Fiance is out for the weekend for his duty with the Army Reserves - an overnighter that he's not sure of the purpose of but that he is unequivocally required to attend. He was up around four in the morning this Saturday dressed in full camo with rucksack slung over his shoulder. He pecked me goodbye and reminded me that, yes, four am was something that existed and that he would be back late Sunday night. Then off he went while I drifted back to sleep.
And what a wonderful sleep it was.
It may sound a little terrible, but I love his reserve duty weekends that include an overnighter or require him to get up so early in the morning that it can barely be justifiably called morning.
But then again it's hard for me to argue with the fact that I get the entire bed all to myself. After all, there's something to be said for sprawling. Tonight I won't have to share the covers with anyone but the cats and they don't complain when I spindle the sheets around myself into a fluffy cocoon of fleece, down, and flannel. No stray elbows are going to knock into my ribs and cause me to wake up with strange indigo bruises of somnambu-happenstance. And, though I adore him, Fiance's snoring is often mistaken for semi trucks downshifting on a highway, which, as you can imagine, doesn't make sleeping easy. Or feasible.
So yes; I slept well last night and I will sleep even better tonight.
While this undisturbed sleep is wonderful, after a few days the bed feels empty and the novelty wears off. Absence not only makes the heart grow fonder, it makes the sheets far colder.
Yet I think that couples need these tiny little breaks from each other. Yes, you may have your work hours apart but when you live together you're still spending the bulk of your time cohabiting. There may be very little room for just you between the two of you and there becomes little respite for your own thoughts. The longer you go without some personal silence the closer you come to just snapping and putting your cherished other's face right through the living room wall.
As individuals we crave the presence of other people. Being social creatures is wired into our DNA; it's why our simian ancestors picked nits out of our hair and why we flip the tags back into each other's shirts - we have to connect with people. But we're also individuals. We need to be able to breath, to ponder our own thoughts, and to exist in space of our own.
We have personal bubbles for a reason. And no one likes their bubble popped.
Personal space gives us a chance to open ourselves to self reflection. No need to feel guilty. It's okay to be a bit egotistic and think about just you. The thing is, we need this time to focus on what's important to us and assess our own needs.
Plus, it's also one of those rare time where we can truly let go and be ourselves with no one around to judge. "But Garrett," you ask, "I'm always myself around my significant person." I'm sure you mostly are. But we all have those tiny little habits, those things we do only - and still only - in private.
Allow me to homo it up a bit and reference the show Sex and the City in order to make my point; Sarah Jessica Parker's character, Carrie Bradshaw, called these actions Secret Single Behavior, or SSB - those things you do when no one, especially the person you're dating, is around. For Bradshaw it was standing in the kitchen reading celebrity rags with saltine crackers smeared with grape jelly. For her friend it was getting a magnification mirror and obsessing over her pores.
These SSB are actions, habits, and quirks that you indulge in in secret because to anyone else they would see it as strange and look at you like you grew a third arm that could spontaneously contact juggle. But, my god, these little SSB make you feel wonderful. Tiny, inconsequential actions that are just yours and for whatever bizarre reason give you more joy than a bag full of bubble gum.
For me, one of my (I guess no-longer) SSB's is that I will put on my favorite songs from Glee and sing to them.
While doing the choreography.
In the living room.
Possibly with the cats watching and in my pajamas.
Yes. It's shameful. Yes, you may all know about it, but none of you WILL EVER SEE IT HAPPEN. Especially, not Fiance. I'm sure he would either have a laughter-induced heart attack or just sort of nod his head with further realization that holy crap he's marrying a loon with a penchant for over-stylized Journey songs and who knows every move to the "Thriller" music video. (Though the latter I feel is not shameful in the least, but rather makes me more endearing and awesome.)
I argue that these secret behaviors extend past dating and well into engagement and marriage years.
Obviously, some of these particular quirks can be culinary (see crackers reference earlier). For me, I love to play with oatmeal on a cold day, bundle myself in blankets, and watch B-Horror movies. Is it odd? Yes. Why do I love it? I dunno. I just do.
And yes, it may not seem that odd, but you haven't seen my oatmeal. In private my oatmeal is a bit... unique. Sometimes it gets stirred together with cream, maple syrup, and dried fruit. Other times brown sugar and pecans. Sometimes it's gin. Or leftover ham. Perhaps some crumbled tortilla chips and the sauteed Brussels sprouts that didn't get finished last night. Sometimes I tear up a piece of chocolate cake sitting on the counter into my oatmeal because it is one of the best things you have never had but that tastes like childhood rebellion and Senior Ditch Day back in high school.
Oatmeal is my muse. It can go with everything sweet or savory and I promise that every lick of what's in the bowl will be slicked out with eager fingers. The oatmeal is like congee or grits - a means of getting other sensational foods that I adore into my mouth.
Judge all you want. Dr. Pepper and chocolate cake oatmeal is one of the most rockin' things ever.
Don't worry though, this recipe isn't that (though I considered it).
Today's oatmeal is a much more traditional flavor pairing presented in a not so traditional way. Oatmeal cooked in a bit of coconut milk, with a sprinkle of vanilla extract, a small scoop of sugar, and dried cherries. A smattering of slivered almonds for finish does wonders by adding crunch and mellowness. Tropical. Flavorful. Self indulgent. Completely made up on the sly this very morning as I jived my way into the kitchen singing the Glee mashup of Halo/Walking on Sunshine.
It also tastes amazing while buried under six blankets in the privacy of your own home watching a copy of The Killer Tongue. I highly recommend it.
Just so long as you don't let anyone discover you doing it. Naturally.
So when Fiance returns Sunday night things will go back to normal. I'll be happy that he's warming the bed and my oatmeal will revert to a more conventional state, which is odd as Fiance hates oatmeal anyways. (Which brings up the question of why hide my habit at all?) I just choose a more socially prescribed recipe in his presence.
But, make no mistake, next weekend when he's at reserve duty I'm breaking down the steel cut barriers again. Maybe bust out the sriracha while I'm at it.
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sugar to taste
pinch of salt
2 cups oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Bring the coconut milk, water, vanilla extract, sugar, and salt to a boil in a saucepan on high heat. Lower heat to medium and add the oatmeal and cherries. Cook for four minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in bowls and top with almonds.