Diary of a POCF is a limited series written in honor of the Partners of Commercial Fishermen preparing to send or have sent off their loved ones. For those not in the industry, I hope the series lets you #knowyourfisherman in a new way. The series will run while Chris fishes sockeye in Bristol Bay this summer, 2021. Through 5 stories over 9 weeks, I hope to show you the emotional journey of loving a fisherman, including the uncertainties, frustrations, & joys, too. The Prologue can be read here, Chapter One is here, and Chapter Three of Diary of a POCF will publish on Sunday, July 11th, 2021.
Diary of a POCF Chapter 2: The Secret Life
With my angst over Chris leaving in Chapter 1, you may think this next phase will be similar. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I hate to come off as insensitive, but after I kiss Chris goodbye on the airport curb, with his bags and mask in hand, it’s as if an internal switch flips on, and I’m not sad anymore. In fact, I’m great. It’s a defense mechanism that I’ve perfected, which has become a helpful tool over the years. During our first season together, I had the normal worries when you don’t know what to expect. I stressed over things like his safety, our relationship fizzling due to long-distance, or Chris randomly meeting another woman in Alaska. Finally, I reached a breaking point when I realized I couldn’t control the uncontrollable. I began focusing on myself, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. Since then, each sockeye salmon season feels like my own personal summer camp. (This thought is what carried me through what you read in Chapter 1, The Goodbye.) So, as Chris shrunk in my rearview mirror, I kissed my two fingers and threw them to the sky.✌🏽 Less “peace out” and more of a “duces with love.” Because the secret bonus of being a partner of a commercial fisherman is alone time – that’s when the fun begins.
Though I should note that the second stage can still be tricky for some, and if sadness lingers, you have to give yourself room to grieve. Here’s a great example: at the start of each season, one POCF sends the kids to a friend’s house for a sleepover. This time alone gives her a chance to cry it out, watch favorite movies, and emotionally prepare herself for months of *dominating* the solo parenting ahead—what a great self-love idea.
For me, I flee. For the past five summers, I travel between friends’ homes and post up for a few days or even a few weeks to catch up and just be. I take work with me, setting up my laptop in a guest room to attend to deadlines, then hang with my peeps at the end of the day. (For example, I’ve written this chapter in St. Augustine, Florida, Augusta, Georgia, and now at a coffee shop in Statesboro, GA – have Wifi, will travel.) As much as I dread Chris leaving, these summers are sacred, and I look forward to them all year. Pro tip: Find what makes you happy – a hobby, an activity you’ve always wanted to try with the kids – and commit to it during a season. The time’s going to pass anyway, right? See what comes out of it!
But let’s get real – there are some severe downsides to a long season. One is…how can I say this…being HORNY AF. I know it all too well. You see, Chris and I long-distance dated for about seven months before he went to Bristol Bay our first year. Up until then, we managed to visit each other every few weeks (he in Washington, and I in California). But it wasn’t until we faced a three-month separation that I realized how much I sacrifice by dating him. I was thirty-three, it was summertime in California, and hot guys were everywhere. I couldn’t help but tell Chris that choosing to be with him was costing more than I had planned (and he better appreciated it, dammit!). Thankfully, my words sunk in, and we said hello to a Clone-A-Willy. (You’ve got to try for yourself. But first, see how it went down for us. 😅 )
Speaking of hot guys, the other day, when I arrived in St. Augustine, I stopped by the grocery store to buy my friend some flowers as part of a hostess gift for having me all week. As I waited to cross the street, a super cute guy rolled by on a golf cart, smiled and tipped his hat. Know what I did? I blushed, grinned, and waved back as my wedding ring flashes in the sun.
Should I feel guilty?
F – NO!
The truth is, I only have eyes for Chris. But if a good-looking dude wants to smile my way, what’s the harm in smiling back? We’re not dead – we still “got it.” It’s normal to think other people are attractive. Plus, it’s fun to look. Helps pass the time. 😁
But this year, I’m tending to my sexual side a little differently. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation of Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski Ph.D., I’m navigating my emotional desires to see what ticks. And the best part? I feel more connected to Chris! I know that whatever I learn will improve our sex life. It feels like a little project I look forward to sharing when he returns. Talk about a Welcome Home gift. (Side note, if you buy this book, I may make a small commission as an Amazon Associate at no additional cost to you. Thank you!)
And if all else fails, there’s always a vibrator…
Strangely, I once spent a summer absolutely pissed at Chris. Like, why-am-I-with-this-man pissed. It was right before we got engaged, and I was ansty, wondering if our relationship would move to the next level. So, when he took off for Alaska that year, I held on to unresolved feelings that I never brought up. In hindsight, I realize that not only is communication key (as we all know 🙄), but timing counts! Explaining your feelings BEFORE your fisherman leaves will bring more peace because you either:
- Resolve the issue.
- Use that time apart to decide what’s best for you and your relationship.
- Or, you can waste time being angry all season like I did. I do not recommend this.
I know it can feel scary to speak your truth, but living with a fire in your heart because you’re questioning your relationship f*cking sucks. Please do yourself a favor, and speak to your partner in person well before or after the season. If you’re currently stuck in the middle of a season with yucky feelings, write down your frustrations. Then, figure out the problem and what you and your partner can do to improve it. Save this list for when he returns, then wait a few days and bring it up in a calm manner. (You got this!)
This coffee shop is about to close, so to sum it up: time apart is a gift! If you use it well, separation allows you to grow as individuals, to reunite more refreshed and ready to show up for the relationship. Alone time offers the space to check-in, practice self-love, and reassess what you want out of life and a relationship.
Remember, this time allows you to grow separately, but not apart!
There’s a difference. 💑 🐟