasks. Although sharing our life was still a new habit, we had in common the urge to simplify, streamline, and downsize, both in our individual lives and together in our home. We share a mutual aversion to piles covering our desks, boxes of trinkets stacked in closets, and too many square feet requiring cleaning and repairs.

At the time, we thought mostly of the spatial and tangible aspects of this plan. How would we fit all of our belongings into a one-bedroom space the size of which I formerly occupied all alone? How many shelves would be required? How would we decide whose teapot to use? How would we dispose of the extra stuff? I gave little thought to the shedding of emotional and geographical baggage linked quietly to the notion of home. Most of my wise friends and family members could see the challenge of this much before I did, but they likely sensed my lack of interest in hearing their counsel. I had decided I was up for this move and no one would stop me.

How important is it to love your grocery store? Should you stay home to be close to your family? Is it necessary to understand the politics of your neighbors? Can you be as close to your friends via phone and internet as you can were you in the same city? How much do colleagues affect the quality of your work? I reflect on these questions daily now. My boyfriend lives with these puzzles more easily than I. He is already acclimated to the nomadic lifestyle due to his work, but he also lives a different Houma than I do. He works with a wide variety of other nomads who, like him, are from somewhere else. Sometimes we are both startled by the intense, visceral responses I have to what happens to us here and to what I see at my job. From time to time I have teetered on the edge of wanting to throw in the towel and during one really bad night I almost declared that it was time to go back to Minnesota. I had welcomed this adventure, so that should have made coping with all of this easier. What was wrong with me?

We have emptied most of our boxes now. The surface of my boyfriend’s desk peeks out, newly exposed. Every couple of months we notice and eradicate another pile of items which we do not use. Yesterday was our one-year anniversary and we were happy to be at home, quiet, reflecting and relaxing in the middle of our downsized life and our mostly functional space.

I hope that my boyfriend will correct me if he thinks I’m wrong, but I am reasonably sure that the trick to being the highly mobile couple that we originally envisioned is more related to the quality of our relationship than it is to airport acumen or specialized packing skills. I’m coming to believe that for us, success lies in using our relationship as our vehicle. Like a well-constructed car or airplane, our relationship needs to be safe and strong. Sometimes it requires maintenance or mending. Like a train, it needs to be adjustable, so that it is flexible and sufficient to carry our hopes and plans.

I’m not ready to give up on being mobile (sorry, Mom). But I do need to get out of Houma. Stay tuned for coming updates on news of our impending move to New Orleans (sorry again, Mom).