Tuesday, December 17 2019

emotions, blame, rigatoni, and football

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope you're doing well today. Before I jumped in the shower, I checked the weather, and it's looks like it's supposed to be another chilly day. Hopefully we get some more snow on the ground before heading into the holiday season. The older I get, I find it harder and harder to summon enthusiasm for the Christmas spirit. I love seeing family, getting time off work, and of course getting gifts from people, but everything else about Christmas is on thin ice with me. This year, a little bit of snow on the ground could help its case against me. And now that I'm delving into dangerous humbug territory - not wanting to out myself as a staunch Christmas hater, I had better change the subject.

I did some more reading in my Difficult Conversations book yesterday. After cleaning up from diner, I rolled into bed and finished the second of four sections. I read about emotions, how they should affect confrontations, and how we can better understand them. I found the conversation stimulating and enlightening. Just between you and me, reader, these Harvard nerds really know their stuff. One of the things the authors discussed was how the tendency to blame other things for a problem is usually a clue that you are holding onto unexpressed emotions. This struck a chord with me, and it actually caused me to get up and crack open my anger journal. Luckily, I haven't had a new entry in a number of weeks, with a close call being the big microwaved frozen polish sausage scandal of last Sunday. Blame was a common theme. The word "blame" appeared at least once in every entry. The discovery caused me to stare into space, replaying how I felt when I cut open one of the polish sausages last Sunday and beheld the cold, pink center. I wanted to blame the recipe video I watched on YouTube. I wanted to blame Marissa for buying the wrong sausages. I wanted to blame Rodney for distracting me by playing in the sink pretending to help me cook.

Something else the book talked about was the skill of negotiating with your feelings. My emotions have always been a black and white battlefield, but according to the book, your perception of a situation is subjective, and if emotions arise from your perception, then they would have to be subjective as well, right? The authors used spotting a shark as an example. If you were swimming in the deep ocean and you spotted a shark swimming towards you, you might feel scared and anxious, and your emotions will take over and tell you to either hold still or swim backwards as quickly as possible.

But if you were a trained marine biologist instead of a mere casual swimmer, you might spot the shark and recognize it as a whale shark, assuring yourself you are in no danger and the little guy is just sniffing around for some krill or squid. Suddenly your perception of the situation changes and those emotions magically dissipate.

As we climb the entries of my anger journal, it appears I was already starting to figure out how to negotiate with my emotions. In these entries, I challenge my need to blame things. For example, when I felt the need to blame Marissa for buying the wrong sausages, I reminded myself that she was unsure about them, and upon showing them to me after getting home from the store I said aloud "those will work - I'll cut 'em in half so they can fit on a hot dog bun." And if she had really bought the wrong kind of sausages, wouldn't I have recognized it then? Or would I at least share the blame in signing off on them as well? Maybe I should have moved them from the freezer to the fridge a little sooner. So those are my reading reflections thus far. Next reading session goes into how difficult conversations can impact your identity.

Sobering reflections aside, yesterday was a pretty great & easy day. I had meetings most of the day, and I cut work early so we could go take a family photo on Barb's farm. So if we're still pretending this week is the pre-holiday gauntlet, this must also be the smallest gauntlet to have ever been thrown. We drove to Barb's place, took some photos outside in their yard, then head inside their dog training facility to let the dogs burn off some energy. Marissa talks often about how fun it is to watch Ollie and Ziggy open the throttle in a big area, and witnessing it first hand was a treat. I love the way dogs let their tongue flop out of their mouth to gain more speed, as if it's a performance tradeoff.

I dozed off for about twenty minutes as Marissa drove back, and on the way home, letting Rodney continue sleeping in the car, I ran into Hy-Vee to pick up dinner. I made pork rigatoni, which is really starting to climb the ranks in terms of meals I enjoy cooking. I render the fat out of some pancietta, toss in lemon zest, sliced garlic, tomato paste, and oregano, then dump in the sauce - remembering to rince the bottle with a little bit of water. Then I cook the sauce down a bit to taste. I reduce the heat, add some butter, then when the pasta is barely cooked, I drain it, sneaking away some of the pasta water for later. I let the rigatoni sit in the sauce for a few minutes, then add pasta water and grated parmesan, which turns into a pretty seductive looking and smelling cheese sauce. As a finishing touch, I throw in a fist full of chopped parsley and let it sit for just a few more minutes. Chopped parsley in pasta might be one of my favorite things in the universe.

After dinner, I had some chores to do, as well as some holiday related stuff. The last part of my gift from my Bears subreddit secret santa arrived, so I had to snap a pic of all the gifts together and write a quick Internet thank-you. Along with a hat for Rodney, he bought me a pair of sweatpants as well as a Bears themed tequila glass. And having just lost to the Packers last Sunday, there was an obvious joke in the implied theme of cozy self-loathing and drinking.

Before I sign off, here's another observation. Football makes it way easier to talk to strangers. Football is the great equalizer, and a powerful white noise that can overcome any shyness or awkward conversations.

That's what I got today. I hope you have a wonderful day today, and as always, thanks for reading.