I Googled extreme left side lower back pain, persistent cough, and armpit pimple, and discovered that I’m dying and may need to have my spleen removed. Buddy the Wonder Dog must sense this diagnosis, because he’s sprawled belly-up next to me right now pretending to be dead. He’s so good at playing dead that I just checked his breathing. I’m not sure if he’s being all simpatico or just making fun of me. Pfft.
Here’s an interesting byproduct of having all those symptoms, particularly the back pain: it hurts to yell. As a result, I am now on Day 3 of not being a yeller. I literally have been physically unable to lose my temper. Previously Undisclosed Fact: I have a bad temper. When I become angry or frustrated, I yell a lot. If I’m in a place or situation in which yelling is inappropriate, I cry instead. Sometimes, I yell a lot and then dissolve into tears. “Tricia is lots of fun to live with,” said no one ever.
In my paltry defense, over the years I’ve mellowed. I no longer go ballistic about silly stuff like the appalling way in which Hot Firefighter Husband loads the dishwasher or that woman with the weird mole at Target who always gives me the stink-eye. In fact, there are only two situations involving the general public that make me boil over: people who speed through parking lots, and Sears.
I suspect Sears customer service personnel do special training at a secret locale. They probably prepare for their jobs by holding bologna slices just out of the reach of 6-week old Golden Retriever puppies who must climb up a flight of stairs to reach them, and just as those sweet little pink tongues can almost taste the bologna, the trainees push the puppies down the stairs and the whole fucking thing starts again. Yes, I think I’m like a puppy.
(I’m sure Sears computer people scour the web looking for mentions of Sears. So: Sears. Sears. Sears. Sears sucks. Sears sucks. I fucking hate Sears. Sears = Satan.)
What’s really diabolical about Sears is that if you’re purchasing an appliance, they have great prices and can arrange to have it delivered, like, yesterday. But if you have an appliance that needs servicing, especially if it’s under warranty, some lackey prints out your request and folds it over three times and uses it as a coaster for his stained, leaking, coffee mug. For real.
And so it happened a couple of weeks ago that the local power company visited our neighborhood, shut off the power, then turned it back on, and my oven range was all, “WHOA. That was shocking. I think I’ll quit for a while.” Our range is only five months old, so I made an appointment with Sears to have it fixed. The appointment was five days out, but okay, that included a weekend, and I could live without an oven for that long. The stovetop still worked.
Last week, the day of the scheduled service, the repair person was scheduled to come between 9 am and 5 pm. Naturally. So late morning, I called the delivery hotline to see if I could get a narrower time window. I pressed a hundred buttons and answered a bunch of questions before speaking to a live person. I explained my request, and she said this: Okay, I have rescheduled your appointment for next Thursday.
And I was all, WHAT? No, you don’t understand. My appointment is scheduled for today. It’s been scheduled for a week. I have an email confirmation. You know what she said? I’ll tell you. She said, “If next Thursday doesn’t work for you, we can try another day.” I went ballistic, OBVIOUSLY, because I had entered the twilight zone. And while I was yelling at her, I got online and chatted with a helpful Sears chat buddy who told me that I was still scheduled for delivery today, so I told the phone lady she was crazy and unhelpful and that I’d found someone who could assist me. I hung out with the online guy for about a half -hour, then he turned on me, too. A technician had called in sick, he said. He had rescheduled me for next Thursday. So I got back on the horn and spoke with a woman who said I was still scheduled for service and she would call the technician to check on time. She put me on hold, I fired the online guy, then the woman on the phone disconnected me. I called back and spoke with a nice man named Thomas who pleasantly agreed with me about EVERYTHING, promised he would do his best to help me resolve the situation, lectured me about how he NEVER goes back on his word, then told me nothing could be done.
I spent two hours and a good deal of kinetic energy – I was stomping and gesturing wildly – yelling at assorted Sears personnel. Worthless. Except that toward the end of my tirade, my son started crying and pulling at me incessantly. I kept walking away from him so that I could continue belittling the Sears people until finally I heard this from my son’s whiny little mouth: MOM! YOU’RE ALWAYS TELLING US TO BE NICE TO PEOPLE, SO WHY ARE YOU BEING SO MEAN?
I pushed him away so I could continue ranting, but he followed me, almost frantically beseeching me: MOM! STOP IT! STOP YELLING!
The confused desperation in his voice stopped me. I gave up the fight, and hung up. I opened my mouth to explain that sometimes, people deserve to be yelled at, but I immediately intuited how he would interpret it – that all the yelling I do at him, the frequent derision in my voice, my shrill demands – he deserved it. So I shut up. I calmed down. And I pushed Sears out of my head for a few minutes so I could reassure my son that yes, Mom had been wrong to be so mean to people, and nothing terrible had happened, and we still had the chance to make it a good day.
Now, on a purely analytical level both Sears and my children deserve some yelling. Just recently the Pterodactyl and the Tyrant had violent arguments about: whose smoothie contained more strawberries, who owned an empty laundry basket, and who did a better job getting ready for school. Really? But here’s a mistake us moms make all too often – just because our kids deserve to be yelled at doesn’t mean we should actually do it. Because too much YELLING begins to change who they are.
After the Sears debacle, I remained a yeller for another day or so until Monday, when despite some slight back discomfort, I back-squatted 135 pounds. #WINNING But then Tuesday I couldn’t move without wincing. #LOSING. And so began my accidental sabbatical from loud parenting. #CATHARTIC And what I’ve found is that this quieter me is much better able to resolve the ridiculous, meaningless conflicts that my children invent in order to torture themselves. I’m moving slowly, speaking deliberately, and refraining from verbally reminding my kids that no one is better than me at making them feel like shit.
The result: utter mental exhaustion by the end of the day. But I’m also noticing that my kids are calmer, too. Yes, I spend more time talking them off the proverbial ledge – the ledge being that border between rational thought and debilitating break from reality. And in the process, I keep myself from leaping, too.
ADDENDUM: The oven has been fixed. An emergency room visit confirmed that I have a severe muscle injury which will heal with a healthy balance of rest, Valium, and ibuprofen. Most importantly, the yelling moratorium continues, at least for now. #valiumisbetterthansears