Being married: prepare to be alone.

he title might be a bit extreme, but don’t worry, the meaning is positive. Alright, so what do I mean by that? The story begins in a small city called Delft. It was early December 2016; winter is coming. I was new in Delft. I was also new in being married, just six months prior. I wasn’t new in living far from home though, as I have been living away from home since 2006: 200 km; 600 km; 1,000 km; and 11,000km away — there in Delft.

Being a newly married man, I imagined living together with my wife in a foreign country far from home would be a fun experience, getting to explore this remarkable old city, travelling around Europe, visiting exciting places, trying new things. Well, it really was fun, most of the time until when I get to live alone.

For a very pragmatic reason (i.e., visa), she needs to go back to Indonesia for a brief moment. Though, I wasn’t sure it would be a brief moment as her clearance to stay with me permanently hasn’t been approved yet. So, there was an exaggerated feeling of having to live without my wife for the rest of the two years in Delft. Well, I wasn’t that worried as I think there are fun things I can do alone too. And it’s not that I don’t have friends there.

Until the moment came when she was entering the immigration gate, waving at me. Then the silence came, in a bustling Schipol Airport. I was sad that she’s leaving, but I wasn’t thinking anything heavy at that time. I was wishing she had a safe flight home and maybe wondering a bit about what to eat that evening and when to wash the dishes. Then, I began my journey back home to Delft. I didn’t know that this journey would be one of the most memorable things I have so far in my life.

I took a train from the Airport to Delft as everybody does. I remembered I sat in the window-side single chair in the lower-deck of the train — my favourite spot when I travel alone. As it would be quite a long commute (approximately 60 minutes journey), I used my earphone and listened to the music on my phone. Do you ever feel a particular song/album as a soundtrack of a specific moment of your life? Well, it became one for me.

So, I listened to the album Piano by a pianist named Yiruma. The album consists of a mostly melancholic type of song. I don’t usually listen to this type of song let alone the genre. I only listen to it because it was recommended by my wife. Then, I don’t know why — I’m sure it’s partly because of the song, a lot of sad thoughts suddenly burst into my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a typical macho-man that think to feel sad is a kind of weakness in a man. I have experienced sadness before, and I tried to embrace it. But at that moment, for some reason, I decided not to.

Instead, I tried to think about the happy things that we have experienced for the past couple of months also the thought that I would meet her again soon. But then, the universe struck. The train stopped three stations away from Delft. All the passengers were informed to go out. It was dark and super cold. People were complaining to the train staff and confused where to go. The staff recommended us to go back to the airport and take another route as this route experienced some sort of a problem. It was actually quite common for the train to have a disruption in the Netherlands (I heard there were a lot of suicide-related cases especially in the winter time, sad right?). So, I went back to the airport and took another route to Delft. There, the breakdown started to come. My sight started to be blurred, my stomach felt tingling, heavy breathing. Stupidly, the melancholic soundtrack was still in my ear the whole time.

I arrived in Delft station about 5 hours from the last time I saw my wife although it was only supposed to be a 1-hour trip. It was already really dark, and to make things worse, the rain started pouring. I walked home from the station, as it’s just 1 km away to my house. At that moment, with the mixture of dark, cold, rain, disruptions, and the feeling of missing my wife — and the melancholic soundtrack, tears started pouring down my eyes. I remembered the exact moment it happened: it was in a small bridge with a canal beside me, a closed corner-shop in front of me with only the front light on, and nobody around, literally empty. I cried like I never cried before. I felt that I cried like when I was a little kid. All the sad and bad thoughts were coming through.

A short intermezzo. I was a bit of a cry-baby when I was a kid, I remembered some of the cries although I can’t remember most of the moments from my childhood. But in my adult life, I only remembered crying — really crying from grief — once when one of my beloved professors suddenly passed away in 2014. My friends even called me “stiff like a cardboard” (it’s an Indonesian saying) because I rarely show my feeling, even to my closest acquaintances. I never cried from breakups or some sort. Hell, even when I told this story to my colleague in the office, the conversation went like this.

“That’s the first time I cried — really cry — for somebody.”

“Good to know that you have an emotion, man.”

“What do you mean ‘good to know’? Of course, I have an emotion!”

“Well, you never show it.”

Hence, it felt odd to cry like that. I kept walking home, crying. When I arrived home, I felt worse as it was dark and cold inside and nobody’s around — of course. My wife was usually there at home waiting for me, sitting in bed drawing, reading, or watching Korean drama. That night, I was alone. I wasn’t even turning on the light, maybe because of feeling embarrassed seeing myself crying. Or perhaps to soak it in and feel the sadness.

I laid in bed, closing my eyes, still crying, even sobbing as it got worse. It felt like I had a hole in my heart. I know it feels like a romantic movie, but it really felt that way. That was the first time I felt sad by being alone. I guess it wasn’t about the condition of being alone. Instead, it was more about the state of someone leaving you. At that time, what made it worse was the sad thoughts of imagining the future. It went to the extreme as to the idea of, “If I felt this sad right now, only because she’s going away for a while, how would the sadness feel when she passed away? What would she feel when I passed away? How would we cope with that? When will that happen? Would we be ready for that?” and so on.

Luckily, that sadness went on just for a short while. Everything was better the next day, and I rarely felt that kind of experience again, mostly because she’s always there with me. What I do take from that experience though is the feeling of how much she actually meant to me. As I said, we were 6-months into our marriage at that time and I know for sure she means a lot to me. But to experienced that voluntary sadness was a clear indication for me that she’ll be there as part of me for the rest of my life.

I know for sure that this story might feel like peanuts in comparison to other tough relationships out there. Hence, it’s not the intention to be a benchmark for any relationship. What I’m trying to express here is that committing with someone (in my case it’s marriage) brought significant changes in my life whether I realized it or not. And in the process of being fully committed, I really think that it is essential always to be conscious of what’s happening to me, what’s happening to her, why it happened, why we feel what we feel, and how to deal with it. The moment might be sadness for me, or happiness for somebody else, anything will do. The important thing is to seek that feeling, and we’ll experience one of the best feelings in the world: to love and to be loved!

*side note: the album become a live soundtrack for me as every time I sleep without my wife beside me, I would play that album to help me sleep. It’s an odd mixture of happiness (reminding me how I love my wife) and sadness (with her not being there) that I guess I could accept. So be it.

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