Marriage Of One

January 23, 2017

Sleepless

Filed under: lifestyle — marriageofone @ 9:12 pm

About a year ago finding that I had little time to pursue any of my own projects or endeavours, and having no energy or desire to work extremely late nights on said endeavours I decided to change my sleep pattern.

Following on from Ben Franklin’s adage that “early to bed, early to rise, Makes a man healthy wealthy and wise”, I decided to go to bed on hour earlier than I had hitherto, and rise nearly 2 hours earlier.

The result is the reduction of sleep from 7h/night to 6h/night. The experience I had from earlier experiences of early rising is that the morning hours are minute-for-minute, more productive than evening hours. I found this useful in my student days. However I found that even 1 hour reduction in sleep as an adult was hard going. Perhaps, age and other pressures and responsibilities conspire to make this a challenging routine to maintain.

I make up for the sleep debt on the weekends when I try to get 7+ hours sleep for two nights. On most weeks I also break up the pattern with 1 night of 7 hours sleep. I find however that regardless of the pattern or the attempts to “pay back” the sleep debt, I still find myself fighting tiredness. Usually it is manageable, but during the dark cold winter nights or if i have a mild cold or cough the feeling is really tough.

When I first started the routine, my objective was to use the quiet morning hours to get more done. And honestly it has and continues to be a huge asset. I don’t know how I would manage otherwise, and I did get many projects done as well as home tasks.

But there is more to this now, that I did not/or only partially anticipated. I find that in as much as I try to use the newly segregated time to further myself, the realities of house and home intrude even in the early hours of the morning when everyone else is asleep. It could be research of a holiday or shopping, investigating changing energy provider or insurance for home or cars. All time-consuming and important but a drain on time nonetheless.

The problem I have i s that I am the only person who can do this. Susan just lacks the technical and analytical ability to do these things and she has no desire to learn about it either. She won’t even do internet banking of her own accounts. It all falls to me. If I don’t do these things they just won’t get done, or it will be done in a quite probably more expensive way and sub-optimally.

I look enviously at my work colleagues who seem to have heaps more free time that I (and more sleep), even having children and it boils down to a large part to their partners taking an active role in maintaining the household or mutual delegation.

The other difficulty is that whereas I have extended the productive hours of my day, Susan’s are often shorter. She frequently sleeps for 9h (more if ill – which she often is), and a short night for her is 7-8h. This leaves precious little time for her to engage in anything other than normal home routines (cooking, washing , cleaning – which I help with as much as I can). There is literally no time in the day for her to learn anything new – so that we can equitably share other duties of running the house.

Furthermore, her stamina and physical conditioning is so poor that come about 7:30pm she is almost too tired to do anything more than flop down in the sofa for a bit of TV.  In recent months she has been falling ill (colds/coughs) almost every 3-4 weeks, so she is nearly always coming down with something, down with something or just recovering from something.  I’m a bit concerned about it, but I don’t believe the colds themselves are serious.  I think what it says about her general fitness and immunity are the issue, but she just isn’t the type to exercise or take pay significant attention to her physical health, physique or appearance.  Not if it doesn’t come easy anyway.

So when things go wrong at home, e.g. something breaks, it invariably falls to me to work out a resolution. if I leave it to her, I have to be prepared fr the possibility that she will not adequately research the solutions, and that we may end up paying well over the odds, or it will take a very long time to be resolved.

So in theory I could let some stuff go, but it will cost me (us). Of course she takes no interest in the financial details so the consequences in absolute figures are meaningless without context. She’ll say “oh it was just $x.” But what is that relative to the other outgoings in the month? Relative to other quotes she might (not) have done?

The other thing is if she does take the time to be a bit thorough, is that she takes forever. Because she effectively has minutes per day to do stuff she might take weeks to arrange something. If it is relatively unimportant or there is no deadline that is fine. In most cases things have to be done by certain date or have an impact on other things. She will then leave things to the last minute, panic and pick something – anything.

Even things which are relatively pleasurable – like choosing a holiday are tough. I have to comb for hours though websites and data to create a shortlist. Wouldn’t it be better if we both produced a shortlist and cross-referenced? I always feel a huge pressure because if I get it wrong and the hotel or site doesn’t meet her expectations, she won’t keep it to herself, and will take it out on me and the kids.

Okay, enough of that, I’m still finding the time invaluable even if it isn’t all mine to kill for myself.

Readers of my previous posts will have read about “live tired“. Although it was not my motivation this time round, it actually works well with “live tired”. At the end of a long day, I am usually confident that I can drop into bed and be asleep in a few minutes without tossing and turning with cruel ruminations.

HOWEVER, THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES

Being tired is of course dangerous and I have to be conscious of how tired I am, particularly as I drive to work. I’ve also had a few days (usually when I myself have fallen ill) when I find I am unable to concentrate effectively at work.

There is also the role of longer term health issues, not just from the lack of sleep but also from the things I do in mitigation. Cups of coffee, sugar, painkillers for the headaches.

By far the biggest problem I’ve found however is irritability. I notice I am far more irritable than I have been in recent years. I’ve found it to be the case at work even, but fortunately within a professional environment it is ‘easier’ to cover it up or compensate.

At home it is a different matter. The kids playing up even slightly makes me annoyed or short tempered. Susan speaking about anything I find inane or boring makes be uptight. If she starts on something that I find genuinely irritating that makes me almost lose my temper. The kids notice it – “Dad’s getting annoyed” they say.  “Why are you so serious?” they ask.  They know I wake up early and go to bed late, but don’t see the connection with mood.  When I calm down, I know that they are not being particularly annoying. It’s just me.

I don’t have a solution for this irritability. (Beneath it is of course the underlying frustration with life that drives the original change in sleeping pattern).

To be honest even on those days that I think I have paid back my sleep e.g. on a Sunday, I can still be irritable. So maybe the mood is bedding in behind the immediate cause that brought it about.
I hate that about myself.

Communication between Susan and myself is also shrinking beyond the little it was as I find I want to close down any connection before it can get to me! So even avoiding irritation is irritating!

It doesn’t help that the type of conversations that I won’t find irritating with Susan are the ones we should be having, but Susan herself does not want.

So how to tackle the moods. One approach is to disengage. It is not very productive. With Susan perhaps it doesn’t have to be – nothing between us is productive anyway. With the kids I make some space if I can, take deep breaths and recognise what is happening. Basically I am trying to be “mindful”.

Sometimes of course it is too late because I might just snap and yell at them. They then retreat into themselves and I have to work extra hard to get back their trust. And I always apologise to the kids if that happens.

I always apologise to Susan if I genuinely believe I have screwed up.  Taking the high road is calming in and of itself.

The trouble of course is that for Susan it is always something else’s fault. Circumstances, other people. Me. So she never corrects herself or the real problem or situation.  She’ll apologise if she thinks she absolutely must.  But it’s not beyond her to blame me for her screw ups if she thinks she screwed up because I didn’t support her adequately or meet her expectations somehow.

How long can I keep this up? I don’t know. For as long as I can is the answer for now.

But now that I recognise that mood is as much of a danger as physical tiredness, I need to remain vigilant to the impact on anyone around me.

All the other pressures and responsibilities are not going to get any smaller. In all likelihood they are likely to get worse as the kids get older, both Susan’s and my parents get older and life becomes more challenging. There is little to indicate that my share of the burden of negotiating these will be reduced in any way, and in fact Susan may herself be one of the complexities which drives a greater burden on me.

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