Release Valve

shout-and-vent2As a kid, I remember a household of tyrannosaurus yells. Everything led to a pointless high drama, and I’d finally give into the irony and do something to make it humorous and worse.

All my life I’ve been confused by people who get themselves out on a limb and then wonder why they are stuck. Misery– mine, yours– is a result of reactions

I’ve spent so many years hearing about the next pending disaster, for they came as regularly as a brace of pheasants comes from an English hunting party. As a child, I waited for hours, nay years, for the serious disasters of Catholic girlhood to befall me, but they never did, and as the curtain was pulled aside, I saw that that the great and powerful Oz was merely one’s desire to control another, that overreaction and anger were just effective tools for control.

I’m not big on overreaction. It’s sloppy. It lacks discipline. It’s generally accompanied by loud noises, needless words and, even when it’s funny, we’re not supposed to laugh about it because that would be unkind. Yes, it’s far kinder to let people look foolish and wander off course and commit themselves to hours of pointless rumination than to “slap” them and snap them out of it. Hmm.

I’m a very sympathetic person to a point. If I do something stupid, though, I expect to take my lumps. If you do something equally dumb or worse, I expect you’ll suck it up and handle it with grace. If your problem is of a truly original nature, new to you or to me, I can be endlessly sensitive. Ah, but if you choose to spew repeatedly your anxiety at me because you failed to manage your own expectations, failed to exercise and failed to seek meditative relief, I have limited patience to listen to your kvetching before my sympathy runs out, and for a very good reason: survival.

As a child, I was captive in the world of a mother who was at best irrational. Her days of spontaneity were so few, that I can specifically remember the one day she was the mother I had always wanted. I guess that day she was having some transient ischemic event whose stroke symptoms manifested in kindness and joy. On that one magical day, she invited every girl in the neighborhood to come to our house for a sleepover — atypical, as we were never allowed to have other kids in our house. That one perfect day, we had popcorn, stories, games, laughs and everyone left saying I had the world’s best mom. They were right. I had the world’s best mom for that one, single, precious day.

My point here is to say that if you step back and look at your life, all the worries that seemed to certain your annihilation often came to nothing. When I was younger, I would worry for hours about my problems because the only example I’d seen of female coping skills came from my mother, and her coping skills were worrying, venting or punishing.

Life is an active, unpredictable process, even with a well-wrought schedule firmly in place; to this I can attest. The illusion of control is just that, illusion; and the only control of interest to me at present is the control of my own reactions. When I woke today to a bedrock of solid angst, my attitude was not, “What fresh hell is this,” as Dorothy Parker so aptly stated but rather “Bring it. Bring it, oh noble challenger of survival.”

5 thoughts on “Release Valve

  1. Oh, that kvetching. My bad job…my bad relationship…poor me poor me poor me. I don’t tolerate it well. Great essay. I could comment on every sentence, but I have people to slap around.

  2. You woke up to a bedrock of solid angst? Your life experiences could have broken you, and yet, here you are, setting the bar for many of us, in awe at your humor, your tenacity, and your sense of calm. I hope your day settled out, and that you are satisfied with your reactions to it. (((HUGS)))

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