Sometimes he just disappears for hours. Often we will find him outside working in the yard. He may be meticulously cutting and trimming the grass, clipping the hedges, watering the flowers, or cleaning up the dog’s messes. Whatever the task may be that day, he is by himself. Occasionally, one of us kids will volunteer our assistance, and even when he accepts, the work is usually done in silent with the exception of the instructions that are occasionally barked. He drifts to the greenhouse frequently to dream up new features for our yard without telling anyone. Sometimes he goes to a movie by himself or he will float down to the basement, curl up on the couch with a bowl of homemade chex-mix, and watch a football game. Maybe he doesn’t want to disrupt our daily activities or maybe he just prefers to be alone with his thoughts. I am ninety- eight percent sure that it is the latter.
My father works fifty hours a week at a salaried job, yet he seems to work harder than his fellow employees. He comes home and the stress on his shoulders is evident, but he rarely complains. Usually, he takes that evening paper, slumps into his favorite oversize recliner, and lets out a giant sigh of relief. He keeps to himself and doesn’t go into detail about his day. Commonly concerned about our family instead of himself, arriving home from a stressful day at the office, he asks about my sister’s day and where we want to go to eat. Madison, my darling younger sibling, and I seldom agree on anything.
“Oh oh oh! Steak and Shake sounds so good!” I couldn’t help but to dream about a Frisco melt. A juicy burger, oozing cheese….yum.
“Ew,” Madison crinkles up her nose, “I want Cebolla’s!”
“God, you ALWAYS have to have your way, don’t you?”
My father gives an audible sigh showing his displeasure with our exaggerated disagreement and then the argument continues.
Imagine waking a massive brown bear, full of hunger and anger, from his hibernation. A giant being snarling his teeth, standing up on his hind legs and ready to pounce on any intruder invading his territory; This is the experience we have when my father’s “bomb goes off,” and once it goes off, it is best to high tail it out of his area and well out of his ear shot.
v. suppressed, suppression, suppression
1. To keep from being revealed, published, or circulated.
Suppression is a coping mechanism and it is used for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes people explode while others implode.
Getting off the bus after school, I walk down the sidewalk to my house, let Gizmo, our Yorkie puppy, do his business, and then travel to the basement to the little oasis that is my bedroom. Dropping my book bag at the foot of my bed, I then flop onto the mattress. I love just lying there in silence, the opposite of my life at school with the hustle and bustle of teachers lecturing and lockers slamming. I stay in my room for most of the night, working on homework or procrastinating. I could never have a TV in here because then I would never come out.
My dad comes home around six each evening and always finds time to mosey downstairs to my room, gently knock on the door, and ask if I am alright.
“How was your day?”
“The usual…Are you alright? Why are you down here by yourself?”
“Just doing homework, Dad.”
“Well, we have a table for a reason. You shouldn’t be in your room all night.”
And with the usual sigh, he leaves.
I commonly find myself annoyed by the presence of people. Often, I will retreat to the flat screen in the chilly basement, cuddle with a blanket, and turn on my favorite sitcom. All by my lonesome, I don’t mind. On days like these, I drift away for some time by myself. It never fails that on these days I am forced to accept company. My sister, Madison, commonly plops down on the opposite side of the couch and watches with me. This action seems harmless to others, but I grow frustrated quickly. Why does she choose today to watch shows with me? There are four TVs in this house and she chooses the one that is occupado.
For someone who doesn’t always enjoy company, I thrive off human contact: an infectious smile, a girlish giggle, or the inquisitive nature of a toddler. Sometimes I feel as if I steal a little bit of their joy whenever I am with them. I like to think of myself as a strong and independent young woman who can do it all on her own, but I know that is a big fat lie.
Moving from a calm state to a fit of tears in seconds isn’t out of the ordinary for me and anxiety attacks come often. The stress of a busy week finally hit me as I was driving my red Jeep Liberty all over God’s creation to find a working printer. I pulled to the side of the street, parked my car, and was instantly slapped in the face by a fit of emotion. This week a term paper was due, the pageant was drawing near, I received an F on a test, and I hadn’t seen my boyfriend in two weeks. My breath shortened and the tears were flowing. I called my dad and began to huff. My words were unrecognizable as I was sobbing and muttering all at the same time. My bomb went off.
Playing catch in the backyard, constructing a landscaping project, or playing cards, I was a tomboy and therefore attached to my dad’s hip. It is not strange that I find him to be my best friend. I am discovering that I can be a good venting source for him and him to me. It isn’t uncommon for him to come to me and have his mini bomb go off and explode into a full out rant. Usually it is about work, or my siblings, but I do get the occasional “your mother…”
“She loves to talk my ear off when I am at work and have so many things to do and get done, but when I get home she is already in bed and passed out!”
“Well, Dad, that is my mother. We all love her dearly, but that woman loves to talk.”
“It’s just so frustrating!”
“Maybe you should tell her that you want some time with her to talk after work and her sleeping habits cut in on your limited time together. Don’t get mad Dad, just talk it out or it wont get any better.”
He doesn’t like conflict and when it arises, the timer on his clock quickens.
My tendency to suppress my emotions and feelings has evolved as I have grown. When I feel weak, I imagine a ship in a bottle. I wrap up all my emotions and shove them into a glass bottle and chuck it into the hurling waves, hoping to never see them again. I’ve always felt that not succumbing to my emotions made me a stronger and more independent person. As I have come into adult hood, I have realized that this method creates more problems than it solves.
My boyfriend of four years, Austin, is what many people would call a gentle giant. He stands at 6’4”, has broad shoulders, hard muscles, a soft belly, and a heart the size of Africa. When Austin and I first started dating, he was very shy and introverted, quite the opposite of his large and dominating appearance. Compared to him, I was tiny and weak but loud and quite outspoken. If I didn’t agree with what you were saying, you would know. Our personality differences complemented our relationship, but when my emotions came into play and I suppressed them, our boat began to sway.
We were set to spend Saturday together. Austin and I were going to go to the movies and I was going to cook him dinner. Afterwards, we were going to snuggle up on the couch and just hang out with my family. He called me that morning.
“I can’t come today. I’m sorry, babe.”
“Oh. Why can’t we spend the day together?”
“My parents need my help with chores and they just told me that I had to stay home and help.”
“Did you tell them we had plans?”
“No, but they don’t care.”
“Are you mad?”
“No, I’m fine. Why would I be mad?”
I had learned how to mask my emotions and act as if I was perfectly content. As our relationship progressed, Austin caught onto my secretive habits. We have had many talks about just that: talking. We have learned that if we want to make our relationship work, we have to be open and honest with each other even if it is hard for us. Austin’s personality allows him to be quiet and reserved, but within our relationship, he has to speak his mind. I am rather loud and outgoing yet I suppress my emotions. If I can’t communicate with him, our relationship is doomed to explode.
Two months into my Butler University experience and I found myself in a cubicle, facing my dad on the computer screen, and muttering sobs of supposed English. I was so excited to go away to college and start my own life. I can’t wait to get out of the small town life, away from the cornfields, away from these people, and away from my annoying parents. I’m going to make so many friends and I just know I’m going to fit in right away. I am going to walk around the campus like I own it!
Little did I know, my classes weren’t helping me towards my career, I was the “poor kid”, people didn’t understand my humor, and I really missed the small town and its small town people.
“Dad, I can’t do it anymore…”
“What do you mean? What can’t you do?”
Fumbling my words and breathing heavily, I piece together the phrase, “I want to transfer.”
My world seemed to be crumbling. I don’t let my parents down. I do what I am supposed to do and that is the end of the story. There is no other option but Butler. This is where my brother went and this is where I am supposed to go. But I just can’t pretend anymore. Pretend like I am having fun, pretend like I fit in, pretend like I think people writing “sluts” on a hallway sign is funny; That isn’t who I am.
All of these thoughts and feelings came out after I realized that holding my feelings in would only make me feel worse. I’ve had these thoughts and emotions swishing around in the back of my head for some time. I let all my thoughts and emotions go over that Skype session. My time at Butler had been ticking at me and it was set to end as my bomb went off.
No matter the way we handle our stress, we will always have that ticking in the back of our minds. Tick, tick, tick…