My father has said you can’t control how you feel, only how you react to those feelings. This is a classic case of do as I say, not as I do, as he has a very hard time controlling his own reactions. I’ve seen him knock a cabinet door clean off its hinges after accidentally smacking his head on the corner of it when coming up from unloading the dishwasher.
That is something I’ve never done. Physical pain causes me to go very still. Retract. Curl up. Like those like bugs we used to have on the sidewalk in front of the house in California. If you touched them, they’d turn into a perfect ball that you could flick with a finger. What were they called? Why does the word potato come to mind when I think of them?
How much of maturity is the ability to control ones reactions to ones emotions? I always thought I’d get better at it with age. That when I got older I would be serene and calm and brave all the time. Unflappable. I always liked that word.
Or, unruffled. The look of the owl as it gazes out at the world, secure in its position near the top of the food chain. Near the top. Not at the top. Humans eat everything.
How exactly was curling up into a ball a good defense mechanism for that little bug? I’m sure it did not deter its predators, unless they were really stupid. A sparrow swooping in to grab that delicious short worm when, huh, where did it go? I just see a round ball now. Oh well, I’ll just fly away.
My problem is with my uncontrollable reactions to stupid people. Not all stupid people. Not the ones who can’t help it. Not the ones who are trying their best and just keep messing up. No, I mean the willfully stupid.
You know who I’m talking about. People who ignore common sense. People who stare a fact in the face and deny its existence.
They have reasons, I suppose, down deep. Fear of change, pride, lack of self esteem. All the classic rationalizations for ‘bad guys’ in books, serial killers, rapists, Hitler.
Because my mother force fed me disgusting peas at the dinner table when I was seven, I am going to make you sit here until two in the morning printing eighteen copies of a 50 page slide presentation on the world’s slowest printer, instead of sensibly emailing the files to the fifteen panelists who will not have time to look at even one page of it before they go on stage tomorrow morning at 8.
I stare down at the stupid person giving me this command, my disdain for their very existence pouring from hooded eyes, from my sharp and dangerous mouth, my talon’d fingers.
They don’t see the intimidating predator I’ve become though. “Enough with the attitude, Jill, just do what I’m telling you to do.”
I want to knock the idiot’s head right off its hinges.
Maybe I should try to learn how to curl up into a ball?
“Jill, can you… huh, where did she go?”
That is not what she said, but that is what I felt.
I really thought I had a chance this time. Only 25 people entered the contest. I read all the other submissions. Mine was by far the best.
Of course, mine was also the only one not about twenty-something sex and/or dating issues.
Mine was about making a bad career-path choice.
You know, mature, adult decision-making.
Perhaps that was an error. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the personality of the judge, a twenty-something social-media obsessed blogger who used to work for one of those awful online celebrity-dirt-rags.
And the winning piece was to go on Hairpin, a place for twenty-something girls to whine about bad sex and beauty products and mean boy/girlfriends.
Perhaps entering this contest was the bad decision I should have written about.
I have no idea, I don’t have a plan. It is difficult for me to figure out what I’m going to do after this moment. No chance I can imagine a moment a million moments from now.
But I know that whatever moment I am in, I will do my best with it. That I can promise.
What’s wrong with getting behind? I’m an excellent follower. If everyone strives to get ahead, then no one ever will.
I want to feel valued. I want to feel like I’ve earned my keep. I want to do just enough, not too little and not too much.
In five years, I see myself still unable to answer this question.
Image: Death to Stock
Image: Death to Stock