Before you fall-down-go-boom, make room


A lot of good stuff has been happening lately.

Stuff that’s coming out of my involvement with a weekly accountability group, and a few interesting classes, and a lot of work. Oh, yes, a LOT of work.

For those of us with two settings (“full bore” and “off”), even with the best of intentions and calendaring and firewalling time off, a lot of work can creep up on you. Mostly, like the boiling frog, you don’t even realize how close you are to a fine fricassee until someone or something flips the lever into the “off” position. And if you’re going fast when it happens (which, given the two speeds, is pretty much a given), momentum is suddenly and very much not your friend.

This weekend, the lever was flipped in the car, which is very much where I do NOT like things to happen suddenly. And yet, there we were, The BF and me, both tired, me cranky (how does he never get cranky?), circling for parking. I was already irritated that we were circling for parking because it was hot (not my fault) and I was tired (totally my fault) and I don’t especially like driving, so any extra of it I have to do when I’m already tired and hot makes me even crankier.

Still, I’m not a complete dumbass; I know that when it’s like that, I need to move slowly. So I swallowed the irritation and chugged along, finally espying a spot near our destination. A spot not quite big enough to pull into, so I slowed down even further, put my right turn signal on, and moved ahead of the spot, as we were taught to do in Driver’s Ed lo, so many years ago, and which they have apparently stopped teaching, along with PAYING ATTENTION, because the car behind me, instead of slowing down and/or moving to the passing lane, pulled up hard on my ass. Which meant that I had to wait it out or give it up, and guess what Miss Crankypants was not going to do?

I could go on and tell you about the near pile-up because of even more people who hadn’t taken Driver’s Ed, or the honking, or the yelling at me to move, but the salient issue (beyond my being overly tired, with no room left in which to act like a compassionate human being, just enough to scream “MINE! MINE!”) is that when The BF made a gentle suggestion that, right or wrong, we abandon this course of inaction, I screamed, screamed, like a crazed, frothy-mouthed caricature of Anger Management personified, “Do you wanna drive?!”

To which, after a pause, he replied, “Yes. Yes, I do, actually.”

To my credit, just about the only credit I’m going to give myself as far as grace points in this particular situation, I didn’t fire back: I paused, took it in, and pulled over to let him drive. Because even in my crazed, frothy-mouthed condition, I could tell (thank JEEBUS and my 20 million years of talk therapy) that I was toast.

It is painful to recall the mix of anger and shame I felt in that moment, and for the rest of the day, but both were mightily and handily eclipsed by the feeling of terror. Because I finally had a crystal-clear, if very ugly picture of the way things might go if I didn’t change course right now and forevermore. This was an epiphany of a much different and more dreadful sort than the blissful, Elizabeth Gilbert-esque, dancing angels and white light one I had in my hospital bed many years ago, but it was no less of a peek behind the curtain and to this one, I gratefully say, “No, thank you.”

No, thank you, I do not want to hurt the people closest to me. Or anyone, if I can help it. Kind of runs counter to the mission statement around these parts.

No, thank you, I do not want to hurt myself. Better that I do that, I think, if it’s a choice, but when I go down, it’s a burden on even more people. I’ve seen it; I know. So no. No, thank you.

I’m still a little shaky from the whole affair, which I think is good. I think that’s the point, if there’s one to be drawn from this. This way is not sustainable. So. There will probably be some more changes to the changes I was already planning to make.

Also? I will fuck up. Oh, I will most surely fuck up. It’s a given. So I’m asking for help and grace both to make the changes I need to and to see me through the almost inevitable fuckups. I’m not asking you, in particular; you’ve got your own row to hoe, farmer.

But I will toss out there, ever so gently, that if you are at all like me, if you see any of yourself in this, please slow down. Please make some room. Wiggle your toes to remind yourself you have a real, physical body that can get hurt and can, even inadvertently, hurt others. Take a breath to maybe stop yourself from getting to the place where you might.

Sit. Close your eyes. Hug the dog. Go look at a sneezing baby panda or a laughing baby. Eff the coffee or the booze or the impulse to work even harder or whatever your check-out drug of choice is.

I will. I am, right now.

No foolin’…


Image by dearoot via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Be kind to yourself and laugh at your foibles — it does make for a funny story.

    I think the measure of recovery is not how often we fall down, but the shrinking of the time between when we fall and when we are able to laugh at our silly selves.

    One of the moments when I dearly love my wife is when she snaps at me, and then a minute later she is mocking herself for her snippy attitude.

    The measure of my recovery is that I can not react in that minute and be there for the fun banter when we tease ourselves later.

    We have a pretty good Oliver and Hardy routine going where she plays the impatient over-achiever and I play the happy-go-lucky screw-up.

  2. Colleen, Thank you for sharing on such an authentic level; quite rare in the world of business. You are a breath of “fresh + sassy” air.
    Can you suggest the person who does your cyber-communication…they are savy in the newest & most current links & feeds etc…I am looking for that kind of know-how…Thanks for referral.
    Suzanne Silk

  3. Good for you!

    Discovering what triggers rage means you will soon have it under control instead of it controlling you.

    I discovered my rage is only present when I haven’t eaten (blood sugar drops). So when I feel this rage start to bubble up, I eat.

    In fact, my whole family knows to shove something in my mouth (LOL).


  4. Ron – They can pry those f-bombs from my cold, dead hands. Er, mouth. Oh, shit—you know what I mean!

    Jim — YES! I have a post somewhere around here about my first shrink-slash-astrologer laughing her ass off when I warned her at the start of our collaboration that she’d better not change me. AS IF. You get better at seeing and doing an end run around your b.s. more than you get rid of it. Fine, either way.

    And for the record, while this story shows me off as a supreme dick (and I am…oh, I am!), I was pretty proud that not 30 seconds after Mt. Communicatrix blew, I turned to The BF and said, “Thanks for not escalating this.” Ha!

    Suzanne — Thank you! I’m not sure what you mean, but I don’t hire out anything. It’s all me, baby. If you can be more specific about what you need help with, I can probably give you a referral.

    Judith — From your mouth to god’s earballs. But I’m trying to do my part. I am, I swear.

  5. This may sound trivial, what I’m about to say here. But I’ll say it anyway because I too vibrate at a pretty high frequency. I find the smell of lavender is the best and quickest trigger to ratchet back down again. For you it might be something else. Occam’s Razor, right?

  6. I believe the actual quote was “DO YOU WANT TO F@CKING DRIVE?!?”.

    So Ron, she’s actually editing out a lot of F bombs.

  7. Hey BF.

    I guess now I know why Colleen gave up writing children’s shows.

    She grew up and talks like a big girl.


  8. Hey, Ron.

    Before this devolves into an ugly thread, I want to express my gratitude to you for taking the time to comment, and to leave such a nice comment, at that. Even the kinda bossy part, which I recognize (at least, I think I do) that you left in the best spirit and with the best intentions possible.

    Fact is, I swear. Not everywhere, not all the time (and I’ve been reigning it in a bit lately), but I do. Usually, it’s calculated. Not always—I have my drop-things-on-the-toe moment, like anyone else.

    I understand and accept that the foul language I use here (and elsewhere, although not everywhere, and certainly not around the youngsters) will keep some people away. I’m sorry that it has to be that way, but not sorry enough to pack it away. At least, not at present.

    The BF can be protective of me and we can both be snarky when we start playing around with words. Online, minus context, it can come off harshly, even when we’re just horsing around. Which I’m pretty sure we both were here.

    I’m pretty sure the J I’ve heard about would be okay with the way I’m tossing around the f-bombs. If ever we meet, you can be damn sure I’ll ask. (See how I did that there? Calculated. For the joke.)

    In the meantime, I’ll chug along, feeling my way as I go. But for the record, we gave up the show because the stupid #@%! network wanted us to make it less like a smart show teaching kids about the arts in a fun way and more like Saved by the Bell.

    Fuck that noise.

  9. The ‘F-Bomb’ is quite expressive and I use it hourly and still manage to keep it fresh.
    The hot tempered red-headed streak runs through me and I’m no stranger to what you went through – I do it a few times a month (is that a lot?). It takes me several hours, if not days to repent to those not spared from my wrath. I should probably work on that…. When I’m tired and cranky – I attempt to get away from everyone and tell them so in a very cantankerous way.

  10. It feels so good to get permission like this. Because when I give myself permission, it sorta feels like I’m being irresponsible and lazy. Which in my heart of hearts, I know that I’m the opposite of.

    Your driving story reminded me of this crazy almost-accident where a guy purposefully swerved his car into our lane (a la police blockade) and got out and started yelling *for no reason*. I guess his poor brain snapped.

  11. Hey partner! Seems you knew you needed to slow down; it just took something Dramatic to push home the lesson? “You just might find, you get what you need…”

    P.S. Sneezing baby panda = cute overload. Mama panda’s reaction; priceless.

  12. Ron – Phew! And thanks.

    Jeri – You? Fly off the handle? Never. The font of peace and calm, you are. You and Ang. :-)

    Sarah – I know. It’s SO basic, but there’s this thing in our culture especially (and a few others) about pushpushmoremore. Ugh. Adam Kayce just wrote a nice piece about filling up. Some good stuff in the comments, too.

    And I’m reading Patti Digh’s book now, which has a wonderful piece (okay, MANY) on filling up.

    Jason – More sneezing pandas! Less exploding Colleens! (Thanks, yoda-partner.)

  13. As usual, thank you for the great message/reminder, and for being candid about your struggles!!

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