Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Today's Rant: Patience is a virtue. Don't honk at me.
Woman on the verge. I am doing my motherfucking best to keep it together. I get really really batshit manic at Christmas because I'm really excited about it all. <getting shit done! bake shop wrap bake shop wrap drink drink drink drink drink> Other times, I’m low at Christmas and it's all I can do to come out of my room. We’ll set those times aside for now.
This Christmas is the first time I have had a full-time job since my first kid was born 19 years ago. Let me tell you it was a LOT easier putting Christmas together when I wasn't working full time. (Outside the home.) But I will tell you that my Christmases were pretty fucking far out when I didn't
get to have to be away from home for almost twelve hours every day.
I may have mentioned that I love my job, but it has definitely compromised my ability to put Christmas together in a timely manner. And that’s . . . okay. Gratitude moment: I have several people who know how to shop, wrap and bake. It is comforting to see my girls (19 and 17) learn to put Christmas together for themselves. They get to decide what they think is important and do it. They are getting along so well it's scary. My oldest, always somewhat distant and scornful (hmm, I wonder where she gets it), has been downright loving, smiling, engaging. The other night, they spontaneously jumped in the car to go on a shopping run for art supplies. They even grabbed their 12-year-old brother, who was only too happy to be included. I keep teasing them that they are replicants of their former selves, like in Bladerunner, and they just smile softly to themselves. Tacit agreement. They feel it, too.
I get off work early today. Reluctantly, I am in my car by 2:00. No excuse to dodge my chores, no defense of fatigue to avoid the inevitable. The usual hour-plus commute home takes half the time. Holiday traffic? I guess they're not going my way today.
Stop at the spa for a gift card for my sister. Every year we go to have a hot tub and a sauna. A side trip on her extended visit from across the country I reluctantly exit the freeway to reach the chic-est part of the chic-est town. I simply loathe everything about it. Materialism pretending to be soulful and spiritual. Indulgences for the new millennium. The irony is thick, palpable, my scorn is oily and black. I dodge what I know must be pitying judgment from the staff, who wear the right clothes and chant and meditate and anoint themselves with homeopathic unguents that smell of earth. But I do love the wood tubs, the little rooms with New Age music piped in. And the sauna, the annual challenge of besting the heat with stern resilience. Ritual, galvanizing endorphins.
On to my favorite grocery --Trader Joe's. Whole Foods mentality at discount prices. The racist versions of the brand name depending on the kind of cuisine. Trader Ming, Trader Giuseppe. Chalkboards with artsy lettering, glib descriptions. My daughter longs to draw the labels. She wants to get paid to doodle. On quiet days I stop to consider the possibilities. I am allowed to experiment. If my choices fail to satisfy, I am entitled to return and refund. But I would never admit such a defeat. This failure would be my fault. For example, I never liked goat cheese. It's a flaw I freely admit.
Today though (the Friday before the day before the night before the main event), the store is packed beyond my efforts to negotiate it. My mental preparation to stay calm and in the moment dissolves within seconds of negotiating the produce aisle. Still, I am nice. Kind. Indulgent. I let people cut in, I wait while they figure out which fucking kind of lettuce to buy. Arugula is spicy, I want to tell them, but they haven't asked, so I will wait and see if they do. I volunteer nothing. I am an empty vessel, a blank slate. I wear my serenity like a cloak. I protect it as it protects me.
Repeat the mantras I have developed over time in my own personal anger management workshop . . . <everyone's doing the best they can, this too shall pass, we will get there eventually> . . . . Follow the rules, cart down the right side, keep out of the way, smile and yield apologetically. Inwardly grimace at the many (most? all?) who don’t reciprocate. Rules have always outlined my consciousness, irritation at those who don't feel that compunction shade the content.
I hold it together till the checkout. The clerk has a sense of humor, we border on flirting, but settle for banter. Once again I have forgotten my bags. I do the paperbag walk of shame as I wheel my cart past the bell ringers, gritting my teeth as I lie that I don't carry cash.
At last I reach my car, which I have stationed in quite possibly the farthest spot in the section of the elephantine parking lot designated as Trader Joe's despite its proximity to Wal-Mart. I transfer my brown paper bags from the cart to the hatchback. I have hit the wall. My husband calls and I answer. He asks whether I've left and I tell him that I'm still in the parking lot, but I am coming home. I need to be home. I need to be done with this. I need to touch base. He understands.
Seat belt strapped, I sit quietly for a moment before turning the key. Verge of tears, deep breath, steady. I only recognize the wall after I’ve hit it, just as I only recognize PMS after my period has begun. In retrospect. As if precognition would have helped. I am destined to play out my Greek tragedy. Unavoidable melt-downs. Too little, too late.
I put the car in reverse and look over my shoulder. Such a blind spot. I slowly release the brake and roll backward out of my space. The horn behinds me alerts me to my folly. My heart jumps, my pulse pounds. Not a friendly tap. A hard palm leaning on the belly of the steering wheel. I am backing out of a spot that the car behind me is waiting for. Like an Escher print, we are caught in an infinite loop. Of the two of us, only I recognize the futile irony. He wants my spot, yet is unwilling to yield the space I need to make that possible.
I continue to roll back. What should I do, I ask myself. I need to get out. He needs to get in. Why is this such a problem? I do not understand. Blind confusion. As I turn the wheel to pull forward, I hear a growl begin that ends in a sob. “Fucking motherfucker! What the fuck to you expect me to do? Goddamnit!” My window is half open; several shoppers overhear my spasm. This is how I know that once again I have let the holidays break me.
I follow the rules. I give all the quarter I can. I take prisoners. I play nice. And still I don’t get the break. Still I don’t feel the love. Every year at holiday time, every fucking day of the year for that matter. I need you to hear this. People of Earth. Don't fucking honk at me as I pull out of the spot you are waiting for. It’s not your fault. You do not know what you are doing. You do not know with whom you are dealing. You don't know that I have a tire iron in my hatchback. You don’t know that I would rather beat myself with it than confront you. Enjoy your oblivious holiday. That is all. Carry on.
Posted by Mina Klonopina at 11:27 PM