I finally switched to the other side.
…Sleeping on the other side of the bed, that is.
This was a first for me since my husband died over three years ago. In fact, this blog post could be more appropriately placed within my first blog that follows my grief journey but I stopped posting there after the first 15 months following his death. But then again, I have found that switching sides of the bed is actually connected to moving on, keeping my eyes straight ahead, looking to the future, keeping my heart and mind purpose minded in the here and now…which ultimately means, this post truly does belong here, on EyesStr8Ahead.
I did some research online to read about what other people have to say about switching sides of the bed after losing a loved one who once slept on the “other” side. Many spoke of the difficulty, some tried it unsuccessfully and went back to their same old side while others simply made the switch, but I could not find any true insight on the side benefits of switching. The only benefit I found was that it is easier to handle the night and sleep better if your own side is empty, instead of theirs. I have found a much bigger meaning to switching sides, but first I had to examine why I did not switch sides before now.
I felt safe on my side. His big, empty side was between the door and me, and the space gave me some sense of a false security. I was essentially hiding, emotionally and physically. Physically, because I would stack up all of the extra pillows on his side, which made me feel like I had a barrier and it also kept the bed from looking so empty as I would gaze that direction in the dark of the night. The long stack of pillows also brought me extra warmth, which is comforting when you are use to the extra body heat that comes from sharing the bed with someone. I felt like I had my own little safe haven in my corner with my enormous stack of books on my nightstand, almost like I was in a different room all together by staying tightly on my side. Switching sides for the purpose of sleeping well was not motivating because I have been sleeping well ever since I moved to New York…and if it ain’t broke…
I did not go to bed one night and suddenly switch sides…no, I eased my way over there. I spent about a week sleeping in the middle of the bed and I slept great. Small step, big victory. I found that I would slowly migrate to one side or the other and felt freedom and ownership of the new found space. When putting my reading book on the nightstand or getting a drink of water became a problem (because sleeping in the middle of a king size bed creates much space between you and the night stand), I decided to take the plunge and go completely to his side. That first night, even before I fell asleep, I felt like I had conquered scaling a wall and was taking the deep breath of victory while enjoying the beautiful view from the top.
The feelings produced by switching sides were very similar to what it must feel like to actually climb a mountain like Annapurna. I felt empowered, strong, in control, courageous and confident. The bed felt completely mine. It was like stepping into a role of new leadership. It caused me to discover new parts of myself. I realized I am a risk taker. I am not afraid of new and different situations. I can walk into the unknown and not let fear hold me back. I am much more spontaneous than I have ever given myself credit. I like the clear mind and clear thinking that comes from less clutter in one’s life, physical and mental and emotional clutter. His nightstand was empty of books and sparsely decorated, which I like, where as mine was full of books with just enough room for a coffee cup or a glass of water…. I was hiding in my books in my corner. I feel like I am no longer hiding, behind anything in my life.
I have been hiding by not answering my phone, not returning voicemail messages, not reading emails, not replying to emails, not reading Facebook private messages (because then I would have to reply), not wanting to smile and be myself in pictures, hiding behind sunglasses, not making eye contact…and I am sure I could think of more ways that I have hidden over the past 3 years. Switching sides of the bed and seeing my little corner where I had been hiding since Michael died gave me a fresh new perspective and I am tired of hiding.
The first morning after I switched sides, my daughter walked into my bedroom and twisted up her brow and said, “Why are sleeping over here?” I replied, “I have been wanting to try it out.” I then added, “Besides it’s supposed to be healthy.” To this she giggled and said, “And how can that be healthy?” She was thinking healthy like green drinks and taking vitamin C everyday are healthy. I tried to explain to her that it was emotional and mental health and a good and necessary step for someone who has lost a spouse. I could see the light go on in her mind.
While in the process of switching sides, I simultaneously bought new organic sheets, Italian hotel bedding, new pillows, and a new headboard. Everything is white, except the headboard, which is covered in natural linen. It all feels pure, new, fresh, simple, uncomplicated and beautiful. I feel like I am indulging myself every night when I get to climb into my new bed, which feels like another step towards a new life. I look at the bed now when I walk into my room and, instead of my gaze skipping over his side and focusing on my side tucked in the corner, I “see” the whole bed and I think, “What a beautiful bed!”
Switching sides…such a seemingly simple act but with huge implications. I feel as if I have cast off ankle weights. I am moving onward a little bit further down this new and unchartered road. I am keeping my eyes straight ahead. This small step of moving on also causes me to keep my eyes looking to the future, because I do have a future and God has good things planned…in this I am confident. Switching sides shows that I am keeping my heart and mind purpose minded in the here and now.
Why did I wait so long? It was a season. It’s a new season now…on the other side.