“So you went to bed by 11 or 12 midnight when I was away, but now that I’m home, you’re in bed and asleep by 9 or 9:30 p.m.? I’m not quite sure how I feel about that…” Brian said to me a couple days ago. We both laughed. It is a curious pattern.
I smiled at first because of course he would take a critical view of the pattern. He’s home. I get sleepy. Something must be wrong with him or with us. One cannot really fault him for the interpretation, as it does name what happens within me. He’s home (relief). I get sleepy (I do). But I see that as a plus: everything is right with us in this season of our lives. I am relieved and thankful for him to be pattering about the place. My circadian rhythms return to a normal, healthy pattern for a woman my age. I sleep much better and for longer, feeling all is well with our little world. (Contrast: world out there).
It took me a couple days to finally figure out another framework for understanding my body’s behavior, one that he could feel his way into, ultimately find an advantage/plus for himself. It helps that it’s completely true: on my own, I am a bit manic, energy-wise.
Without any collaborative presence in my home (except Nala), without the rhythm of balancing my life amidst the concerns and desires of another, I become an overly-active, functionally-obsessive kind of person. Everything becomes a list-item, whether it’s for relaxation or work. Reorganize the storage unit. Frame the prints. Take stuff to Goodwill. Swing by the grocery for the ingredients for this week’s clean-eating plan. Read a chapter in the novel. Take a bath.
It's like the list gives my days the structure that another person’s presence or energies would.
Brian sees this from time to time, when a house project needs completing. “Nala,” he’ll say aloud to her, “You and I should go downstairs and hide. She’s in her Tasmanian Tidy phase.” And they do. They hide.
So I named this aloud to Brian, realizing it probably was a bit of new information for his interpretive schema. “When you’re gone, I go a bit manic, obsessive. It’s a bit insane. I probably put 6-8 hours of house-work into the place per day while you were away. It’s what I do, I guess.” Something in him relaxed and he smiled back at me. “Yeah, I really do benefit from that.”
And at some deeper level, he felt that he’s an integral part in the life of an aging-but-active woman. It’s not something he does as much as something he is. Which drives him crazy inside, I think. He still believes at some level that he needs to earn his connections with me. But I think he heard: he is an anchor of deep connection and healthy, happy living for me.
Completely true. I'm grateful.
And in bed most days by 9 p.m.