July 30, 2015
It is a well known fact that speaking with your mouth full is rude. No one wants to see partially masticated food or hear the slosh of saliva and smack of your tongue as you try to push words past the blob in your mouth. Because of this well-known rule, I kept a bag of cookies handy this weekend so I would not blurt out the words I desperately wanted to say.
Last week I endured a situation of not-knowing. As a mother, the feelings of helplessness are debilitating. I had been home for only two weeks after dropping my son off at his dad’s house for the summer, when my son called begging me to come pick him up early. I’m not the type of mother to jump in and rescue my child because he perceives a need. I’m the type who insists on problem-solving, digging until the real issues are uncovered, and empowering my child with their own ability to create change. While we went through this process, I ate cookies, tamping down the feelings of fear and helplessness, and stifling the ugly words I wanted to say about his father.
As we dug deeper into the problem, it became apparent I would need to retrieve him. I called my sister to make sure we could stay at her house again, even though we stayed there when I initially dropped him off. She welcomed us back with open arms, even though she wasn’t expecting us until Christmas. While worry and dread clawed at my insides, there was a glad place, too. I would get another chance to spend time with loved ones whom I usually only see twice a year. After calling everyone I needed to contact about my trip and making plans to see those nearest and dearest to me while in town, I packed up the car once again with my youngest in tow and headed out. I brought the rest of the cookies, just in case.
It’s a long drive, exactly 700 miles door to door, 11 hours if we don’t stop for anything, but we always need to stop. That’s a long time to sit in the car without distractions other than traffic, the radio, or perhaps a book on tape. Thoughts I tried to hold at bay crept into my mind, and it wasn’t long before worry turned to anger. I shoved a cookie in my mouth to sweeten the acrid taste of loathing. Conversations ping ponged in my brain; all the words I wanted to say, all the truths I wanted to slam into his father’s face, all the ugliness of ten years without any support. I grabbed another cookie to keep my hands busy and avoid the temptation of picking up my phone and dialing. I imagined chocolate bits of spittle flying as the force of my hatred met the bitterness of my words. I ate another cookie to lessen the taste, for the sweetness to soothe my throat, and the weight of it to stuff my words back down my gullet. Saying these words, letting them out, would have served no purpose other than venting my rage, yet they kept surging upward, and I kept stuffing them down with cookies.
The actual pick up went smoothly. Turned out his dad had no way of getting him back home anyway, so picking him up almost a month early served his selfish needs. I’ve never come so close to losing control. The hotness of my rage, the saltiness of manipulation, required more cookies to overpower their taste. My son has never seen my disgust for his father and that was not the time to give it free rein. Driving away from that house, I thought my cookie eating moments would be over for the weekend. Silly me, so optimistic.
The plans I made with people near and dear to me didn’t pan out. What my boys wanted to do “didn’t appeal” to some relatives, so rather than spend time with us, they chose to sit at home and do nothing. Another loved one chose to drink herself drunk and was hungover the day we’d hoped to spend together. Hurt tasted like stale cigarettes, a taste no amount of brushing or rinsing could eradicate. Another sleeve of cookies camouflaged the staleness while the abundance of chocolate clogged my throat. Each bite gave me time to think and reflect. Do I reveal my pain or squelch it? Then, as always, I chose to cram it back down. I would share no words, expose no vulnerabilities, and not give away any power. I’d only have myself to blame if I allowed them to hurt me again, and I’d learned long ago no amount of cookie eating could change the flavor of self-flagellation or the bitterness of that pain.
I often wonder who it is I’m protecting when I don’t allow myself to say the words that arise with these situations. I wonder what I’m trying to avoid. My biggest worry is once I start, I won’t be able to stop, and there won’t be enough cookies to fix it.
It is a well known fact that speaking with your mouth full is rude.
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