It used to be that between the two of us, I did the majority of gigging. I would be out late into the night, often coming home well past midnight after playing this or that theatre, or this or that bar. I would be tired, hungry, and usually pretty cranky by the time I hauled inside whatever gear I had taken out that evening.
Not long after I started these late night arrivals, Shannon began doing a thing where she would light some candles, make my side of the bed, and generally prepare for me to have as soft a landing as possible from a night of music-making. She came to call this “making a space.”
I’ve found that as Shannon has taken on more roles that find her on the business end of a late night drive home, it’s become one of my favorite things I’ve been able to do for her.
What is “Making a Space?”
In short, making a space is a conscious, deliberate effort to create an atmosphere of ease, comfort, familiarity, and relaxation for the other after a long day/evening of being out and about. This could be after a hard day at work, but most often it serves as the palette-cleanser after a gig or rehearsal – a spiritual slice of pickled ginger before reentry into home-life. We focus on creating an environment where any stress from the evening’s work can melt away upon entering the home.
Unwinding after a long day of work, or projects, or gigs, is not an original concept, and I used to think this meant turning on some classical music, drawing a nice bubble bath, and sipping on a glass of champagne. That may work for some people, but that is so not Shannon and I. Instead, we do a few simple things that take little effort but yield enormous results. More on that in a moment!
Why Make a Space?
When Shannon first started making spaces, I thought it was cool, but I don’t think I quite got it. I mean, I enjoyed it, the moody lighting was relaxing and I liked the good-smelly on the sheets, but I didn’t really allow myself to tune in to what the space could be doing for me and my spirit or how it could really decompress things.
Now, whenever I get a chance, I work towards making a space for her at the end of the day, especially when she’s been out at a rehearsal or on a gig. Many of her gigs are at least an hour’s drive, so needless to say, she’s often tired and potentially pretty ill (depending on the traffic). I know that for her to come home to a space can as comforting and recharging as a hot bath/shower or a home-cooked meal.
Making a space accomplishes three very tangible things:
- Helps to relax her and eases her mind almost instantaneously upon arrival. You’ll be amazed at how fast this starts to take effect – it’s a nearly involuntarily response when she gets home!
- Shows that I care for her and that I desire to take care of her. Indeed, this small gesture of pampering is effective on even the most hardened of non-girly girls.
- Shows that I’m thinking of her when she’s not home. Not that I sit at the door whimpering for her return, but a little “hey, just so you know, I think you’re great and I miss you when you’re not around” goes a long way!
It’s important to note that neither one of us is under any obligation to make a space for each other when the other comes home from a gig. I’m not sure we’ve specifically voiced it, but there’s a tacit understanding that while making a space is a way of showing love for one another, not making a space does not equate to a disregard for one another. That line of thought leads to weird codependency, so let’s not go there!
Technology to the Rescue!
There are times where I’m in the midst of my own work at home or even a marathon of Scrubs, and I simply lose track of time. Thankfully, Shannon lets me know when she’s on her way home by sending me a notification through the Waze app. Not only does this help me know she’s safely on the road and her arrival time (you can follow their path in-app), but it has also helped with the occasional panic that can occur when I let time slip away.
I must admit, there have been more than one occasion when the space is made mere minutes before she walks in the door, but I try not to make it a habit! In these times, she comes into the bedroom and I’m left dewey with sweat as I suppress my panting and play off like I wasn’t just frantically trying to find the tea-lights!
How to Make a Space
Making a space is very easy, and just takes a few simple things. Your space could change deepening on what she likes or doesn’t like, but the components should be the same. Here are some simple steps you can take to make a space for your wife when she gets home from a day/evening out:
- Make the bed and turn down her side. No, you don’t have to cover it in flower petals, and no, you don’t have to be laying across it wearing only a smile (that’s for a much different type of space). This is about creating an emotional landing-zone for her. Trust me, you’ll be surprised how big an impact this can make, especially if you’re like us and don’t make your bed daily. If available, lay down some gentle linen spray to bring the sense of smell to the party. Shannon is the queen of these things, and it was something I never knew I needed in my life!
- Turn out the lights and light some candles. This isn’t necessarily romantic in nature, it just helps with the spirit of calm in the room. I find that tea-lights work best. They’re cheap, last quite a while, and can be placed nearly anywhere in the room. We usually use 4 or 5.
- Turn on some music and have it playing softly in the background. Remember, the point of this is to ease into a relaxing evening, so put away the frat party playlists. I’m talking piano, light guitar, or light jazz instrumental music. A couple of our personal favorites are “Music for Concentration” (link) and “Piano Bar” (link) on Spotify. Of course, this should be to taste, but relaxation is the name of the game, so don’t go overboard.
- Tidy up a bit. We often have water cups, snack wrappers, loose books, or other detritus laying about our nightstands. Take a few seconds to straighten some things up to clear up any energy that may be carrying over from the previous night or earlier that day. This is especially true if she works in the bed. Keep her nightstand clear of anything that could induce a “work-mode” mindset, undoing all your hard work!
- If possible, be awake and ready to welcome her home. If you were reading or dorking around on your iPad/phone, lay it down, make eye contact, and engage with her as she reenters the home space. Ask how her night was, and if she wants to talk about the evening, awesome. If she doesn’t, that’s cool too. She may come home ill, and tired and she’s allowed to feel that way! You don’t have to fix it, and you don’t have to make her feel better. The point is to participate in her arrival and be open to supporting her no matter what she needs. Oh, and don’t make a big deal about the fact that you made a space. Believe me, she’ll know and if she’s at all like Shannon, she’ll want to recognize and show appreciation for the space you made!
- BONUS ROUND: Have a cup of non-caffeinated/herbal tea or other warm beverage sitting on the nightstand when she gets home. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen often as I usually ask if she wants something when she gets home, but if you can nail the timing here, you’re sure to become the grand master of space making! Shannon’s favorite is what she calls an “Earl Dave” – hot earl grey with cream and 1 Splenda. I’m convinced I don’t have any particular Kung Fu over this drink. I think it’s just the fact that I make it.
Should you make a space?
What once started as a way for Shannon to help me decompress after a long night of working has transformed into a mutual expression of love and care that we can give to each other regardless of who's working. I think you’ll find that a little space can go a long way, so I encourage you to make a space for her the next time she comes home from a long day.
Dave was born in Hawaii, grew up in San Diego, and wound up in Orlando, FL by way of both High Point, NC and Memphis, TN.
He is a husband of 24 years to his wife, Shannon, and is a crazy cat dad. When he’s not rambling on about life here, he can be found writing music for film and TV, playing music, or teaching music at Full Sail University.