On my trip to Baton Rouge, my fear of small talk, and delicious Cajun cooking.
I’m getting that swelling in my head again. None of this is really connected, but it all washes through my mind like a pleasant headache.
Louisiana heat was just what I needed. The moment we drove out of the Baton Rouge I knew I was home. I don’t know whether the feeling of home was from visiting a state that was very much like North Carolina except more trees and a little bit more damp, or whether there was actually something about Louisiana itself. I doubt I’d want it to be home when hell opens its ovens upon it in the middle of the summer, but that’s besides the point. That Saturday morning I slept in, ate a single pancake and fed on Dr. Pepper the most of the day because all the food was being prepared for later in the evening. There were only a couple people at the house around noon, and I sat on the porch on the surprising mild day, reading David Foster Wallace talk about why poetry is dying and why he doesn’t like interviews. The scent of meat smoking creeped down to my end of the porch all day and fresh shrimp creole boiled in an enormous pot four feet to my right.
Everything was just delicious: mentally, physically, emotionally. The book was terrifying in the best ways and made me halfway fall in love with someone who isn’t even alive anymore (which I suppose was probably the point now that he’s immortal, kind of like seeing old footage of Kurt Cobain). The food was fresh and was some of the best dishes I have ever eaten. The family was wonderful, accommodating, and seemed to love me without reserve (which is always strange but wonderful). The tropical storm that was headed straight for Baton Rouge dissipated the day before it was supposed to hit.
I may have ended up looking slightly anti-social because I was reading, which was looked down on when I was kid when we attended family gatherings. This time, it wasn’t disinterest, it was actually the opposite. I was nervous about sounding boring. But then I found this paranoia to be purely self-inflicted because I find small talk boring, so I’m afraid everyone will be bored with information about where I work, where I live, what kind of place we live in… Blah. But, it’s very difficult to reach an interesting level with people you’ve never met that are related to your spouse. I don’t want to bother them, I don’t want to appear disinterested, I don’t want to bore them, I can’t think of anything to talk about, and I don’t want them to be bored if I just answer the most standard subset of social questions. I end up locked in my own head and I can’t possibly please anyone.
Where does self-control end and cowardice begin? I’ve worked my entire life to not be the kind of person that emotionally lets loose on people. (This is what makes reality TV shows unbearable.) But, because of that, I’ve worked myself into a corner to where I can barely say anything that would hurt people’s feelings. How do I move past that without being a jerk? How do I say “Hey, I’m not okay with that,” without being rude? There’s a theory of finding both sides of the line and then finding the middle after crossing both. I had a chance to do that with my Get-Out-of-Keeping-It-Together-Jail-Free card during wedding planning, but I couldn’t. And to do this, I need actual conversation practice. Over and over, practice practice until I can actually hear what it sounds like. So, thank you to all the people who exert enormous amounts of patience just by listening to all my French curls and crazy circles. I have to work on this out loud or I’ll never move past it.
The mysteries of the universe that I have been pondering lately (aka things that don’t matter at all):
(1) I lost two nights of sleep over a writing crisis. It’s the first time I’ve lost sleep over anything. What does that mean?
(2) I become restless when I’m sad. This is important.
(3) I went to the Renisance Festival for the first time in a few years. It was more fun than I remember it being. Men are less reserved, and women get to wear things that make their racks look amazing. It does take being a good sport to enjoy it though. I mean, to enjoy being hit on by a skeleton puppet on stage, being thrown in jail, and having to be on your toes all day to the point where whatever stranger may ambush you into conversation can’t make a complete fool out of you, you have to have a good attitude. It’s all worth it, though.
(4) The spider on the ceiling is the same spider that was on the wall across the room two days ago. Why this doesn’t bother me, I don’t know.
(5) I dreamt about an event four days too late, so when the person told me their story that I had lived in my own dream, the emotions flooded me perfectly. It was alarming and weird.
Photo credit: Flickr / lsgcp