Don't Look Back

Sean on his way back to the hotel room

Sean and I have been saying goodbye since 1996, and even when you've been saying goodbye to someone for ten years, that part when they walk through the last doorway at the airport---the only one that you're not allowed to walk through with them---always feels like someone's kicked you in the stomach and then yanked your right arm off. A decade does nothing to diminish this feeling. I doubt a century would.

So things are finally coming to an end. This six months of freedom, this "let's take the rest of the year off!" nonsense is reaching its natural conclusion, and Sean left Singapore today for an epic journey that will have him landing in San Francisco, flying to Myrtle Beach, driving from Myrtle Beach to Charleston, picking up my car there and driving it up to Connecticut, and then setting off west after Christmas, cats in the back, bags in the front, to traverse that whole mass of land again and meet me in San Francisco in time for New Year's Eve.

When my brother Tom said goodbye to his girlfriend once, after she'd spent two weeks with us in Singapore, my dad drove them to the airport in the evening. The rest of us stayed at home, bracing ourselves for the moment Tom would arrive back at the house, most likely red-eyed and in need of a little TLC (and a large G&T.) When the front door opened, we jumped up, hugs and ice cream at the ready. "Are you alright? Can we get you anything? Do you miss her?" we asked, crowding around him with expressions of sympathy. "Yes, I do miss her," he replied, a palpable relief written all over his face. "But mostly I'm just so glad I can fart again."

As a veteran of the long distance relationship, I've always thought that when you say goodbye, it's the person staying home who gets the rough deal. The person leaving has so much else to think about---have I got an aisle seat? what will I read on the plane? is my passport in a safe place?---whereas the one left behind has nothing else to focus on but how much they miss the person who's gone.

They're the ones who have to make that sad little journey back to the house they left an hour ago and find the bed still unmade, the dishes still in the sink, the useless forgotten toothbrush they can't bring themselves to throw away. They're the ones who have no choice but to mope around for the rest of the afternoon, eating all the chocolate ornaments from the Christmas tree, swigging from the Baileys bottle, and finding reasons not to start on the writing assignment that was due yesterday. They're the ones who think "oh, I can't listen to that CD, it reminds me of us," and "this time yesterday we were eating lunch right there!" and "water? I can't drink water! WE USED TO DRINK WATER TOGETHER!" They're the ones whose sisters lean over their shoulders and ask "are you writing a corny post about how much you miss Sean? Because I saw that coming a mile away," and they're the ones who have to answer "yes, actually. I'm afraid that's exactly what I'm doing."

But it's more than the fact that I miss Sean; it's the fact that his leaving stands for something, for everything we'd looked forward to having finally finished, for never again taking a 24-hour bus ride through rural Burma together or sitting on a beach in Vietnam as the last light fades from the sky. And though I'll see him again in two weeks, it's rapidly becoming apparent that yes, all this is almost over, that I'm leaving soon too, that this six months of discovery has all but drained away. "We're just starting a new chapter," he said at the departure gate, because he always knows what to say at the departure gate, but it's hard to see that far ahead from this far behind. From here, of course, I can only see what I always see when Sean and I say goodbye: that we used to be together and now one of us is gone.


Dec 13, 2006

Gah! I hate being the one left behind! Here's hoping that time flies and that the being together again comes quickly. What an adventure you've had. I've had a ball following it. I can't wait to see what the next leg of your journey brings.

Dec 13, 2006

So much goodness ahead of you, Holly. I'm proud of you guys for seeing your dream through, and for leaping into the next challenge with humour and grace.

Dec 13, 2006

It absolutely STINKS to be the one left behind. Take heart that it's only two weeks, and after that you'll be off on your own adventure, and your adventures will again meet up--this time in San Francisco. Holy smokes, that's exciting.

Kyran, Notes to Self
Dec 13, 2006

I think I speak for a majority of your readers when I say that you should feel free to post pictures of your boyfriend in a towel any old time. As filler on a slow day. To break up long passages of text. Or just to punctuate.

Dec 13, 2006

Holly, as much as I hate to admit this, I am crying. For you. Because of this post. And I'm at work. People are walking into my office and asking me what's wrong, and I can't figure out what to tell them.

Nothing But Bonfires
Dec 13, 2006

Hmm, yeah, I can see how that would be awkward. But I totally don't mind if you pretend we're cousins or something, so the crying is a little easier to explain. "My cousin is sad because her boyfriend left!" would probably be accepted by most people in the office, right?

Dec 13, 2006

Your post touched me. My gf and I are constantly saying goodbye, but I am always the one leaving - whether for work or to visit my family. It is compounded when it is to visit my family, as my mother won't acknowledge that, gasp, her daughter lives with another woman. I know that everytime I leave her standing on the other side of the security checkpoint that it is hard for you said, at least I have the distraction of the trip.
Your recent adventure sounded wonderful, as does your upcoming San Francisco one. I am jealous. I want to be those people, those people that can "just do it".

Dec 13, 2006

I must say I completely agree with Teej when she said "...feel free to post pictures of your boyfriend in a towel any old time. As filler on a slow day. To break up long passages of text. Or just to punctuate."

Chin up, my blogging friend. Being left behind hurts. 2 weeks will go by quickly, I promise.

wood from sweetjuniper
Dec 13, 2006

so sweet.

Dutch and I have lots of goodbyes in our past, and everyone of them was awful in precisely the way you said they are.

that last picture of you guys together is lovely.

and remember: every day that passes means one less day that you're apart.

Dec 13, 2006

Ahh... young love. Thanks for helping me to remember what that was like. I may hug my husband extra hard today when he gets home. It's been a long time since I've done the "rush into his arms with joy" kind of greeting, and I think he deserves one. I just hope I don't throw out his back or anything.

You'll get your reunion, and a whole new life together, in two short weeks. Meanwhile, there's chocolate to be eaten and liquor to be swilled. Carry on!

Dec 13, 2006

This is what being in love is all about, but I don't need to tell you that.

Dec 13, 2006

Being able to look forward to seeing one another again is the only "good" thing about having to say goodbye.

And I'd like to second Kyran's comment.

Dec 13, 2006

What a lovely post. And I know exactly how you feel.

Dec 13, 2006

My husband is always the one leaving, and I know exactly what you're talking about. No matter how many times we say goodbye, it always just... sucks. No getting around that, really.

I try to think of how excited I'll be when he comes home. This usually consists of some variation on me at the airport, nose against the glass, jumping up and down like I have to pee.

Hang in there.

And what Wood said: that photo is lovely.

Dec 13, 2006

So, so nice. I love to see couples who actually love each other. My husband travels a lot, and every time he leaves, I hate it, even if it's only for two days. I hate it!

Dec 13, 2006

The older I get, the faster time seems to go, so please, feel free to borrow my time warp for the next two weeks, it will take 10-15 minutes to pass. :) When my husband and I got married we moved to a new downtown neighborhood in our lovely city and spent months discovering and comparing Thai restaurants, organic (or not so, if you are seeking the best Cheetos) grocery stores, the best book stores, the most interesting coffee shop crowd (there are some weird ones in Denver) and still after 2 years are finding the most intriguing new things together. AND that was all in a city we already lived in! think about all the wonderful discoveries you and Sean can make together in a whole new city. I'm sorry that you have to be apart for even a moment, (I still cry when I have to go on business trips) apart sucks. But Sean is right, you are starting a new chapter, and while it's not a bus ride in Burma, it is extraordinary, this life you are creating for yourselves.

Wishing you lots of chocolate and Bailey's and a fabulous holiday with your family, that's kind of a lot to cram into 15 minutes... :)

Dec 13, 2006

We just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, & I'm still sad when my husband goes out of town. I hope I never lose that, that I'm always so in love with him that it makes me sad to be apart for even a few days. (Which doesn't mean that I'm also not the tiniest bit excited to be able to walk around the house with a green clay mask on, eating cold french fries and watching cheesy old movies. I'm such a dork.)

Thanks for this beautiful post!

Dec 13, 2006

Obviously, Sean isn't the only one who always knows what to say. Maybe he's got it down at the departure gate, but you've got it on the INTERNET, where we all can hear you. (Or, read you.)

I think we all understand, in one way or another, exactly what you're feeling. You articulate your emotions so eloquently, damn it. And when we're already crying because the sweet guy in the commercial gave his wife a diamond necklace while she was sleeping so she would wake up and find it encircling her neck, and then we come in here and read this entry, it's not quite fair, you see?

So. Sniffle. I'll be okay. Don't worry about me. You?

Dec 13, 2006

You've perfectly captured the emptiness of being'left behind.'I even get that feeling when my boyfriend leaves for work before me (officially making me the Queen of Lame), so I can only imagine what you're going through.

Dec 13, 2006

*sniff* awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. don't worry, those two weeks will be over before you know it.

and, haha, loved what your brother said!

Dec 13, 2006

Oooh, ooh - think of that opening scene from "Love Actually," with all the people greeting their loved ones at Heathrow. You know how that always makes you (well, me) all warm and fuzzy? Well, you don't get to have one of those without a goodbye first.

Does that help? At all?

Dec 13, 2006

I love love!!

Dec 13, 2006

Wow, this post reminds me that I don't really feel like that at all when my boyfriend says goodbye - that's it, I am dumping him! Thanks Holly, now my Christmas shopping will be way cheaper.

Also, I refuse to join Flickr just to comment on one of your photos there, but the picture of Sean in the hut with the mosquito netting and the light coming know the one...that might be the sexiest picture I've ever seen.

Nothing But Bonfires
Dec 13, 2006

I know the one. It's my desktop background. I won't feel weirded out if you make it your desktop background too.

Dec 13, 2006

As a veteran of the long-distance relationship, please tell me how you do it. We're students and my boyfriend is about to move to the other side of the country for a six-month fellowship. Needless to say, I'm freaking out because we've never been apart for more than a few weeks. Any advice?

Dec 13, 2006

Oh geez. I hate hate hate goodbyes like this. My boyfriend (now husband) and I had one a few years ago, I didn't see him for about 22 months, and hoo boy that was the suck. And now every time one of us leaves for a few days it brings back just a little bit of what we felt (or rather, I think I felt more of it, because like you said--it's worse being the one left behind) on that ghastly hot August evening when I watched him drive away from my house, waving out of the sunroof until he turned the corner.

But I don't need to tell you that it makes all the reuniting to be had (in two weeks!) that much better! (though really, I'm sure we'd all prefer to never have to say goodbye ever again--you never get used to it). *raising my own bottle of Baileys* Here's to fewer of these sucky goodbyes in the future.

Dec 13, 2006

Ahhh, the joys of the long-distance relationship. You're speaking my language. Two things:

1) You two are so adorable it hurts a little.

2) As bad as the partings are, the following reunions almost make up for it.

Also, you just spent all that time traipsing around the world, so that's as much sympathy as I can muster right now. ;)

Dec 13, 2006

I am totally not putting Sean's picture on my desktop, that would weird ME out, but truly thanks for offering. Although, on second thought, if I put Sean's come-hither picture on my desktop I guess I wouldn't need to dump my boyfriend, because he'd see it and get angry and maybe leave! Brilliant!!

Dec 13, 2006

So, has anyone mentioned yet that that last picture of the two of you together looks like something from a freaking MAGAZINE?

Umm, unfair. Or, at least, that should take the sting out of the two weeks a little. The fact that you two look like an ADVERTISEMENT for happy, beautiful people, right??

Dec 13, 2006

Why am I crying? WHY?

Gah. Lovely post my dear and here's hoping two weeks feels like 2 minutes - except during the holiday meal...then that part of the time apart should go slow...then fast again right afterward.

Dec 13, 2006

oh man this brings back memories. and tears. my husband and i did the long distance thing for two years (TWO YEARS!) before we got married, and those goodbyes never got easier. you expressed the sadness of being left behind so well. but the two weeks will go by so quickly! and this may be weird since i don't really know you, but i'm so proud of you for taking this life changing trip! i wish i could do something like that one day!

Dec 13, 2006

DK and I have said lots of goodbyes over the fourteen years -- luckily, the time between them gets longer and longer. Your lovely post makes me remember that heart tug of emptiness when the other is gone; sheesh, you are such a gifted writer.

ps. posted the purse.

Dec 13, 2006

Would like to go on record for the following: Two tears came to my eyes from that post. I never, ever, cry at movies/funerals/leaving my family. Darn you with your cute pictures and eloquent, un-sappy love. Also: Two weeks! My husband and I don't care much for being apart either - he once drove all night so he could slip into bed (and also scare the **** out of) and sleep the wee hours in bed with me. You two have already got such a strong bond - it will only grow with all the nuturing you give it. Can't wait to hear about San Fran and your joyous reunion with Sean and the cats!

Dec 14, 2006

This is one of the most sweetest, tenderest, and perfect posts I have ever read. From the humor of your brother's comment, to the unmade beds/dishes in sink, to the I CAN'T DRINK WATER to the last 13 words of your post.... I absolutely LOVE it.

Chin up, Holly. (Please forgive me for using your first name on such a familiar basis, since I am only a lurker; but like one of your posts of a letter you wrote to a TV star, I feel like I know you.) You'll see him soon. Oh, and while you are in S.F., if you ever drive down to Santa Barbara or LA or San Luis Obispo, PLEASE let me know. I would love to meet up somewhere and meet you in person. (That was my offer to be your friend since you said something about not having friends in S.F., which I highly doubt.)

P.S. Today I borrowed one of your famous non-expletive phrases. Hope you don't mind. : )

Sarah Marie
Dec 14, 2006

I've held back this comment in the past since I'm new to the site and obviously don't know you in person. But after that picture of you and Sean...Wow! You two would have beautiful children.

I'm totally going to seek out the sexiest photo ever now...

Horrible Warning
Dec 14, 2006

You are over here.

Now I have to go get a tissue. And clean up some cat puke...

Dec 14, 2006

You really had me bawling like a baby! I hope you don't mind, but I often tell people I am reading my friend's blog. It just seems slightly insane to be getting so involved in someone's life, whom I've never met! :) I know you are sad right now, so many endings. Sean is right, it is just the beginning of the next chapter in your lives. I can hardly wait to hear your adventures in San Francisco. Hang in there and for heaven's sake, keep writing! xoxoyour friend Lisa :)

Dec 14, 2006

I have been living 3,000 miles apart from my boyfriend for over a year, yet I have never been able to put into words exactly how hard it is to carry on, at home, without him. Thank you for giving me such a cathartic moment, and for helping me to realize just how much we do have to look forward to in our next chapter, when I leave this home to be with him again, and make our new city home together.

It's moments like this when you (or at least, I) realize that when you have love, you really have enough.

Saucepan Man
Dec 14, 2006

....and, of course, you know whose going to cry and mope and need TLC when YOU leave in two weeks time....

Dec 14, 2006

This is a beautiful post that perfectly captures what many of us experience. It IS harder for the one left behind. After many years of NOT taking them, I took a couple of solo road trips this year...and ohmygod, the glee when I hit the was so much easier to be the one leaving. Usually I'm the one getting left (as he hits the road for a gig). And it's so much harder when a period of extraordinary togetherness has preceded the leaving. After being used to the goodbyes for years...and then five years of almost constant togetherness in the's hard adjusting to the goodbyes again back on the mainland. But he goes for less time now...even so, I can't imagine I'm ever going to like having to say them.

Dec 14, 2006

Gah! Had to sniff really hard as I never wear waterproof mascara and it is never good when I have to explain that I am crying over a blog and not actually doing my work. My lovely husband and I have had many goodbyes over our time together - mostly him on trips and me waiting patiently for him to come home. I hate when he leaves but love when he comes home. I am not sure who is more excited - the dog or me as we both scramble to be the first one to the door to give him a smooch.

The only good thing about saying goodbye is saying hello again (and reunion sex!). Your post was beautifully written and captured exactly what saying good bye to your beloved is about - for both sides.

Dec 14, 2006

Oh Holly. What a fabulous, sweet, sad post. I moved to NYC last fall for a year & left behind my boyfriend of 3 years...and well, we didn't make out too well. I still have hope that he & I will find our way back together again, (esp. b/c I just moved back to Boston - our city- last week!) but I have to tell you, that over the past year I thought about you & Sean & how in the world you did it for 10 years off and on. I commend you both, really. Long distance is TOUGH.

Enjoy your family time for the next few weeks and wow - the next time you do see Sean it'll be to kick off 2007 in a new, amazing city AND you'll get to see the cats and your car that would not sell! Not such a bad reunion, I think.

Thanks again for capturing feelings perfectly. You have a knack for that you know.

Dec 14, 2006

You are 100% right about the person left behind getting the raw deal... but in this case, I might feel worse for Sean. Driving across the country alone with two cats? I hope your cats are some sort of angel-cats who enjoy riding in the car and don't cry THE ENTIRE TIME (unlike mine).

I didn't see the picture Sadie is talking about, but I have to think that the one with Sean wearing the pink tie and the glasses is a very close second.

Dec 14, 2006

God, he's hot. Of course you'll miss him. But he'll be so nice to come home to.

Dec 15, 2006

If it doesn't make you too sad, can we talk about Sean in the towel again? And how you can post more of those?

Sarah B.
Dec 17, 2006

You are both so lucky.

Dec 18, 2006

Oh I know how awful that feels. I remember leaving Italy, sobbing and stumbling through the gate having just broken up with Simons, and it was just the worst feeling ever. And even now, when I've got him forever (according to God and the laws of South Carolina), I still hate seeing the back of him, going to a place where I can't least for several weeks.

Still, how wonderful is it that first night back together to curl up around him and feel comfortable again? That's my favorite part.

Dec 18, 2006

I have a feeling that you two just possibly might have many more adventures ahead of you. I'm looking forward to reading about them. In fact, I think I'm probably more excited than you are about your upcoming relocation, because I'll get all of the funny without the actual wrenchingly life-changing uprooting stuff!