Why Write? Eating Fugu: Getting Texts Completed Despite Local Commotion
It’s not such a wonderful idea to try to prove one’s machismo by eating fugu, i.e. puffer fish, or by lining one’s pockets with the profits of such sales. Firing M-16s on a military base, likewise, can cause harm. More detrimental to one’s well-being, though, is blasting music in an apartment in which a Mama Writer is trying to compose a text.
Whereas my children’s development depends, in part, on those boys and girls being able to delve into the muck of life, their survival, during days when I’m frenzied with description and dialogue, is better insured by their bouncing around our home quietly than by their raucously maturing. Noise and Mama have never and will never mix.
I’ve discovered that when I relax my boundaries enough to embrace my sons and daughters’ expansiveness, I set myself up for relations with parole officers, at best, or with cemetery mice, at worst. It’s unfair of my kids to expect me to not to feel murderous when their beat goes on and on and on, just as I’ve nailed a plot twist or fashioned a compelling antagonist. My reflexive response to their entertainment whims is dangerous for all concerned.
As far as I am concerned, family members and other dear hearts ought to take their easy listening moments outside. At bus stations, along boulevards, and in parks, there are vast opportunities for tuning into jazz, rock, or classical. At home, in contrast, the only choice that won’t land one of us in jail is headphones.
There’s no good reason why I need to spin my wheels to try to compensate for my family’s auditory deviance. Simply, it doesn’t occur to my beloveds to maintain a quiet home when I’m constructing narratives. What’s more, when my young ones “forget” to embrace such choices, short of contracting hitmen, I’m forced to approach my life mate in tears. Sound defeats me.
I can’t tolerate background racket, the efforts of my white noise machine, notwithstanding. There ought to be no externally sourced pings, bings, bongs, pongs, blips, pips, or other reverberations during my watch.
Unfortunately, my spouse urges me right back to my keyboard. He reminds me that deadlines must be met regardless of whether or not he succeeds in bargaining with the natives and whether or not he remembers to muffle his own broadcasts.
His responses are not helpful. Unmollified, I return to hunting and pecking. Moments later, when the din again begins, I mean to toss his derriere out the door alongside the carcasses of our kids.
Then things get worse. My prickle of imaginary hedgehogs, in cahoots with my pretend komodo dragons, joins my human family’s cacophony. Their “restrained” hullabaloo, all too quickly, becomes more than a subtle uproar. So, I stick body parts outside of my office door and, at the top of my voice, demand quiet. For some reason, shouting into a storm deters no raindrops and halts neither thunder nor lightening
Stymied by my intimates’ doubled fisted fuss, while feeling championed by none, I try bribes. I take to emptying our freezer of marginally nutritious, adolescent-approved cold treats and of dangling those comestibles in front of wee noses. As well, I leave offerings of invisible pots of marshmallow fluff outside of my invisible pets’ gathering places. I gift my husband with dirty looks, too (admittedly this last response could, foreseeably, get rebruriced as an “intimidation,” but who’s counting). Those strategies, sometimes, buy me a half hour of peace.
In that span, a heroine rescues a hero or a ballad completes itself. Thereafter, squeals, squeaks, hisses and huffs, as well as other elements of racket, now sugar-fueled, once more interrupt me. I spew toxins.
Since those two and four-footed others are not hushing I could use punishments, such as removing my offspring’s Internet and telephone privileges and banishing my winged and webbed muses from the kitchen. I could even threaten not to match any of my husband’s dark socks.
Unfortunately, it’s of limited utility to reinforce, via behavior modifications of the worse sort, the concept that Mama’s ever-so-serious tones of reprimand ought to be regarded with forbearance. For one, my family merely turns up the volume. For another, I don’t like being a toughie.
Alternatively, I could yield and add to the auditory turbulence. I can rant so piercingly that ethnic cousins, living in a neighboring village, would complain! More specifically, I could use my family’s music wars as a basis for improving my elocution. As a former public speaking teacher, I am possessed of sufficient mastery of vocal projection that my unctuous exclamations might embarrass even my teens. Such action could put noisy family members out of business.
On the contrary, I don’t act that way. Smart folks (individuals, who haven’t tried to complete manuscripts while all manner of chaos holds forth in their homes) have advised me against venting my frustration sideways. My advisors contend that cognitive disruptions are not best answered with more of the same and they urge me to embrace either evenhandedness or Prozac. Those guides forget that I’m a wonky Mama Writer.
They pointedly disbelieve my claim that adding to my household’s pandemonium might not exacerbate, but solve, my dilemma.
I should not have to synchronize the pace with which I compose paragraphs with the pace that recordings of modern drummers tap out beats or contemporary guitarists strum along as long as I am possessed of vocal chord power. When synthesizer vibes assail my kingdom, I think that random acts of anthropomorphism would better serve me than does plugging my ears or adding additional layers of soundproofing. My needs don’t have to get short shrift. I can, and perhaps should, fight back.
In other instances, when my rights get trounced, I don’t tolerate nonsense. At home, though, it seems to be expected that Mama will contain herself no matter how extremely the younger set, the spouse, and the pretend friends mess with her creativity, her serenity, and her sanity.
In a word, the above prescription rots. It sometimes leads to an inflammatory cascade of interpersonal exchanges and almost always to my hurt feelings.
So, given that defenses escalade troubles and that, simultaneously, a lack of response fails to alleviate injury, another tactic is needed. I can neither outshout everyone nor pretend that their brouhaha is benign.
What I can so is to “conquer with love.” I’m not talking beads and pipes filled with strangely sweet green stuff. I am not referring, either, to conjured rainbows or to other feel good icons. I’m talking about my choosing to breath deeply enough, often enough, and to, concurrently, wait long enough for my family and my source of artistic inspiration to return, on their own, to some semblance of common sense.
While I’m not sure that I am yet sufficiently mature enough to regularly rely on such a plan, it remains the case that my wondrous others, who, admittedly, are aware that their tintinnabulation makes me worse than brittle, appreciate when I show that I care. I’ve witnessed that the times when I transfer my umbrage to paper, rather than to the backs and throats of those others who share my home, I get good results.
One offspring reminds me not to stay up too late working because adequate sleep empowers me to engage in “morning writing.” Another brings me, unsolicited, a mug of herbal tea (compliance strategies get mimicked around here). A third scolds me that despite the fact my writing until strange hours leaves a bad impression on my boys and girls, my work ethics leaves a good one. That child adds that he, too, might become a writer.
Meanwhile, the oldest child, who, as a married, no longer lives at home, calls to see if I had a productive day, despite the predictable ongoing acoustic traffic. My husband serves me a few of this planet’s best hugs. My imaginary friends tippetoe into my office to preside over my texts.
I search for gratitude. No matter how unfairly my limits get pushed, I have the blessing of children, of a spouse, and of pretend critters. Those relationships, time and again transcend the value of my writing.
Actually, no. My interpersonal gongs-on and my self-actualization have value. Holding fast to a balance of my needs and others’ needs has to be the route for this Mama Writer. So, when I’m done, for the day, with my creative efforts, I find a Rachmaninoff symphony on YouTube and turn my speaker to its highest volume.
This essay inaugurates Litbreak Magazine’s ‘Why Write’ series in which our contributors are invited to riff off that subject.
KJ Hannah Greenberg, an evergreen inventor of printed possibilities, fashions lively texts and watches dust bunnies breed beneath her sofa. Her eclectic works are dedicated to lovers of slipstream fiction and to oboe players who never got past the second orchestral chair. She’s been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature, once for The Best of the Net, and helps out as an Associate Editor at Bewildering Stories. Hannah’s fiction collections are: Can I be Rare, Too? (Bards & Sages Publishing, 2017, Forthcoming), Friends and Rabid Hedgehogs (Bards & Sages, 2016), Cryptids (Bards & Sages Publishing, 2015), The Immediacy of Emotional Kerfuffles, 2nd ed. (Bards and Sages Publishing, 2015), and Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things, 2nd ed. (Bards and Sages Publishing, 2014).
Photo by Yiftach Paltrowitz