Friday, May 17, 2013

This post is about temper tantrums that pop up out of my childhood to infiltrate my 45-year old life.

Easier said than done.

Things that trigger a temper tantrum in Allison: if you are doing something that I think I should be doing (say, for instance, cleaning house) and I'm not doing it and I ask you if I should be doing something too and you say "no, this is my thing" and then I clean the kitchen anyway because I feel like a chump and then the house is clean except for the guest bedroom and bath (i.e. my rooms), then I yell at you and tell you to answer direct questions with direct answers and would prefer to vacuum the rug when the vacuum cleaner is still out rather than several hours later when I have to unwind the cord and figure out how to turn the stupid thing on while seething inside because you have virtually shouted that I am a self-involved, lazy slug by not cleaning my room and bathroom.

Whew. Did you get all of that?

What I can tell you is that for many, many, and many more years I lived in such a heightened state of anxiety that my whole life seemed to be one long vomitous season of temper tantrums. This was due in large part to working as a litigation attorney for 17 years - about 60 to 80 hours/week under constant deadline and expectations of productivity from my employers, and constant conflict with opposing counsel.

That sort of life is like walking down a beautiful forest path parallel to a sluggish creek whose murk attracts bazillions of gnats who swarm around your head and your shoulders and stick to your hands when you try to swat them away. Every once in a while, the path meanders away and there issome respite, the sun shines through the canopy and dappled light filters through yellow butterfly wings. And, then, back to the gnats. For many, many, and many more years.

And, then, lo and behold, someone happens by with some Skin So Soft and generously heaps it into your hands and you rub it all over your face and hair and hands and neck and clothes and BAM! No more gnats.

This has happened to me. I got the Skin So Soft from various sources, including an amazing cadre of friends and family. And now?

The forest path is beautiful! I can walk with all of my senses released from the bondage of gnat hell. Dragonflies dart in and around the sluggish creek, and wildflowers dot the small incline toward its muddy bank.

And then there's a big tree root and BAM! down on my knees. "My hike is ruined." I whine. "Oh, why, oh, why me?" I cry out as tears roll over cheeks now red and hot with outrage.

But, I'm still in the beautiful forest. It's calm and there are no more swarms of gnats tearing my attention away from is actually happening. There is time to calm down, there in the beautiful forest.

The breeze ruffles the oak leaves and a deer steps on foliage before freezing to look at the ridiculous human moping on her knees. The creek has taken a turn downhill and the water is burbling down a rocky incline.

Feeling a little foolish, I stand up and wipe the dust and grit from my pants' legs and use my t-shirt to dry my face and clear my nose of snot. Moving forward, the beautiful forest path leads up onto a hill covered in green grass and little white and yellow flowers, and the sun is shining.

Of course, this is a (very long) metaphor for my subject here. And unfortunately, there are usually witnesses to my little pity party there on that big tree root.

So, I digress. But, not really. Back in the real world, I stomped around trying to find the vacuum, and then after vacuuming and having trouble getting the stupid cord to wind up, I had to go pee before getting in the car to go to yoga -- all of which was enough time (about 10 minutes) for me to figure out that I was having a temper tantrum. There on that particular tree root. A freakin' temper tantrum.

How embarassing.

Of course, Laura was my witness to this particular temper tantrum. She, of course, sees me and shakes her head. "Ridiculous." That is to say, weird Allison behavior.

Thank goodness that Laura doesn't take these things personally, because I don't have a logical enough reason for the tantrum to convince someone that it wasn't their fault. The only reason I have is something primordial and wordless. A sort of interstitial conditioning from my childhood.

So, here's the ridiculous explanation:

When Laura stops her cleaning whirlwind, the whole house is dusted, swept, vacuumed, washed and de-haired. Except for my room and bathroom. My response? I think that she is obviously pulling a passive aggressive fast one on me -- practically shouting that I am a lazy, self-involved slug who should have known to clean my rooms while she was cleaning everything else.


So, I tell her that I feel foolish for not getting the cleaning rules right, and for getting called out on it.

She has no idea what I'm talking about. She just gets that "you're ridiculous" face and says,

"There are no rules. But, if you want a rule, then here's one - you have to vacuum the hair off the couches once a week. Or I'll punish you." And I say, "Wait, what kind of punishment..." as we walk from the car to the yoga studio.

And there we are again, back to our particularly fun brand of banter developed over 22 years of friendship and love.

The very short moral of this long story is that I just tripped over one of my roots. Without all the stupid gnats swarming over my attention, I can actually see what's happening, brush it off and pray I see it coming around the next bend in the path...

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