Thursday, November 10, 2005

as far as i'm concerned...

... that PMS is a bitch sometimes.

Had rehearsal last night, so I got some time on the drive in and back to think rationally about what was happening, and what triggers the emotional responses (see yesterday's blubbery post). Skipper has a tendency to filibuster – his monologues can go on interminably, and he’ll go from one subject to another without any effort to involve me in the conversation. He has a bad habit of cutting me off in mid-sentence, so it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get a word in edgewise. And I’m a talker - when I’ve had my coffee, that is. So it’s incredibly annoying to be at the receiving end of what constitutes a lecture. I was never very good at those classes in college – I did much better in small groups where there was an active dialogue among the students and teachers.

He’s lived by himself for quite some time. When I lived alone, I would have lengthy conversations with people who weren’t there – so I understand both the need to talk and the habit of essentially talking to one’s self.

Somehow, I need to get over my fear of conflict and my fear of offending him, long enough to slip this suggestion casually into a conversation. (The one about making a conversation two-way instead of talking to me like I’m a wall.) Quite a challenge, given that even participating in a conversation is a touch-or-go thing. Brian has advised me that doing this in an up-front and straightforward manner (like, “Hey, Skipper, can we talk for a minute?”) would only make Skip defensive, and wouldn’t be at all productive.

The other major issue is Brian – working out a way for him to spend time with both Skipper and me without feeling torn between us. Sometimes I just need him in the afternoons to help with dinner. As far as I’m concerned, the best way to manage this is to get them both used to making this a priority, if for no other reason than to maintain our household’s wa. After all, if Mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody gonna be happy. I don’t always need him – so if he can just stick his head in the door and ask me, there’s a good chance I’ll say, “No, we got it covered, you just relax for a while before dinner.” (Relaxing, for him, seems to mean hanging out smoking on the front porch before he comes in to wash his feet. This may change with the next windy cold front to come through.) We talked about this on the way to work today, and I think he’s OK with that.

The last thing – and Brian’s already working on this from his end – is that Skip has a tendency to “should.” If you’re not familiar with the concept, you probably don’t have an obnoxious family member who beats you down with his or her forceful suggestions for managing a household or raising kids. I don’t mind suggestions at all – but I would like them to be offered in such a way that doesn’t denigrate the person who receives them – namely, Brian and me. “Should” does exactly that. Brian and I have worked together for years on this. I suppose you could call it manipulation – I call it diplomacy and respect. It’s much more effective. Luckily, Brian is already making it clear in no uncertain terms that there are ways of presenting suggestions that aren’t demeaning or patronizing. So, good for him.

Maybe some solutions are going to result from this. Maybe some more conversations and ideas that will help us all get along – and restore the balance and harmony of our household. It is, after all, a pretty small house for four people to inhabit.

(Kelly, I have noticed that these days my tension seems to live in the jaws and shoulders. I’ve been very aware of it recently – when I started grinding my teeth late last week I knew it was going to be a challenge to let go of the stress. There's a tai chi method of breathing where you put your tongue behind your front teeth and breathe evenly through your nose - almost guarantees a nice soft jaw. And attending mindfully to posture and breathing has helped with the shoulder issue. The occasional yoga practice doesn’t hurt, either. Thanks for reminding me!

SB, you’re right about the time together. I need to just let the damn laundry stay on the couch for one more day – after all, it’s not going anywhere – and curl up with my husband. Even ten minutes can make all the difference.)

This morning, while Skipper was freezing his ass off on the front porch for the sake of a nicotine fix (another urge I completely understand and sympathize with), I casually asked him if he had any plans for the afternoon. When he said he didn’t at the moment, I asked him if he could do some little things to prep the casserole for tonight – I think he’s going to end up browning the meat, cooking the pasta and shredding the cheese, which will leave me with nothing to do but put it together and cook it when I get home. Good stuff!

The rehearsal last night was very productive. We generally spend the first hour hashing out our stress from the week before, so by the time we start to sing, we’re warmed up mentally and emotionally to each other – we know each other’s issues and can work around them, or work with them, if such an opportunity presents itself.

We’re about to dive into Christmas season at the Biltmore Estate: three indoor performances (alleluia! no biting wind and frozen hands!) of traditional stuff and excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. He wrote it from 15th and 16th century poems and arranged it quite magnificently for a three-part choir (originally done by a boys' choir). It works very well for us. We’ve been singing this stuff for years, but we always seem to find ways to improve it. We made several of these little discoveries last night – firming up places where the parts are very close together (like a whole step between the soprano and the mezzo) then resolve into spine-tingling harmonies.

We experimented with putting Buffy (the alto) in the middle between me (the soprano) and Elizabeth (the mezzo), which gives Buffy the benefit of hearing the other two parts on either side. It improves the blend and the pitching tremendously. Very gratifying. (Plus it will also look prettier with the tallest one in the middle. Little bonus, there.)

We added Silent Night to the repertoire at Elizabeth’s request. Although it’s very pretty, I’m getting a little tired of it running endlessly through my head for the last twelve hours. (And no, Old White Lady, as much as I enjoy your company in cyberspace, I don’t need any suggestions for alternate songs. The last one took a week to get over.)

I have to admit to a childlike, exuberant pleasure in the sound of my own singing voice. It’s come back, you see, and the high parts aren’t anywhere near the challenge they would have been had I still been smoking. Now I can really enjoy the music instead of wondering if my voice is going to crack in the high note at the end of There Is No Rose. Pretty cool, if I do say so myself. (I need to shut up about this now, lest karma intervene and strike me with a head cold before the performances.) Oh, and as long as you're reading, send kudos to Old White Lady for her own valiant efforts at ditching the habit.

So things are looking up at home. I’m haven’t been writing much about the political situation – but I did get to see both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report yesterday when I was home with Duckie. I think they have the best jobs in TV today – there’s so much daily material on the stupidity of government these days that they don’t have to work very hard to get the laughs. Hell, I giggle uncontrollably just watching CNN these days. Granted, the laughter is tinged with no small amount of hysteria, but at least it’s laughter (and some cheers!), not a daily anxiety attack.


EB said...

If you need a good laugh, I suggest you Google the word "failure". Sometimes all we are left with is a good laugh at someone else's expense. Especially if you're PMSing.

All my love,


andi said...

dear ebby,

it also works with "miserable failure." tee hee!

oldwhitelady said...

Thank you Andi - I'm getting there.. falling off once in a while, you know, buying a pack, but when the pack is finished, I don't have to run out and get one and can go days without. I'm doing much better and I'm glad you mentioned the singing part. I'm looking forward to being able to sing.... not that I could before:) Actually, I could, so it will be a good thing.