We Interrupt this Life for a Meltdown

Have you ever been puttering along a normal sort of way, and then suddenly, without warning, found yourself in a big wet, messy heap?

Once when I lived in London, I drank a bit too much at the after-hours while working at the pub. I was walking back home around 2 a.m. and one minute I was  counting Smart Cars along the road, then next I was busted out flat on the ground. I hadn’t even tripped. As far as I knew. My legs just gave out. I giggled to myself and got up and walked on.

A couple weeks or so ago, this happened again, only I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t alone on a dark street. I was sidetracked by a pile of life activities, and ended up inconveniencing someone by being late for an appointment. This person was royally pissed — that kind of pissed we all get when we aren’t pissed about the thing we are actually yelling about — and she poked her finger in my face and, well…

-poof-

I disappeared into the meltdown.

I think I knew I had been holding a bunch of stuff down inside for a while. Not too many of the people who knew me were that surprised. Even so, it’s a hell of a thing to lose it like that. There aren’t any sympathy cards for “So You Completely Lost Your Mind for 10 Minutes”  at the CVS. Friends left me alone for a week, which was understandable, but also made me feel lost and unhappy.

Though it did give me plenty (more) quiet time to think and reflect.

We don’t have space in our lives any more for the dirty grime of life. We hardly know how to grieve. Keening is out. You could punch someone and that might be mildly acceptable socially, but legally it won’t go well for you. I overheard an obviously frustrated mother yelling at her 8-year-old son at Target tonight, over the din of her other screaming kid. She was hollering, “Push the fucking cart would you?” and I wanted to hug her because no Mom shouts fuck in public at her kid and feels good about herself.

There’s a lot of pessimistic, cynical negativity being thrown at us. Constantly, every other minute. Facebook statuses, and twitter updates, diametric political conversations that look a little bit like Forrest Gump practicing ping pong against a wall. I’ve noticed it in myself these last few years. I’m hard on myself, and I’m hard on the people who gather around me.

And why not? The vibration of the human world can often sound like hopelessness.

But then:

-poof-

No, not a solution. Not an answer. Just a chance to do, as Pema Chodron says, to lean in to the feeling, and notice it, then to just allow the feeling to go. Then, suddenly you’ll look around and notice the clouds clearing. The meltdowns are always happening. It’s natural.

Ask the snowdrift what to expect.

But the breakthroughs of warmth and beauty are always there.

Ask the tulip bulb too.

 

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Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home. 

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  4 comments for “We Interrupt this Life for a Meltdown

  1. Liz
    April 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I noticed I was holding my breath as I read your words and then I had an overwhelming desire to cry, now my heart is just beating a little faster than usual, because well, I don’t know how to lean into it…yet. I read Pema to remind myself, but then, you know, I don’t make the time. I don’t want to get ugly, but I have found myself completely debilitated by headaches and stomach problems and just pain, and I realize as I read your words, that I’m not alone and I’m grateful. I love your writing. I love you. Thank you.

  2. jeff
    April 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    another GREAT piece can we call it a short story? not sure I am
    not sure I have ever known a writer before you are amazing E in so many ways and a cherished friend

  3. April 15, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Oh, how I loved this post, especially the line about hugging the mom who swears at her kid. Hugs.

  4. April 15, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Thanks for the kind words everybody! Tricia, I can remember being a different woman who would have been pretty judgmental of that mom, once upon a time!

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