…on good food, questionable judgment, and making life work
I suffer from an acute case of Inappropriate Laughter. I also have mild to moderate generalized panic disorder, which means that in instances of great stress or tension, I fear that I will lose what little decorum I have at a wildly improper time. Additionally, my laugh is one of those laughs; you know, the kind that wells up from deep within the belly, shakes the individual visibly from behind (seen even through layers of thick clothing), and erupts from the mouth (and sometimes nose–often simultaneously) in a loud and unseemly cackle. And when something really strikes me as funny? Forget it. The laughter overtakes me. An example, if you please:
Ash Wednesday, 2014. I attended Ash Wednesday Mass, which I haven’t done in a number of years. As I received my ashes, I could feel that a bit had fallen onto my nose. When I returned to my pew, I tried to wipe the ashes from my nose, not knowing how much had deposited there, and being aware that I may actually make the problem worse by rubbing it, perhaps giving myself the appearance of having had a terrible mascara incident–think the inverse of this. As I sat, I watched what would otherwise have been a very dignified, pious, proper woman of about 60 proceed down the aisle with a face full of ashes. I mean, the ashes were literally wafting from her mouth as she exhaled. She was rubbing her face furiously, removing her glasses and attempting to launch the excess ash into the air. All the while, her person radiated a certain amount of profanity–mind you, she wasn’t saying anything or even moving her lips–but her countenance conveyed a distinctive “WTF?? …bunch of a**holes…” She was fuming and the absurdity and paradox of the situation, well…
…I started to lose it. I could feel the laugh bubbling up, and my back started quivering. I know the folks behind me could see me struggling, though I’m not sure if they knew why (probably better that way, because in my experience inappropriate laughter has a tendency to spread). I cleared my throat, and that bought me a few seconds. The aisle was moving slowly, so my eyes caught sight of the poor woman again, and a breathy chortle came out of my mouth–I caught hold of myself again and turned it into a cough (because that’s always convincing.) I was able to keep it together through the rest of the Mass, but I laugh outwardly about it even now, a full week later.
I’m also a musician. I freelance around the area–sometimes I play with orchestras, sometimes I play with chamber groups, sometimes I play in the pit for musical theater productions, I play in a jazz quartet, and most recently I am a founding member of a woodwind quintet: Soiree Winds. From this list, you can see that most of my work is done as a member of a group–part of a team. I like it that way, and I am most comfortable operating in that role.
My wind quintet recently had the opportunity to play a recital, which incidentally is only one letter away from “rectal,” which is sometimes how a recital can feel. Our group has done a few recitals in recent months, and I was beginning to get my sea legs back in terms of taming the nerves which can sometimes surface when playing in a small group situation. However, this most recent performance happened to be at a college where I am a relatively new faculty member, and thus warranted at least a brief solo performance by yours truly. (It would have been most odd for me to not play a short solo work or two, being careful to not hijack the quintet’s performance.)
I haven’t played a recital since graduate school, which for me, ended about 14 years ago. Playing by oneself with only a piano is a skill, and I haven’t been honing that skill (playing in front of people ALONE) for about 14 years. Playing solo makes me nervous–you are very exposed–physically and emotionally, and the potential for humiliation and rejection is high. Factor in my panic problems, and things can get weird. Trippy weird.
During the 30 minute drive to the hall, I had plenty of time to mull over the various scenarios that could happen during the performance. A common fear among panic sufferers is loss of one’s faculties–that is to say loss of breath, throwing up, profuse sweating, bodily elimination, passing out, etc. Yeah, I briefly entertained the concern of pooping or peeing on stage, but it is always the laughing on stage thing that I worry about most–this is something that has plagued me since my elementary school band years. The fact that it has actually happened doesn’t make putting the giggle aside any easier.
The recital went fine, and my reward was taking the family for a visit with my blogging buddy and fellow bon vivant, Sparky. We agreed to prepare and to sup upon Spanish-y foods and tapas. My contributions:
Like the shitty friend that I am, I failed to take pictures of Sparky’s fantastic Chicken and Saffron Rice dish. Perhaps if we ask nicely, he’ll share how he did it in a future post. And, being the exceptional host that he is, (really folks, this guy knows how to entertain–do not refuse an invite if you are lucky enough to get one) he plied us with charcuterie, cheeses, vegetables, breads, sangria, fancy limited-run beers, and cocktails made in what can only be described as a Walter White-Meets-Cocktail Lounge apparatus. Think of it as a gravity bong for the sophisticated set, and you don’t have to inhale.
And–AND?? All laughter is appropriate in the Manitarium.
In my next post, we shall investigate my abstinence from alcohol for Lent. Man, am I glad the PWI Lost Weekend happened before I made that foolhardy decision…