Why We Sleep Together

I was referred by a post on A Cup of Jo to an article in The Atlantic, “Why We Sleep Together”. One part of the article makes the observation that, “It’s important to talk about our days lying side by side, discuss children and household situations, gossip about neighbors and colleagues, plan for tomorrow in the confines of private chambers.”

This article hit home for me as I am a fan of the nights where J and I curl up under the covers, turn out the lights, and fill the darkness with our secrets, our fears, our future plans and belly laughs (So sorry, Mister and Misses Neighbor!). The dark, as scary as we believed it to be when we were young, now provides a sense of security. With the house dark, save for the light-play of the tree branches in the moonlight projected on the wall, I feel safe sharing, writing, and pouring myself out.

Some nights, the trading of stories and spilling of secrets lasts into the wee hours of the following morning—but I’m not bothered by it. If anything, I wake the next day with an extra bit of light in my eyes and spring in my step because of the love that’s washed in and over and all around me as I lie in the dark and whispering my struggles and listening to J tell me his worries and his hopes before wrapping an arm around my middle, burying his face in my shoulder, and whispering “have a good sleep.”

As The Atlantic article states, “We are creatures of attachment.” And boy am I. I am attached at the heart and mind to one of the most thoughtful, loving, hard-working, beautiful men in all the world. And I know I have this little habit to thank for a great deal of the bond we’ve built over the last three months forever.

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Prized Possessions

 

It was getting late and we had just wrapped up our post-dinner card game. You were a room away, getting things settled as I crawled beneath the covers, recalling the events of earlier that day; the surprise of an email notification for a file being shared with me. Recordings. The attached note explained that you were granting me access to five years worth of musical tinkering; The innermost bits of my musical brain, you wrote. This archive was your most prized possession and I was the first person you shared them with. I was stunned. I wanted to reciprocate. I wanted to match your decision to trust.

I’ve shared this blog before with mixed results; the last time I showed it to the guy I was seeing it was not well received. I’d been made more than a little wary of sharing this collection, but I so badly wanted to share my roughly recorded thoughts. Message sent. It was out there, there was no taking it back. If I thought I was nervous moments ago, it was nothing compared with the anxiety I was feeling in the minutes leading up to your response: Subscribed. That’s pretty gutsy, putting yourself out there like that. I’m impressed.

My phone buzzed beside the bed, the screen illuminating the New Message notification and beneath it, the sender: the ex.

Several messages sent back and forth, my frustration growing with each, when you walked into the room and settled into bed beside me. I laid my phone down and buried my face in the pillow, my mind fairly well wrecked. The unexpected contact was not one I wanted to tackle that evening or, really, ever again. We read the messages allowed, I explained the loves of my past and my history of mistakes. We laid there in the dark for a few moments, my nose and lips pressed against your shoulder while I listened to our breathing match and slow. Out of the dark came your voice, shaking a little more than usual, but determined:

This isn’t really a thing that I do. I’m an overthinker, this sort of anxiety usually cripples me, but I want to start. I want to share with you.

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Unraveling

You’ve pulled back again. You sit back, arms crossed in front of your heart and you give me that smile your eyes don’t reflect. I reach out to touch your hand and you pull further away.

“Is there something going on?” I ask, “or am I just imagining this distance?”

“They’re my issues, but I think they’re probably worth talking about.” Holding the pint glass with a white-knuckle grip, your eyes hold on something far away, “I guess now’s the time to talk about it.”

I nod, believing that what is to follow will be a matter of offering understanding, an exercise in empathy.

“We have some issues,” you say, “with our relationship — pretty big ones.”

Blink. Nod. “What’s on your mind?”

Back and forth we go, discussing the lack of security in all aspects of my life, and your need for concrete solutions and solvable problems. We discuss the differences in our standing. You have your career, your home, and your education while I’m trying to escape from an unfulfilling job, my home feels like anything but, and I’ve just dropped out of college.

Yes, we’re at very different points in our life — right now. “I’m working on it,” seems to be all I can say; a nod at stern glance seems to be all you can return.

“You’re a variable I can’t account for, one that I cannot and should not control. And this is where it comes back to being my issue, my hang up, my road block.”

We don’t talk about ways to help you cope with this insecurity, about ways to accept that which is out of your control. All I hear is blame and accusations, while not unfounded, they’re all about what I’m doing wrong, about all the things I have to change. In between your words, all I can hear is I don’t have room for your unpredictability in my life, for your slow progress, for your mess.

“I don’t know if I’m okay with all of this,” you say coolly, “I don’t know if I can even become okay with this.”

There it is: the start of our unraveling.

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Not Enough

“Kate — Kate, you’re not listening to me…”

The way you stood there, arms and ankles crossed, spitting my name from your lips — you may as well have slapped me or punched me in the stomach. My face grew warm from the embarrassment of your scolding, my hands began to shake, my entire being became unsteady. Your words might have been seen as concern if it weren’t for that look in your eyes, that cold hard stare, your brow cocked up as if to ask, what could you possibly have to say while you sipped your bourbon. To you I am inferior, I am less-than. I lack your past, your history, so how could I possibly compare?

“You do know you can’t play the experience card with me, right?” Another assault, another tally tick for “not enough”.

I understand your desire for predictability. For future reference, it would be safe to assume I will continue to be opinionated, stubborn and illogical from time to time; that I will continue to take risks for the matters I deem most important regardless of how trivial they seem to your or anyone else; that sometimes my argument is simply “Because”. Because I want to. Because it’s important. Because I can. Because it’s what is right for me.

I let your words get me stirred up because I wanted you to understand me. I wanted to hear the words, “I understand now,” but they never came. I let you hurt me. I had nothing productive left to say, I was empty save for tears, anger, and the desire to slap you so I stood up, gathered my bags, and left. I didn’t make it to the end of the driveway before my chest tried to curl in on itself, shoving the air from my chest in one ragged sob.

I welcome your insight, your opinions, your concerns, but going forward it must be presented differently. I will not be spoken to like that again. You must trust that I am listening to you, ingesting and considering your words, but ultimately the decision is mine. I agree/apologize/concede when appropriate, but I don’t do any of those things simply to appease. You may not always agree, but I need you to accept them as I continue to accept the points where you that differ from me.

Please meet me in the middle. Please tell me that you understand and that next time will be different. Please wrap your arms around my shaking shoulders and tell me I’m not a fool for hoping, for erring on the side of love, for believing we can come back from this, for still wanting you.

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I Can Feel You Falling, You’re Slipping Through My Fingers

I’m not an easy person to be in a relationship with. At the start things are fairly light, we’re getting to know one another little by little — but things don’t stay light for long. My thoughts wander to serious and sometimes gloomy places and my reactionary attempt to wade through the mess of feelings often does more to muck things up than before. I have no doubt that my sudden onset of worry and lack of emotional regulation is difficult to deal with, and it’s near impossible to predict, but please don’t be discouraged.

Inevitably, we sit down to talk things through. Things become tense and we’re suddenly both on edge. I start to feel shaky and I lack confidence in my ability to communicate all the thoughts that are swirling around inside me. I want a chance to write it out and deliver it, a chance to organize my response, but we need to take care of this, we need to hash it out on the spot.

The words come out too quickly and in all the wrong order — just like they always do. They’re not reassuring and seem to fly in the face of your desire for clear answers and a definite resolution. As words fly across the chasm, I become defensive and you let go of my hand and start to pull away, but please don’t pull away from me.

When the distance between us grows, I panic. My mind begins reeling and I worry that this is it. I am not a rational person, I am quick to jump to conclusions and my emotions have far more sway over me than they probably should. When the cascade of words begin their descent from my mind, when they round my shoulder and roll down my arm, when they pour from finger tips and are turned to ink against the page there’s no stopping them. The worry and panic fill the pages and I’m left with a sense of resolution because it’s done, they’re out and all I have to show for this process is the written representation of my fears; certainly not a flattering or reassuring sight. Where there wasn’t any doubt, I may have just planted one.

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