Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In Sleeplessness

My husband and I both have fairly severe back problems. (Don't ask me why we haven't gone to the doctor/chiropractor/massage therapist, etc. I can't go into that.)

Jeff's problems can be traced back to any one of his 8 car accidents, all of which preceded me. I am proud to say he has been car-accident-free since I entered his life.

I think his biggest back injury was obtained while driving down a windy mountain road in the middle of summer in his 1966 MG Midget. He zoomed around a tight corner at break-neck (or break-BACK! Ha! Get it?) speed, encountered a patch of standing water on the road, and sailed out into the wild blue yonder. His life was saved that day. He "sailed" into a row of old-growth fir trees lining the road, but his little car was so little that the angels successfully squeezed him *between* two of the trees, protecting him from smashing *into* them.

And did I mention that the Midget was a convertible? And the top was down? And Jeff wasn't wearing his seat belt? But the seat belt thing was also a lifesaver, in this instance. As the Midget somersaulted down the side of the hill, Jeff the genius, always a quick thinker under pressure, dove onto the passenger seat and flattened himself. If he had been wearing his seat belt, that dive would have been impossible, and I would be single with no children.

The Midget finally came to rest in a field, and Jeff got 30 stitches on top of his large, thick noggin. He also got a lifetime of back pain.

Far less glamorously, my back problems are borne from scoliosis and perpetuated by ergonomically-incorrect laptop usage and ergonomically-incorrect piano playing and ergonomically-incorrect sitting, standing, walking, running, driving, etc. Did I say running? Scratch that. I don't run.

Jeff and I are always sort of competing for who is in the most pain. His family has a history of back pain, and their chiropractor told them they were one-of-a-kind, so they tend to forget that my back pain is also severe, excruciating, and debilitating. Therefore, Jeff typically thinks he wins the "most pain" competition, and I let him think that, but I secretly know the truth. :-)

Every morning, we both wake up in extreme, sharp, shooting, burning pain. We hobble around the house moaning about how stiff and sore we are, muttering things about being hit by Mack trucks and feeling calcified from head to toe.

We dream the elusive dream of owning a king-size tempurpedic mattress. And a working hot tub. And a personal, live-in massage therapist. We have put the Costco Memory Foam queen-sized mattress topper on our Christmas list (hint, hint), and we are hoping it will make some sort of a difference.

In the mean time, we have both grudgingly acknowledged the fact that we are in far less pain each morning when we sleep....separately. :-(

The thing is, we don't believe in sleeping separately. Truly, we don't actually believe in being apart at all. We don't take separate vacations. We barely minister separately. When one of us is asleep and the other is awake, our hearts ache from missing each other. We each make repeated attempts to adjust ourselves to the other's sleeping schedule to no avail (Jeff's a night person to the nth degree, and my eyes pop open of their own accord at 5 am.) And no, we are not being codependent. We are perfectly capable of being apart, and we "take it like a man." We just don't like it.

Well, this past weekend, Jeff's back pain was very severe (and he really did win the "most pain" contest this time). I was able to pop his back for him, a feat typically reserved for his upper-body-strong, nobody-messes-with-me father. I prayed for his vertebrae while I jumped up and down on them, and the strength of the Lord adjusted two of the deepest, stiffest spot. However, I was not able to get that last spot. Jeff looked at me apologetically and said hesitantly, "I...think I'm going to have to sleep...in my recliner tonight."

I offered him the bed instead and said I'd sleep on the couch, but he said the recliner was better for him because he'd be partially sitting up and he'd move around less. I proclaimed valiantly that I would sleep on the couch anyway, just to be near him.

But I fell asleep in my chair instead, and when I woke up a couple of hours later, feeling like I'd been twisted into a pretzel and stuffed into a box, I stumbled to my bed and stretched right out.

Jeff and I both woke up the next morning feeling...not pain. At least not as much pain. It was such a nice feeling. We were both pretty excited, but we vowed not to make it a habit because it would be bad for our marriage. (What we really need is two twin beds, like in the olden days.)

The next night, same story, second verse. Jeff in his recliner, me stretched out, alone, in our bed. Sad hearts, happy backs.

On the third night, last night, I went to bed really early. Like 9 pm. Well, we painted all day. So I was extra tired. Of course Jeff painted all day as well, but he did NOT fall asleep at 9 pm. I have a vague recollection of him crawling into bed with me, but when James came in at 2 am to inform me that he needed to have toast for breakfast because he had diarrhea in the night (Wha...?), I heard Jeff snoring in his recliner again. I missed him.

This morning, after my eyes had already popped open and forced me awake, I heard Jeff creeping back into bed as quietly as possible. (He rarely gets away with sneaking around while I"m asleep because I'm such a light sleeper.) He cracked open the door, and I said, "Hi, there," so he would know he didn't have to be super quiet. He laid down next to me and fell right to sleep. I tossed for a few minutes before resigning myself to the fact that I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep. Then I came out here to write this blog post. I just meant to vent emotionally about how sad it was to sleep separately from Jeff, and it was going to be full of angst and have no ending.

Until I checked my email.

I found the most glorious, amazing, wonderful, treasured email in my inbox. Jeff, who does NOT write, EVER, had summed up everything I was feeling. It almost filled the entire screen!!! That is A LOT of writing for my Mr. Man. A LOT.

He also provided the best ending possible to this mournful blog post. I know the entire world (except his mom and sisters) is sick to death of my bragging about how amazing my husband is, but I am just going to keep on praising him. This time, his amazingness will speak for itself, as the praise he deserves will be evident to you by his own words. And here they are.


You are asleep, and I am wide awake. I miss you, my sweet. When you read this, I’ll be asleep and you’ll be awake. It is strange that our bodies want such different schedules. I think it would be fun to be the same in this aspect. But that’s just because I want all my moments to be with you. I do have the opportunity for creative thought and a chance at a moment alone, which is nice, but I really just find that I want to be with you. I came to bed with you tonight and was hoping to fall asleep holding you, and you were too tired to be held, and [censored]. I truly do want to honor you, cherish you and keep you. You fell back asleep quickly, and I just laid there watching and listening to you for 20 minutes or so, and began to realize how completely awake and alert I was. I was lying there hoping for sleep, and it was avoiding me. I think this is my first time of getting out of bed after you have fallen asleep. I only remember times of coming to bed late after you have already been sleeping for a while. I felt like I was sneaking out of bed, and I don’t recall that feeling before - just sneaking in. By sneaking in and sneaking out I just mean trying to not disturb your sleep, not like I’m trying to hide from you. Well anyhow, I love you and I just wanted to tell you how much I care about you. I don’t like sleeping apart from you, and the last 2 days of sleeping in my chair have heightened my awareness of how much I enjoy having you at my side. I can hear you snoring right now, and I am smiling at how everything you do and every way you are make me happy and feel strong love and affection for you. I will be going out to watch TV for a bit until I feel tired. Then I’ll be back and join your slumber. It’s my hope that this [email] is the only way you know, as I want you to be able to sleep the whole night through undisturbed.

I love you with all that I have, all that I am, and all that I will have.

I am so thankful that you're not just my wife, but my friend too.