If you want to make a change in your life you need to change something in your routine. Gretchen Rubin writes a lot about this in her book about habits, which I read to figure out how to stop eating when I’m anxious.
When curing anxious eating seemed hopeless, I thought at least I could figure out how to stop reading articles and magazines and go back to reading books. But the only book I got through is The Sports Gene. And, really, I didn’t even finish that one.
Couples therapy taught me that no one can change someone else’s habits (which is pretty much the only goal anyone has when they go to couples therapy,) but you can shake things up for the other person. Just change what you do yourself—it’s like a system of inter-locking gears. If you turn one gear, all the gears respond. Small changes you make to one habit ripple through to others in unexpected ways.
Which brings me to the mattress company that paid me to write about them.
It’s Purple. And a reader who I’ve known for a long time asked me to write about this mattress company she’s working for. She sent me a link to a video where someone sits on an egg and it doesn’t squash on the mattress.
The only time I watch videos is on Tuesday night. My son’s last cello class ends at 9:30 pm. (Really!) So we get home around 1:30 am. I don’t drive. Carla, my driver does. But I can’t sleep in the car. I had a fantasy life planned where I’d read all the way home. But car reading made me dizzy. Then I thought we could listen to books but I missed seeing the words. So now when I’m too tired to work, I watch funny videos and give her a play-by-play.
It’s sort of weird, I think, sometimes, that I am paying her to listen to me entertain her. But then I think, I was so incredibly lonely and going crazy when I was doing the drive myself. So maybe I am paying her to drive because I stink at it. But maybe I am also paying her to be my friend; it’s hard to tell if you have a friend.
Anyway, one Tuesday night I watched the egg video. And we mostly couldn’t believe how stupid it was. Carla said, “I hope they’re paying you a lot to write about the mattress.”
Then I interrupted piano practice because the UPS guy brought a huge purple thing that looked a lot like a rug. And I have been on a rug binge lately so I got excited that maybe I forgot I had one more rug coming.
But it was the mattress. It ships like a carpet. So there it was, unfolding in our dining room. Partly under the table. And it looked so cozy that I put the whole thing under the table. We could have a really cool fort for one day and then we could throw it out or give it away or whatever people do with a mattress they get paid to write about.
My son crawled under the table, and he said, “Mom, this is the best mattress in the world. Can I have it?”
This is not normal for a ten-year-old boy to say. So I crawled under the table and spread my arms. And I loved the mattress. I said, “No. You can’t have it. It’s for me and Dad.”
Carla walked into the house and laughed when she saw us on the mattress.
I said, “You have to try it out. It’s great,” and I kicked my son off.
She loved the soft outside, and how the inner squishy-ness is not memory foam, and not really anything we’ve ever felt. Carla said, “This company is the Apple of mattresses.” And then she didn’t get up.
So we laid there together, talking, and she wasn’t even driving, and I had a moment of mattress gratitude because that’s when I knew she likes me even without the car.
The mattress is heavy so I kept it on the dining room floor for a while. I started reading on it. I had a stack of books about the Holocaust that I move all around the house, trying to get myself to put aside time to read. I moved the pile next to the mattress. And I found myself laying there for longer and longer stints reading.
I read A Woman in Berlin, by Anonymous. I’ve been excited to read the book because the author refused to have it published until she died, and she recently died.
The book is about the days between when the Russians got to East Berlin and the war ended. The Russians were the only army not to give soldiers leave, ever, so they had not seen any women in years, until they got to Berlin. Nearly every woman in East Berlin was raped during those five days. The story is incredible and I learned more about human nature from that book than I’ve learned in a long time.
Then I read White Walls. A memoir by Judy Batalion, whose mom is a hoarder. The book is in the Holocaust pile because the most interesting part of hoarding is what causes the person to hoard. The mom was born to Holocaust survivors in Europe right after World War II. Favorite part: Batalion is mellifluous with the Holocaust jokes, which you can only be if you are the child of (a child of) a survivor.
I read Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala, in one day. It’s by a woman who lost her two children and husband and parents in the 2004 tsunami. Favorite part: her family did a year-long vigil by her bedside, not leaving her alone ever, so she wouldn’t kill herself. I kept trying to figure out if I would kill myself. I knew I would think about that, which is why this book seemed right for my Holocaust pile.
After those three books, the boys moved the mattress into their room, in one last attempt to make it theirs.
Then I moved the mattress to my bedroom. And the Farmer and I have been sleeping on it ever since. But also, I’ve been getting through my reading pile regularly now. Because once you change a habit, it sticks.