I describe my life as something of a nomad to the uninitiated.
The uninitiated to me is essentially everyone who lives in 1 town, has 1 home, and works a regular 9 to 5. Uninitiated in this sense doesn’t mean anything derogatory, it is just an unfair classifier for anyone that doesn’t understand how my life functions if they ask me in a generic conversation something as broad as:
So what’s __________ (insert x personal item) like?
That could just be as easily replaced with anything that happens in their daily life that is brought up for the sake of conversation. Typically their life has conventional subjects while mine includes rather unconventional subjects that if I talk about them I sound like a complete loon if we don’t know each other really well.
My frequent flier mile program on Delta rings up ~250K+ miles a year and whenever I get to spend more than 3 days in one place I am a very happy person. Next month I’m on the move 20-23 days of the month and I couldn’t even tell you if I’m going to stay in the same country.
I rarely have more than 2-3 days clean laundry and my big trip is being home. I get to visit places all over the world but it’s never for the reason the uninitiated would go and I never do the things they’d do there.
I commonly find ways of telling people where I was last week while seemingly disappointing them with what I didn’t do there.
I don’t want to stop over at Disneyland when I’m in town. I don’t want to see a show in Vegas when I pop through and I don’t want to go for a hike at Sundance. When you say “Sweden”, I think copyright law. I don’t go to the same places most people go to relax, to relax.
Ideas about how to have normal personal relationships have remained somewhat amorphous for most of my life. Lately, it’s finally gotten some clarity.
How do I carry on with normal personal relationships when our lives are so different?
I know I’m not alone in this nomadic relationship quandary and during a conversation with a very wonderful woman we realized the trick and why our relationship was working so well.
Rituals. We have rituals.
These rituals go everywhere with us and they’re as reliable as air:
- On Sunday’s, wherever we are in the world we find a copy of the New York Times and some coffee. One of us regularly stops to write, draw, paint, or put on a record but if it’s Sunday this is the plan.
- When one of us flies in. The expectation is that we’ll find a place to have a glass of wine and talk. And we do that, for hours. Normally in a far back corner of a bar where no one will bother us.
- We don’t take computers to bed. One may on occasion find it’s way into the bedroom but it never stays long and that’s a good thing.
- From time to time we draw the day as it ends. It normally results in 1 piece of printer paper and a dozen or so little drawings. Include a 4 year old in this and I promise you’ll get more than a few gems from your most memorable moments.
- We say cheers at dinner. It’s common to hear a child or an adult stop a conversation and say “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to make a toast.”
- We create things separately. Our lives are a constant show and tell of things created and our house is littered with creations.
- We go to baseball games. Neither one of us really plays anymore and we don’t follow any teams but we enjoy games. I can’t really tell you why but it doesn’t really matter. It’s always fun.
- If someone asks you to play Nintendo with them, you don’t say no.
- If there is no music, turn on music.
- We keep treasures. What is a ridiculous rack of ridiculous things from wine and champagne corks, to dice, to a plastic crab, to a miniature dinosaur, are kept just like any expensive piece of crystal. We have things everywhere that are reminders of what we did, what we found, and not where we bought something. Together and independently we’re always adding to it and it’s an amalgamation of great memories.
- We spend time in the sun on purpose. Yesterday that was a few hours on old bikes and any other day it could have been a few hours in the woods.
- If it’s cold outside and we have firewood. There will be fire in the fireplace.
Building, keeping, and protecting rituals works for us and maybe there are some things that will work for you.
Most of these traditions will probably evolve over the years and I’ve left out a dozen more but they’re the foundation of predictability and reliability in a relationship where everything you can normally predict and rely on doesn’t exist.