A gazillion dandelions

Bert’s on my case about the blog. 

“Too theoretical,” he sniffs.   “Too metaphorical.  You should write about real life.”

“I’m doing the best I can,” I reply.

“I know,” he sighs. 

Then brightens. 

“Hey, give me a turn.  I could tell stories.”

“Not sure I’m ready for that.”

“Come on.”

“No.” 

“Who’s the coward here, anyway?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay,” he sighs.  “But if you’re not careful you’ll lose them.”

“Shut up, Bert.”

“I’m just saying.”

Then this morning something happened and I decided maybe he was right and I should give him his chance.

So here it is, Bert’s first post: 

It’s 94 today and humid.  Went walking anyway.  Have to, heat index notwithstanding.   I need to get my weight under control.

So I’m walking down the street, heat rising off it in waves, and a cop car passes and pulls to the curb fifty yards ahead of me.  Then a second cop car arrives from the opposite direction and does the same thing.

Two cops get out in their blue uniforms and their heavy black belts.

Poor guys, I think.  In this heat.

They cross the street to where a couple stands on a lawn, arguing.

The guy is yelling at the woman.  The woman yells back, waving her arms.  Two little girls stand under a tree in pink sleeveless tops, holding hands and crying. 

Inside me thoughts and impulses spring up, boink boink boink, like cartoon dandelions invading a summer lawn:

(1) I want to about-face and walk back down the street.  Avoid upset.  Reduce anxiety. 

(2) I can’t about-face.  What if someone notices.  What’s his problem?  

(3) I want to go to the two kids.  Sit on the grass.  Calm or distract them somehow.  They stop crying, I’ll feel better.

(4) Can’t do that either.  Dad might punch me.  Mom might scream.  Cops might whip out their handcuffs.   

 (5) I hear my own thoughts.  I get mad.  Handcuffs?  Steve.  Chickenshit.  Seriously.

(6) I get mad at whoever called the cops.  (In full projection mode now.)  Mind your own business, Sir or Madam.  Leave these people alone.  Also, I’m trying to take a walk here.

(7) It occurs to me Sir or Madam is probably scared too.  Why they called.  Calling’s just their version of the about-face I wanted to make.  Officers, please remove this.  Now I regret I got mad at them.

(8) I think of the cops.   What’s it like, standing there, trying to calm angry people in this heat?  Are they trained for this?   How?  Instruction manual?  Rehearsal in a steam room?  And are they screened adequately?  Do more people get shot by police in the summer? 

(9) I notice I’m writing all this down in my head.  Make them see what a control addict sees.

(10) I about-face, walk home to type it out before the heat melts what I’m thinking.

Moment to moment control issues bloom, boink boink boink, like a gazillion dandelions.

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3 responses to “A gazillion dandelions

  • Susan P.

    I was right there with you, walking past the people screaming and the cops coming and the kids crying. I have been there – as a “bystander,” and as the woman herself. I’ve been in stores and watched as a mother says the most awful things to her kid or even worse, walloped him/her, her face red with rage – and everything in me is saying go over and defend the kid, tell the mother off. But again, I’ve been that kid, with that kind of parent. So I wonder: Do we freak out like this mainly when we identify with the person being abused (the kid, the mother, let’s say) because we were there even if a long time ago and so this is really about trying to fix the shit that happened to us OR is this a human virtue, to want to DO SOMETHING when someone (even a stranger) is suffering? Complicated. And another thing: What is the difference between control and compassion? And doesn’t compassion move us to take action sometimes, like protesting war when you see the pain on the face of a parent who has lost a son to combat, or is even that the work of control?

    Bert, you done good.

    • fritzfreud

      Love these questions.

      Sure, identifying with the actors in some drama can trigger controlling urges. But I think it’s bigger than that. We want to control whenever the world disappoints, frustrates or scares us. We want reality to meet our expectations, and when it doesn’t, well, we try to force it to (if only in our heads). That’s human nature. Animals adapt to reality; we want reality to adapt to us. Which can be pretty unrealistic.

      Compassion means feeling-with, i.e., feeling another’s feeling. Control and compassion can certainly overlap. One may drive the other, for example (as Bert’s pain at the kids’ pain made him want to go over and reduce it). Actually I’m not sure compassion is genuine if it doesn’t lead, in some way, to controlling. But the big difference I see between them is that compassion focuses on the feelings of others, where control is essentially narcissistic. My controlling comes from wanting me to feel better or more comfortable — me, not you. You may benefit from my controlling. But my feeling, not yours, is my main concern. Which explains why controlling people often come across as insensitive or uncaring.

  • marsha

    Chances are it was the neighbors who called the cops, tired of numerous loud conflicts.

    Cops, a socially approved venue of control over others. Doesn’t really work all that well either.

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