I was enjoying a bath the other day. The hot water filling the tub to the brim, my body submerged except for my hands holding a book and my face peeking out from the suds. I was relaxed. Content.
I heard Tiger begin to dance on the wood floors below as the garage door rumbled open.
That was soon followed by Brock’s voice, “Where’s mama?” he asked Tiger as both man and dog bounded up the steps.
“That looks good,” he said, slipping off his clothes and sliding behind me in the tub. For the next few minutes, we talked about our days with the sound of the water draining through the overflow in the background. Eventually, the sound of the escaping water stopped as equilibrium was reached once again. The volume of the water replaced with an equal volume of Brock.
We stayed that way for some time, enjoying the company and the warm water.
He exited the tub before me, stepping out while simultaneously grabbing a towel.
The change in the bath was shocking. The water that had once covered my entire body now didn’t even make it around my hips. The once-full bath had been reduced to a few inches of tepid water. Unwilling to end my soak on that note, I turned the faucet on once again, allowing the hot water to fill the void left by Brock’s absence.
We are all aware of the effects of physical displacement in our lives. We are careful not to fill a pot to the brim before adding the potatoes. We know that a full tub will overflow when splashing kids are added. We ask for room in our coffee so that the cream can added without creating a mess. We are not surprised when water levels appear to plummet when objects are removed.
Yet we are often not as aware of the effects of emotional displacement. Of what happens when people are added to or subtracted from our lives.
In the beginning of a relationship, it is like being joined in the tub by another. Other relationships and commitments shift out of the way to allow room for the new company. It can be an uncomfortable change, friendships and activities and habits all vying for attention. Trying to decide what stays and what goes. Figuring out just how much to let the new presence in and how much will have to go to allow it to settle in.
And then, you get comfortable. Your life is full and has reached equilibrium. There may be less of the metaphorical water, but the volume of the relationship makes up the difference.
As long as your partner is there with you, the water level is fine. But as soon as he or she stands up to leave, the loss is shocking. Your body, once buoyant in the support of the water, feels heavy and collapsed on the cold surface beneath. You can stay there, cold and heavy, nerves raw to the whispers of the incoming air.
Or you can turn on the tap, filling your life again with warmth and support. Finding ways to replace the removed volume with new friends and old. Revisiting former passions and finding new ones. Enjoying the buoyancy that comes from a full life.
The tub may still feel empty, but at least you’re not needlessly suffering. Bonus points if you add a rubber ducky:)