"I'll go and make coffee," I say, turning away and blinking back sudden tears.
It is early morning, the day before I am to fly out of San Salvador bound for Greece, and suddenly the LAST thing I want to do, after 6,000 kilometers together, is get on a plane alone and leave Bruce to continue the adventure without me.
I leave our private patio and walk barefoot down a stone path, under a vine-covered trellis dripping with red flowers.
Entering the shared kitchen, I pad across the cool tile and fill the kettle from the tap, setting it on the stove to boil.
The early-morning silence is a balm on my heavy heart.
Waiting for the whistle, I saunter to a bookshelf crammed with softcover books and run a finger along the worn spines: romance novels, a few travel guides, some detective thrillers.
My eyes catch on 365 Daily Meditations.
I pull it out, flip to today's date, and read:
In the night as we slept we became one,
and in the morning when we woke
I found I could not jump
because I could not let go your hand.
In my chest, something loosens. A sense of wonder slowly fills there.
The discussion is about the importance of retaining our agency as individuals, when we find ourselves in long, intimate relationships; and how easy it is to unconsciously merge with a collective version of what's needed and what's not; forgetting your own needs and desires in the process.
On this page is the heart of the reason I made the choice, that's now so tempting to regret.
On this page are the things that Bruce and I agree on: that it's okay for me to want what I want, even if it's not what Bruce wants.
That it's okay for us to have different versions of the same adventure, and to experience different things for a few weeks.
That in fact, it's vital to be able to acknowledge and make room for these individual truths in the context of relationship.
... even when it's painful, and even when we fear that it might make us lonely.
Because is there anything worse than pretending we DON'T have unique needs and desires?
And reading this page, it is SUCH a relief to see this thing that I already know in someone else's words!
Which reminds me of a bigger truth about the role and power of story:
Often clients say to me, "but there's NOTHING unique about my story... It always ends up sounding like a cliché."
To which I say:
I dare you to find a single story, across all of human history, that doesn't contain some variation of the same dozen themes.
Love and sex and death and war and friendship and identity and betrayal and redemption and transcendence, and the question of what it means to be a human in a messy, chaotic world.
No story is ever really new; and yet, we never stop needing to hear new and different versions of the same stories.
We never stop needing the reminder that we're not alone; that we're all doing our best to navigate the freedom and confusion and occasional terror that is the human experience.
Morals sound cliché because they are. What's different, what's utterly unique, is how we arrive at them.
When the coffee is steeped, I bring the book back to where Bruce is waiting, and after he's read the page he looks up at me and says:
"You know, I think we do a pretty good job at this."
Which he later affirms again, when I call him up from Greece and say I think it might be important for me to go to Sharan's wedding.
The wedding isn't until Labor Day weekend. It would mean changed flights, extra expense, and three more weeks apart.
And to his immense credit, Bruce says in all sincerity:
"Well, then you MUST go!"
Which human theme will YOUR story explore this week?
And which uniquely circuitous path will it take... to get there?