Here in Portland, the solar eclipse that happened on the 21st was at 99%. But 99% is not totality and I’m a giant nerd, so the fact that totality was happening only an hour down the road was a big fucking deal in my universe. Our plan was to go down to a friend’s house in the zone of totality, camp in the car, and watch it from her backyard/neighborhood.
But then Catharine’s meds changes happened, she wasn’t at her most stable, and we both decided independently that screwing with her routines wasn’t the smartest thing we could do. But she wasn’t so badly off that she desperately needed me to be at home (she wanted me at home because she doesn’t do well with unstructured time alone, but that’s a different story), so I went alone.
Which means, friends, that I had two whole days in which I was responsible for no one but myself.
Mostly. There was still the occasional text conversation to navigate, and as day 2 wore on, she needed a little more attention, but I got most of two days in which I didn’t have to track the moods, routines, or needs of anyone other than myself. (Also, the total eclipse was fucking amazing.)
When something is so fundamentally part of your everyday that you almost cease to notice it consciously, not doing it suddenly makes things really visible. I spend a lot of time not only doing the daily work of lifekeeping (making meals, cleaning and tidying, tracking money and schedules and paper and routines) but also simply tracking all of the little nuances of moods and emotions and signs that help me know where we are and what needs to happen next. Do we need to batten down the hatches? Can we relax a little? How intensively do I need to be involved?
All of that takes energy, and getting to not do it for a small space of time felt freeing.
But I noticed something else: a deep craving for someone to take care of me. Someone to feed me, to notice my moods and my needs and shape the day around them, to attend to the nuances of my health without my having to say it all out loud. Sometimes what I want most deeply is for someone else to do the emotional labor of figuring it all out.
This is where I sometimes get really stuck, because there’s a fine line here. It is not reasonable to expect people to read our minds, and it is also not reasonable to expect anyone to articulate every single one of their needs verbally. We humans communicate non-verbally an awful lot of the time, and we also generally work from known contexts and mental models. So there is always a balance of reasonable extrapolation and use your words.
Catharine’s ADD means the balance is often on the side of me needing to use my words more often than I’d like, because her particular brain doesn’t always make the immediate connections mine do between, say, my being sick and her thus needing to feed me. Intellectually I get it — this is a function of how her brain works. Emotionally, having to spell out what is so obvious to me can make me feel deeply unseen, especially when the pattern has so long involved me jumping to meet needs I’ve intuited that she’s nowhere near being able to verbalize. (Me, I’m working on not assuming caretaking that isn’t necessarily warranted. There’s another fine line between healthy mutual relationship and caretaking, and that wasn’t it.)
We haven’t yet figured out yet how to get me the caretaking I need, although we’re going to try to get me more mini-breaks so that I don’t so much need the big need-to-leave-for-a-week break. (Although I’m reserving the right to book a hotel for a weekend if it comes to that, I’ve got a three-day work conference in LA in September and a 10-day family/work trip to the East Coast in November, both of which give me gloriously solo hotel time, which goes a long way to filling that particular well.) But we’re going to keep talking about the caretaking piece. Because it needs to be at an appropriate level, and it needs to go both ways.