How to know if you’re making progress

It's time for the farmer to check to see how many of his cows are pregnant.

Here's what he does: He puts five bulls in a field with 130 cows. And the bulls have been waiting all summer to breed, so they can pretty much get all the cows pregnant quickly and then all the calves will be born in April.

The farmer runs a tight operation. Any cow that isn't pregnant now would end up having a calf later than the rest, and he wants a short calving season because then it's less work.

So this week it's time to do “pregnancy check.” The vet comes to the farm and sticks his hand into the cow's anus and he can tell. Any cow that's not pregnant goes to market.

“Goes to market” is one of the zillion terms on the farm for “gets killed.” Like Eskimos and “ice” and philanderers and “love.”

So this is what the cows look like when they are maybe pregnant.

And this is what the corral looks like.

The cows go in and then, one at a time, the farmer guides them into the chute. I am immediately attracted to the chute. It looks cozy.

The farmer says his chute is old, and they hold the cow in there at the neck. The chute is where Temple Grandin invented her famous squeezing machine. In Grandin's chute, (which is now ubiquitous thanks to McDonald's,) the cow gets squeezed to keep her in place and the cow is much happier.

“Cows like being squeezed,” says the farmer.

“Do it to me,” I tell him.

He puts his hands on my sides, under my arms, where my ribs are, and he squeezes. I love it. I'm in heaven. I have to lie down on the bed and have him do it again because it makes me so happy.

I ask him if he wants me to do it to him. He says no, that he would hate it. It's so hard for me to imagine hating it that I make him try it.

I squeeze.

He says, “No. I hate it.”

He tells me that Temple Grandin invented a squeeze machine for herself. It feels like hugs. He says maybe I should buy one. I tell myself that this is incentive for me to get along better with the farmer because if I can bring myself to sleep in the bed with him then I don't have to pay to insulate the porch, and then I could buy a squeeze machine.

I asked the farmer how he gets the cows to go to the corral. He says he used to try to force them. And it was always frustrating because they didn't want to go. He was always fighting against them.

Now he tells himself he has an infinite amount of time. He tells himself it doesn't matter when he gets them in the corral as long as he's making progress. Sometimes he loses one or two cows as he's going, but he knows they'll come later if he gets the rest of them. And sometimes, if a cow isn't coming with the rest, he tries to get her to go the opposite direction, away from the herd, and it confuses her so much that she follows the herd.

The farmer tells me that he stays calm and tells himself he just needs to be making progress.

Then I realized that's how he thinks about everything. He is the tortoise and I am the hare. I look at him and he looks like he's doing nothing and it makes me nuts.

And I'm convinced that he thinks he can treat me like a cow. He waits for me to make a move, and then he reacts. Either I decide to follow him eventually or I get so confused that I follow him accidentally. Either way, his strategy with me is to be patient.

So I am sleeping on the porch right now. I am trying to figure out if it's progress or not. I am freezing. Last night was so cold that I had a down jacket on, hood up, and another down jacket wrapped around my legs. At 2am I swore to myself I'd buy a sleeping bag today. At 3am I took a ten-minute moment with the space heater on, and I could feel the attraction that dooms people as they turn on the space heater before they fall asleep and the whole house burns down.

Is this progress? Am I doing something that is going to somehow make our relationship better? Psychologist Joshua Coleman shows in his book, The Imperfect Marriage, that if you just stick through the hard times with someone, odds are the marriage gets better within the next five years. I am counting on that.

It's so hard to know what progress is. Ben Casnocha wrote in his book, My Start-up Life, that progress is doing something that matters for your goal—you can't just get up every day and do stuff just to do stuff. I wonder, sometimes, if I am doing that with the farmer. A startup has such a clear goal: make money. But I am not so clear on what, exactly, the goal of a marriage is.

Leo Babauta's new book, Focus, is, of course, in line with his idea of making progress by doing less. In an interview about the book with Francine Jay, he says, “Be more conscious of what urges you have, what distracts you, why you're doing it. Once we become more aware, we can address the root problems (usually related to fear).”

If I bought a squeeze machine maybe I would be calm enough to interview Leo myself instead of having to quote other people who do it. As it is now, I often talk to the farmer by looking at his face in the mirror instead of directly at his face.

Wait. Maybe it's progress to stop with the mirror thing. Though really, I don't think he minds. Which is a reason I love him. That it doesn't even phase him when I can't handle non-mirror-mediated eye-contact.

Maybe, no matter what I do, I will get to hugs. Maybe it's okay. I just can't tell.

Posted in Productivity
68 comments on “How to know if you’re making progress
  1. Harriet May says:

    I don’t think I’m making progress right now. In anything. It’s so frustrating that I’m focused on unrealistic dreams of moving to Sacramento, or Portland, or Timbuktu or pretty much anywhere that’s not here for no reason other than it would create movement (Wait. Does Urban Outfitters deliver to Mali? Ok, well maybe not Timbuktu). What I’m doing is just making it worse. I’m scratching the itch rather than leaving it alone to dissipate on its own. And really, when I think about it, I’m so happy right now. Just so still.

    • Shannon says:

      I live in Sacramento and I can’t imagine why anyone would dream of moving here.

      • Harriet May says:

        Ok I’ll scratch Sacramento off my list then. Really I think it just has quite a nice name.

    • Grace says:

      Wow, that’s exactly what I’m doing – staying put, living a life that should satisfy me and instead feeling extremely antsy. I can’t tell if I’m doing good work waiting it out (it’s been years now) or if I’m wasting precious time.

    • Mathew Wallace says:

      I don’t want to admit it but I am somewhat always an underachiever guy — I don’t ‘want’ to push through anything I have started for fear of failing. That’s bad I know and I know I should go on but something just balks me. I know I should do this on my own but I don’t have that ‘power’ to push through unless someone or something urge me to leap — you know what I mean.

      I better get my focus or I’ll go nowhere. :) Thanks for such insightful blog.

  2. Robbin says:

    Do you know WHY you sleep on the couch? Is it to punish the farmer or because you need time to think, ponder in the night, alone with yourself?

  3. Rachel says:

    Hi! My advice! Stop sleeping on the porch! I don’t get why someone who seems so smart and insightful acts this way, writes about it in a public forum, and then wonders where their relationship went wrong. I’ve been following your blog for a year now and I even was the one who told you to fuck it and move in with the farmer already. If this is what you wanted and still want, there is no problem. It’s too simple even for this paragraph of a comment. There is no problem, tell yourself this, keep writing, keep fostering such a loving atmosphere for your children, love your farmer, fight with him (it’s unavoidable! humans conspire against one another), but for the love of god, stop whining about sleeping on the porch. It’s asinine beyond words, and just not where this blog should be going at all.

  4. Sue Miley says:

    Sleeping on the couch in the freezing cold…hmmm? I believe the goal of marriage is to learn how to love. It’s easy to love when things are new and passionate. When you don’t have mutual responsibilities or have to live with each other. Love is why we are here so I think we are supposed to get good at it. In the short-term, I think a good goal for your marriage may be to enjoy a warm bed! But, I live in South Louisiana and we can’t do cold.

  5. amy parmenter says:

    Some progress you can see…like when someone is putting up a building, and other progress just requires faith…like when a bulb is planted in the fall, you can’t really see that it’s making progress until Spring. I wrote in one post that the difference between my husband and me is that he is a building and I am a grower. Sounds like you two are the same, in reverse. Obviously the farmer is a grower. Your a builder. So it’s hard to understand that not all progress can be measured day by day. Do you think you’ll still be with the farmer next year? I do. :0)

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm.com

  6. Tzipporah says:

    Remember how when your children were small and there seemed to be no progress in the day-to-day caring for them? Every day the same thing – nurse, rock, nap, poop, etc.

    But look at them now – some progress is internal, invisble. That’s the most maddening, and important, of all.

  7. Tzipporah says:

    Remember how when your children were small, there seemed to be no progress in the day-to-day caring for them? Every day the same thing – nurse, rock, nap, poop, etc.

    But look at them now – some progress is internal, invisble. That’s the most maddening, and important, of all.

  8. Woody says:

    Penelope,
    We have a love hate relationship and you didn’t know it. Sometimes I hate what you write but then again if I don’t let my uptight out of the corral it doesn’t get hugs. The corral is a safe place that indicates you are going to get hugs and the cows know it. I need to be in a trusting environment and then I can let out my true personality around people who love and accept me. The farmer knows you’ll come around and the two of you plus your son will truly become a family – be patient time is on our side.

    My second wife allowed me to feel safe and our intimacy grew by leaps and bounds both in and out of the bedroom. I was raised in a offshore fishing family and the ways of the animal world we grew up in were pretty much built around nature and nature allows time to organize its patterns. Mad Hatter society is a waste of intimacy.

  9. Michael Fontaine says:

    The post begs the question, “What is the goal of marriage?” For me, and maybe many men, that’s easy: more sex.
    Well, I’m mostly joking, but only mostly. If I’m meeting my wife’s needs, then there’s more sex. If she’s not happy with me, then she is much less interested in intimacy (of any kind, not just sexual.) So the real goal for me is to have a happy, healthy relationship–acceptance of each other as we are and faith that we are always going to be together and supportive of each other.

  10. Kara says:

    Having just seen HBO’s movie about Temple Grandin, I am fascinated by this idea of the squeeze machine. Grandin was calmed by the mechanical imitation of hugging but couldn’t handle the real thing when it came to humans. I love the way you explain needing a mirror to talk to the Farmer–you can see him but there’s a layer of removal. Which we often need. Using the mirror is better than not talking, though, so I say it’s progress as long as you’re still trying. And by trying I mean doing different things, not the same things over and over (I’ve been guilty of that definition of trying before).

    In the movie, Grandin got in the squeeze machine right before French class to prepare her for the place she felt most uncomfortable in college. In the next scene, instead of sitting in the back feeling confused and alienated, she shows up to class and takes a seat in the front (backed by the calmness of being freshly squeezed). A triumphant scene.

  11. briana says:

    I read somewhere that for a marriage to work, there has to be a 5:1 ratio — five positive things for every negative one. I started thinking about that in relation to my personality — I am controlling, I always need to point out ways my husband could do something “better” (which really just means MY way), or why something he did was wrong, etc. When I realized that the only way I was going to be happy (and make him happy) was to praise the things he did that I liked (positive reinforcement works for animals AND husbands!) and reign in my criticism of things that weren’t totally necessary, things started to really improve for us. He even commented how he thought I was in a much better mood lately and has been doing things to show me how much he appreciates it. I don’t know if any of this will work for you, but I thought I’d share. Good luck!

  12. Dana says:

    Mehhh … progress is subjective and only “counts” in a relationship if it meets the expectations of the other person. You can make progress by your own definition, but if it isn’t the progress farmer wants, then it isn’t progress.

    I hate subjective measurements. If I can’t weigh it, use a tape measure to tell how long it is, or use it to fill up a measuring cup, it can’t be measured!

    I’ve often wondered if there are any health hazards associated with the lead aprons they put on you when you get an x-ray. They are probably less expensive than a hugging machine.

  13. YP says:

    Few things in your life have come easy–why should marriage be any different?

    About the goal of marriage: when times are rough, the main goal is to stick through it. During really rough times, choosing to stay married counts as progress. Unless the marriage becomes dangerous, try to be patient and stick it out. I’ve been married for 20+ years and those first 5 years were more difficult than the other 15 combined!

    I had to laugh about his treating you like he does his cows. Considering some of the things you’ve done, maybe all he can manage is to react–I don’t think he can anticipate what you’ll do. Some of the things you’ve done make sense to you, but I bet they were unimaginable to the farmer PP (pre-Penelope). You need to cut the man some slack. He’s already ignoring the small-town whispers about his crazy Jewish wife who drives w/o a license, tosses the couch out front like you live in a junk yard, and re-used dirty towels!

    You love him, he loves you, her loves your kids. He gets along with your ex, and he patiently accepts your quirks (most of the time). These are things that can lead to a long-lasting, happy & healthy marriage. You just have to be patient.

    Don’t send your marriage off to the market just b/c it’s sh*t right now. Maybe all that sh*t is just fertilizer for your next phase! The farmer sounds like someone worth at least 5 more years.

  14. TwistedByKnaves says:

    Oh good: a reason you love him. It’s been a while: glad they’re still popping up from time to time.

    Maybe it is still OK.

  15. Kathleen says:

    Penelope, you need to get back in his bed.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Ok. In keeping with tradition on this blog. I’m going to take the advice in the comments section. Kathleen, I think you wrote a very succinct summary of a lot of the advice I’m getting here. So. I’ll try it. And thank you for caring. It’s hard to see clearly when we’re so close to our own life: big picture is so hard, I think.

      Penelope

      • INTJtoo says:

        yes Kathleen is right. but here is an overly long comment which you might find helpful in actually doing that.

        Okay, who am i to give you advice? But it seems from other postings that you enjoy the conversations you have with your readers …
        Maybe we are similar. If you accept a simple "personality classification", i an INTJ type and have a lot of characteristics of Aspergers, also female. I have had problems sharing a bed / room / house with each of my three live-in relationships. Sometimes i have trouble with physical touching. If i don't have me-time then i end up chronically stressed. I always thought i was weird, but when i first learnt about the INTJ thing, i was told that this is common for that personality type. I guess i'm still weird, but i accept it for how i am now, and i don't try and change it, but i put a lot of energy into dealing with how i am and how that can be a problem with others.

        Sleeping ….
        So … sleeping … i am a light sleeper, and if i don't get proper sleep (and we're talking 8-9 hours every night) i end up chronically stressed. I enjoy the intimacy of sharing a bed, but sometimes (when i haven't had enough me-time) i don't, and if i am not sleeping properly (snoring partner, bed too small, bouncy bed etc) then that is hell for me and everyone else. So this is what i've done to survive me and my man (he is a miner not a farmer): have a really really big bed (i mean really big), comfortable and firm so if he rolls around it doesn't shake the bed and wake you up. And if the farmer is a "clinger" then explain to him that eventually this will kill you, i am sure he will understand. Have separate blankets / doonas (with a big one on top). Don't underestimate the power of these things until you try it. for me it creates an environment where i get the intimacy of sharing a bed but i can also feel as if i am alone. Sometimes i have to wear earplugs which i hate, but i hate how i am after not sleeping properly even more. I understand that some people have separate beds, but i think this arrangement works around that (i hope i never need separate beds, i don't think i will).

        Also if you haven't got it already, maybe you need your own room, just your own. At the moment i have a wonderful place which is my office / library / movie / dressing room … my man understands that i need this space to just recover … in fact, i didn't realise how much i needed it until i didn't have one for a while … i was a wreck …

        And maybe if you try the "big together-but-separate bed" thing, with your own separate private room for daytime me-time, but if this doesn't work … then maybe there is something more going on … i tried that with other relationships and then realised it was the relationship that was the problem. For now it is working with my man. I hope it can keep working and maybe even if there were more people in the house. Little ones.

        Marriage …
        Hmm … what is the purpose of marriage? Well, surely you have answered this yourself in previous posts when you talk about the difference between happiness and contentment … marriage is no different to other significant elements of your life … do you have overwhelming feelings of contentment, interspersed with moments of happiness, and not too many moments of distress …

        If you need concrete measures for this, develop your own progress assessments: how much of your day / week was spent feeling contented? How many occasions of happiness did you have? if you weren't achieving this, then what were you feeling and why? I think you are already aware that self-observation and evaluation is incredibly powerful.

        Sorry for the big long post, i only wrote it because i feel like we have things in common …

      • Elizabeth says:

        This summary is helpful, but I see a lot of bad advice in response to this particular post. Many responses strike me as being based on the person writing, not on what you actually describe in your post.

        Based on what you wrote, it seems like you are in a solid relationship with a good guy. I don’t know if relationships improve the way a skill improves. Maybe the goal is to get the kind of stability where you can be yourself and accepted, even when you need something that isn’t adding to the relationship.

        Obviously, my advice is worth what it’s worth….but I think you should go ahead and sleep on the porch and work through what is bothering you. You are entitled to work things out by yourself, and it sounds like the farmer is the same way. I think you will naturally work this out and go back inside without losing the relationship or all traces of sanity, I guess is my point.

        Hope this helps. I related to this post, in my own relationship. My relationship is not perfect, me and my husband both do weird things alone and together, and sometimes I want to scream and vice versa :) But I’m committed to staying and so is he, so it works. Thanks as always for actually being honest in your writing instead of trying to sugar coat your life. Always much appreciated.

  16. lb says:

    The goal of any (close) relationship: To know that someone’s got your back & that you’ve got theirs. No matter what.

    When two peeople have that, things seem to fall into place ….

  17. kate says:

    You fascinate me. Progress in marriage is difficult to measure because all the variables change. This happens in business too, but there you feel like you are in control (when you are running things). These same lessons can be used in marriage, break each goal down and pick something small to work towards, make it happen, keep doing that while you figure out the next goal. Sometimes the small goals change the overall goal into something unexpected, sometimes good, sometimes not, so always good to keep that perspective in mind. Where does this goal lead? etc.

    so for your marriage, what are the small goals? sleep in his bed? what are some options for that? what if he squeezes you until you fall asleep? or try different lengths of time until you are comfortable sleeping there. then once you figure out what works, keep doing it and move on to the next goal.
    his patience is good for you – gives you time to experiment with different ideas. not totally unlike building a company.

    otherwise get one of the space heaters that are little oil filled radiators that don’t catch on fire for the porch so you aren’t freezing at night.

  18. Kye says:

    Penelope, I can’t help wondering: could he squeeze you like that when you’re in bed, so bed becomes a good thing instead of something you have to force yourself to do? Maybe ten minutes of delicious squeezing and you fall asleep feeling okay. If you wake up and it doesn’t feel good anymore, you could always go out to the porch then.

    Maybe at the moment, the goal of marriage is to create a fertile environment for lots of hugs :)

    • Dl says:

      Kyle makes a good point. I always feel secure when my husband rolls over in his sleep and leans against me or even on me. It’s that feeling of being hugged. Maybe you need a smaller bed. Maybe a twin size bed for both of you.

  19. anon says:

    Given the short time that the two of you have been married, and the pre-marriage instability that you’ve described, I have to say that this doesn’t look good. I realize that we’re only getting a small part of the story here, but I generally feel sorry for this poor sap who seems to slowly be becoming a casualty of your psychological issues.

    The two of you should really seek help. And you shouldn’t share so much of your personal life online.

  20. kobe says:

    Don’t buy the sleeping bag, and if you have save it for the next great camping trip. Take a break together,get a perspective of the realationship you both desire., communicate. It seems you might be as stuburn as the cows., Or maybe you both need to be pronged a little to see what is truely underlying, such self-torture. You will find yourself returning back to the hurd / the family the life, the love, the hugs and the hot apple pie… It takes alot of ‘mindful’ study to understand the true love in a marriage, lifes purpose, new beginings, and careers.
    Read the ‘Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle., A good book towards dealing with the ego. Sometimes our ego can cause a blindness, missing the true understanding of life.
    I enjoyed your writing, thank you for the smiles.

  21. pfj says:

    Penelope, what you keep talking about – without knowing it – is chemistry, as in ‘biochemistry.’

    The squeeze effect produces oxytocin. OXYTOCIN.

    When they give this to truly-autistic folks, as a nasal spray, it sometimes startles and confuses them so much that they freak out. In that case, whether they like it or not doesn’t enter into the discussion; they’re freaked out.

    The dosage is very difficult, because it takes such tiny amounts to make a change. And because it depends on the ‘internal environment’ inside the person’s head. Literally inside their head, because it goes into the brain by way of the olfactory neurons.

    But there may be one or two things that someone could eat, or could take as supplements, which might increase oxytocin in the body.

    Now. About what you should do next, or where the relationship should be going. Have you asked HIM?

    Ask him.

  22. lisa richmon says:

    I’m new to your blog so please excuse me for being in the dark as to why you’re sleeping on the porch. I just celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. I celebrated down in Florida because that’s where I got married. The celebration included all my bridesmaids who are each on their third and fourth marriages. (trust me you don’t know where I’m going here.) I don’t feel like I’ve been married 25 years or that I deserve a medal– instead I feel like we’ve endured and survived FIVE DIFFERENT five-year marriages that each represented different struggles and rewards. It took 25 years for me to see it that way. Hope this distillation makes sense and even helps you in some way.

  23. barbara de vries says:

    GREAT blog P !
    Very well structured narrative and for a moment I was going to suggest that you’d move from the porch to the cozy chute, then I read the magic words;
    “I love him”.
    You wrote.
    So back to bed with you!
    Love brings up everything unlike itself (Louise Hay).
    My husband had an affair with a young Parisian woman, more like a BlackBerry affair, under my nose once he came back from France. I moved to the spare bedroom. I did Vicodin. I lost 20 pounds. But I love him. And eventually I moved back into the marital bed. Seems like your farmer does not get to Paris often. Seems like all he does is be patient when he should be more like a hare, and tells you not to swear. He may be passive aggressive, controlling and self centered. Hard to accept when you’ve just given up a lot, or changed your life to be with him. P needs to be in control, I know. Me too, and another woman was, to me, a complete loss of control. But if you love him then focus on the love, all the things you love about him and maybe get into the chute together, now that could be kinky!

  24. Lisa says:

    This is a very beautiful post.

    Maybe the goal of marriage is to die with company and live with hope of joy that feels like immortality.

  25. Sarah says:

    On the purpose of marriage, try Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason. Beautifully written in addition to being insightful.

  26. melanie gao says:

    I bet lots of couples sleep in separate beds and that you’re more normal than you think. It’s just that most people don’t talk about it as openly as you do.

    In fact I can think of a long list of things that are probably very common but no one talks about openly except you: abortions, sleeping with one’s therapist, screaming at our kids, etc. I really appreciate the fact that you speak about the unspeakable. People should know they’re not the only ones.

  27. Heather says:

    I get it. Most nights I wish I had a porch. Or a second house. But after a divorce from my husband, then a re-marriage, then a 1-year separation, and then back together again, I have only just in the past 2 years found peace with my decisions. I only now understand the good that he brings to my life, instead of such a focus on the negative. Okay so some days I still see the negative. It took me years to get here. And it took a persistence I didn’t know I had. My point? Persistence. Again, if I had a porch, I’d use it plenty. You get tons of advice here, I just want you to know I can relate.

  28. Wattsy says:

    Does there have to be ‘progress’ in a marriage? I don’t think of my (happy) marriage in those terms. I’m ok to just let it ‘be’. (Is progress always a good thing?) And I don’t have any goals for my marriage. Except to try to be nice to my husband and do things that make him happy. And because I married the right guy, he does the same for me. But I don’t think of us in terms of progress. If it stayed this way for ever, I’d be happy. (And of course, I’d choose happy over interesting.) I think it’s a real achievement to be able to say “This is my life. I like it just how it is and I wouldn’t change a thing.” How many people can say that about their lives? (And it’s not complacency, it’s an active commitment to the status quo.)
    PS Pen, I think you mean ‘faze’ in the second-last par.

  29. Jimmy Dugan says:

    The goal in marriage? You can’t be serious? There is no goal. You get married because you love this person with all your heart and soul. You marry them because you enjoy their company as you go through this journey we call life.

    Goal? What goal? It’s not a business. If you have ever loved someone to the bone, you might understand how silly that question is. Although many people get married because they are getting older, their friends are, financial reasons, or whatever the flavor of the day is, they are all wrong reasons.

    There is nothing in this world that comapres to loving someone and them loving you back. Nothing. You are looking for a goal to what, find satisfaction? You should have found that a long time ago when you said, I do.

    That being said, not sleeping with your husband is crazy. Most people would give their left arm to go to bed each night with the person they love, and you sleep elsewhere. Taking love for granted, as one of the blessings in your life, is a mistake you may regret. Love doesn’t come easy, often painful, and a desire for most people that they cannot find.

    Which brings me to the fact that you are sleeping on the porch, and keeping odd hours. Insomnia is no laughing matter. I have found as we are all different people and have experienced different lives, some people are just cut different then others. Some don’t let anything really bother them, and some have a mountain of things to ponder.

    Your mind is full, and this time alone for you gives you that time to yourself to try and put things in perspective. I understand that. And the more issues you have, of course the more “me time” you want. I understand that too. But at what cost?

    Some people will never be able to clear their minds. The old saying, forgive and forget, is only half right. Even if you have the capacity to forgive, the forgetting part is often the part that most people have a hard time with. Go inside out of the cold and find your way into the arms of the man that loves you. Talk to him and let him help. And definately hit the couch too by yourself. But try.

    No one knows what tomorrow will bring, and life can be short. And for some, shorter then others. Don’t spend this short life by yourself trying to figure out life and what it has brought you. Enjoy it now while you can. That should be your goal.

    • Brad says:

      Not sleeping in the same bed with your husband is not necessarily crazy. Sleeping out in the cold when you don’t have to – now, that’s a little crazy. Even the cows don’t do that.

  30. tim says:

    I vaguely remember from Temple Grandin’s book, that she also recommends lying under a mattress to get the same effect as the squeeze machine. The weight of the mattress provided the squeezing action. It seems like it might be a low cost alternative to a machine.

  31. mix says:

    I am hoping that you get the squeeze machine, because not only do I think it will be blissfully calming, I know we will get to hear all about how it feels, and that would be *really cool.*

  32. Roberta Warshaw says:

    I follow another blog where the wife lives in another state from both her husband and kids. She visits every few weeks or so. It works for them. Everyone doesn’t follow the same path in marriage. i.e. 2 people sleeping in the same bed every night, etc. Do what works for you. Of course it has to work for him as well. Although the porch thing sounds cold. Isn’t there a warmer place for you to sleep?
    And I don’t agree with the poster who says you reveal too much. You are doing a service to anyone trying to live into old age with autism. No easy feat.
    Good luck Penelope.

  33. Ron says:

    There have been times when I wanted to sleep on the porch too but didn’t. I have been married for 10 years and together with my wife for 15. Conflict and disagreements are part of marriage. For me learning to be aware of my own faults and limitations has been helpful. No matter what we all say here only you and your husband will get through this rough time. You either will or won’t. The challenge us: Do you really want to and what can you do to move beyond this rough time? It’s all in your own hands. On a personal note: I wish you some peace so you can think clearly about you want. Good luck and I wish you the best.

  34. Missy says:

    Maybe I missed this, but why are you sleeping on a freezing cold porch, instead of a couch in the living room?

    However, I think I understand why you are not sleeping in bed with the farmer. Personally, when I don’t feel connected to my partner I absolutely can NOT even stomach the thought of sharing a bed. In my previous relationship, I slept on the couch (inside) for the final 3 months, even though we were still having sex…..It’s interesting that for some people sharing a bed is actually more intimate than having sex….

  35. Mark W. says:

    I think the people who would be most helpful to you are people who know you the best and have your best interest at heart. People who know you in ‘real’ life and people who have known you for an extended period of time in different phases of your life. People who know both you and the farmer. You can and do get a lot of good advice from this blog but it is one of many places to get advice. I don’t have AS but it is a contributing factor here. I have often thought the one invention that would change the world would be one that would allow a person to see and feel the world through another ones eyes – literally. Maybe some day it will be possible. In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle with our ability to empathize and sympathize … and struggle along together.

  36. Ivy Lane says:

    didn’t you JUST get married??? I feel you are being a bit selfish… how would you feel if the farmer slept out on the porch..or… if you wanted to go back to his bed…and he denied you? mmmmmmm…you should maybe ponder that tonight on the porch underneath all your down jackets… hoping for a positive “love post” next time! geeezzziisshh..

  37. J says:

    I love so much that you are able to freely write about the troubles in your relationship. I think you should start to handle the problems in your marriage the way you write.. letting it all out. Tell him everything you are feeling (maybe not all in one breath but honestly tell. him. everything.) I am in my second year of marriage now and feel like the only thing I would regret if we end up not making it is not giving it my all. I would only regret not trying everything, not telling my husband everything I’m thinking (good and bad) so that we could be totally and completely honest with each other as we go forward in our lives together. Even if it doesn’t work out after all that at least I’ll know I did everything I could and it wasn’t going to work no matter what. There’s a kind of comfort in that thought for me.

    In short, try something, anything, it can’t get any worse than possibly burning down your house b/c you’re sleeping on the porch.

    • TwistedByKnaves says:

      And let’s not forget our old friend, carbon monoxide.

      “Why are you crying, son?”
      “Mummy’s blue”
      “Well, let’s see if we can cheer her up!”
      “No…”

      Not funny. At all.

  38. Naomi says:

    What you said in a previous post was that you sleep on the porch because you have an easier time falling asleep there. I am wondering if there is some straight-up physical issue in the bedroom that you are overlooking. Does the farmer snore? Are the sheets scratchy? Is the bedroom too warm? Is the mattress too soft / too hard / too uneven? I agree with the “go sleep with your husband” advice but you need sleep, too, not just marital harmony. There’s probably a reason you sleep better on the porch but it might not be the fear of intimacy that nearly everyone is assuming; it might be that you guys need a different mattress.

    • Suz says:

      I concur with Naomi. I had a similar problem and spent many nights on the couch alone because I couldn’t breath in bed. Turns out I’ve developed an allergy to something in the bedroom but I still don’t know what. We moved our bed to a room with wood floors instead of carpet. It made a huge difference. No more sleeping alone.

  39. Grace Briones says:

    Try this: Getting back in bed with the farmer and touching your feet with his underneath the blankets. It’s a very delicate way to say: “Let’s start over”/ “I still care” / “I love you”/ or simply: “I am present”. I am very happy that you and the farmer found each other. My husband and I have our share of disagreements that end in either me taking a lot or giving a lot. But it’s silly to keep score. Keeping the love and passion alive between you two will naturally restore the balance. Make no mistake, Marriage is about Love AND Compromise. Good luck, P! I hope it all works out. I have a feeling it will :)

  40. Irv Podolsky says:

    Penelope,

    I think there’s one basic question you and the farmer have to ask yourselves: Do you genuinely LIKE each other? More succinctly, do you respect him? Is he your best friend? Do you look forward to hanging out with him? Can you be totally honest with him. Do you find him interesting? AND… Can he answer “yes” to those questions about you? Because “love” comes and goes as frustrations mount. But a loyal and truthful friendship, with all it’s magnetic properties, is the glue that holds a relationship together through fear and insecurity.

    (Have you noticed how we have family members that we love but don’t like? Get my drift?)

    From my own limited experience, I discovered that the exciting love I felt for my wife many years ago, over time, lost it’s luster. But the friendship strengthened and expanded into a new kind of love, much more nourishing and deep.

    Irv

  41. Mike says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while because you’re an interesting writer. And your list of accomplishments, including professional athlete and company founder, is impressive. That said, I’m left with a real feeling of sadness as I watch what seems to be a trainwreck unfold. I’m guessing you were not too sure about this relationship, then a part of you decided that if you got married you’d be committed and that would force you to make it work. As the sleeping on the porch shows, that didn’t happen. Nor, I imagine, does the public airing of all this help any in fixing the problems. Blogging is what you do, no sense stopping that now. But I do find it puzzling that someone who would appear to be a success in so many areas of her life manages to tear apart what should be the most intimate and close relation adults can have.

  42. TwistedByKnaves says:

    Conversely, Mike, I find it encouraging and inspiring that someone with a personal life that seems just as messed up as mine can still live a professional life of such meaning and impact.

    And if we’re ruthlessly honest, isn’t real life always a bit more chaotic than we’d care to admit? No? Oh.

  43. miranda hvinden says:

    Hi Penelope,
    I grew up on a cattle ranch and assisted our vet during dozens of pregnancy checks. Our vet stuck her entire arm up the cows anus. I want to give you the heads up on this.

  44. H says:

    Well the good news is that Penelope isn’t *really* married to the farmer, so when the whole deal trainwrecks as it seems destined to do, she’ll only be facing a break-up and not a divorce. And that’s about the only good news I can see in this entire situation.

    For the life of me, Penelope, I can’t understand why you insisted on formalizing the relationship and moving in with the farmer when you had so many problems. The day-to-day pressures of living together magnify relationship issues. Add to that your penchant for airing your relationship’s dirty laundry on this blog, and you’ve got a recipe for failure. Give it a rest, already. Have some respect for your partner and for the relationship you’re trying to forge. More to the point, grow up.

  45. Sara says:

    Forgive my bluntness – the farmer already has a mommy, stop trying to compete with his mother and be his wife. What the hell are you doing sleeping on the porch and obsessing about who washes his clothes?

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      I like your bluntness. And, I think you’re right. And, after taking the advice you guys gave me right after I posted, I have been sleeping in the bed for three nights. And it’s better.

      And I think anyone who wants to improve their marriage should read this string of comments. It’s sobering. Marriage is hard and people who have kept a marriage together are so blunt here about how hard it is. Thank you. I have so much respect for that.

      Penelope

  46. nicole says:

    I think you are scared of intimacy because of what your dad did to you when you were helpless. Anyone would be.

    Everyone needs the comfort of love to survive and prosper though. Love from another person is an imperfect gift, but marriage is the promise that someone will keep trying to give that imperfect gift of security until they die.

  47. Vicky says:

    Penelope are you trying to kill yourself? Isn’t it going down into the 30’s at night now? I doesn’t sound like you’re getting much sleep on that porch anyway. At least get back into the house so your kids don’t get traumatized by your death. Geez.

  48. Ivy Lane says:

    so glad to see you are making progress! phew!!!!

  49. Morgan Jones says:

    Hi Penelope,
    I just want to say that you have a lot of good advice in these comments. I agree with most of it, especially the part about getting more hugs and moving back into the bed. The farmer sounds like an amazing man! I am going through some similar things you are going through, albeit a bit differently. –just moved accross the country to another country, Canada, to live with my fiance and found the first few months to be tough. We quickly figured out our issues, but it took me changing a few things. Mostly, I needed to calm down and be appreciative enough to see how amazing my fiance is.
    Well, that is my advice to you. The farmer sounds amazing and I think you are appreciative, but maybe you need to just stop with the good thoughts and let them pool a bit so that most of the time you are appreciative. You have a lot of support and good friends so I hope you know that you have a lot to be appreciative of.
    Cheers,
    Morgan

  50. Brandy Joy Leigh says:

    – €Ž”Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” ~ Rumi

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