I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days. When I first started to worry, I thought maybe it would be a passing thought. A lot of things are. Most things are no big deal, and with time a concern seems silly.
But this one worry has persisted. And I’ve spent most of the day preceding thinking about it. He was gone for a bit, out doing something, and when he came back home, he seemed focused — even hyperfocused — on a project.
Going back and forth between his workstation and the laptop. Slotting things together. Programming something. In inventor mode.
I didn’t want to interrupt. Even when it seemed as though he might be taking a load off and relaxing between bouts of doing research, it never seemed like the right time to approach him.
Especially as his body language was reacting poorly to the small greetings and check-ins and required communication to basically inhabit the same space. The “here you go” when you hand something to him. That kind of thing.
So I read and putter with work myself.
Before I know it, we’re both preparing for bed. And as I’m lying down to sleep, preparing to clear my head so I can sleep, the thought is still there. It’s so large now, so deprived of distraction that I can’t think of anything else.
And I say to him, “Honey, I’ve been a little worried about something.”
And he responds, “You had all day to tell me this, and you’re telling me this right when I’m exhausted and going to bed?”
I feel a huge pit in my stomach. “Okay, never mind,” I say. “We can talk about it later.”
He’s sweet after I say this. His body language relaxes. He rubs my back with his hand as I turn over and stare at the wall.
It’s Hard to Sleep When Things Are Unfinished
It’s tough to get to sleep, but I manage. When I do, I sleep poorly. Stress dreams. My subconscious is running everything over in circles, ruminating on the open loop. It’s a predictable reaction, due to something called the Zeigarnik effect. What is the Zeigarnik effect? Simply stated, it’s our tendency to ruminate on and better remember tasks that are unfinished.
I wish I didn’t feel like having deep conversations right before bed.
I do some research on why this could be happening. Firm empirical studies elude me in my hunt, but anecdotal reports say that this is common. And common wisdom on it is that people often want to have deep conversations at night because that’s the time when they’re most physically vulnerable (to predators, back when life was more dangerous), and our emotions follow suit. There are fewer distractions, too (what struck me).
In a way this is comforting. Because I’m not trying to be an asshole. I don’t want to have deep conversations before bed. Because it’s annoyed roughly half of my bed partners (the other half have been the same way as I am).
But my mind always wants to offer up the vulnerability and bravery at what is the worst possible time. I hate it.
I Send It By Text While We’re Working, As Wrong As It Feels
The next day, I write what I was going to say the night before. I type it out as best I can. 155 words, including the disclaimer that it’s not a huge deal but I felt bad I wasn’t telling him. It’s not short, but it’s not long.
I feel kind of rude doing it. Because he’s at work. We both are. Another bad time to send someone something like this, to my thinking.
But I know he actually likes to have heavy emotional conversations over text (I don’t, but I have adapted to accommodate him). And when he’s at work is the time he seems most receptive to being contacted by text.
A half an hour passes. He doesn’t write back. He could be in a meeting or something. Or I could have overwhelmed or upset him — as much as I tried not to. Or he glanced at it and forgot. I might never know.
Or he might write back.
I have no idea what will happen. But I feel better for having said it. I feel better for not holding in something that’s bothering me, like it’s a dirty secret.
I’ve at least given him a chance to know it, whether or not he ever responds.