Mark is many great things but one thing he is not is a great conversationalist. The second leg of our driving holiday this summer was three hours. I would be surprised if he said all of ten sentences in that time. Anyone who has met me would know I am the opposite of this. I find it hard to be silent. So it is fair to say Mark and I probably drive each other equally nuts. I wish he would talk more and I have no doubt he wishes I would, perhaps, talk a little less (that’s saying it nicely).
He’s not the silent, broody type, however. You know the deep thinkers, wondering about how to solve world hunger. When I ask him what he’s thinking about, something I try to do irritably often, his reply takes no great feat to guess; ‘nothing’. Mark has this true insidious belief that it is simply easy to think about nothing, he insists that not only is it humanly possible but that it requires no real effort and absolutely no thought for that matter (I encourage you to sit and ponder that for a moment).
This is so beyond my capabilities that I don’t believe it, not for a second. My brain does not know how to relax into nothingness, I can’t even think what this would be like. All I do is find myself thinking about how to not think, which really in itself is just a whole lot more thinking. But then this skill does come from a man who, whenever asked about the organising of his two month European holiday, visiting eight different countries, staying in sixteen different towns, simply states ‘it was great, I just turned up’. And a man who has only two gifts to buy every year and, when just days out from both my birthday and Christmas Day, will still often seek help.
It is fair to say in our long standing, glorious marriage, I do all the thinking, talking and organising whilst Mark does all the other stuff. When you are the household organiser and the family social secretary there is no way you can ever learn the skill of thinking about nothing, and when we were parents my thinking was tenfold. For that whole seven plus years my brain was on constant high alert, flitting from one thought to the next. In that time I never, ever, ever, forgot anything! Our child had high needs and a copious amount of appointments and parental visitations, along with the standard extra-curriculum and schooling demands. I think it is fair to say I had to do an exceptional amount of thinking back in those days.
When she left my brain kind of stopped working for a little while. I remember how our first holiday after becoming non-parents was full of things I had forgotten to pack. Or how I’d forget something at home when visiting friends or family, like the. drinks or the salad dressing. It was so out of character for me that at the time I wondered if perhaps I’d had some sort of mini stroke. To put it simply, never in my life had I ever forgotten anything and all of a sudden I found myself in a new space. I have recovered fully now, thankfully, but when I look back on that period of about twelve months I put it down to the lessening of stress that came with no longer having to care for a child and the enormous amount of additional thinking needed then just to survive.
A child for me meant my brain could never relax, it was full 24/7 thinking, even when 8 hours of this was spent asleep. You don’t know the full extent of it when you are in the zone, after all it’s not like you have any alternative, but when it’s over and your brain can finally go back to thinking mostly just for yourself then you really do notice the difference. I may not be be able to think of nothing, but I sure am grateful for having the time these days to think mostly happy thoughts, like which places to visit on our next overseas holiday and how to annoy Mark a little bit more to get at least some level of chit chat out of him.