Friday, November 4, 2011

Geography Lesson

Courtesy of Craig Del Grande, Bozeman Broker
Several years ago I tried my hand at a novel.  I was pretty disciplined about it too.  I worked on that sucker every day, but I never finished it, and now it lives only somewhere in the innards of my first Macintosh - may it rest in peace wherever it is.  I simply couldn't figure out the right ending for it.

They say one's first novel is autobiographical, and I guess mine had elements of that.  Here's the premise:  a native Chicagoan has an aunt and uncle who live in Bozeman, Montana (where I grew up).  She grew up spending her vacations there, went to college there and when her relationship with a local boy she was expected to marry goes bad, she moves there permanently.  She loves it there - despite having to live with a roommate to make ends meet.  She has met a new man and is engaged to him, a young professional from Billings, and things seem set until she meets a handsome, sad stranger from Texas (yeah, I know - but it's where I was familiar with).  The mysterious stranger's brother is going to graduate school at MSU and he comes to stay with him after a bad episode with his wife's lover.   He has a young son he has left behind.  Long story short, of course, they meet, fall in love, but he has to go back because that's where his life and son are.  She has to choose.

I got to that climatic point in the book and couldn't finish.  I couldn't decide what she should do.  One day I would decide that she would stay in the mountains I had so lovingly described.  The next I thought she would sacrifice them to be with the man she determined was her soul mate (she of course had a nasty, violent break up with the Yuppie from Billings, the roommate ended up leaving - I can't remember how I wrote that other than I think she originally had the thing for Tex, so she felt she had been betrayed and so on and so on - all meant to show how my heroine had fallen hard for this sad, broken man).

Maybe that conundrum was the most autobiographical part.  I love my husband, I chose to stay with him even though he was firmly rooted in a place I did not love, but my heart always yearned to go home to those Rocky Mountain sunsets I spent pages describing.  So I created a character to explore that choice anew and tried to get her to make the definitive decision maybe to test my own.

I could re-write it now if I wanted to, and I think about that from time-to-time - it would give me an excuse to go back home for a while to get the local environment down once more.  The Bacchus Pub was a central location in the novel - is it still as awesome as it once was?  But, I'd probably come up against the same wall.  If you meet someone you think you love, but they aren't where you want to be, what is the right thing to do?

There is a school of thought that you should be content with wherever you find yourself and that happiness comes from within.  I follow that, but I notice that anyone who has ever said that to me is not saying it from a location that could generally be considered unlivable.  And, I doubt anyone who has ever said it to me when the ghosts of their past float around every where they go.  Sometimes breaking free of a place is the way to find that inner peace.  For that school of thought, just check in with any addiction counselor.  They will tell you that going back to old haunts is highly ill-advised.  Bottom line:  you can debate place v. person all day.  That it is an individual decision, and every decision with this much heft carries a price.

This is on my mind lately because I know two people whom I care for deeply who have called a long distance relationship quits.  And I'm trying to decide how to think about it.  I was originally extremely angry with the individual who did the leaving, but can I see that point of view?  If they are both committed to staying where they are, did they have a future?

You may think I'm asking if long distance relationships can last.  Ask me twenty years ago, and I would have said no.  Ask me now, and I would tell you it depends.  It depends on the two individuals in the relationship, their maturity, why they are apart, and their own sense of self.  The reason I would have said no twenty years ago is because I could not have done it then.  I had none of the requisites to pull it off: ample maturity or self esteem.  We all gain those things at different places in our lives - I'm a bit of a late bloomer.

Now I think they're possible:  under the right circumstances.  I think once a relationship transcends the need for physical contact and if there is ample trust on both people's part, then, with some real serious commitment, it can happen.  But, at some point, you expect to be together.  Or at least you expect to have periods of time when you are together.  However, what if it the distance and circumstances are such that spending real quality time together would likely never happen?  That is not a long distance relationship any longer really.  It is two separate lives that collide occasionally.  Where, it is fair to ask, is the relationship part in that?  So, is it better to face the reality of the situation in that case and call it quits sooner rather than later?

These are complicated questions to complicated situations.  I have no easy answers.  I only know that two young people I love were hurt because they tried to walk in my long ago heroine's shoes and couldn't find the right answers either.

I can tell you, however, that, in my mind, more often than not, my young heroine would sit out on her aunt and uncle's patio with a view of the Rocky Mountains in front of her and think about how there is only one Bozeman, but men?  Well, like fish in the sea, there are a few more of them out there.

Montana State University School of Bison Study (I kid you not)

No comments:

Post a Comment