I’m a firecracker. A little explosive even. My mouth tends to get me in trouble. A lot. Historically speaking. I’d very much like to blame this on my parents. First my father who I believe gifted me with my combustible nature. And I do mean gifted. After all, I am able to use this burning flame to the benefit of myself and others. Sometimes. Then there’s my mother, nary a firecracker in her, but she did leave me in a hot car. In the Tampa heat. When I was just three years old. “Jesus Christ it’s hot in here,” my mother heard as she opened the car door after those (no more than) 20 seconds. Thus beginning the saga of my dramatic nature. My explosive mouth. The trouble to be had. Historically speaking.
A couple of years ago I was out with some friends. Listening to live music. Sipping IPAs. Chatting with new acquaintances. Enjoying myself. When out of the blue, this friend of a friend (ahem, asshole), spoke out loudly calling me an ask-hole. “An ask-hole?” I repeated, “what the hell is that?” But I didn’t need to hear his coy response. I knew exactly what he was saying. Shut up and stop asking questions. Shame washed over me. My face blew up with heat. I felt like the little girl who dropped the entire jar of strawberry jam on aisle 12. The adolescent who was told her front teeth were big enough to be a garden hoe in front of all of her friends in the middle school cafeteria. The teenager who was teased by a chunky classmate about the acne on her skin. Shame. Embarrassment. I shot back with the broadest smile I could muster, threw my head back with a cackle, and said, “You’re right, I’m totally an ask-hole!” Everyone laughed.
It’s true. I do ask a lot of questions. If you’ve met me for five minutes, you’ve experienced this. It’s how I connect with people. It’s how I get my endless curiosity fed. I’ve always been this way. Moving around a lot as a kid will do that to you. You learn to make conversation. To meet people. To make yourself comfortable in social situations that could otherwise, be daunting. And so I began asking questions. And I began realizing that people love talking about themselves. And so it made conversation easy for me. And enjoyable. Because I also began realizing true pleasure in learning about others. What matters to them. What hurts them. What fuels them. What lights them up. What makes their hearts sing. That’s the anthropologist in me. And it’s actually a part of myself I’ve always been proud of. Until this jerk-off called me out on it. In a crowd. Made me question myself. And made me feel ashamed.
I wish I could say I’ve never made someone else feel shame. Or embarrassment. Or question themselves. But it’s not true. I have. Historically speaking. With my explosive mouth. And my actions. I’m far from proud of it. There was the time as a teenager when I called my sweet little 7-year old sister a bitch. All because she wanted to watch something on television that I didn’t. The nerve. Or the time in my late twenties, spewing nastiness to my father as he chased me around a table trying to put an end to my disrespectful tirade. I could continue. But I won’t. I never put these two things together: the ask-hole and the explosive mouth. Not until today. Not until I started to listen. It’s so easy to look back and think we’re not so bad. That our actions or words haven’t impacted others. I’m sure that jerk of a friend of a friend hasn’t even considered that he called me an insulting name. Or that it hurt my feelings. Just like I didn’t realize that I hurt my little sister. Until she was in a car accident. Just weeks later. And nearly died. All I could think about was that I dampened her precious little spirit. And I felt like shit because of it. I prayed to God I’d have another chance to be her big sister. And he gave that to me. To my family. Sadly, I didn’t live up to my end of the bargain. I still allowed my explosiveness to get the best of me. Give the worst to others. And I continued to hurt people. People I loved. People I still do.
I spoke with Dr. Piper today. You know, the one with the Groucho Marx-styled mustache. The one who with his small round glasses and blue eyes will fix this explosive mouth once and for all. Or at least the dead parts of it. I might have the slightest bit of crush on him. Not because of the mustache or the piercing eyes. Though they are very charming features. But because of the way he makes me feel. He lets me ask questions. And he answers them. All of them. With a sense of calm that is everything explosive is not. I mean really, when a doctor tells you that he has to peel your ear back to repair a dead joint in your skull, you might have a few questions to ask about that. Especially when the price tag is that of a luxury automobile. Especially when you’re me. But he didn’t call me an ask-hole. Or express irritation at my pettiness (like how bad is this shit really gonna hurt?). He listened. He answered. He validated me. Instead of shaming me.
It’s been about two months since I met Dr. Piper. And in the same time, I’ve started writing again. In the bathtub. While I’m eating lunch. Driving in the car (thank you, Siri). Nestled in my bed sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. It’s not a coincidence. You might say Dr. Piper is the reason for me becoming The Girl Who Listens. I believe that’s true. He delivered some pretty shitty news more delicately than I’ve ever spoken to anyone in my life. And he sat there listening to me. Responding to me. He even patiently watching me cry. Like big ugly tears cry. The worst. And I think his CT-scanner is something revolutionary. Because I’m pretty sure it revealed to him more than just a dead joint. I think that he saw other parts of me dying, too. Other parts not getting enough blood. I know that sounds dramatic. And it is. C’mon. I might be a better listener. But I’m still me. At one point on that day in February, he said, “I can fix your joint. But I can’t make you heal. You have to figure out how to make that work for you.” And I heard him. I listened. Like really listened. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant at the time but I knew it was profound. And I knew that my life as it were was not conducive to healing. I knew my explosiveness would get in the way.
And so I started writing. Diving deep. Getting vulnerable. Soul searching. Truth telling. And I’m saving myself. From anxiety. From insecurity. From fear. From explosion. I’m kind of saving myself from me. Or at least the parts that don’t work in my favor. Or for others. I don’t think I’ve ever been so quiet in my whole damn life. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve had an explosive word in like two or three days. Am I right, mama? I know she’s reading this and will totally call me out. Just like the ask-hole. Except nicer. And what’s crazy is that my mouth hasn’t even been shut yet.
The date has been set. The closure is coming. The first week in June. And just in time, too. Just as this firecracker becomes a little less full of dynamite. A wee bit less explosive. A hell of a lot quieter. And killer at making smoothies.