Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tone Deaf

"Like, why do I even have to ASK?" I said with vigor as I made the bed.

"I mean, I need him to be home... why can't he just figure that out and put MY needs first!" my voice rose as I poured milk over my Wheaties.

"Oh, God forbid he tells work he needs to be home for his FAMILY... seriously, I mean is someone going to DIE if that happens!?" I said as I dabbed on foundation.

"I am NOT going to just accept that work comes first again... NOPE. I am not going to swallow my feelings for the billionth time just so I don't stress him out... f*ck that!" I shouted in my car drowning out the podcast to which I was listening (tap tap tap to rewind).

Talking to myself has become a normal part of adult life... I used to observe my mother do this. I can clearly picture her rolling rotis and speaking to herself in a volume just above a whisper so I couldn't really make out what she was saying. Sitting at our kitchen table, I would wonder why she needed to express herself like that... complete with hand gestures and facial expressions.

Today... it's not such a mystery.

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Last Friday suuuuuuuucked. In a nutshell, I needed to discuss an issue with Paul that involved some strong concerns and feelings. Now, the day suuuuuucked because at 6:30 a.m., I decided to unload said feelings in NOT the most productive way.  I'd like to save face a little here and admit that I was in the hormonal throes of PMS, but given my self-reflection and exploration over the last year or so, I'm very ashamed at how I handled myself. I ended up hurting Paul... a lot.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar
While I handled the communication of my feelings poorly, my concerns regarding this one issue were valid. They just got lost in a tsunami of emotions and poor Paul was like the island of Phuket circa December 2004. Now that a few days have passed and I can reflect a bit, I see how I really riled myself up for about 16 hours prior to the emotional eruption.

This blog has helped me recognize so much about myself and, specifically, how little I emphasized my self-worth for so long. Especially in my marriage, I didn't think my opinions held as much weight, so I would either swallow them to keep the peace or just tell myself I didn't deserve to feel what I was feeling.

Over the last few months, I've learned what a disservice that has been to me and my marriage. After publishing several posts about owning the validity of my feelings, my conversations with people about this issue lit a fuse under my ass to always make sure I take care of my own mental health with the same passion I've applied to my loved ones for so long... no matter how uncomfortable it may be for both parties. If I'm being hurt, I need to speak up.

So, with this renewed inner-cheerleader advocating for me to freely express my feelings, this most recent issue took on an almost militant feel. Again, I knew my viewpoint wasn't unreasonable and, more importantly, something I'm sure Paul would understand, but that didn't stop me from reaching a very loud inner monologue of DON'T EVEN TRY TO TELL ME I DON'T DESERVE TO GET MY WAY, DAMMIT.

The Tone Ranger
One sentence. I could have gotten my feelings across in one sentence, ideally spoken in a calm voice with direct eye contact and pleasant demeanor. After all, this was a grown man, not my children who, often times, only take me seriously if I yell. Furthermore, this is a man who doesn't take well to any sort of yelling or venomous accusations... well, I mean, who does? That morning over toothbrushes and toothpaste, my tone ruined everything.

As I wrote about in a previous post, Paul and I possess very different temperaments. But besides that, we also grew up observing very different parental relationships. During my childhood, I saw a lot of bickering, which would often turn into loud arguments and sometimes big ole yelling fights. There was a lot of criticism thrown around as well... my Mom pointing out my Dad's flaws and vice versa, although my father knew better than to verbalize most of his thoughts.

Much like I'd hoped to sidestep the yelling gene as an adult, I also hoped to duck the criticizing gene as well. In an effort to avoid a combative marriage, I make it a practice to remind myself of all of Paul's wonderful qualities, of which he has many... and remind myself that nobody is perfect and that he has to deal with a lot of crap from me as well... AND that marriages have ups and downs and not to blow one issue out of proportion. Well, this past Friday, that did NOT happen. My one issue ballooned into an all-encompassing tirade about my perceived victimhood in the marriage.

Let the Record Show... 
When we finally spoke on Friday night after a day of avoiding each other and putting on a front for the kids, it all came out. Even after 15 hours of letting it all marinate since the initial outburst, apparently I had more shit to unload. Shit from years and years ago... shit we've discussed and resolved for the most part... shit that has been forgiven, but at least for me... NOT forgotten.

In the heat of the conversation, I raised my voice and said hurtful things. Paul had to relive so many past issues that, quite frankly, he has gotten SO much better with.  But unfortunately, I insisted on holding up an invisible court record for him to rehear all of my grievances that he thought were ancient history. I cringe at some of the things I said during the outburst and wonder how he kept his calm demeanor the entire time. I would never tolerate him speaking to me the way I did to him... and that is the most consistent theme in our marriage. Our tones are on opposite sides of the scale, and I'm never in the right key.

In the long, drawn-out verbal diarrhea I launched at him, I did manage to finally articulate my one issue and why I was stressed... to which he simply said, "I see your point, I understand... that's fair." F*ck. That whole day of feeling sick to our stomachs could have been avoided if I just acted like an adult and said my piece with a healthy dose of... peace.

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The next morning with swollen eyes, I apologized to Paul for everything... he thanked me and we hugged for a long time. He always forgives me and never rehashes the past. What. A. Concept. Expressing my feelings and concerns is still pretty new and while his patience with me seems infinite, my patience and forgiveness for myself is buried deep under the damage I have caused with my poorly chosen words.

After all the self-exploration over the last few months, I feel like I have regressed far back into a territory that I was sure to be completely dead and barren. While I have had fleeting thoughts of just keeping my emotions inside again, I know that is not the answer. I will not give up on setting the right tone for these types of discussions... hell, I can practice while I'm talking to myself all the live long day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Busy Beaver and Beyonce

We all stole glances with each other as he fumbled around on his laptop, trying to find the email he was blabbering about. A ping sounded at full volume from his machine indicating that another meeting was about to commence. With a loud sigh and a shake of the head, he spun his laptop around for us to look at his screen.

"I mean, look at this... my entire day is just back-to-back meetings... barely a minute to have my lunch. Gol-ly."

The meeting had devolved into another diatribe by the new guy about all the things Moosejaw should be doing differently. He had been on the job for about a month and had already managed to rub just about everyone the wrong way... even the dogs in our laid-back office sneered as he walked by.

"Just amazing. Probably why I've been up 'til midnight every night for the past 2 weeks. So many meetings during the day and then once I'm home, I finally have time to dive in to actual work. Insane. Sheevani, see this?"

I raised my eyebrows with forced awe and nodded my head. I'm SOOO impressed, I thought along with a mental jerking-off motion. I had never met anyone so eager to brag about how busy they were with full-on visual aids of a poorly organized Outlook calendar.

If he was trying to get respect or admiration for being a busy guy... he struck out with me.

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One of my biggest pet peeves is when people have to advertise how busy they are. I remember hearing an interview with Mindy Kaling where she spoke about some sage advice from her late mother:

"Don't tell people how busy you are... everyone is busy. No one needs to hear about your busy when they have their own busy to think about."

I have always subscribed to Mama Kaling's words. I'm never sure how to respond when someone lists off a billion things they have to get done. Does this person want sympathy? Praise? Admiration? Am I supposed to download my errands for them so we can have some weird dick-swinging contest comparing the length of our to-do lists? As I've written about previously, I'm not a competitive person, so the thought of trying to "win" some sort of contest where one's lack of free time is the victor couldn't be more gross.

Janky Juggler
It's quite possible that my aversion to this is my personal past with being terrible at handling a lot of tasks at once. At my first job out of college, I worked my way up to a position with pretty high visibility and the most responsibility I had yet experienced. It was a position I had wanted and lobbied for (this was during one of my "yes I can love a corporate job" delusions) so it was a rude awakening when I figured out how ill-equipped I was to handle the mountain of duties it came with.

It wasn't for lack of effort; I was coming in early, working through lunch, staying late... but the constant panicked mental state I was in caused me to make careless mistakes and freak out when additional tasks needed my attention. So often I would take cry breaks in the bathroom or my car.

What baffled me was that I was an organized person. Ever since high school, I made prioritized lists and felt so accomplished once everything was checked off, but as soon as the list was longer than some mysterious threshold, my focus became muddy. I'd be trying to complete one task while thinking about ways to complete another... oh, and that report... shit, I also need to schedule that meeting... then I'd just shut down with the overwhelming tangle of thoughts in my head. It was yet another example, to myself, that I couldn't hack it in a corporate job where others were depending on me.

Surprise! YOU GOT THIS!
The last few years of my life as a parent has taught me a lot about myself, mostly how much I can tolerate stories that go on forever with no payoff. No seriously, nothing opens you up for self-examination more than parenting. Once my daughter was born, I didn't realize I was in a crash-masterclass at multitasking, the likes of which I would have NEVER voluntarily signed up for had I seen the syllabus. With the stakes being, you know, keeping another human alive and well, I figured out pretty damn quick how to juggle multiple things at once.

With almost 9 years under my belt as a parent, I unknowingly honed a skillset that glowed brightly these past couple of weeks. Without boring you with all the details, my life has been a bit crazy since mid-April. Nothing bad and all things in the name of progress with my career and life, but hectic nonetheless. Ever since I decided to not work outside the home, I made sure to "keep busy," which meant that I found projects that could stimulate my mind outside of the normal duties as a wife and mother. Well, those projects have begun to build a runway to things that I'm excited to explore and further my creative career.

Of all the recent flurry of activity, last week in particular was one that I was dreading more than the others. In addition to some acting commitments, I had made it to the penultimate show of Denver's Next Improv Star, which meant I was to produce an entire show in one week. I had to choose a concept, create a flyer, market it, schedule and rehearse with a cast, pick out sound and lighting cues and so on... whoa, check out how loooong that list is, baby. You impressed?! Ugh, I know I just listed off what I had to get done, so yes, I've lived long enough to become the villain.

Just like Mr. Miyagi had tricked Daniel LaRusso into learning the techniques of karate via painting, waxing and sanding chores, the years of parenting with a busy/traveling husband did the same for me... not with karate, but with handling a mountain of tasks with ease. Even when a migraine struck in the middle of the madness, I'm happy to say I Crane-Kicked the shit out of last week!

Who Run The World? Beyonce!
My soundtrack since April 17, 2019 has been Beyonce's 'Homecoming.' Between the album and Netflix film, Queen Bey has lifted me up in this time of breakneck schedules and deadlines and I'm not sure I can ever repay her. I've always found fearless women inspiring and if you sprinkle on insane dance choreography to that, well... it's hard to top that in my book.

Beyonce demands excellence from not only herself, but everyone with whom she works and that's something I really admire. In her film, she talks about rebuilding herself, both body and mind, from having a very tough pregnancy and emergency C-section with her twins. Now, I know she and I live in polar opposite worlds with hired staff, money, status, etc... but I could certainly relate to her about not feeling like herself for so long after delivering her babies. On that basic level, she and I were the same.

Besides just enjoying her as a performer, watching and listening to her determination to come back with groundbreaking Coachella performances after a period of losing herself, propelled my own motivation to handle my smaller scale stuff with grit and confidence. My entire life I've always used music to pull me up and out of the depths of sadness and insecurity, and Homecoming has been that for me through my recent bout of busy.

Also, I WILL teach myself the dance sequence at 43:19 even if it takes me years... PM me if you'd like to help me in this dance venture.

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As my kids get older and (fingers crossed) my own career shifts into a higher gear, things will continue to get busier, but given the last few weeks and how I've handled it all, I feel pretty good about stretching my to-do list to an impressive length... I just promise not to tell you about it. 😉