It started with a sentence. “I set the alarm.”
I froze. Alarm. What time? I can’t afford to be wakened too early. My day will be ruined.
Yes, this sounds dramatic. It isn’t.
After years of a grave disease and severe corresponding sleep disorder, I know how I feel when I don’t get enough sleep: sick, headachy, fluey. I shoulder through my day as best I can. I get my work done, but it isn’t fun. My areas of talent do not include feeling happy and positive when I feel sick.
My disease (Lyme) took me from a person who reveled in physical activity, hiking, biking, yoga, to a person who could barely walk. I slowly built my way back towards movement, my body shaking as I attempted to do a beginning yoga class. The disease and treatments I’ve been through have changed my physical self (emotional self and spiritual self as well) forever. I’ve spent years fighting my way back towards the active person I used to be. This history stands at the root of my reaction.
We argue for a few minutes.
“Why do you need to set your alarm? You always wake up on time.”
“Just in case,” he says. “It takes me so long to get ready. I need to have enough time.”
I feel betrayed.
Then I see.
My husband has Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy. His muscles are slowly breaking down. He goes to a restorative stretching yoga class once a week and another floor exercise class 1–2 times a week. He needs to wake up early because his throat muscles are weak, and swallowing takes time.
His need to keep his body moving is as urgent as my need to sleep. My need does not trump his.
I love my husband. I want him to be able to take care of himself.
It makes me wonder. Do I put myself into a category where I must always be catered to? God, I hope not. No. This is about survival; I’ve learned I must take care of myself.
Shit, I am wide awake now.
I let it go. Or try to. I let it go with him. Drop the argument. Try to go to sleep.
But it is too late. I am activated. Our peaceful and harmonious little world has broken, and my mind is spinning. This difference inserted itself between us. Our preferences and needs. Our survival patterns. The understanding that he couldn’t take care of me because he needs to take care of himself sits with me like a spoonful of cold oatmeal. Heavy and dull.
My assumption: I expect that he takes care of me. Sometimes I forget that he has significant needs too. And that there isn’t always space for both of our wishes to be honored, to come first.
Something broke that will rejoin. But for the moment I lay there and process. My gears turning. This. How? What?
And I have some anxiety about not getting enough sleep. Tomorrow is a full day.
The realization about our competing needs and my processing mind kept me awake. Missed sleep is often the cost of continued enlightenment for me.
I wake up about half an hour after he gets up. I did not hear the alarm. He beat it as usual.
I do not feel great. This is the cost of me realizing that my husband putting himself first isn’t a betrayal of me. This is the cost of my shift in perspective.
Later, I find out when my husband showed up at his class, he was the only student, so he and his yoga teacher went out to breakfast.
We are each free, and there is so much we cannot control. I am headed to the internet to buy a vibrating watch alarm.