Round 2

Writers Write


I almost forgot how intense holiday stress can be since I haven’t been in the center of a boisterous family for years. Last year was easy. They gave me space. My return home was a novelty, and they handled me like they would a new kitten. No one petted me too much or forced me into the drama too deeply to avoid potentially having me hide away for days on end or worse, extend the claws.

But over the past year, the novelty wore off. They’re more comfortable around me and usually that’s returned on my end. But not on the holidays. I’m calmer than I used to be. I can’t stand the drama and stress that every little issue seems to cause. I just don’t understand it. Why get all bent out of shape and swap insults when there’s an easy fix?

I loathe how the other women in my family can be so real one minute and so fake the next for appearances. I never could stand that crap. And moreover, I despise my desire to drink whenever I’m in the thralls of it. Well, that stops now. My family’s prone to alcoholism, and that’s often induced by stress. I didn’t touch a drop of the stuff for ten years outside of college. Methinks it’s time to revisit that habit. Sorry ma.

I learned a long time ago how to handle holiday stress, but I haven’t needed to worry too much about it in years… at least not to this degree. It involves two simple items: a cd player and music. But it can’t be just any type of music. At one point, my family just came to expect it. I’d bring in a stack of cds that I knew they’d like. However, they were all a specific music genre that worked to keep my stress at bay. It worked for my mother, too, which was essential since she always hosted the holidays.

The brain reacts differently to certain tones and tempos. But each person is different and has their own unique tastes. My sisters react well to country music. I can’t stand most of it. My mom’s pretty easy going on the music front, so she tends to trust my tastes as long as they’re not too heavy. That’s not an issue for serious stress-control. My go to for basic relaxation is big band if my mood is controllable. But for serious issues I pull out the big guns: classical. Mozart, Beethoven, and maybe even Vivaldi. However, those don’t scratch the surface on my holiday needs.

Holiday stress requires a major charge. That doesn’t happen instantly, but it does eventually occur if I follow the necessary steps with the right piece. I will put the specific piece in my player and listen once. That reminds me how to breathe. The second play is so I can hear it. The third is so I can feel it… and I’ll often conduct to it to get my entire body involved. And on the fourth listen, my eyes are closed, face cools, and stress melts into the music. That is what Haydn does for me, especially Symphony No. 94, “Surprise”. I discovered this when I was 16-years old.  It still works.

This is the entire symphony led by the late, great Leonard Bernstein. But 9:33 – 16:07, andante, is the part that digs deepest into my soul. If I catch the stress wave early enough and listen to the entire symphony, midway into the finale: allegro di molto, 21:48 – 25:29, I feel almost human again. Otherwise, I focus on andante.

As much as I love writing, it simply doesn’t begin to match the power that music has over me. And it never will. The next few days will involve locking myself away from the world and reconnecting with my first love: music. It’s the only way my remaining sanity will survive the rest of the holiday season. Enjoy the Surprise.



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