Every time February rolls around, and often even before, the world suddenly becomes filled with pink and red hearts and flowers, and whether you are looking forward to it or not, you know that Valentine’s Day is near. As a little girl, I always associated Valentine’s Day with the huge chocolate heart my parents would give me, one that I would savor and nibble on to make it last as long as possible. As I got older, the holiday lost most of its charm for me, with the obligatory gifts, the overpriced dinners out at crowded restaurants, and the feeling that if you weren’t part of a couple, you ought to go into hiding until it was safe to come out.
It’s not that I’m opposed to celebrating love, or the people you love, I’ve just never felt moved to do so on the day Hallmark has set aside for it, even when I’ve been in a relationship. This year is no different, and it’s a good thing because, while I am still happily in a relationship, it’s now a relationship that straddles two continents and a six-hour time difference. The boyfriend has moved to Europe.
As Shakespeare said, ‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’ You can say that again. Apparently, having to contend with the implications of a chronic disease and its impact on a relationship isn’t the only challenge I’ll be facing this time around. Much like I feel that RA ought to come with a ‘get out of colds free’ card, a small part of me also feels it should come with an ‘its complicated’ exemption card. But as life has shown me before, it doesn’t work that way.
About a month ago, my boyfriend packed up and left for Europe to begin a new job. His old one was coming to an end, and the job market being what it is, turning down a great position just because it was far away wasn’t an option that would make sense. After lots of talking and back and forth, we decided to be crazy and give long distance a shot. After all, with video chat, email and texting, the world has shrunk considerably.
Nonetheless, it’s scary to know that you could lose something you treasure so much. Like the giant chocolate Valentine’s heart I got as a child, I found myself savoring and drawing out our last few months together before he left as much as I could. We did an excellent job of making the most out of the remaining time we had here- taking in museums, visiting the monuments in Washington D.C. and going to the opera in New York for Christmas. And we started talking about all the fun things we could do together in Europe when I come to visit.
Which inevitably led to thinking about the possibility of making a move of my own. Immediately, thoughts of the adventures we could have sitting in cafes and traveling around the continent were displaced by the now familiar (and completely annoying) laundry list of RA-related obstacles, chief among them being how I would get my medications if I were to move to another country. How much would they cost? What would I have to do to get them, and what would happen if I couldn’t? How would I navigate a whole other healthcare system? Would another country even let me in with a pre-existing condition? What if my stupid disease made this relationship impossible? The questions and accompanying fears felt endless, and endlessly depressing.