When I originally started writing my book, I had planned purely to chronicle Jeffrey’s adventures around the world and not include myself in any way. But then several of my fellow writers, for whom I have deep respect, started nudging me to reveal what our life was like from my perspective. So this is for you, my friends. I’m branching out from my THEN and NOW format just for you.
When you’re married to a photojournalist…
1) You confirm that Timbuktu really is a town in the West African nation of Mali and not just a place your mother threatened to ship you off to if you “didn’t shape up” when you were a kid.
2) You figure out how to fix things when they break, or more accurately, who to call when it happens, because inevitably it occurs when he’s boating down the Yangtze River or working in some remote village in Burma. Water heaters, computers, car batteries…you name it…they’ve all called it quits when he’s been gone.
3) You learn to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions on a flexible schedule. If the love of your life is in Papua New Guinea on your big day, you learn to pamper yourself anyway and enjoy it with aplomb…then celebrate it all over again once he’s back.
4) You stay in tune with what’s happening around the world. If your spouse is heading off to photograph Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in South Africa or Hong Kong’s handover to China, you try to learn as much as possible about the country’s history prior the event, then drink in the details of what it’s like when he’s there on the ground, experiencing history in the making.
5) You learn that if you go on an assignment with him, you are NOT going on vacation–even if it’s to Spain or Italy or Tasmania. You will be working your hiney off, getting up at the crack of dawn, chasing the light,carrying heavy equipment, zipping around from place to place, keeping track of all the film and captions, and barely remembering to eat. That’s what photographers do. Still, there’s nothing like it.
6) You learn to be patient with the airlines (well…mostly), even when they snatch precious moments of your time together with delays or mechanical issues. When your husband has flown well over a million miles though, and has been delivered home safely each time, you try to overlook the bad stuff and appreciate what they do. But you do learn to always call ahead before going to the airport to pick him up (even if you live across the street from the airport like we did for many years) because seven times out of ten, his flight will be delayed.
7) You learn the art of converting a mind-numbing pile of Chinese taxi receipts from yuan to US dollars when billing clients, and you figure out ways to keep your sanity during tax season when wading through wadded up scraps of receipts that need to be converted from Moroccan dirham, Indian rupees or Bhutanese ngultrum.
8) You learn that little things make a big difference to somebody who lives much of his life on the road. Tucking love notes into his suitcase or using special code words in faxes or emails, which are meaningful to him but leave the Chinese government guessing, helps you stay connected. Also stocking the fridge with all his favorite foods or organizing a massage when he gets home makes him dizzy with appreciation.
9) You learn that distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Reunions after a month apart don’t get any more romantic.
10) Most importantly you learn to have a life of your own and not put it on hold until he gets back. You take advantage of solo time and fill it with all the activities and people you love. In fact, you learn to appreciate it so much that you feel sorry for all those couples who rarely have time apart.
These are but a few things that come to mind when I think about the gift of our relationship and our lifestyle. I’m sure it wouldn’t be for everyone, but for us, it has been a dream. Jeffrey often says, “I can’t believe people pay me to do this job,” and I say “I can’t believe I have the best of all worlds.”
I’d love to know what you think and welcome your questions or comments so I hope you’ll drop me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below!