The tone, or how to throw your voice and actually cause injury

17 08 2011

I’ve always wanted to go on a retreat where I couldn’t talk for several days, where I had nothing to do but write and think and be alone within my head. I feel that pressure a bit more now after a series of visitors, all welcome, but all creating conversation. My brain feels cluttered. In amongst these visits, I was involved in serious discussions with my ex over something that we both seemingly misunderstood about each other. My head is full of that, too, wondering what he thinks of me, wondering how I could have said things different, better, so that it didn’t seem like I was trying to put one over on him, or punish him for some fault. I know I’ve damaged our friendship, and for that I grieve. I’ve known him almost as long as my oldest friend.

The solitude I have now after the business of the past week (the problem if living in paradise is that people come to share it – on the other hand, I’d be lonely as heck if they didn’t – and I enjoy seeing them) is opening my covered over heart, and I feel sadness about so many things – ways that I’ve erred, ways that I have pushed people away, ways that I hurt people. It’s hard having those thoughts. But in a way, they are healing. I can’t go back, can’t take back the hurt, seemingly can’t convince people that I’m not some rabid bitch-goddess from hell, bent on the destruction of all that is good and holy. (Though I think that is a BIT of an overstatement.) I can vow, like the Horse in Animal Farm, to work harder.

It’s so hard to see ourselves as others see us. I see myself as considerably slimmer and taller, with better hair, for example, and with nothing but kindness for the world in my heart. I know this is delusional. In reality, I’m short, round, and my hair in this humidity looks rather brillolike. As for my kindness, well, apparently I have a “tone of voice“. I come by it honestly – my mum could wither full-grown trees at 50 yards with her tone, so I know it’s genetic in there somewheres – but I rarely hear myself use it.

Others hear it, though. I’m always surprised to hear this. It probably really freaks them out when I use it when I’m smiling, which I do, rather like a she-wolf baring her teeth as she snarls. As a short person, smiling was my defense mechanism. Be funny, smile so nobody takes you seriously, smile smile smile. Of course, it can be misinterpreted as a sign of joy in the proceedings, a malicious grin, a smile of triumph, when really it’s more like a puppy, body down, seeking appeasement. But I guess, when combined with “the tone“, it seems more threatening.

My boss spoke to me about it once – about having the tone. The way she put it was very diplomatic – that everyone was so used to me being nice that when I used the tone, they were horrified. Shocked. Permanently damaged. Needed therapy for months.

I’d like to think of it as a secret power, but it’s only ever messed things up for me. I wish I could control it, but it slips out at times when it really shouldn’t. I know I was rude to my latest guest, and that is just not done. But the worst thing is that I hurt my ex, and I’d give a lot not to have done that.

Ah well. Perhaps I should take to singing, but my youngest son tells me that isn’t a good idea. Maybe the only thing for me is to do that retreat, meditate, try to do better.

In the back of my head I hear the oft-quoted line of my ex’s family – ” ‘Too late,’ she cried, and waved her wooden leg.” I can only hope that’s not true.

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