On Unexpected Guests, Wrecked Plans, and Toxic Resentment

The stars seemed aligned for a productive afternoon of dissertation writing: no kids were in the house, and I had a few intriguing ideas that needed to be fleshed out in written form. Just turn on some quiet instrumental music - say, Andres Segovia - and me and my Muse would create 3-4 pages of useful text.

Then my wife and I pulled into the driveway, and I was faced with an unexpected horror: an out-of-town guest sitting in his car.

The carefully laid plans came to a screeching halt, as our guest also brought with him a six-month-old dog and a five-year-old child. The quiet house I imagined would be conducive to the solitude I prefer for academic writing became a raucous zoo, with the film WALL-E blasting on the big screen TV and the barking visitor dog ratcheting up the energy levels of my own pooches.

"This is family," I reminded myself, but I still grumbled at the intrusion. Yes, I could have insisted that the visitors return on a different day, especially in a few weeks after I turn in my dissertation to my committee, but I suspect that only a shotgun would work to get the point across - we have tolerated the unannounced visits in the past, and we helped create the metaphorical monsters that now plague me.

The extra noise was only part of the problem, though, as there burned in my gut a resentment for the arrival of our visiting relatives. Getting past this emotion is going to prove more difficult than trying to tune out the noise, as my righteous indignation can be a formidable beast to quell. Yet I know too well that holding onto resentments is an unhealthy activity, and one that only aggravates dormant ulcers, so I decided to try and work through the rowdiness.

To make matters worse, my iTunes program refused to open, meaning that the palliative plucking of Segovia's nylon strings is not available to drown out the extra noise. So I write this missive as much as an exercise in spleen venting as much as anything else, and twenty minutes of composing this post seems to have reduced my irritation levels to the point where I can work again. Of course, the two-mile walk I took helped reduce my stress, not to mention the fact that exercise is always better than the most effective diet pill.

Thank you for your virtual ears, dear readers.