Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Inner Journey #1: Becoming a Wife Without Losing Your Identity

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Inner Journey #1: Becoming a Wife Without Losing Your Identity

This week, we are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary among the beautiful red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. Actually, it is the longest period that I have been together with a man. The inner journey towards becoming a wife had not been easy. But it probably could not have happened if we didn't travel together.

When my sister died from cancer in 2003, without her husband from whom she had been estranged and without her daughter who died the previous year also of cancer, I decided I didn’t want to die like that. My children had graduated from college and left the nest that was already empty of a partner. I had to recast my lonely life as an overstressed single mother of twenty years. “I wanted time to cook a little, teach a little, travel a little, write a little, and LOVE a little.”  The last one would be impossible to do in Manila. At my age, all the good ones were taken. And there was no divorce thereI decided to wind down my job as President/CEO of a tech startup.

Less than a year later, I found myself in North America where two of my three children make their home.  My American penpal visited me in Seattle where I was happy babysitting and cooking for my eldest daughter and her family. And soon he took me to Texas to be his wife. But that didn't work and, in just two years, I returned to Seattle. Soon I was again caught in the web of a driven life: teaching in three schools of higher learning and counseling small businesses for SCORE. I was doomed, I thought. I should just accept my fate: I was truly not wife-material!

our wedding on board Lady Champagne

Enter a new knight in shining armor. He was almost as driven as I was. He had been President and CEO of a national business printing company, board director for the Document Management Industry Association, and active in church and politics. He was the owner of a printing franchise when, in 2007, we “fashionably” met on the Net. At 8 pm on 08/08/08, which the Chinese believe is the luckiest day in the universe, we married in the presence of 88 guests on a private cruise ship at Washington’s Lake Union.  Soon he sold his business, I resigned all my posts. and we bought a used 24-ft. Class C motorhome to discover all of North America.

We crossed the continent in a whirlwind, driving down the West Coast from Alaska and the Arctic Circle and then going east to Florida from Mexico, in just six months. We quickly upgraded to a 37.5-ft. Class A motorhome and bought a membership into a network of campgrounds, shifting us to slower travels, staying at a place three weeks at a time. We crossed the continent three more times in the next three years. 

our pillow

I loved every minute of it. But the RV community is mainly white. I met only one Asian, a Hispanic couple and a few African-Americans in all those years. It was a milieu so far and so different from my homeland. The isolation of the lifestyle was fatal for the Filipina in me. I longed for a familiar social support system. In the cozy confines of the RV, changes came as fast as the scenes shifted. And we soon found out that there is absolutely no truth to the throw pillow we bought at the Palm Springs Villagefest, “We get along in our RV ‘cuz we have no room to disagree!”

All couples disagree, about small things and big things. John Gottman of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work says that 69% of a couple’s problems will never go away because most disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences. Dan Wile said it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner… you will inevitably be selecting a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.”  For us, that 69% statistic may as well have been 96%! We had to accept the fact that we met with values and habits that were already set with late age and with cultural and gender differences to boot.

my book

In January 2013, after a succession of spats, we gave space to each other and he left me in Seattle right after New Year’s Day presumably to help his son in Boise, Idaho spruce up an office building he had acquired with a partner. Sad times like this always prompt me to turn to some other passion to while the hours away. The separation meant a succession of sleepless nights. And that's when my book was born.

When he came back on Valentine’s Day, we realized that we needed a new phase of traveling. We needed a base from which to go on trips outside North America. After a survey of the Southwest, in October of the same year, we settled on Viewpoint Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona. To date, I have been to twenty-seven countries from that base, he was with me in sixteen of those, and we are going to eight more before the end of this year. And our base is no longer a parked RV; it is now an actual home.

our  Anniversary Lunch creekside at L'Auberge, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona

My tremendous luck is that he is a man with high-EQ. He has a twenty-nine-year marriage tucked under his belt. It ended only because his wife passed on due to cancer. I only had nine and it ended in annulment. His consistent request was for me to view the totality of the relationship, not any specific situation. In hindsight he showed me how the firm commitment to stay together, despite differences, is truly the secret.

And so I learned. I learned how not to withdraw every time there is a difficulty. I learned how to stay instead. It is no accident that deep respect for being the persons we are is part of the solution. We agree that we would have never have been attracted to each other at the height of our careers. But at the age when we met, each of our pasts was the source of that deep respect for the other. I didn't have to lose my identity. And neither did he!

on the grounds of Mariposa Latin Grille where we had our Anniversary Dinner in Sedona

Finally, we had one other big plus that we shared. We both dreamed of the same thing when we retired from our stressful business lives. We had the passion to go and discover the world. So we extended our honeymoon for as long as we could. Every scenic sight became not just a marvel but also, at times, a coping mechanism. We both love to plan trips, enjoy each new place or experience, and relish looking back. 

Travels do not have to be just about physically going from one place to the next. They can also lead one to significant inner journeys. For me, one of those has unmistakably been to become a wife to my lifelong travel buddy.  

HEADLINE PHOTO; looking up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic Church built into the buttes of Sedona's red rocks.

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