Seven Hours on the Couch

Some days are long– long and drawn out … spending hours and hours in an 8′ x 8′ area. Teaching in the well-lit main room of a modest home turns the multi-purpose space into one dominated by papers, books, and projects in the works. This particular day, the couch was it. The couch was it.

After two hours on the couch in the morning leading discussions and doing grading, I settled in for solid attention devoted to a writing workshop. It was time to mold lacking literary products (boring answers to assignments) into calculated stories propelling the reader forward in compelling curiosity and delight. Oh yes. When I say, “solid attention devoted to writing,” I mean it. Add three more hours on the couch.

Many people spend entire work days attached to one chair in one space. Many would say I should be grateful my chair is a cushy couch with the ability to recline. Well, it’s not really functional to spread out books, papers, and multiple pens of varying colors, expecting either a child to come join me with questions or me to jump up and attend to road blocks. Further, my careful self doesn’t want inadvertent pen marks all over the cushions. We do intend to entertain again (at some point), at which point I want my guest to not second guess their lounging spot. That’s why this blog post is more about my mental health and the progress of our marriage than bemoaning an “itty bitty living space” (Genie from “Aladdin”, in case you caught that).

About this time a year ago, I barely put together a ramshackle reheated dinner, ready to spill tears the whole way through at the drop of a fork. Once it was all ready, I told the kids, “Stay in the kitchen and eat dinner. It’s easy to put away so do it on your own without coming and asking me for help. Leave me alone. I’m going to the basement to watch “Wheel of Fortune.” When Dad comes home, tell him I want to move to Hawaii.” I’ve tried not to remember it because I’ve spent 12 months fighting all that led up to cracking under the pressure. In an attempt to rebuild since, I didn’t run away from the broken life; I boldly marched to face the struts and the supports, determined to closely examine what caused the ruin. My dad had died a few months prior. More on that another time. I’m sure I was suffering from SADD. More on that later, too, although I will let you know this past winter was much improved due to taking regular doses of Vitamin D capsules.

Back to Present Day: Knowing I’d be in for another two hours on the couch during the evening, I said I needed help.

My husband and I were going to be finishing an online course that night, happily wrapping up a class we wanted to be done with. But going from hours of intense patience in the writing workshop to making dinner –even if it was cooking eggs and a tube of sausage– then immediately going back to the couch for more school would have started me tipping in the frantic zone. I know. I’ve toppled into it from repeated, stressful exposure before. This time, I did something about it.

This time I could do something about it.

My husband’s schedule has eased up. Before, he would maybe tell me he was coming home at a certain time. Otherwise I was left guessing. Or, rather than being burned, I simply cut off the frayed loose ends and cut him out of the equation. He felt left out. Maybe I put him there; maybe he put himself there. There was probably some of both, one adding to the other in a dysfunctional cycle. Enter one of the topics we discussed with a counselor over the summer. That was after my breakdown, when my husband thought I was the one with problems.

Ha ha. Very funny.

You mean I was reacting to the dysfunction? I figure I was more of a barometer~ Responding to the atmospheric pressure, my attitude reflecting what was already brewing as another front swept in.

This time, when my husband came home, I put up a self-care barrier. I know some people don’t have help; some people do it on their own, either literally or figuratively. Other people aside, I needed space. I needed one more break to make it through. Yes, he just came home from a day at the office, but “Could you?” was courageously spoken. For someone who gives, gives, gives, serves, serves, serves, irons shirts, ring leads the house cleaning, wrangles the laundry, spear heads the social schedule, acts as chauffeur, and redirects attitudinal comments all day on top of a full-time teaching job, I asked for help. More than that, I said he could spend time at the dinner table with the kids while I went downstairs and ate alone. I didn’t do it to watch something; I did it to get a healthy breather.

Last year I was reacting in a flustered manner. This time I walked away in a proactive manner. Boy, did it feel good.

I don’t particularly care much about Grace Kelly (although I do swoon over Cary Grant –Archibald Alexander Leach, anyone??– and have a retro-ish crush on the Handsome Man of Bygone Days). But for the same reason I really enjoyed the documentary on Netflix “Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King” a couple weeks ago, I drifted to “Grace of Monaco.” *If you get a kick out of Jackie Kennedy having married Aristotle Onassis, you might like this movie.** One hour … off the couch. It was only half a movie, but it was something. Sure I was still sitting, but I was sitting somewhere else. I soaked in that needed break. Later that night we passed the final exam. Class: Over! We toasted to emailing pdf’s of the certificates once the kids were in bed. This morning I am a happy person again. This year was a stark contrast to last year when I was a mess from having done so much on my own.

As a point made beyond asking for help, my husband said yes. I had someone in my corner. He was willing to assist because we walked through the crap load of grief together about this time last year. But the hope and intention is last year will not repeat. Hawaii will eventually come. For now, an hour of hibernating every so often does me and our family a world of good.

Thank you, hubby, for dinner and a movie … alone.


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