A relationship can change things. Some of them are subtle—a person develops the habit of saying “God bless you,” for example—but some are more pronounced. For me, the most pronounced change, as I head into the second year of my relationship with Megan, is my body clock.
Before, calling me a “night owl” was an understatement. During weekends, and the summer especially, my day often had only one eleven o’clock. I would often go to sleep when the sun came up, and often wake up sometime in the afternoon.
Now, sunrise is not the harbinger of sleep. It is, instead, something I often encounter an hour after I wake up. I never thought that getting up at, say, seven or eight counted as “sleeping in,” but now it does.
This change was necessary. With the hours that Megan keeps, I’d have never seen her had I kept my nocturnal hours. So I changed, and have now joined the diurnal world.
And it’s an awful lot better.
Morning has become a sacred time for me. I sometimes wake at four, and write for a while before chatting with Megan on Facebook Messenger. Messenger is a godsend; because we live 250 miles apart, our morning chats have become a standard part of our relationship. We talk on the way to work, but there’s something special about a written correspondence first thing in the morning.
I never thought that I would get sleepy at 8:30 or so, but now I do, and when I get into bed at nine or so, I’m often asleep within minutes. I sleep soundly, and when I wake, the day really does seem to be filled with possibilities. Somehow, keeping late hours always made me think of all the things I’d missed that day (for good reason).
I discovered that mornings are the best time for me to write. Afternoons are okay, but nights are definitely out. In truth, it’s only now that I see that nights were never a good time for me to write, and that might account for that limited output for the first thirty years or so that I set about putting words together.
Too often, talk of relationships—particularly when young men are doing the talking—deals with all the things we lose, all the freedoms we give up. Hear most discussions about relationships, watch most movies about them, or read most essays about them, and it’s easy to get the impression that a relationship is a sort of prison, in which the person has maybe has eight feet to walk in each direction. Whole social circles fall away, and the people trapped in these relationships give up swaths of hobbies and pastimes.
To take in these ideas is to view change as a miserable thing, one that shuts a person out of many things that made the person happy. What often gets little press is that relationships can make us change in ways that are good for us. Yes, change can be difficult, and it often involves sacrifices, but sometimes, those sacrifices lead us down paths filled with discoveries that enrich our lives.
Yes, I gave up watching movies far into the night. Yes, I gave up late night excursions into New York. Yes, I gave up late night discussions, many of which were engaging and interesting.
Yet now I watch movies in the afternoon, go for morning walks, and have plenty of great conversations in daylight hours. Also, the winter doesn’t depress me the way it used to. Going to sleep at sunrise and waking up with maybe three hours of light left in the day isn’t exactly the healthiest thing. Even for those who don’t suffer from seasonal depression, a season full of night isn’t exactly the healthiest thing in the world.
Now, I’m always struck by how much daylight I have in my winters. Yes, the days are short, but there’s so much most daylight than there used to be. And when these days get longer after late December, I notice the extra minute or two that each day brings far more than I used to. In fact, I notice a lot of things, such as the way things start to bloom and grow as winter heads into spring.
So yes, I sacrificed for my relationship, and gave up something that was precious to me. In doing so, however, I discovered that what I thought was so precious maybe wasn’t so precious at all. Light is a good thing, and though darkness has its plusses, I’ve come to see that darkness is good in smaller doses, and that for most of it, the best thing to do during that time is to sleep.
We change when we are with someone else, and yes, we make compromises and sacrifices, particularly in the realm of self-centeredness. And yes, we often lose something when we make those compromises and sacrifices. At the same time, though, if we look around—for it is a lot easier to see things in daylight—we come to see that in compromising and sacrificing, we often gain things far more valuable than the things we gave up.