This week the carpenter came to do some repairs.
The dogs did their typical thing. Theo was all over the carpenter, insisting on attention and constant petting. Henry stood four feet behind the guy, barking his silly protective head off.
Which one was annoying?
Both, of course.
Too much love gets in the way of getting any work done. And too much suspicion is unnerving and just as distracting.
“Control yourself!” I said about 700 times.
I am very big on control.
I have not been an emotional person since I was ten. Before that time, I cried and whined about everything. My sisters can attest to that.
And good excitement was also almost too much to bear. My mother had to carry a change of underwear for me at all times. She can attest to that.
But I grew up, and I discovered that being in control felt good. I may not have been able to control any given situation, but I could control my reaction. No screams, no tears, no more hysterical laughing until liquids poured out of all my orifices. (Too much? Sorry. I guess I went overboard about not going overboard.)
But now that I am old, I am finding that I regret my self-control.
Years ago, I heard someone describe me as cold. It surprised me. I thought I was warm, but reserved.
I’m good in emergencies. Unflustered by mistakes. Calm in times of fear. Composed in times of sorrow.
My control has served me well.
But I don’t want it anymore.
No instead, I would like – once in a while – to be an emotional wreck.
Because the question I now ask myself is, how have I – or my family – or the world – benefitted from my stoicism?
Oh, I can think of one emergency when a co-worker fell hard on a slick floor, where I was the coolest head in the room and I dialed 911, and calmed everyone else down until the EMTs arrived. That was decades ago. I guess I am ready to do that again if the need arose.
But who did I help by not crying when my father died?
Or by not having any wine at my own wedding?
Or by saying, ‘it’s okay,’ when I lost my job?
I have not hugged or kissed my mother since March. I was never a demonstrative person, but now that I cannot safely kiss her, it is excruciatingly apparent that I should have done so at every opportunity. How I hope there will still be a future where hugs and kisses are welcome. I will not be stingy any longer.
And my laughter! I laugh easily – there is no doubt about it. I find so much of life funny. But I have tempered my amusement too much. I want to howl with laughter. I want to laugh till my sides aches – till tears run down my face – until I am gasping for air. And I want to laugh out loud every day. No polite teehees. Let me shriek.
I want to get furious. I want to swear and scream and march in the streets. I marched in protest against the Vietnam War. Fifty years ago. And I took a small, unassuming role in the protests against the Iraq war fifteen years ago. It seems unfathomable to me that I have tempered my outrage now. I need to get mad when it is appropriate to be mad. I deserve to be angry.
I need to cry.
I wrote above that I did not cry when my father died. That is not quite true. When getting dressed for the funeral, I could not find my beautiful pearls. I tore my drawers apart to no avail. And finally exhausted, I sat down on the floor of my bedroom in my sedate black dress and sobbed my heart out. For ten minutes. Then I got up, searched more calmly and found the necklace, and went to the funeral.
I was composed at the funeral.
I cry now that I did not cry then.