…and where did the real Evie go?

Some days I don’t recognize myself.  It can be a little disturbing, to be honest.

I had one of those days last weekend.

Carlos and I took a short trip up into the northern mountains.  I had to go because I’m leaving the country soon and Monday needed a new home.  A man in the vicinity of Arenal saw my Craigslist ad and wanted her, so I agreed to take her to him.  In the process, I figured we might as well make a looping mini-trip of it and see both Volcan Arenal and Monteverde.  I hadn’t seen them, I’m leaving soon, I had to go up to that area anyway…it all made sense.   I’ll tell you about the trip itself later.  For now, back to the question at hand.

WTF happens to me some days?

On the second day of our trip, as we were chatting about this and that, Carlos and I ran across a snag.  He said something I didn’t understand.  I’m still learning Spanish, and sometimes I don’t get everything.  This is not helped by the fact that he feels some strange need to try to explain- in detail- relatively complicated grammatical things to me instead of just finding a different way to say whatever it was that I didn’t understand.  But, I digress…

I got confused, and I found myself, 20 minutes into the “I still don’t understand what you were trying to say” discussion, doing something I haven’t done in years.  I literally threw my hands up in the air in the world’s most dramatic gesture, growled, turned around, and stormed off muttering my frustration in every language I could think of.  Then, when he asked, “A donde vas?”  I turned right back around to snap at him about what a frustrating teacher he was.  I was so angry my hands were shaking and it was everything I could do to keep my voice from rising to hearing-damaging decibels.

I’ve never been a yeller.  Not really.  High school hormones and extreme provocation don’t count.  I’ve always prided myself on being a kind, understanding, calm, rational, patient woman.  I had to be to teach.   But the truth is, I’m not as calm, rational, and kind as I’d like to be.

As I stormed away from him, doing my best to not actually yell, I heard my own voice in my head asking, “Who the heck is this woman, and where did I go?”  When I calmed down, of course, I apologized for being irrational.  Because I was being irrational. While the language barrier is frustrating it’s certainly not something to become angry at, and he certainly hadn’t done anything wrong.

Sometimes I simply am not the master of my own emotions.  Sometimes I look up and realize they are far bigger than me, that somewhere inside me lives a dragon, breathing fire.   That’s a new development for my adult self.  Sure, as a teenager, all it took was a little irritation to set me off, but I grew out of that.  I grew into someone who kept a lid on her emotions, on her anger, her frustration, her sorrow, her fear, her grief, her disappointment, her everything.  I kept it tucked neatly away, telling myself, “I don’t have time for that.  I don’t have time to fall apart…I’ve got to survive.”  As survival techniques go, it was effective; it got me through college, a nightmare marriage and divorce, and the stress of teaching when I didn’t even feel like a real grown-up yet.  I kept a job, made ends meet, got good grades, got complimented on my teaching and my yearbook management, and made far more friends than enemies.  But I kept everything to myself as long as there was anyone around to see it.  And it ate at me.

Being angry and unhappy all the time was why I quit my job and came to Costa Rica.  I was overwhelmed and I was pissed.  I hated my life and knew I wouldn’t survive it much longer unless I changed it.  And I knew I had some serious soul searching to do.  I needed to find a way to be a whole person, all the time, and not keep this  part compartmentalized to separate it from that part, keep the other thing from all the rest, and then put on just the right facade to cover it all up.  That wasn’t me.  But me isn’t a woman who’s irrationally easy to anger, overly sensitive, or quick to become emotional either.

The me I want to be is the woman who sees every emotion in the range, lets herself experience it as it comes, but also looks beyond the surface to ask, “Why?  Why does this make me feel that way?  Should it, or is there something else going on?”  That’s the me I want to be.

It’s hard though.  It’s hard to let go of the most effective coping trick (cover up and denial) and yet not fall back on the previous one (childish overreaction).  But that’s one of the many purposes to the journey I’ve put myself on.  Learning to accept myself while holding myself to the personal standards my beliefs about kindness, gentleness, and acceptance set for me.  Ahhh, balance.  It all comes back to that word, doesn’t it?!?