notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Losing Control

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.

18 Comments

  1. Love. This.

    Like

  2. Losing control isn’t a comfortable feeling and not one I like

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  3. Dawn Allison

    This is so beautiful. A glimpse into your life is always welcome. Uplifting in challenging times. Thank you.

    Like

  4. Wonderful. Writing this post is a commitment and for sure it will happen. Luckily nature will assist you, I hope, as sheer longevity tends to loosen the corset. This will be exciting!

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  5. Felicity

    Any changes you want to make you can and you will.
    Two comments I have trouble accepting:
    1. That you are old. No. I have been a Twitter follower of yours for some time now. Your attitude and energy are anything but old. I don’t believe ‘old’ is reflected by a number.
    2. That you are cold. Again, no. Theo’s daily tips reflect a warm, caring, wise and intuitive mind and heart. And your paintings- a cold person could not capture the essence of a subject as you consistently do.

    🌺

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Susan E Ritchie

    It’s a family thing – I didn’t cry when Mom and Daddy died either – at least not when you guys could see me – I always felt I had to be “strong” for someone. I cried when Uncle George, Aunt Phyllis, and when your father died, but I was here, you were there, and nobody could see me. Even now, I cry while writing this, but again, you can’t see it. Someone told me once that I couldn’t “outrun my upbringing”, and I guess they were right. But, you can always try, and that’s what you and I do. We try.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a wonderful and honest post. I can certainly relate. I was constantly criticized when I was little for being “too emotional”. My family did not hug or kiss one another, nor did we praise each other’s accomplishments. I learned (the “hard way”) to keep my emotions in check (at least, around them) and I worked very hard to remain “in control at all times”. Even as an adult, when I did give in to tears, it was in private and never spoken about. As the years have passed, I have cried less and less (I cried harder at having to have my cat put down that I did after my mother’s death). I sometimes wonder what I’m keeping the tears for, and how long I’ll actually cry when they finally find release. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Being English, we were always “stiff upper lip.” I tended to be emotional and got scolded for crying. I’m still pretty emotional, which sometimes can piss people off (e.g. my first husband). Love the poem. What wonderful parents you had/have!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chris

    When I was at Joy’s funeral, Rose told me that they had had lunch only the week before and were laughing so much that tears were falling and their sides hurt. My last conversation with Joy was her telling me how sick she had been. But I take comfort in hearing that she and Rose had a silly time at lunch and laughed and laughed. And it was probably over nothing. I like to remember her that way. Yes, we need to get silly – and sometimes get angry – and sad – we need it all.

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  10. I think we each do what works best for us at certain stages of our lives. This sounds like a new stage for you!

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  11. Nancy,…

    Such a thought provoking post. At one time women were too “emotional” and then we found out that we had to keep our emotions in check in the workplace.

    I am not sure if that proverbial pendulum has swung the other way and now men and women are allowed to freely show what they are feeling. I think not. We have probably been too well conditioned.

    So you are absolutely right. We need to show more of our emotions to the ones we love. Our family was very reserved as well. And now that my mother has left us, how I wish I would have hugged her more, tell her more often I love her. How I wish we would have had the deep meaningful conversations about love and life.

    I love your poem. So hear wrenching…beautiful!

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  12. I think sometimes we confuse expressing our emotions with behaving badly. But they aren’t the same, unless we hurt someone else in the process. Getting angry is okay, but hitting the person you’re angry with is not, obviously. So yes, control can be a good thing, but it is absolutely okay to let your emotions out….and actually healthy.

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  13. Beautiful. The List Of Us is beautiful.
    It seems I have become extremely emotional these days. It does not take much to set my off. My fear is that if I start to cry I will never stop so I spend these endless days fighting to keep the tears and sometimes anger at bay. I believe being able to have human contact again will help.

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  14. Ray G

    To this day I cannot talk about your dad before taking a few deep breaths. And forget it about Bill A. Lost it there. I even choke up and cannot talk about some movie stars passing, like Olivia.
    I wouldn’t have made this public if Susan hadn’t commented. But she gave me a little courage. Otherwise it would have been a private note.

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    • Ray G

      And now, we’ve lost Sean Connery; his roles other than J. Bond were mostly magnificent.

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    • Susan E Ritchie

      Ray: You married into a family long schooled at keeping emotions inside, but if by bringing it to light, I helped you – then the tears I cried as I wrote it, might have been worth some thing.

      Like

  15. As a Brit, I can relate. The stiff upper lip is overrated. But I’d rather have someone like you around in an emergency than someone emoting all over me. I always wanted to be Italian, BTW, Sophia Loren specifically. She would yell and scream and throw things when she was mad. At least in her movies. I would say, I’m a little miffed…

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