Well the dreaded end of the Mayan Calendar has come and gone we’re all left with the task of going on about our lives. Yep the world is still turning, the sun is shining, and it’s business as usual.
In preparation for the world’s continuance, I’ve been reading a book the last few days. The title is “Love is Never Enough” by Aaron T. Beck, MD. He is the director of the Center for Cognitive Therapy, University of Pennsylvania. The subtitle is; how couples can overcome misunderstandings, resolve, conflicts, and solve relationship problems through Cognitive Therapy.
The book is giving me a ray of hope. I’m about halfway through the book, and it’s getting kind of spooky. One of the couples he counseled and refers to throughout the book so far, l will call them Ken and Barbie, are so much like the Hubman and me that I’m tempted to write the guy a letter and ask him if he’s been spying on us. Maybe we should get some of the royalties from the book sales.
But it is sooo true. Love is never enough, I have relatives that I love with all my heart, but do everything humanly possible to avoid their presence rather than risk my sanity or personal safety. One of the points Aaron makes in the book is that couples can descend into their own private bubble of neurosis and irrational behavior, while being perfectly capable of navigating through relationships with others outside of the wacko marriage bubble with ease and even finesse.
Aaron has many scenarios in the book where he relates a conversation with a couple in 3 columns; 1) The words they said, 2) What their tone of voice and body language says, and 3) what they are thinking. An example taken from our daily life is:
Wife: “Would you get your clothes out of the dryer please.” (Annoyed expression, said with a whiney tone of voice) thinking ‘your stupid clothes have been in the drying for a week and half. What am I your slave or something? I bet you expect me to get your damned clothes out of the dryer and furthermore after 10 years you still act like you’re the only one who lives in this house. You treat me like a piece of furniture. You…you….bastard!’
Husband: “OK” (said in an angry tone, rolls eyes, huffs off with annoyed expression, lips pressed together, refusing to make eye contact) thinking <Insert thought here>I have no clue because I have no idea what he’s thinking and he’s damned sure not gonna tell me or probably anyone else either. Real men don’t do that. OK, I admit that I think sarcastic thoughts when pondering the labyrinths of Hubman’s mind.
If we analyze only the words spoken here there should be no problem. The real trouble lies in the fact that so much is said with body language and tones of voice that the words are close to meaningless. So round and round we go careening from one verbal fiasco to the next.
I’m still in the defining the problems part of the book. I can’t wait to get to the solutions part. The author swears the second half of the book addresses tips on communicating what we actually think in a way that the spouses can understand and respond without immediately escalating to DefCon 1 and all out nuclear annihilation.
So there is hope. I have to think that anyway. No wait, hold that thought. I don’t have to think that. I want to think it.
Update on Christmas tree: Tree is up, ornaments are still in boxes. They may remain there. Maybe I’ll just put my Dr. Seusse-ish tree topper on it and pretend the rest of the stuff doesn’t exist. I’m very good at pretending. That’s my stock and trade. I am a writer after all.
And no, I don’t mean the naughty kind of self-soothing. Sometimes it’s necessary to dig way down deep into your bag of tricks. And sometimes you just get lucky.
Hubman’s cute little blond spitfire of a cousin sent us a Christmas present in the mail. A tiny little Cyprus tree about 10 inches tall. I smelled it and something clicked in my head.A small glimmer of “mmm, that smells good, like a real Christmas tree” hope was born.
Another thing I did was drag out my favorite dysfunctional family Christmas movies. 1) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, 2) Four Christmases – Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, and 3) Mixed Nuts – Steve Martin.
Also, Mister Husband managed to lure me out of the house for the first time since we got home from the road trip, except to go to the drug store for refills. He bribed me with steak, OK. I can be had for a price, but you have to aim high! We went to Texas Land and Cattle steak house.
It turned out to be funny because our poor little teen-aged waiter, sporting a Robert Pattinson of the Twilight Saga hairdo, was a bumble fuss and spilled a tray of drinks on the people in the booth behind us. In an attempt to make him feel better, I told him about the time in my younger days that I spilled a tray with a pitcher of beer and 8 full glasses down the back of a guy wearing in expensive suit. Hubman left him a $20 dollar tip to cheer him up.
So I guess Christmas cheer can be had, but sometimes you have to work at it. On the way to the restaurant Hubman and I had the annual “do you want to put up the tree this year” discussion. I decided to negotiate this time instead of going along with it without ascertaining the specifics.
I asked him “define exactly what you mean by putting up the tree please. Because in past years it meant that I climb up in the nasty, dusty attic and hand things down to you, because you’re too big for the ladder or the hole in the garage ceiling. Then I get stuck with the majority of the actual decorating to boot.” I’ve given up asking how the stuff that was already there when I moved to this house 10 years ago got up there. I guess it was elves.
In past years after I climb down out of the attic, he assembles the giant electric tree with lights already attached. Thank you, God. I hate stringing lights, because it brings up child hood memories of getting electrocuted every year when testing them. This happened because back when the dinosaurs roamed the lights had real, made of foil, tinsel stuck in them and my mother was afraid to plug them in. So she gets her kid to do it instead, go figure.
Anyway, after Hubman assembles the tree, by his unspoken decree he usually decides his work done, goes in his office, shuts the door, and plays computer games. Leaving me to figure out what to do with the five thousand ornaments and various decorations.
Some are of sentimental value and some are complete junk and should be discarded. But no one remembers anymore which is which, so I can’t throw anything away unless it is obviously eaten by insects. It’s a daunting task and I immediately begin to harbor thoughts of either homicide or running away to another country, or both. I tried getting tipsy one year to do it, but it ended up a near disaster for both me and the tree. Although I did have more fun than the plastic tree did.
I’m not the seasonal decorating kind person. I would be happy with hanging a wreath on the door and placing a few cutesy pieces of Christmas deco on the fire-place mantle and call it done. So I decided to hold him too his desire to have a fully assembled and decorated tree and insist that he play fair and do his share of the tree decoration.
No coming down with the bubonic plague or developing a sudden allergy to Christmas ornaments! Also, this time I’m going to put aside all the junk that I think are candidates for disposal and enforce the “when in doubt, throw it out” clause. My version of the Santa clause.