by Elise Seyfried
OK, major admission time. Apparently, I snore.
For most of our marriage, my husband Steve was the big snorer, to the point that I was really worried about his having sleep apnea. Then he participated in an overnight sleep study in the hospital, which concluded that he did not, in fact, have apnea. That was a relief, but it didn’t stop the irritating nocturnal noises.
I remember endless nights of kicking him, shoving him, rolling him over in bed, anything to get him to quit so I could get a little shut-eye. Though Steve protested that he didn’t make a nighttime peep, I had the witness of the kids (and any dinner guests who stayed past 9 p.m.) to back me up.
And now? Well, he still concertizes every night, but he has assured me that I am now no slouch in that department either. And it’s mortifying. The entire mission trip to South Dakota last summer, I forced myself to remain semi-conscious until dawn so that my roommates didn’t hear anything remotely noteworthy. Next week I will be on a Confirmation retreat, sharing sleeping space with six teenage girls, and again I plan to stay up reading all night.
Snoring reminds me that there are some unlovely physical quirks I have developed over the years, with absolutely no intention of doing so. Another example: when I am hard at work, I have this very unattractive habit of sticking out my tongue. (Because it helps me concentrate? I don’t think so!) I realize that I have no control over these things, and I am nothing if not a control freak. So even as I now annoy others, I am annoying myself twice as much.
What else do I do that irks people? Let’s see…
I interrupt. I began doing this as a small child, when my sisters just didn’t spit their words out fast enough to suit me. My poor sister Maureen got the worst of it. She actually thought before she spoke, and so was no match for Motormouth Me. Mo often just fell silent and let me do all the talking. I also interrupted when I just had to get a word in edgewise with my mother Joanie, who literally chatted from daybreak to midnight.
Nowadays, I tend to finish Steve’s sentences for him, even when he tells me that he was NOT planning on wrapping up his thoughts that way. I get nervous and talk too much in general, and I am sure my children remember my endless blathering humming in the background of their childhoods.
I also don’t listen carefully enough and have to have information repeated to me often. This has gotten markedly worse since menopause, though I remember some long spells of inattention when the kids were little. If I had a dime for every time a family member has said, “Don’t you remember? I told you that yesterday!” I would be able to buy a yacht (called the “Sorry I Forgot”). It’s pretty bad, and I am only 58 years old. Reverse those digits and you will have an 85-year-old who can’t keep track of her pills or her meals or her life.
As the years go by, my peculiarities are threatening to overrun my personality until someday I will be the interrupting, snoring, forgetful old woman all the nursing home visitors avoid like the plague. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to be such an irritant. I wasn’t, Lord knows, supposed to snore.
Maybe it’s not so horrible to serve as a model of imperfection. There is no danger (at all) of my family putting me on a pedestal, and maybe that’s a good thing. It gives my loved ones permission to be pains in the butt themselves once in a while, with annoying habits of their own. It gives them a chance to be gracious and patient with others, too. Like them or not, we all have our flaws, the little (and not so little) things that drive people crazy. So let’s try to be tolerant of each other. Let’s cut one another some slack.
As for me, I will buy everyone in my sleeping range earplugs for Christmas. It’s the least I can do.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. She can be contacted through www.eliseseyfried.com.