When you are a woman over 40 there seems to be no end to the warnings and advice thrust upon you by well-meaning people who want to prepare you for the Great Change of Life. Yeah, it doesn’t even matter if you aren’t anywhere near this Great Change; it’s all you hear until you start doing your own complaining about it. At this point I remain skeptical that it could be any greater a change than The Chef’s unemployment. And by that I mean the sudden change from 19 years of working the night shift.
He was working the night shift when we met, when we dated, married, and every day of our life together since then. Well, until now. So this is our Great Change of Life. We are awake at the same time, asleep at the same time, together whenever I’m not at work, occupying the house at the same–all things that never happened before unless someone was sick or on vacation. (And even then they never happened for more than a week at a time.) I published the surprise and insult of the circumstances last week. The adjustment to all of that was relatively quick and smooth. Now we adjust to a new day-to-day reality…of togetherness.
The greed-mongers canned The Chef while he was on vacation. His vacation technically ended Thursday, so Friday was the official start of the Great Change. Without hesitation we’ve shifted into conservation mode until he finds another job. This will presumably be a day job. Oh my glob, I’ve just got to say that again…a day job. Until this happens we breathe new air, drink new water, blink new eyes at this instant new life.
- When I came home on Friday night we made dinner together. We did WHAT!? This is such a big deal that you’ll need to overlook my gush for a moment. I can’t remember the last time this happened (if it ever happened). We usually dine out on Friday nights. Obviously we won’t be doing any more of that while in conservation mode but this first act of joint effort felt remarkable. It wasn’t just the meal prep but also the fact that we now reach for reserves from the freezer and pantry rather than shopping. We now tighten our belts together as well as cook together.
- Saturday morning we ate leftovers for breakfast–together. We never eat breakfast together because he’s usually trying to bank some survival sleep and I’m up early with the Ayurveda clock. Now we get up together and it feels so weird not to rise and wake in an empty house (but weird in a good way).
- We went for a run together. This rarely happens. I can think of one time in the last few years and it was my birthday.
- We worked in the yard together. I usually do this while he sleeps in and he usually does it while I’m at work. Now we are out there sweating and raising dust and stepping in dog poop at the same time.
- We made lunch together–more leftovers. Again, cooking together twice in one day? Who does this?
- We went to the library together. His library card expired way back in 1997 so you can guess how many times this has happened since we’ve been together (none). But look at us now, stalking free entertainment before the unemployment wounds have had a chance to scab over.
- We even baked cookies together. Great-Grandma’s tea cakes, because we already had all the ingredients in the house and it was a low-cost treat.
- We watched a movie together. I DVRed it two week ago. To watch by myself on some night while he was at work. Because that’s what we
dodid. If cooking together is a big deal this is a huge deal. It just couldn’t happen before. He would crash helplessly in perpetual sleep deprivation from the night shift. This time he saw both the opening and closing credits in full alertness.
The weekend progressed similarly (hiking, baseball, etc.) and when the work week started the togetherness didn’t end. He’s home every night. He’s already there in the morning. He’s on the couch, in the bathroom, passing me in the hallway or already in the next room when I walk in…all things normal people encounter every day but for us they are foreign and remarkable.
It’s not just the new things but also the old things we don’t do anymore that give us pause. We aren’t trying to cram things into spare moments anymore. We don’t gobble down our dinner because he’s leaving in 15 minutes anymore. We aren’t saving conversations to hold at the optimal communication hour (awake + stationary); we can talk anytime we want now. We aren’t trying to solve problems or coordinate tasks by text message anymore. Last night he made a mood-related inquiry. It’s probably been six years since he had the energy to notice a change in something as subtle as a mood.
Hell, I’m even learning things about him I never knew. For instance, did you know he’s an expert–I mean full-on hardcore aficionado–of the Andy Griffith Show? I’m dead serious. You can’t stump him. If TV Show Historian was a thing, this man would already have a new job and be bringing home the bacon. I should explain. And could someone out there please make this a thing?
In conservation mode we dropped a crap-ton of our subscription channels, leaving us with a crap-ton of good old wholesome black and white classics. We both grew up watching Andy Griffith but The Chef took his indoctrination of “Well tarnation, if that don’t beat all,” and “Gee whiz, Pa,” to a superior level. Remember the old ’70s game show Name That Tune? When it comes to the Mayberry crew my husband can Name That Episode in less than 30 seconds–with full plot line, guest character names and traits, and probably sing you the guitar ditty Sheriff Taylor wrote in the closing scene so it could all end on a sweet note. It’s incredible. I had no idea there was such depth to this man, I do declare.
Despite their prominent placement among the text of this post I’ve said little about the weekly Tinas thus far. It’s probably time to acknowledge them. However, you can surely understand how journaling the Great Change feels like a fresher topic (a topic more fresh?) and more interesting (interestinger?) after 43 weeks of grinding out self-portraits. The caption blazes upon this week’s Tinas were a coping mechanism. I’m just trying to get through the last 9 weeks of the project any way I can, and the word blobs helped break the mounting tension a bit.
I resisted putting up a joke blaze caption about my dog’s butt in this last one but trust me, there were plenty afoot as I made my way through the edits. I liked it better that it appears he is fleeing the scene as my countenance turns all American Horror Story.
No, we haven’t started fighting yet (The Chef and I). If the night shift had any perks, the best of them is that it naturally realigns a couple’s priorities to the things that are truly important. I mean, if you’ve got only 30 minutes a day together you don’t waste those minutes bickering over stupid shit. It literally isn’t worth your time. You let the stupid shit go and eventually the need/urge to bicker goes with it. We both value this default setting in our marriage even if we did come to it in a circumstantial way. It’s like spilling paint that ends up looking like some brilliant piece of art and you love it so much you pretend you meant to do that.
Yes, okay. The hair. I know. I’m trying. By trying I mean I’m trying really hard not to hate it. I want my hair to feel loved. However, it is in that awkward grow-out stage where it never looks great. It’s the #1 reason so many of my recent Tinas have been headless or intentionally blurred. (Sigh.) That’s awful, of course. That’s not a good wellness practice. For penance I should do nothing but hair shots next week. (All kidding aside, holding one part of our physical body in contempt while claiming self-love and self-acceptance toward the rest doesn’t work. It’s bullshit.) Shunning the head is bad for the whole.
The facts: I needed a haircut weeks and weeks ago but I didn’t get one. I let it go for a month because of the 30 day spending fast. Now I have to let it go some more because spending fast + unexpected employment change. I keep trimming my bangs and pretending the rest doesn’t look like doody. It looks like blonde doody. But it’s temporary.
This too is part of the Great Change. In conservation mode a girl just can’t spend $40 for a shampoo and haircut in good conscience. So I’m DIYing it. I’m letting it get long enough that I can cut it myself. Yep, you heard that right. Once it gets a little longer I can cut it myself. For free. Anna Newell Jones taught me how. I just have to keep trying not to hate it until we get to that point. Ugh, the hair–but now that I’ve addressed it I can get on with the important stuff. Clearing out the junk drawers of our minds creates space for wellness and all the benefits of continuing wellness practices…
…such as conservation, partnership, self-love, resilience, growth stimulated by change, and wonder…yes Lawd, the wonder of it all.
–Heyriot White O’Verhaul
(love the hair you’re with)