I am the wife of a traveling husband.
What? I’ve mentioned that before? Yes? He’s been traveling so much during the last several months that it’s been hard for me not to feel like it has been forever. I think he’s been gone for some portion of every week but 4 during the last 4 months. That may be an overestimate…not sure on that. I just know it has been a lot, a lot more than I enjoy.
Waiting for daddy to get home from a trip
When Gabe was little and Tahd had a different job, he traveled in limited quantities, and I was awful at it. I panicked over every little noise I heard during the night and found childcare nearly insurmountable. We did a lot of outings and adventures to keep ourselves busy, and we went along with Tahd at every chance we got, because it was more fun to be with him than it was to stay home. Also, I slept way better in the hotel because I wasn’t worried about all the intruders and prowlers who were clearly waiting to get me at home while we were alone.
Years later (and some antidepressants mixed in), I’ve gotten a lot better at being the stay-at-home wife of a traveling husband. I sleep well while he’s gone and don’t leave on any random lights, televisions or radios as intruder deterrents. This is somewhat of a miracle since I was previously known to leave the television on all night and construct a fake person out of pillows and covered the whole thing with a blanket so it looked like someone was watching tv in my living room all night long.
Yes, that really happened.
I think it helps that Gabe has gotten older. It’s not that I expect he’d be any help if we were in a dangerous situation – it’s just that the presence of another human being with whom I can converse keeps me from retreating too far inside my own head and getting lost in the shadows.
Childcare is passable now, too. We don’t go out to eat for every meal, and I don’t even serve throwaway meals the whole time he’s gone – just some of the time. :) Let’s not talk about baths, though. I still stink at bathing my children – it’s one of my least favorite tasks. I’d rather deal with repeated and explosive tantrums than handle bath time. This, too, is totally irrational and I think it stems from my hatred of my old, icky bathtub. I don’t like baths because they require me to look at the icky grout and stained tub and I get anxious and stressed out at all the futile cleaning I should be doing. So my children stay dirty and my bathtub stays stained, but I stay relatively happy.
Tahd is gone again this week, but it’s his last week of travel before he’ll be home for an entire month, and I’m beside myself at the idea that I have to do THREE MORE DAYS ALONE!
Truly, though, I think I’m as anxious about these last three days as I was about all the rest of the days combined. Sort of like how the night is darkest just before sunrise? Why is this? Why is it that the last little bit of anything difficult feels insurmountable, even though I’ve conquered much more than this before?
I’m like this on car trips, too. It doesn’t matter how long the car trip – I get anxious and cranky during the last hour or two of the ride because I’m so eager to get home.
Maybe that’s it – the eagerness. It takes me out of the present moment and into the future, out of the experiences of the moment and into the imagined perfection of my mind. The truth is that when Tahd gets home, it’ll be nice, but it’ll be hard. There’s always a little adjustment for everyone when he gets home, and it’s not like his presence makes life perfect. Gabe still snipes in anger, Isla still skins her knee (actually, her forehead yesterday), bills still have to get paid, and I still get tired and achy. Where I imagine bliss and ease, I’ll really have…regular life, with all it’s demands and inconsistencies and adjustments. The companionship and helping hand will certainly make those things more pleasant, but they’re not cure-alls.
I recently heard about a company called Happify, a website containing scientifically developed activities designed to improve the user’s happiness. Becoming happier has been one of my consistent interests since losing Mara, and I eagerly signed up for an invitation to join their program. It finally came yesterday, and first up was an activity called “Tranquil Lake.” The instructions read
This game is designed to strengthen your brain’s ability to pay attention to details and block out irrelevant stimuli–a key skill of savoring–through an immersive audio/visual scene. It’s also a quick and effective way to stop ruminating or thinking negative thoughts, which get in the way of your happiness.
By paying attention to the details and winning the game, you’ll also enjoy the effects of positive mood induction. Research by Barbara Frederickson has shown that a few minutes-long inductions (think, little bursts of positive emotion) enhance our well-being and help us bounce back from negativity more quickly.
I looked through a computer generated image to find six hidden objects. At first, I saw one hidden object, and it wasn’t one of the six I was supposed to find. I almost closed the window and moved onto something I deemed more important, but I’m glad I decided to give it another chance. The longer I studied the image, the more hidden objects I found – not just the ones on my assigned list, but others, too. By the time I was done, I realized the image was chock full of hidden objects I didn’t notice at first or second glance.
Maybe life is the same way. Maybe if I slow down and pay attention, I’ll find hidden gems, even in the midst of circumstances I don’t love. Maybe I’ve been supposed to be learning this all along…maybe it would have made the last four months a little more enjoyable, a little less full of anxiety. I’m not sure, but I’m going to try to keep it in mind during these last three days.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you some of my most effective tips for surviving my solo parenting gigs.