There is something about the middle of the night that pulls you out of a deep sleep to remind you that you are in fact alone. I experienced it early in my separation. There were nights when I would wake up and the feeling of loss would grip me and wake me. It was a physical emptiness that squeezes uncomfortably until you can’t sleep through it. It gnaws at your insides because even in sleep, your body knows that something is wrong. Something at the core of who you are is broken and alone. Your arms and legs reach out for comfort and you wake because it won’t be found in your bed, or your home or any of the other places that once brought peace.
I sleep really well now. The sleep I had during the early separation was much like the sleep I had for most of our marriage. I was used to staying up with a crying infant or toddler. I was used to waking up because my autistic kids have insomnia from brains that don’t usually slow down. I was used to waking up and feeling alone in the quiet. Now sleepiness takes hold around 10 and every single morning, my eyes open naturally around 6. I wake up and stare at the soft light filtering through the curtains. I listen to the water flowing from a tiered waterfall into the pond outside of my window. I hear birdsong in the trees, and the soft deep breathing of the child who is next to me half of the time. I wake and there isn’t a list of tasks to do and expectations to meet. There is joy and presence for the moment I am in and there is a blessing of wonder and muted excitement.
I was always a light sleeper. I would hear the soft cries of an infant and wake to tend to his needs. I can still hear the suction from a refrigerator door opening while half asleep when my kids have been sent to bed. I have started to switch my phone to “do not disturb” when I go to sleep because emails and text messages will wake me. I would like to think I can be counted on to be a friend at any time in an emergency, but not when you are up and bored. For the right person, I would be happy to be boredom relief. For the right person there would be giddy surprise at a late night call or text. But I don’t currently have a right person.
I wake up and most of my dating site messages come in between 2 and 4 in the morning. I get some likes and emails right around 10 at night. Early in the morning, I see plenty of people online and looking. When my kids are with me, those are the times when they need me most. We’re shuffling feet out the door for school, or settling in for the night. We are sleeping and enjoying quiet moments of hugs and laughter. And I get pings and bells and alerts because there is someone in need of the busy sounds of life that are filling my home.
When my kids leave, I will often find myself at the beach. I have always been a water baby, but when I had kids the ocean became a terrifying place where I remembered every time a wave crashed fear into me. I remembered being in the ocean and the man that worked his way closer to me with each wave until his hands were groping through sea salt and my own innocence. I remembered the many times my autistic children wandered away and the fear that I might lose a child took that joy and washed it out to sea in a riptide of fear.
When I wake alone, I enjoy the solitude and work on tasks to do and consider what I would like to do. It’s an endless option of finally doing what I want to do and not being accountable to anyone. I can go where I want and stay until I decide I’ve had enough, and I don’t need to make sure someone else is okay with that. I can eat as much or as little as I want and there is freedom in that as well.
When I’m talking to strangers that find me attractive, I hear their list of demands and remain silent. I hear their constant need for approval and attention. They want to know that I care about their pictures or how they spent their day and I feel the needy hands reaching and take a step back. They are so self involved that they rarely notice I don’t reach out to them or ask more than polite questions.
They like to ask what I like to wear because they have a preference for skirts and dresses that has nothing to do with my sense of style or comfort. This tells me they are more visual than empathetic. This tells me they will care what I look like to others. I’m not looking to be recognized for my looks when I have thoughts that jump out and demand attention. I haven’t found a worthy audience except this blog.
I hear them ask if I like to cook. I respond that I like good food, even if I have to make it. I hear them not say that they need someone to cook for them and care for them. I don’t mention that I make a mean hollandaise and will whip up eggs benedict if the mood strikes. I don’t tell them I cook most of my meals from scratch with fresh ingredients and have a love for French and Italian styles because I don’t want to sign up for a relationship where someone else never feels like I might want them to cook for me. My loneliness is a tender friend to me when compared to servitude and I can sleep at night knowing I’m content with a tuna sandwich for dinner.