It is a time of change in our household. While our household is small, it is usually full – full of love, full of laughter and nonsense, full of food and, my husband would probably remind me, full of shoes and clothes. So, I am lucky. I get it. And yet, recently, things have been changing, likely for the better. But this doesn’t make the change any easier.
It started when my husband realised he had a dream. Now, I am all for dreams and following them wherever they take you. This dream, took my husband to ‘the loft’. Initially ‘the loft’ was an open area in a barn, up in the rafters. Initially, my husband visited the loft every Sunday evening. But this was before the dream took shape – and took hold.
‘The loft’ then became a business idea – and a good one at that. So with his partners, my husband was off. Off building a dream, literally. When he wasn’t at his ‘paying’ job, he was at the loft, remodelling, refining, restoring. This was no longer in a barn, but in an industrial estate not far from where he worked. Evenings, weekends, nights, days off, there he’d be, at the loft, with his partners. And I was excited. When he was at home, he spoke of all he was doing at the loft, what had been done, what was yet to be done, how it would be when it was ready. Through the ups and downs, there I was watching, getting excited and worrying right along with them.
Months were passing. I tagged along when training was necessary; I visited the premises to see the progress; I was at the launch event. This was good. My husband had the guts to follow his dream. As I had hopped from goalpost to goalpost most of my own life, it was really easy for me to get on board with this. Following dreams was what I did, so I wasn’t going to stand in the way of anyone else. No, I would support anyone following their own dreams in whatever way I could. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I was.
And then it was on. My husband reduced his hours at his ‘paid’ job, so he could devote more time to the loft. It was working out; business was coming in and the partners were breaking even. It didn’t matter that even though my husband had two and a half days to devote to the loft, he was still working nights and weekends at the loft. It was good. Following dreams is good!
Until… one day I realised I hadn’t actually sat down and spoken to my husband for weeks. Yes, he would tell me when he would be in and when he wouldn’t be in, but I couldn’t quite recall the last time we had just had time to sit down with one another and talk – talk about the world, talk about the weather, talk – even – about the loft. Now, it wasn’t only him. I was out living my life too. It just so happened, though, that I would be out on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and he’d be out Monday, Wednesday, Thursdays and Saturdays. So we really became like two ships that passed in the night – or at least, passed out in the night. Things were good, yes. I was still extremely proud of what my husband and his partners had managed to create. I was still extremely proud of my husband for following his dreams. But things had changed. So much so, that one Saturday I was relaxing in my usual Saturday way, sitting drinking coffee and watching Saturday Kitchen and I realised I missed my husband. I knew where he was (care to guess?) and I knew when he’d be home. I also knew that even if he were at home, he would not be sitting here beside me watching Saturday Kitchen. But he wasn’t here, and I couldn’t just go into the next room and see him. And that was when I realised, I had lost my husband to the loft. I had become the loft widow.
Now I never begrudged him this fact. But, it was, indeed, a fact. And, also, I am not one who does not value ‘alone time.’ But there does come a point when you start to wonder why you got married if you were never going to spend time with your spouse. Granted, we had been married several years by this point, but I still liked spending time with my husband. So, I did what any 40-something, self-respecting wife would do: I posted this fact on Facebook. Yes, it was posted ‘ironically’; yes, my husband still hadn’t worked out how to use Facebook, but it was this act, really just an act of typing ‘what’s on your mind?’ that made me realise that, for me, at least, this was becoming somewhat problematic. And this wasn’t just the fact that my husband was away all the time. More likely, it was because I was experiencing challenges in other, important areas of my life. Specifically, work was atrocious and because I was working so hard, my social life – beyond my husband – was practically non-existent. And what made this even more frustrating was the realisation that the time I was spending with my husband I was complaining non-stop about the challenges I was facing. And that needed to change.
So the first thing I did was own-up to my feelings – and shared these with my husband. I was very clear that I was not telling him this because he was doing something wrong or because he needed to change his behaviour in some way; rather it was me that needed to change. And a few things happened as a result of this conversation. First, I was able to find times that I could spend with my husband – time that we could ‘be’ together and not just ‘do’ together. Whether this was a walk around the block or one meal together per week didn’t really matter. What I got was just a wee bit more connection. He didn’t spend any less time at the loft and we didn’t stop having time in which we were both in the house doing our own separate things. But I made sure that when I was feeling disconnected, I’d reach out to my husband and ask him if we could have lunch, go to the shops or look at something together on the internet.
Next, I made sure that I reached out to others. For me, when things aren’t going well, my first defence is to withdraw in to myself. To a point, this is helpful; too much, though, is damaging. So, I promised myself to do something different with someone at least once a month. Not only did this bring me out of myself and my problems even for just a short period of time, it made me feel more connected with others. It also increased the invitations coming in – and even though many times these had to be refused, it helped me remember I was not alone.
And finally, while the work thing took more time to sort out (ok; it’s still not really ‘sorted out’), I made a vow to put myself first as much as was possible. As I started to do this, I began to realise that the world did not stop because I did not answer that e.mail in 48 hours – even if that was what the policy was within the organisation (48 hours? Are you being serious? I only work there 3 days/ week!). That e.mail was still waiting for me a week later – and I started to find that my responses would be far more measured and helpful if I gave myself time instead of just reacting. I was able to understand that it actually IS ok for me to put myself first – and I could reinforce this belief with a regular affirmation that I am WORTH putting myself first. And so, my friend, are you. And, if you forget to put yourself first today or tomorrow – or if you don’t feel like you can put yourself first at this time – that is ok. Because you can always try again tomorrow – Rome didn’t change in a day, so you cannot expect yourself to find change easy. Just don’t leave it too long, because you can never predict how many tomorrows you will have.