The Benefits of Being Tone Deaf

90 percent tone of voice  The Benefits of Being Tone Deaf 90 percent tone of voice

In fourth grade they gave me a cello because I was the tallest girl in my class. In fifth grade they look it back because I was hopelessly tone deaf. Which is ironic, because over the years, my tone has gotten me into a lot of trouble.

For years, my husband accused me of having an angry tone to my voice. This was often in seemingly innocent sentences such as “I’ll be right down.” I would argue that it was his perception, that there was no angry tone. Most of the time I believed this, but sometimes I knew in my heart he was right. I don’t know if  I actually sounded angry, but I was often annoyed when he called me away from something I was doing, so it’s possible my voice did reflect an angry tone. I argued that my words were neutral; he argued that my tone was not.  In our house, we didn’t use angry tones when we argued. Angry tones were why we argued.

I think everyone has at times wished they had a tape recorder they could replay to prove their innocence, or someone else’s guilt, over tones actually used or words actually said. The trouble is, there usually is no tape recorder playing, so we are left with our imperfect and often biased perceptions. We seldom consider that our perception may be flawed, that our interpretation is influenced by where we are in life or in our relationships.

I remember an incident years ago. I was near the end of a relationship with a boyfriend because he would not commit himself fully. The final blow was when I made brownies, and he said, “These brownies are almost perfect.” I stewed. He wouldn’t even  commit himself over brownies! It was one more example of how he always held back. The next morning I left for good. The six month relationship was over.

It was years later when I accepted that my interpretation may have been right, but it also may have been wrong. My dissatisfaction with the relationship may have influenced how I interpreted things. In short, his statement about brownies may in fact have been about brownies. This is a humbling experience, because once you accept how subjective interpretation is, you recognize that not only is your perception of events potentially flawed, you are vulnerable to being misunderstood by others as well. When it comes to interpreting things said in relationships, we are all somewhat hearing impaired.

On the other hand, being tone deaf can be a good thing, too.   My older brother often uses a tone with me that he seldom uses with others. Coming from anyone else, I might find it offensive, but coming from him, it is a non-issue. It is not that I don’t hear the angry tone, it’s that I am so certain of the love behind it that I don’t care… I choose not to care.  His tone may be angry, but I know that he is not angry. I call it older-brother-speak, and I am good with it.  That’s the wonderful thing about being tone deaf…. we  have a choice. We can choose to take offense, or we can choose to rely on our knowledge of who the person is and how they feel about us.

In reality, then, there are three tones to each communication: the tone the speaker intended, the tone actually used, and the tone that is interpreted.

When I played cello, being tone deaf was bad, but in relationships, being tone deaf might be a good thing. One thing is certain, there would be a lot fewer arguments  if we were tone deaf to other people, and they were tone deaf to us.

What Weight Watchers Taught Me About Atonement

stones  What Weight Watchers Taught Me About Atonement stones

My husband and I collect stones with words on them: love, health, family, even Beshert. Until recently, one was missing. We wondered how we had thought the collection complete without it, so we added a new stone: forgive.

Forgiveness is a central theme of the Jewish High Holidays. We ask God to forgive our sins, and we forgive those who have wronged us. What I don’t see emphasized is the need to forgive ourselves. Self forgiveness — the ability to say, “Who I was before doesn’t dictate who I will be in the future” — seems to be at the core of atonement.

I often think about a sentence I heard at a Weight Watchers meeting:

Your eating can be out of control at 10:00 and back in control at 10:05.

I love the insight this phrase suggests. It speaks to the hopeful promise that whatever your failings, you can forgive yourself, change and move on. Forgiving yourself, however, is harder than you might think.

I can list proudly many things I have done as a parent, but I have a list of shame as well. When my children were young, I was a yeller. Every parent yells at their kids at times, but I yelled a lot. One day, when my daughter was 12, we went to the grocery store.

I gave her a list of things to get. When we met at the check-out counter, she had gotten the wrong thing and I yelled at her. A few minutes later, in the parking lot, a woman approached me and said Continue reading

If You Can Stand The Worst They Do, Why Break Up?

When someone asks my husband how long he’s been married, he says, “Thirty years…26 of the happiest years of my life.” He’s right, of course. Some years were better than others.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’ve been thinking about relationships. I saw a post on facebook that made me ponder. It asked, “What Valentine’s message would you give to your younger self?”

I’d send the image below, so as I struggled through my twenties trying to find my way in life and relationships, I would know that one day, I would find someone wonderful who loved me more than I could imagine.

one day  If You Can Stand The Worst They Do, Why Break Up? one day









Then I saw another post. This one was more somber.  It reminded me of my husband’s quip, above, and that commitment is not always easy. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

one of the hardest things  If You Can Stand The Worst They Do, Why Break Up? one of the hardest things








Then I read an interview by Carl Reiner in the Huff Post 50. When asked what kept his marriage of 65 years to Estelle Reiner alive, he answered,

When asked this question, my wife used to say,  “Marry someone who can stand you.” And that’s absolutely true! There are many, many reasons to break up but if you can stand the worst of what they do, why break up? You’re only going to get someone who will annoy you in another way, so whatever little annoyances there are, you can stand that. We were able to stand each other very, very well”.

So perhaps that is my conclusion about relationships on this Valentine’s Day.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone terrific, someone who brings out the best in who you are. I know I did. It won’t always be easy. But lots of things that are  hard are worth doing.  And with longevity comes perspective.  You will always find ways to annoy one another, but  in the big scheme of things, they are not important.  So my husband and me? Like the Reiners, we stand each other very, very well.