Category Archives: blue funks

Holding the Space for Crankiness

Friends used to say “hold the space” and I wasn’t sure where it came from or what it meant. According to the Urban Dictionary, it is the new modern term for being present for someone, listening to them. Listening is an old word. But still a powerful one.

photo by Philip Hiscock

I’m going to suggest here that we hold space for each other to be cranky. In the last wee while, I’ve seen college educated, lovely people–therapists, professors, homemakers, you name it–turn purple with rage over the smallest of unintended slights or inconveniences. In a world full of very real threats (police shootings, pandemics, and a few others) we’re getting mad because someone forgets to put ketchup packets in the bag.

(Apparently there’s a shortage of that, too.)

Crankiness is ugly. It’s childish. We’ve turned into mousetraps baited and waiting for someone else to set us off so we can snap at them. And while the rulebook for how we entered the health crisis hasn’t even been finalized, we are now starting to emerge from it with no plan whatsover. Will a buzzer sound? Do schools start up–wait, are they shut down again? In this brave new era, it would be easy to let “devil take the hindmost” replace the Golden Rule.

Can I affirm that you deserve to be testy? Feel free to hold your breath and turn blue until you get what you want–or, more likely, pass out. But most of us carry Naloxone and smelling salts, so it’s okay. We can’t get you what you want but we can sit by you while you cry bitter tears of baby anger because your balloon went up to the sky without you. We lost a lot of stuff this year. Worse, we lost a lot of people this year. Not a one of us isn’t carrying some form of grief.

Grief doesn’t come in sizes.

Could we take a moment to affirm grief for each other? You get to be sad about you’re sad about. Ignore those trying to spread daisy print gingham over everything, demanding you remember 24/7 to be grateful. Beat your fists against the table. Demand sage instead of onion dressing on your turkey. It doesn’t mean we’re not grateful for the turkey. There have to be some steam valves to let out what happened to us. Substituting one thing for another is valid. And perhaps safer.

Primal screaming was a communal thing last year. Primal screams get more respect than irritability. How could we not be cranky when we’ve spent a year exposing the nerves of our underbellied lives, trying to hold onto things, trying to regain things, trying not to care about things….. Crankiness might even mean we’re healing, like the itch in the scab over the wound. Once lanced, the poison dissipates without harm.

Be petty for five minutes. Your friends will hold space; then you get to do it for them. (Try not to do it in a really public setting, though. Your friends group is smaller than you think. Stick to them.) If we do run across an irritable person out there in social media land, could we just give them a either a kind wave, or a wide berth? Give them some space. They need it.

And once that’s done, we can get back to helping people. And posting memes on Facebook and calligraphy signs on our house walls about the gratitude we were supposed to feel this whole time.

Let it out. Hold space for each other to let it out. That will help it go away.

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Filed under blue funks, Life reflections, Wendy Welch

Talking to my Aunt

Post-vaccination, I made a recent trip to my parents’ house, the first since October 2020. I did the usual daughterly things: climbed a ladder to clean the gutters, sewed a quilt with my mom, got take-out for dinner, dusted the china.

Mom and Dad and I know what to talk about and what not to talk about. We have learned to avoid serving baited hooks to one another. The fact that Dad is hard of hearing and doesn’t like wearing his hearing aids makes this easy. I can always mumble my snarky reply to his latest FOX-inspired query, and when mom brings up Seuss, I make the sewing machine whir faster. We want to stay a family. I want to honor my friends who are deprived of inalienable rights by some of the policies the party not currently in power spews: LGBTQ friends, friends of color, friends of libertarian leanings, friends who want to shove that MyPillow guy into one of his own zippered cases, and friends who want to put a pillow over their ears and la-la-la into Spring.

I’m done trying to be all things to all people. I answer to Jesus, I want my family as a family, and I love my friends. I have begun ignoring those who scream I’m doing it wrong because I must choose truth and justice over family, or family over truth and justice. It’s come down to a case by case decision-making basis. No wonder we’re all exhausted.

Anyway, my aunt called while I was there. This is the aunt who bought us Christmas presents every year without fail. Snow White necklaces, fuzzy stuffed animals, our first watches. She and her husband ran a chain of stores similar to a Big Lots thing; they always had good stuff like Godiva Chocolates around, so of course she was our favorite. She was also the most fun. We did cool things we never told Mom and Dad about at her house. Mom’s still annoyed Auntie took me for an unauthorized haircut, but Auntie and I both knew the adhesive was never going to come out.

Auntie had mentioned to my parents a couple of times that she would love to hear from me, but did I get around to calling her? I did manage to drop a spontaneous card over the summer, which made me feel virtuous. So when Dad unexpectedly had her on the phone this recent trip, I asked to say hi.

We exchange how are yous and love yous and whacha been up tos, and then my aunt says, “I was rereading your book Little Bookstore the other day, and thinking about all Jack went through to be an American citizen, and got so mad. These days all anyone has to do is walk up to the border and they get right in. It’s awful, they’re rapists and murders, the lot of them.”

When I could speak again, I asked, “How is the food at your nursing home?”

She spit out more racism 101. In that gorgeous Midwestern accent so familiar to my childhood ears. The voice that said “wanna go to McDonald’s” when grandma made the hateful tuna casserole, and we snuck out of the house. The voice that asked, “Did you hurt yourself” followed by the laugh that let me know the broken lamp was of no consequence, after my sister and I faffed around indoors despite being told not to. It was an expensive lamp.

I stammered out again that I loved her, wished her well in recovering from the latest nursing home infection (not COVID) and gave the phone back to my dad.

Every day. Every day, we negotiate the edges. She’s in her ’90s. She was my childhood, she can’t be our future. I still love her. Dammit.


Filed under blue funks, Life reflections, small town USA, Wendy Welch