Life changes. Life with a toddler changes frequently, but sometimes I’m slow to make changes. I’m especially hesitant to make major family rhythm changes or to experience new things that Shah did not get to experience with us. I’m not even loving Zoya being potty-trained.
My decision to put my phone down between the end of work and the time my daughter went to bed was pretty life changing. I was more involved and engaged. I was more alive. My depression ended. I started taking more than 2000 steps a day.
When I wrote the post about putting my phone down she was going to bed between 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm. Then life changed.
Zoya generally stopped taking naps and started going to bed between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm. I have always pretty much gone to bed when she went to bed. Her late schedule gave me the most hours with her after work. Shah would then sleep in with her til she woke up at 10:00 am or 11:00 am. After he died, Ariel or I would enjoy mornings while she was sleeping.
So when she started falling asleep at 7:00, I started going to bed at the same time. I don’t need 13 hours sleep at night, so I started watching TV on my phone for hours and hours in the dark. That is not a good rhythm of life. It’s nice for a day or two, but no adult needs to spend 12 hours in bed.
At the same time, I started feeling lonely for the first time since Shah died. Many people experience immediate loneliness after the loss of their spouse. I didn’t. There are a couple of reasons for that, but I know one reason it started now was that I started watching hours of television. Reading books doesn’t make you believe everyone else has a very well-connected life the same way TV does. Even fiction books don’t have the same loneliness producing effect, because good fiction invites you in to the relationship and provokes unique thoughts. Television does not invite me in to the relationships. It makes me jealous of the connections I see, but does not make me feel like I am a part.
It took two weeks of this long night rhythm for me to realize a change needed to be made. At first I thought the loneliness was caused by not being around people. It wasn’t. The problem was television and 12 hours in bed.
So last night I made a change. I actually got up after Zoya fell asleep. I had two hours to read, plan for today, read the daily office, do yoga, and take a bath. Suddenly, my life isn’t nearly as dreary. I’m looking forward to tonight. I did so much better with Zoya all afternoon, because I knew I was going to have time in the evening to do anything I wanted. It was legitimate free time, rather than stay in bed with my toddler time.
I know 99% of you go to bed after your children, so this isn’t really a “helpful” post. But maybe it can help you think more critically about your problem, whatever it is. Sometimes, what we think is loneliness is boredom. Sometimes, what we think is boredom is loneliness. Sometimes we need to walk more. Sometimes we need a day or two in bed. Sometimes, we need more time with our children. Sometimes, we need less.
Sometimes, we cannot make the changes we want, but sometimes we need something else. I can’t make the change I want to make and be living with my alive husband again. I can’t go out at night with friends like I did as a single. But by golly, my daughter is going to sleep early for the first time in her life, so I can have two magical hours of free time each day. I can write again. I can do yoga without being a jungle gym at the same time.
Not everyone will get that staying up after your child is in bed is a radical idea for me. Many people will understand wanting things to stay the same after a loss, because really want it to still be that last day again. Everyone will get that sometimes we need to take a step back and evaluate, because maybe what we think will fill a need isn’t actually what we need at all.