In spite of my hellaciously wonky sleep schedule, I went to bed around two in the morning last night and woke at six-thirty this morning out of a strange dream.
In the dream, I really wanted a cheeseburger and so I went out to get one. This woman in the dream seemed to be completely against giving me a cheeseburger. “What kind of cheeseburger do you want? Can you explain this to me in detail? You know prices have gone up,” she went from being really annoying as I tried to order a cheeseburger to personally attacking me. I tried to deflect her comments and to remain calm, despite the fact that I wanted to lunge at her throat.
I went off and did other things in the dream, I suspect, to calm down. Somehow, I ended up walking around a department store looking at coats (don’t ask). But, I am nothing if not persistent, and I caught sight of the exit and headed toward it.
I was going to get my cheeseburger, damn it…one way or another. I left and called the woman that had come between me and my cheeseburger-y goodness (mainly to chew her out).
Finally, after successfully battling her and taking her down verbally, I was free to get my cheeseburger.
But at that point in the dream, I hung up the phone and said, “F*ck it.” I didn’t want it anymore.
Instead, I wanted cookies and cream ice cream with caramel sauce.
And that’s when I woke, gazing into the dark and thinking, “Oh yummy above all yummies, I do want that!”
Given that it was six-thirty in the morning, I got up, put the moka pot on the stove, and sat down to write this blog instead.
The past couple of days I’ve felt crabby, bitchy, and all around PMS-y. Apparently, PMS has leaked into my dreams.
I don’t consider myself much of a bitch. I mean, sure, I can be – but I make an effort not to be, even when I’m feeling fussy, short-fused, and totally impatient with the people around me. I tend to crawl into my shell when I’m not in a good mood. I crawl inside and hang a sign on the imaginary door that reads: For Your Own Good, Do Not Disturb. I deal with my irritability with humor, I try to make it less, try to laugh right in its big ol’ irritable face.
And then someone will say something to me and I’ll respond, realizing that whether I will it or no, my voice has changed. It’s taken on a bitchy and somewhat snarky growl and then I feel bad. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I’m like a werewolf with a full moon approaching – but instead of this insatiable urge to go postal on someone’s ass, I want things that keep my inner bitch at bay. I try to tame myself. I nibble on chocolate. I crave steak like something fierce, and so I give into the craving, and when I do this, when I give into my cravings for ice cream, or chocolate, or steak – my inner bitch does start to calm down a little bit. And it’s good, because I’m not too big of a fan of her, either. That’s the one thing that gets me, when people give you that look that says, “Wow, I really don’t like you right now.” Do they think you really like dealing with yourself then? All you want is your damn ice cream so that inner bitchy voice shuts the bleedin’ hell up and you no longer feel like a wolf ready to bite someone’s head off in a matter of seconds, only to then have to deal with an immense amount of guilt once your normal self kicks back ‘on.’
And that’s part of the fun of being in a relationship with a woman, I suspect. (Note: Totally being sarcastic). You’d think, as women, that we’re better equipped to deal with each other’s PMS. But, this is not often the case. We’re better equipped at absorbing each other’s PMS.
Like last night, my wife pointed out that I’d taken complete control of our evening (and I had). While she was on the phone dealing with work, I was like, “I’m going to rent a movie. And I want steak. You buying?”
I heard her when she said, “I don’t know what’s been released.” I did not, however, hear her when she said, “There’s nothing out there I want to see,” in the same sentence. And eventually, that led us to bickering.
“How can you say, ‘I don’t know what’s been released’ and ‘there’s nothing out there I want to see’ in the same bloody sentence?” I asked. “It’s friggin’ contradictory! You said you don’t know what’s been released!”
“You shaped our evening, on my day off, around what you wanted to do.”
“Yeah, and what’s so wrong with spending time with me, having a lovely dinner, and watching a movie?” I swung right into defensive, feeling as though she was trying to heap onto me more guilt than I was willing to carry. Didn’t she understand I wanted to watch a movie so I didn’t talk and leak a bunch o’ bitch all over the place? I’d told her earlier, “I’m feeling crabby today, it’s nothing personal, and I’ll do my best not to take it out on you.” And yet, all it took was what felt like an accusation to set me right off, and then I said something that set her right off, and then:
“You know, every damn dog in this neighborhood can probably hear you right now!”
“I’m just freaking sure they can! That’s the effing point! This is my STOP ARGUING WITH ME voice! It’s supposed to hurt your ears so badly, that you STOP FREAKING ARGUING WITH ME!” I said, still in my whiny-growly-screechy voice.
And then we kicked back, shut up, and watched our movie (the movie I picked out).
My wife and I used to be able to fight. I mean, we’d get bleedin’ pissed off at each other and hold grudges over shite for days. Now, we’re kind of like cats. But we understand each other and what exactly we’re doing when we argue: We’re both finding a safe place to unload pent up stress. In some strange way, we don’t take it personally. I think that’s one thing that really makes our relationship awesome. We don’t argue often, mind you. I personally loathe arguing, but when I get heated up, I don’t back down very well. I will drive that damn thing straight into the ground, until it’s twitching and like a spider that’s been whacked, trying to hang in there, but failing, all eight of its limbs beginning to curl inward toward its body. My wife is just as stubborn.
Like cats, we get taken by weird random moments of conflict inspired by frustration and irritability with something else in the universe (not always each other) and we hiss, spit, swat, and then afterward, shake paws and say, “Good game.”
I’ve learned through years of experience that sometimes the best thing you can do is put a lid on your own emotions and force yourself to walk away. It took me years and a lot of nasty arguments to learn to cage that instinct in myself that said, “Pounce, fight, attack, seek, destroy, annihilate, rawr, rawr, rawr.”
When I was younger, I didn’t understand it. If cornered, I felt like the only option I had was to unsheathe the big claws and let the stinger fly. Yet, experience and age offer us wisdom (they don’t always make us wise, because we don’t always reach for the knowledge that’s available to us), but the wisdom’s usually there for the taking. I’ve learned to cage my inner lioness, take a deep breath, get up, and walk out. I’ve learned it’s not weak to do such a thing: It’s considerate, really. Most arguments are pointless, despite the fact that we find what we think is a focal point in an argument, we’re usually trying to convince the other person to think or feel as we do or we're just unloading emotional energy. Sometimes, it can be healthy, it can be therapeutic, but there’s a line we have to draw and not cross. Sometimes, you’ve just got to pick up your emotional shite, walk out, and calm down before you say something stupid or deal a blow that makes a casual argument escalate into a big scary monster argument.
My wife and I have learned the art of arguing and then letting it go. After we argued last night, she came back to the room and said, “Look, I know you might not admit it, but I know you’re irritated, in part, because we haven’t got to spend as much time together as you’d like due to me having to deal with work related issues on my day off.”
Even though I was lying in bed, glaring at the television set, that little bit of trying to understand made my stinger start to go down and my mane less ruffled.
And that’s when we let it go and curled up to watch a movie together. We love each other, even when we argue. Oh, we might want to clobber each other a bit, but we still love each other and we’re aware of that even when we’re trading witty comebacks.
During a break in our movie, we stepped out into the kitchen. I grinded up some coffee for Rebecca and made a cup of tea for myself and then we hugged and Alonzo, one of our cats, walked up and leaned up against our legs. We picked him up and held him between us in a purring sandwich-y hug.
People are not perfect. We’re flawed, we’re damaged, we’re messed up sometimes, but we’re a lot of other good things, as well. You can’t expect each other to be perfect and you can’t expect to get along and to see one-hundred percent in the same direction, all the time. We’ve each got stuff we have to deal with and Bec and I both agree that when it comes to our relationship: It’s a safe place. It’s a place where we’re safe to be ourselves and a safe place to express our feelings and to argue if that’s what we need to do. It’s a safe place, because that’s what we make it. We make it safe with forgiveness and compassion. We make it safe by being in it together, by being committed and not judging the other too harshly. And as fired up as I can get, one of my strong suits is the ability to empathize with the people I care about (and the same goes for my wife – we’re a lot alike in many ways). There have been times when I’ve riled Bec up, just because I knew she needed to get something out of her system, and afterward, she’s understood that’s exactly what I was doing.
I opened myself up and said, “Bring it on, get it out, I can take it,” and afterward, I threw it off and left it on the ground. As I said earlier in this blog, it’s not always about us. It’s about other things that get dragged into our midst that we need to kick the shit out of and banish. It may seem in that moment that we’re opposing each other, but we’re not. We’re still working together.
We can say we hate arguing as much as we want, but when it comes down to it, every time we learn how to better deal with an argument and how to take the time to understand more fully where we’re coming from as individuals, it strengthens our bond, it reinforces the safety of our relationship.
We’re reminded that we’re not perfect in those moments, but that our bond is strong, our love and friendship is strong, and that we work pretty damn well together. By establishing that safety in our relationship, it makes it even more valuable. We love one another enough to argue and get over it, instead of trying to get even. We try to make it something productive instead of destructive. And though I try not to take my PMS out on her, it inevitably shows when I’m PMSing. Neither one of us needs words to communicate with each other. Being so constantly in-tune with each other often lands us in the same boat and so whatever we’re dealing with, dark waters, choppy waters, inner storms – we find a way to navigate and plot a course together.
Even if every now and then, we’re tempted to knock the other affectionately overboard.
At least if we do, we know one of us will always finally talk some sense into ourselves and throw out the life-saving flotation device for the other.
And baby, that’s love.