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.


  1. Beautiful destruction. Patience pays off in this one. Lovely descriptions of horrific emotions. So powerful.

  2. Oh Thank you so much! I thought that its only me. This was a down year for me. They happen no particular reason just there it is.... Stores are the hardest part for me. I joke with my family that I should receive an Academy Award some days. The mantra, be nice, this will pass, karma...please let there be karma. But like a duck all you can see is me on top of the water, cannot see how hard I am working at being/staying there...again thanks.

  3. From: Kirsten
    A) get out of my head.
    B) my husband and I play a game (either that or we would beat the shit out of people) called, "who will move.". When we are travwlling by foot through a tourist town to see the sights, window shop, etc.... We are ALWAYS the ones who reliquish right-of-way to the on-coming other couple holding hands. We always pause, let go of hands and move to the side. The game is to see how close we can get to the other couple before we have to do that. We are polite. One day, I'm going to talk him into allowing ourselves to bash into them. I hate them. I hate them all.

    1. Like button for I hate them. I hate them all.

  4. You never cease to amaze. Facebook doesn't do you justice. Powerful, indeed.

  5. You've captured perfectly the schizoid nature of the Christmas season - family love and shopping hell.

  6. beautiful words to describe the hell that is shopping. thank you for this.

  7. I agree with LTrain. You are an amazing writer. Damn!

  8. welcome to my hell KC. i have to be heavily sedated to go to the store this time of year or its an assault charge waiting to happen.

    i truly dread this time of year, the ghost of christmas past haunts me with a vicious axe to grind, my demons right behind him, chuckling in cruel harmony.

    i golf clap in solidarity while waiting for the xanax to kick in.... sigh.

  9. This is amazing writing.

    I shop at Trader Joe's often and park far away to keep my temper in check when morons fight for my space as I'm pulling out. It's like that all the time. Everyone wants to be healthy, thrifty, and earth-friendly...and fight to the death for prime parking. I don't get it.

  10. "He wants my spot, yet is unwilling to yield the space I need to make that possible."
    I stared at that sentence for minutes. I find myself in this situation so often, in the same instance...but also in so many more ways that threaten to break my sanity.
    I can never read your blog just once. I have to read over and over to let your emotions sink in. You are completely amazing.

  11. I can relate...I suffer from the it's all about me syndrome and mental illness -- it sucks (not the syndrome rather the illness)!

    I was in the grocery store the other day and my little one has a super sized melt-down and this woman feels it necessary to inform me of my inability to 'control' my child. I accept her remark because my kid was really over the top...so I apologize but that wasn't good enough and the woman continues and something in me broke. Standing there in the check out line surrounded by tons of people and I yell at her to Fuck off. She comments. I tell her off some more...I am grateful that she walked away!

  12. i felt that whole blog post. literally

  13. Love your blog post, pal, and I feel ya. A honk at the wrong time could send me into a panic attack. I'm going to start warning the people in my life who crowd me to back the fuck off or else! They will never be able to say they weren't warned. Write on, MK, and thanks for the inspiration.

  14. Every. Single. Day. I avoid shopping during business like hours, I get there as rush hour is leaving and wait until I am positive there are no people left shopping to check out...I also have determined after my last relationship that I am no longer OK with anyone else driving but me...

  15. This was amazing...and sounded so much like so many of my thoughts this holiday as well. I really don't get people...and most of them, I plain don't like. Who honks at someone backing out of a space you want? Idiots!

  16. Where do you live that people honk at the person pulling out of the spot they want to pull into?
    That is the most insane, counter-productive thing I have ever heard of in my life.
    What kind of over-privileged asshole would pull that shit?
    I live in Ohio. I've only ever lived in Ohio. ...I can't even imagine that.