It’s earlier than necessary. I’ve been awake since 3 am. Returning to sleep wasn’t successful this morning; I was too wrapped up in the discomfort of scratching at fleas. Oh, not actual real insect fleas one might encounter at home if the family dog, cat, or other pet potentially interesting to fleas brought them indoors. I mean metaphorical fleas of the sort that nag and irritate and bite at my consciousness in the background, until the background becomes the greater portion of my thinking, and rest is no longer easily within reach.

I enjoyed a pleasant weekend with my traveling partner, and a great deal of it was spent simply enjoying that time together in a positive connected way. Some of it was spent being a supportive partner, providing a listening ear, maintaining my individual perspective based on my own experiences, ensuring he felt heard and cared for nonetheless… I find myself thinking I spent a lot less time than usual on the things that generally fill my weekends these days: long walks, yoga, meditation, reading, writing, relaxing lost in thought over a hot coffee and gazing out at the clouds passing by over the park, painting, drawing, taking photographs, cooking, keeping my place orderly…only… I did those things. I think, actually, I did all those things this weekend…so…why this nagging feeling that something is missing, or didn’t get handled, or… and why the hell am I so cross this morning now that Monday has come?

I’m scratching at fleas, that’s why. It doesn’t need more thought or fancy language or additional analysis. Some of the things my partner is going through with his Other are just that fucking aggravating to even hear about. From afar, some human being I no longer have a direct connection with of any sort has managed – likely without any awareness or intent, let’s be rational – reached across time and distant through the magic of relationship drama and primate behavior to successfully get under my skin without even being here. Ick. As with real fleas, the temptation is to take immediate action – flea by flea initially, until it becomes clear there is ‘a real problem’. The larger mistake is allowing any such assumption that there is ‘a real problem’ to stand on its own merits; it’s mostly likely emotional bullshit and baggage, safe to let go of without further attention, the better choice being to continue to practice emotionally healthy practices moment by moment.

Some of life’s fleas come in the form of well-meaning loved ones suffering with the bad behavior of others slowly starting to demonstrate extreme reactivity to those sorts of things – or more unfortunate still, doing those actual very things that have hurt them so much, in interactions with other people. It’s very human, and pretty sad, and hard to endure, and very unpleasant. I am pretty sure it’s one of those so very human things that few are immune to it – I’ve been there myself, and I’m still scratching at a few that hang on so doggedly (lol) that I can point to the relationship they came from with certainty.

It was a bite from a metaphorical flea that messed with my sleep this morning. I woke in the wee hours, got up to pee and returned to bed. I noticed my throat was dry and my head was stuffy, and had a drink of water on the way back to bed. Just as I dozed off, I recalled a conversation the night before; my traveling partner expressed concern about my snoring, and my weight (they are related; I don’t snore much at all unless I am carry extra pounds). The conversation wasn’t an attack of any sort, and was clearly well-intended. It was practical, and also gentle. I don’t know that how the conversation was handled has anything at all to do with it holding my attention and keeping me from sleeping at 3 am… but I felt sufficiently self-conscious about the possibility I might snore that I couldn’t go back to sleep (even though no such thought prevented me from sleeping when I went to bed).  So, I am up early, writing, and wondering which of many practices for building perspective and finding balance are the ideal fit for flea bites… Because I do want my partner(s) to be easily able to come to me with their concerns, and I want to be comfortable hearing what they have to say, as well as able to sort out what matters most, and whether there is any need to take action, without that process being disruptive… or keeping me awake.

I managed to prevent my fleas from taking over my morning, which is nice, although I ended up missing out on 2 hours of sleep I might otherwise have enjoyed. My thoughts tried to get me to become invested in scratching those fleas on a whole other level. I found myself feeling cross about how much time was spent discussing his other relationship – I restored balance with gentle awareness of how much time he spent listening when I went through a bad break up, myself.

Reciprocity isn’t a ‘tit for tat’ thing like a tennis game where moment by moment everyone gets a ‘turn’; reciprocity trends over time with day-to-day shared consideration, deep listening, participation in shared activities – like folding the laundry together and talking, playing a video game together, figuring out dinner together and sharing the cooking and clean up. Reciprocity isn’t “I made this coffee, now you make that one” as much as it is a commonplace exchange that results in coffee reliably being made – by someone – and cleaned up – by someone – and everyone involved satisfied that the arrangement is comfortable, perhaps because even if I am generally the one making coffee, you are the one generally making tea; and we share both experiences. That very loose and easy notion of reciprocity only works in practice, as it turns out, when all participants are equally investing in equanimity, balance, and mutual support. It breaks down quickly if anyone involved feels entitled, deserving, superior, or ‘in charge’; reciprocity requires a lot of boundary setting, compromise, and ground rules in relationships that are not between (among?) adult equals. People who are in crisis, emotionally injured, or suffering great pain or grief are sometimes not easily able to reciprocate emotional support moment-to-moment; like a marathon runner with a broken leg, they may be very skilled at what’s needed, in principle, in training, in experience – but in that moment that they are working to heal a broken leg, they are not running any marathons, and it may be some time before the reciprocal nature of the relationship is fully restored live-in-real-time. It’s a reciprocal relationship, if everyone can count on each other ‘down the road’ as much as right now – that marathon running is a recurring or ongoing experience, and one day I may be the one with the broken leg, myself. Is this metaphor played out? Probably – I’m still scratching at fleas this morning.

Begin again? I think I shall.

Begin again? I think I shall.

I hear my partner up early, too; we are sensitive to each other’s moods beyond what seems common (or necessary, frankly). It may be that my wakefulness has messed with his sleep in turn. We’re very fancy primates, emotionally complicated, very responsive to our environment and our tribe. I hear him make coffee, and find myself distracted from my writing. I feel it as eagerness to share his company, and a subtle concern in the background. I remind myself to continue my best practices, regardless of his considerable charm; if I don’t take care of the woman in the mirror, and this fragile vessel, I am not so easily able to provide him with support and care when he needs it, too. Balance, perspective, and love – a good salve for flea bites.  🙂

Still… today is a nice day to begin the morning with love. 🙂