I’m not a stormer outer.
During conflict, I’m more likely to stay until every last crackling ember is cooled and all the tension is smoothed over like a worn penny. I plant my feet, roll my eyes, and hold my ground like a martyr or a brick shit house.
But I guess there’s a first for everything.
I was ten minutes late, which means I had 80 minutes of group therapy left. I went in tense and coiled like a snake who’d just heard heavy footfall from her favorite hiding place. My seven other group members were already seated (minus one who never comes on Fridays), deep in a conversation about Michelle Obama’s inauguration dress.
Whew! The conversation is light and fluffy. Let’s keep this up for 79 more minutes, I thought as I took my seat and mustered a weak smile at the Good Doctor who ministers to all of us.
I’ve sat with most of these people since January 17, 2005, so we all know each other very well. That is, we know where the sore spots are, the hidden grudges, regrets and griefs that have been exposed over time. We know where the buttons are, and on occasion, we push them.
Through the years, I have watched group members reach their boiling points– they’ve seethed and screamed “enough is enough!” while grabbing their jackets and the paper bags with their leftovers from lunch. I’ve always thought it looked so satisfying to slam the door on all of us, leaving behind our prying questions, our inappropriate jokes and our rough hands that beg to work over someone else’s problem, regardless of how resistant he or she might be. As a group, we can be a huge pain in the ass.
But, like I said, it’s not my style to storm out early.
They were getting on my already-frayed nerves. It had been a long, roller-coastery week– UP I climbed when the venerable Huffington Post ran one of my pieces, and DOWN I crashed when I read some of the comments that seemed to criticize my parenting. Then, that morning I fell farther down as my favorite jeans felt tight. You really don’t want to fuck with me on the mornings that my jeans feel right. Trust me.
Then, it happened. Someone said something that I didn’t like. In therapy-speak, I was “triggered,” and suddenly, the subversive thought popped into my head: Just leave.
Since I’m a stayer, I didn’t listen. But, the persistent voice got louder: JUST LEAVE.
Next thing I knew I was all action: I snatched my coat and backpack from behind my chair and my cell phone from the window sill. A quiet euphoria filled my lungs. I decided against slamming the door– this was my first storm out so I didn’t want to be too dramatic.
I got to the elevator and realized how mad I was at all of them and the Stupid Doctor. I hated them for asking the wrong questions, focusing on the wrong part of my story, and for being up in my business. I let the tears of frustration out as I rode the elevator alone.
By the time I got to the street, I was really bawling, and I didn’t really care. It felt awesome to storm out. I wouldn’t have to see any of those
mother f*ckers people for a few days. Go me!
My phone was buzzing in my hand, and I saw a text pop up on my screen: You left your wallet up here. Do you want to come get it?
Oh, for the love of Freud’s pecker, I forgot my fucking wallet the one time I decide to stomp out of group.
Now I had to face all of them. How could I possibly hide my bitter tears from them? I was supposed to be strong and valiant– not weakly crying in front of the Disney store, tucking my tail so I could go get my wallet.
I’ll spare you the details of my humiliating return. Think prodigal daughter meets Girl, Interrupted.
With a few days distance, I am now poised to give you some advice: If you are going to storm out, be sure you grab all your shit. If you have to choose between your hat and your wallet, leave the damn hat, because you’re going to need the train ticket that’s in your wallet to get home.