The trouble with going to sleep unhappy with yourself is that you wake up that way. Only it’s worse, because while you were sleeping all those negative feelings you had magically intensified exponentially so that when you wake the next morning you have maybe two hundredths of a second to revel in the glory of the sunlight and the comfort of your bed before your brain switches from automatic to manual.
And when that switch takes place… some days, nothing good can come of that.
On this particular morning, I woke at ten after seven. By fifteen after I was feeling despicable, and the feeling wouldn’t be shaken no matter how many times I tossed and turned or how much more deeply I buried my head to snuggle under the covers.
So then I tried to distract myself by watching recorded shows. Ones that had been camping out for months, waiting for me to remember that I actually liked them. I watched Three Rivers. Why I liked that one, I do not know. I watched NCIS: Los Angeles. That one I love. I watched the last two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. These made me cry. Both of them. So much for distraction.
By this time it’s eleven or so. My head’s started to hurt. I figured maybe if I eat that might help so I all but hobbled downstairs to the kitchen (on days like this, mental anguish begins to take on a physical form, and all my joints hurt, especially my knees and ankles) to pour a giant bowl of Cheerios.
I camped out on the sofa and flipped through a dozen channels. First I settled on football. While last night, I might have succeeded, momentarily, in shrugging off despair with the glee of anticipating a fast-approaching football season, this morning football could not pacify me. So then I switched to What Not to Wear because I think Stacy and Clinton are cool. This morning, however, they annoyed me. So then I switched to Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader. No luck there either.
By this time I was crying again. I figured sitting at home’s not helping, and I have errands to run — money to deposit, bills to pay, vehicular registrations and inspections to make current, a vehicle to wash. responsibility. So I went back upstairs to change. I managed to quell the tears while doing this. but then, as I got my hair wet — because fine, curly hair never does well the day after — the tears came again. the more I stop and start this crying, the more despairing the tears are. I remembered I’d left my comb in my father’s car the night before. So it’s back downstairs to my parent’s bathroom, still crying. Somewhere between the landing and the doorway to their bedroom, the crying morphed into full-on wailing and misery.
Which morphed into wrath seconds after I’ve entered their room.
And by this time, by this time I might as well have been hunched in a ball in a corner.
Wrath terrifies me. Whatever strength I think I might have dissipates rapidly in her presence.
Tears that were once huge rivers became quiet streams that are more reluctant to flow, and I was chanting no, much like my then nineteen-month-old niece and nephew do when they’re crying and miserable. No. No. No. Scared. Because I never think I’m going to get through it when I’m in the throes of wrath.
But somehow I do.
And I’m grateful for this.
I rounded the corner, passed their closet, padded into their bathroom, still chanting. I rummaged through my mother’s cosmetics drawer for a comb and sat on the commode to slowly, slowly, run the comb through the tangles. Five minutes or so of this, and I was better.
Drained but better.
The trouble is, I didn’t indulge wrath.
Usually it’s better if I let her play for a bit. harder to handle. harder to live through. But better in the long run. Usually, afterward, I’m tired but nice. I won’t smile at you, but I won’t tear your head off, either.
I’ve got those errands to run, and on this day I wasn’t so sure of my strength so I shoved her back.
Somewhere between the time I left the house and the time I came home, I got ugly with cranky and snarly. So much so that by the time I got to the last errand, I was at the I’m-gonna-tear-your-head-off-just-for-looking-at-me stage.
When I was twenty-five my family went to Austin for the Fighting Irish versus the longhorns football game. A handful of my older brother’s friends met up with us. I’d been having a conversation with one of them — I’m a pretty sarcastic girl, and those who know me are amused by this as they should be because I mean it in good fun, but those who don’t aren’t so much. This one didn’t know me. All of the sudden he comes out with God, you’re bitter. I don’t even remember what I’d said that prompted him to say this, except that whatever I’d said, I hadn’t meant for it to be so sarcastic that it offended.
Flash forward. I thought of this conversation today. Of this friend of my brother’s.
Today, I was a prime example of bitter hag. Ugly with it.
This is what happens when I don’t give into wrath.
I bitched at an employee — an elderly woman who works in the floral department (What a lovely job that must be. Really. Happy and thoughtful) — for not washing her hands after using the restroom before returning to work. I snarled at the library staff because printing a single sheet of paper is more of an inconvenience and challenge than I think it ought to be. God forbid I should consider that they don’t have to offer such a service. I don’t have a printer hooked up to my mac. My mother’s printer, at the time, was not communicating with her computer, and my father’s computer was off limits so I had to borrow someone else’s. That it doesn’t work like I want it to do so was, apparently, a criminal offense.
The best example? I stopped by a courthouse, after having finally succeeded in enlisting the help of a reference librarian to get the damned proof of insurance card I needed so that I could get my registration updated, and had been walking, rather intently (in other words, in a don’t-fucking-talk-to-me fashion), when a woman had the audacity to smile at me and ask if I worked there.
What? (Said in the same fashion as I had used when walking.)
Do you work here? (She was walking toward me, still smiling, still being friendly. Curious. In need of help.)
I was wearing a T-shirt promoting a Grand Junction, Colorado brewery, capris and flip-flops. I looked like death. No. (Said in a what-the-hell-would-make-you-ask-such-a-stupid-question tone of voice.)
Now she’s not so friendly. Now she’s taken aback, and a hell of a lot smarter than she’d been a second before. she proceeded to tell me that the building was locked, that I couldn’t get in, that I was rude…etc., etc., etc.
The moment I heard that I can’t get in, I turned and headed back to my car. So while’s she’s telling me that I’m rude…
I could hear this boy’s voice in my head, just as I could while at the library. See his face just as clearly today as I’d seen it a dozen years before. God, you’re bitter.
Earlier that day I’d found a picture of me as a first-grade student. In it I’m sitting there with my hands in my lap, my arms pressed to my sides, my shoulders slightly drawn up. I’m grinning. beautifully.
I wish I could be that girl again. I wish I could channel her and infuse my present personality with a bit of the cute and funny my mother said I was back then.
I don’t understand why I have to hurt so much. I don’t understand how I could hurt others knowing how much the hurting sucks ass.
Originally published September first, ‘ten.