Friday, January 30, 2009

Oh, Boy -- Here Comes The Winter Crazy or Don't Bother Reading This One -- It's All Complaints

So I went to my first life-drawing session in years a few months back. Loved it, loved it, loved it -- but the room was too crowded for me to be able to shift between standing and sitting so afterward my back was a disaster.

This was a blind contour drawing -- keep your pen on the paper at all times so as to draw with one continuous line while
never looking at the page.

Since I could only carry materials in my knapsack I worked on a small pad with pen and pencil and wound up longing for charcoal and a larger piece of paper -- I wanted to work with tone instead of line.

After all this time I was pleasantly surprised when some of my sketches were halfway decent. Having a good model really helped. That does it -- next year I'm taking a life-drawing class.

Okay, here's how it works.

There's a certain mood that sets in at our household when winter really hits. I get moody, the missus gets bossy, and we both get sensitive about the way the other person is treating us. Things hit a peak in February, when we have both of our birthdays and our anniversary and thus feel entitled to nice treatment from one another.

For the past few years it hasn't been bad at all. That's because the drama of the situation is my problem, not Karen's. The reason things have been better is that I've been able to track my mood and keep my emotional state under control. But this year my support system is sucking and I'm in a more volatile state than has been typical.

A big part of this is that I'm taking actions to move my life forward and I'm experiencing some success and it's freaking me out, man. But there are some other things going on in my world (birth and death and divorce and mental illness and on and on and on) that are raising my stress levels past the point where I can stay cool. They're peripheral in my life -- the real issues belong to other people and I'm just catching fallout.

The main sources of emotional comfort that I have when the missus and I are at odds are not there for me now. They may come back, they may not, who the hell knows what's going on? But right now I have no-one that I can talk to about what I'm going through that isn't directly affected by by the circumstances, who won't have feelings of guilt, resentment, or legitimate irritation with me if I try and unload. And since they're dealing with things that are far more serious than my emotional stability I feel like a shit for wishing there were more support for me, me, poor little me.

When I start getting weird, the missus starts gets heavy into compulsive controlling behavior, constantly telling me what to do. And since she's extra-sensitive as well, when I complain about it she feels hurt. Hey, if you're reading this you've probably read a lot of my blog. Imagine me complaining at you -- loud, long, and lucid. It really is awful.

When we were talking about this last night she explained that she can't help trying to control situations that make her frightened or uneasy. This is something I can understand. I can be more patient with her now that I really see that her behavior is a compulsive reaction. She has flat-out told me that I can't ask her not to do this because she can't help it.

But she's steadfastly refusing to see that my reactions to being bossed around aren't any more subject to control than her compulsions. When she tells me to do something -- and this is Queens-style bossing, rude and peremptory -- it hits a node at the base of my brain and I'm jolted with fight-or-flight rage.

See, I was raised in a metaphorical Skinner box that taught me a very bad lesson -- if someone disrespects you then it will eventually escalate to physical violence. I react to disrespect as if it were a physical threat -- accelerated heartbeat, hyperventilation, muscular tension -- my body prepares itself for a fight.

Which can lead to bad behavior on my part. Look, it's not like I hit or threaten people. But I get very loud and emotional and sometimes there are things like stress-puking and wall-punching and suchlike.

Since I recognize this pattern I can usually stay on top of it. But right now I'm vulnerable and so it's difficult for me not to explain to her how and why she's contributing to my problems. Which makes her feel shitty. Which makes her try and control me.

So I'm the one who has to play grownup. And I do not want to. But I can't control her behavior, I can only modify my own. So that's what I'm doing.

But she's driving me nuuuuuuuuts! Last night after we settled down and talked things out and were in a pleasant space of forgiveness she fucking started in on it all over again.

She says she knows it's micromanagement but she thinks I should listen to the Pachelbell Canon on headphones, my latest treatment for insomnia.

So from now on I'm gonna think about that moment every time I think about that piece of music -- this is part of my crazy, these things imprint on me -- and I'm gonna get that rush of pissed-off adrenaline. So a real tool for dealing with my sleep issues has been taken away from me by someone who only had my best interests at heart.

Then when I reach for the melatonin so as to have a shot at getting to sleep, she wants me to take these pills her doctor recommended to her for insomnia. They're calcium pills with "something else in them, I don't know what." So she has no fucking idea of what the pills are going to do or why but if I don't go along with the program the fight starts all over again and I'm the bad guy. This is an example of control for control's sake, of her using me as a means of soothing her neurosis. (Which, admittedly, I've triggered.)

I reluctantly agree. She bring them to me along with a glass of water, bless her heart, and I take them and I wait. And they do not do a fucking thing. So I reach for the melatonin and she tells me not to take it because she wants to know if the new pills work.

Remember, this is taking place in the aftermath of a spectacular fight over my criticizing her over her control issues. When she rudely bosses me around it's out of love and when I complain about it I'm a psycho and/or a prick. It's her refusal to admit that what she's doing is out of line that drive me nuts and it's my bitching about this that makes her defend her actions. So I'm in the wrong no matter what.

That catch twenty-two, it's a hell of a catch.

I've got a ton of stuff that I should be doing. But I'm fucked up and miserable right now. I slept some last night but not much, I puked up my dinner as a result of stress, I've got the horrible hangover that accompanies an emotional fit. (I honestly suspect that an EEG would show some kind of seizure going on when I get that way, no fooling.)

I'm blowing the day off unless I can find a way to make work a release. I've got business at school this afternoon but after that I'm gonna resort to booze. I shouldn't do this but right now my options are limited. Hopefully that'll relax me enough to think about eating, which would make it easier to sleep tonight.

Which means that when I plunge into someone else's drama over the weekend I'll be in a better position to be the good and supportive person I wish I had been last night.



robp said...

Hey Sean,

Personally I find that while I may not be a better person than I was a few years ago, I understand myself better, which probably means I mislead other people less than I used to and thus treat them better. It also does absolutely nothing to reduce my self-loathing. Because I know myself better.

"He wanted to go on talking for truth’s sake, perhaps for his own sake also; and while his utterance was deliberate, his mind positively flew round and round the serried circle of facts that had surged up all about him to cut him off from the rest of his kind: it was like a creature that, finding itself imprisoned within an enclosure of high stakes, dashes round and round, distracted in the night, trying to find a weak spot, a crevice, a place to scale, some opening through which it may squeeze itself and escape. This awful activity of mind made him hesitate at times in his speech…"
--Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

Sean Craven said...

I've always liked this one --

"... there are men one hates until a certain moment when one sees, through a chink in their armor, the writhing of something nailed down and in torment."

Gerald Kersh, from Busto Is A Ghost, Too Mean To Give Us A Fright.

The way I look at it, rage is the price I pay for a fertile imagination while self-loathing is the price I pay for my sense of humor. Nothing comes for free...

Allison Landa said...

I guess "Skip to m' loo, my dear ..." would not necessarily be a helpful quote here.

Agree with what Rob said. I also think that being to articulate one's feelings, of which you are quite capable, is only occasionally a bad thing.

Sean Craven said...

Ah -- but imagine me speaking the above post at volume while looming over you as flecks of saliva fly forth from my cavernous, echoing maw and my hamlike fists flail the air in impotent rage.

That's what Karen has to put up with. Being articulate is swell; living with someone who's articulate can be a stone fuckin' drag.

Anonymous said...

OMG, stop being such a pussy. People have real problems. Get on with it.