The Mind of Anne

Archive for the ‘Emotions’ Category

March 11th, 2016 Big Pink is Dead

Big Pink in his Big Tank

Big Pink in his Big Tank

As a teenager, I had a friend named Donna. I loved visiting her home. There were kids and dogs and lots of activity. And they had the biggest fish tank I have ever seen. It was so peaceful to look at and I loved watching the fish interact with each other. I could get lost in that tank forever. I knew I wanted to raise tropical fish of my very own. I used money I saved from babysitting and bought a 10-gallon tank plus the supplies I needed to take care of the dozen or so fish I brought home in plastic bags. One of these fish was a kissing gourami. He looked friendly and I loved the kissy faces he made. This fish species would be the mainstay of all future tanks.

As time went on, I learned more about tropical fish care and bought a larger tank – a wonderful 30-gallon long tank. I was newly married and felt as an official grownup, I deserved an upgrade. As years went by, fish would die to no surprise since they have didn’t have very long life spans. However, I had some really old (and very big) bleeding heart tetras, swordtails (always named Capt. and Lady Swordtail) and the ever-present kissing gourami.

Donna would come over and inevitably she’d check out the tank and give me some notes. I felt very proud of my fish tank and enjoyed watching the fish as they explored their habitat. Donna died in a freak skiing accident just before we turned 35. It broke me heart and saddens me to this day. However, I continued to relish our common interest in tropical fish and felt loyal to her in doing so.

In about 1995, according to my daughter, I got a new kissing gourami. (There is a story about a boy and kissy faces, which I’ll spare you, but it narrows down the year.) The old gourami had died and I needed a new focal point for my tank. This gourami grew and grew. As other fish came and went, the gourami thrived. Another friend named Billy loved watching that gourami and joked that he was almost big enough to make a good sandwich. He gave my gourami his name – Big Pink.

img_1545

Big Pink as a Young Fish

Big Pink continued to grow but remained gentle. He left even the tiniest neon tetra alone and gracefully moved throughout the tank. No one messed with him but he never used his great size for harm. He was no bully.

My friend, Billy, died in 2005, just after his 54th birthday. He had survived a life-threatening illness and just when we thought it was all over, he suffered some complications and passed. It was fast. It was devastating. It broke my heart and saddens me to this very day. Big Pink carried on. It made me smile to remember how Billy would check him out in awe and of course, how he gave him his name.

A little over a year ago two events happened simultaneously – I was doing a complete tear out and remodeling of my kitchen and my son was moving into a new apartment. The pleasure of having a fish tank throughout his entire childhood influenced my son so it was natural that he had a small fish tank of his own. We both needed to dismantle our tanks to move them. I decided it was time to pass the gauntlet so I gave my son my big tank and all the fish including Big Pink.

The tank fit well in the apartment and my son has cared for it and all the fish with great diligence. Unfortunately, last night, Big Pink died. He wasn’t in distress. He was just a really old fish, possibly 21 years old.

Big Pink’s death makes me a little sad but more, it helps me remember. I think of Donna and Billy, of course, but also I remember my kids as young children, gazing at the fish as they sat in the kitchen eating their breakfast. I think of parties where Big Pink was a much-admired decoration of sorts and a unique conversation starter. And I remember my daughter’s cat, Smokey, who used to sit and watch Big Pink for hours and comment with a double meow when I entered the room.

Big Pink got his burial at sea. His great size prohibited the traditional and undignified flushing so my son released him in a nearby river. It seems silly to offer a toast or a celebration for the life of a pet fish but I think I must oblige. Here’s to you, Big Pink (raising a glass). Thanks for the memories.

February 26th, 2016 Crabs and Marriage and Politics

Blue Crab

Blue Crab

I love my husband. I have admitted to many people that I recognize it’s not easy to be my spouse, my child, my parent, my sibling, my friend, my co-worker. I have a temper. My snarky threshold can either make you laugh with conspiratorial joy or make you so angry you want to scream. My thoughts and actions are what could be considered “quirky” at times and my husband, known as Nice Husband Bill on Facebook, is a master at interpreting and sometimes just tolerating what he recognizes is just “The Mind of Anne.” I suspect someday he will be canonized.

Nice Husband Bill and I are married a really long time (39 years in May to be exact). We’ve worked out how to manage our lives – who does what in running the house, who handles the finances, who gets to be couch commando in charge of the TV remote control on any particular night. He has his interests. I have my interests. We have our interests. And each of these gets equal time.

Nice Husband Bill & I - 1978

Nice Husband Bill & I – 1978

And fighting. Yes, we fight, we argue, we disagree, like normal people or one normal person and a quirky one. (Who is the quirky one changes depending on the issue and the day and maybe even how the planets are aligned.) One thing I observed was our alignment with something I read in a women’s magazine about 20 years ago or my recollection of the article anyway. I want to say it was Family Circle magazine but I can’t remember for sure (nor can I link to the article since it was, um, decades ago.) Anyway, the article provided observations about long-term marriages gathered by interviewing 50 couples who had been married 50 years or more. There were a lot of the typical statements, which I’ll spare you. The one that stuck in my mind was a statement made by an overwhelming majority of these 50 couples (I want to say 100% but I might be overstating). Whenever they got into a fight, no matter how serious, they never considered divorce as an option.

And there we are. Nice Husband Bill and I are particularly well suited. As I admitted to him quite recently, I’m not sure there is another human on the planet in the husband department who could put up with my crap, my quirkiness, the Mind of Anne. Since divorce is never an option, we have come up with some rather creative ways to make decisions that are best for our family, our future and us. One of these methods is to use humor. If we can find humor in a situation, the tension is quickly broken and we can get to the actual problem solving.

That brings us to this past Wednesday night. We had a lot to do that night for an appointment the next day. Nice Husband Bill had worked a very trying and tiring day so he was particularly irritable. He wouldn’t tell me what was bothering him. He was snippy and took offense or misheard everything I said. He even snapped at a few things I could have complained about but in fact, had not. And of course, I snapped back. We needed to break the spell we were under and fast.

Nice Husband Bill has been studying Spanish using a wonderful free app called Duolingo and he has gotten quite dedicated to it. I think he put himself in a self-imposed time-out that night to quickly do his daily Spanish lesson. I saw my opportunity.

Since I am noodling around with Duolingo myself, I asked Nice Husband Bill how to say, “crab” in Spanish. He replied, “cangrejo” and went back to his lesson. I pretended I hadn’t heard and said, “Did you say Guillermo?” (That is Bill in Spanish, BTW.) We went a few rounds of his “NO, cangrejo” to my “Guillermo?” with the most innocent face I could muster till it clicked that I was calling him a crab. With a wink and a nod, the tension was broken. We were able to approach our task with renewed focus and a common joke.

Bill&Anne

Me & Nice Husband Bill

Nice Husband Bill has since referred to himself as Cangrejo Guillermo a number of times. And on seeing a crab ingredient on Top Chef last night, he called it “Guillermo”. So with a fun little inside joke (not so much on the inside since writing a post about it), we could find common ground and solve the problem at hand.

My point of all this isn’t just a cute story about marriage, although if the shoe fits, use it. I think we, as a society, need to spend more time finding the common ground so we can solve the problem at hand. Whether it’s a personal relationship, a work issue, a confrontation with a stranger or even (and especially) a political disagreement, we need to work together since sometimes divorce isn’t an option there either.

January 1st, 2015 The Fury Inside Me

Raging Storm on Its Way

Raging Storm on Its Way

I recently took one of those Internet quizzes titled, “What Natural Disaster is Your Temper Like?” You would answer a bunch of silly questions and the quizmaster would give you an analysis.

I got Hurricane with this narrative: You are downright deadly. No one would ever try to mess with you. You are feared and rightly so. Once you get on the warpath, there’s no stopping you. People know to get out of your way as soon as they can. You only pick up momentum as you progress. You may calm down temporarily, but you always get a second wind. You’re one storm that takes a while to pass.

I could see myself in that description a bit but mostly I walked away with a notion to self-examine. I had always felt that I’m pretty even-tempered but I recognize there are the occasional explosive moments.

A friend noted that this reminded her of a story I had told years before. My then early teen daughter had been moody and disrespectful and obnoxious as early teen daughters are prone to be. We were arguing about something ridiculous as she headed off to her room. I followed, continuing the argument and when we got to the door, she slammed it in my face. I felt my temper rise, lost all control, and threw a rather powerful sidekick directly at the door. I must mention that I was training in karate at the time and had achieved the rank of brown belt. The kick was so powerful it knocked the door right off the hinges and it fell to the floor of my daughter’s room.

Fortunately, she was already sitting on the bed and was in no danger. I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Don’t you dare slam the door in my face when I am speaking to you!!” Her response, which completely broke the tension of the situation was, “If that wasn’t so terrifying, it would have been really cool.” To that we laughed hysterically as I do now even typing this. My husband didn’t quite find the humor in the situation since he had to fix the door.

Another situation where I blew my cool was when a contracted vendor completely usurped my authority on a really important project at work. Over a weekend, he had contacted all the principals involved and essentially edged me out of the project by directing all communications to him and him alone. He also blew the project budget out of the water to his own advantage. On Monday morning when I discovered what had happened, I had to undo all the damage and reel him in. The concept that he was working for me seemed to have been lost on him. My clients were confused and upset because they wanted to work with me. As I discussed the situation with him and what had gone awry and what he was NEVER to do again, I felt my temper rising.

I don’t yell at people at work. Nor do I allow others to yell at me. So it was a true Herculean effort not to scream. Coincidently (or I at least think it was a coincidence), a severe thunderstorm rolled in as my temper flared. The angrier I got and the more I pushed that emotion down so I could speak in a metered tone, the louder and angrier the storm outside raged on. I needed to be really clear of how he overstepped his position and how I would never allow it to happen again without dire consequences. Me screaming would have diluted that message.

As we talked, the storm got worse and worse. At one point, I remember thinking that if I didn’t calm the hell down, my house would start on fire. I also think I heard a little bit of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries in my head. That was the turning point. I laughed at myself for presuming my anger had caused the thunderstorm and actually made it worse.

So maybe that Internet quiz wasn’t off the mark by much. I recognize I have a mercurial temper that can reel out of control but I also have a sense of humor that is equally mercurial. I can laugh at myself almost instantly, right in the moment of my greatest fury or the peak of embarrassment. I’d like to think of my hot-and-cold emotions as assets, albeit opposing at times. I guess it makes me human with the ability to play hard, love hard, live hard. It also makes me grateful that I have a self-awareness of my mercurial nature and more importantly, people around me who love me in spite of my craziness. I wish the same for you.