Pregnant Pauses, Rubber Reactions, and Painful Self-Awareness

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Epictetus


“How do you fight?”

Well, gee whillikers, I thought, I try not to. It was a question I’d never been asked. Why make war when you can make love? The inquiry was about conflict, not physical fights per se. The question itself assumed I do have a lot of conflict in my life, and I don’t, not anymore anyway. Yes, I was once described as a pit bull and filled with piss and vinegar, but that was then and this is now. I’ve worked hard to eliminate and or diffuse conflicts. And physically, I don’t know the last time I had a fist fight? That might be as long ago as high school, a story for another day or never, for that matter.

When I received this question, I was on the phone and paced as I processed it. I think I repeated it back aloud. I played past scenarios out in my head, who I was then, and who I am now. I explained the reaction is contingent on intuiting the giver’s intention. So often we find ourselves in a conflict, that is not the result of the person on the receiving end, but it is the giver projecting his or her own unresolved problems on to that person. I have a lot of experience with this arrangement. And, hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my life, I took the bait and flared up a ball of fury and fire so fierce I even scared myself. Again, working in the present, I know that my initial reaction will dictate if I am a lover or a fighter, and in truth, I’d prefer not to be the instigator or arguer, but the peacemaker.

Tuesday, I learned in my first players’ workshop class that the audience expects the players to connect to an emotion within five seconds of the scene.

  • One-Mississippi
  • Two-Mississippi
  • Three-Mississippi
  • Four-Mississippi
  • Five-Mississippi

That’s a lot of Mississippis! The fifth emotion is the one you execute. My friends Linda and Karin were talking about our go-to emotions in any given scene, and how anger is so flipping easy to convey and while funny, it can be both exhausting and depressing. Who wants to be the best performing bitch? Not I!

Five-Mississippis affords us a pause, whether pregnant or short, it’s ok. Because when we take time to:

  • listen
  • absorb
  • intuit
  • and thoughtfully react

the audience will engage, our fellow players will be grateful, and our scene will probably do better in the long-term because it’s not slapstick or kneejerk comedy.self awareness

There is a point to this morning’s reflection. I had two conversations this week that were emotionally challenging. The first involved the topic of my last marriage, and the second was with my father. Given some space, I’ve reflected on my current abilities to process and effectively communicate responses.

In the first, I responded thoughtfully and adequately, yet found myself upset and offended by the inquiry. After writing and talking about it, I realized that I was neither upset or offended by the questioner, nor was I upset with my reaction, I was profoundly upset with the emotions the question triggered. The answer elicited an honest admission. No, I will never reunite with my ex-husband. That is my final answer. There is a super fine line between knowing that reality and articulating such. Like anything else in the atmosphere, once it’s out there, it’s out there. The admission was painful, upsetting, liberating, remarkable, and ironically joyful. None of those emotions and the events to which they were tethered was possible without self-awareness.

Similarly, a conversation with my father Thursday, that had it occurred in 1993 instead of 2018 would have triggered a completely different reaction, challenged my fight or flight instincts. In 1993, I would have taken the absurdity of the call personally and would have likely hung up and cut him out of my life for a period during which I would eventually forgive him but never forget. Listening to him the other night, I listened and I tried to retort diplomatically. Later I reflected on the exchange with my sisters. We agreed that situations like that require the use of our rubber making superpowers.

“I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say, bounces off of me and sticks to you.” 

Misery does love company. When misery comes knocking I need to decline the invite. Why? We have to respect ourselves. We need to know our limits. We need to filter the nonsenses and let them bounce off of us, and right into the trash. This ability I believe is an extraordinary example of self-awareness. I wanted to respond hastily and angrily. Where would that get me? An extra point in the game of absurd misery? No, thanks.

These two instances, bring me back to the inquiry of how I fight.

Do I fight like a girl?

Do I fight like a boy?

Neither. I try not to fight.

The lyrics from The Joker sprung forward as I wrote this, I’m not exactly the space cowboy, but I do know this to be true “I sure don’t want to hurt no one”.

The Joker, Steve Miller Band

Some people call me the space cowboy yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
‘Cause I speak of the pompitous of love

People talk about me baby
Say I’m doin’ you wrong, doin’ you wrong
Well don’t you worry baby, don’t worry
‘Cause I’m right here at home

‘Cause I’m a picker
I’m a grinner
I’m a lover
And I’m a sinner
Playin’ my music in the sun
I’m a joker
I’m a smoker
I’m a mid-night toker
I get my lovin’ on the run
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

You’re the cutest thing that I ever did see
I really love your peaches
Want to shake your tree
Lovey dovey, lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time
Ooh wee baby, I sure show you a good time
‘Cause I’m a picker
I’m a grinner
I’m a lover
And I’m a sinner
Playin’ my music in the sun
I’m a joker
I’m a smoker
I’m a mid-night toker
I sure don’t want to hurt no one

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

People keep talkin’ about me baby
Say I’m doin’ you wrong
Well don’t you worry, don’t worry, no don’t worry mama
‘Cause I’m right here at home
You’re the cutest thing I ever did see
Really love your peaches want to shake your tree
Lovey dovey, lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time
Come on baby now, I’ll show you a good time

Songwriters: Steve Miller / Eddie Curtis / Ahmet Ertegun
The Joker lyrics © Sailor Music


17 Thoughts

  1. A great musical spill to attach to this post, Karen. Apropos.
    I don’t know if being given to overly emotional responses and thoughts laid the groundwork for the health issues that reared their ugly head a few years back for me, but I think it was a contributing factor. Had to be. I wasn’t outwardly combative, but I was still taking things too seriously in some instances. Stuff that really had no right being a blip on my radar in the grand scheme of things.

    Your post is a great prescription for anyone who lets a phone conversation or an ex get the better of them. Don’t let it get the better of anything you do, or any part of who you are. That’s allowing it to own you.

    Great piece to think on, lots. Which is what your posts do. They make us think.

    Thank you, and peace to ya

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I had a few days and couple nights to think it through. In fact, I left a couple page straggled and bedraggled draft behind yesterday because I still had yet to process it. I know when anger was preeminent in my life, all kind of health issues surfaced. When we keep the bad stuff in, or we let it in, icky things happen to our insides. I hope in your case it has resolved itself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am printing out more materials to walk my precinct. I don’t have to tell the world I’m Irish. I already know it. I just need them to vote Tuesday. Nevertheless, happy St. Patrick’s Day! ☘️🍀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely love that phrase: “I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say, bounces off of me and sticks to you.”
    It is perfection.

    As discussed between you too, I truly believe anger and overly emotional reactions to situations are noxious to our health, both psychological and physiological.

    I am a step away from the conflict chick now, myself. And while still difficult to just step away and let go from the pissy phone conversation; I still strive to do so. Was face to face with such a situation today. After being taken aback for a bit, I just released it. Not my circus, not my monkeys…

    I enjoyed being the fly on the wall of your conversation!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dale, I was pretty sleepy when I read this last night. The “rubber remark” (let’s use that as a prompt!) was something we always said as kids when someone was being really mean. Today, when I encounter meannies, I visualize their words just bouncing off a trampoline!

      What I loved from you is this, “not my circus, not my monkeys”. We should use that as another prompt.


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