Several of us are busy downstairs, organizing the camping gear and packing up sneakers, shorts, sunscreen, and wedding attire. Organization is in her element; Anticipation is talking about the drive over the Rocky Mountains; Laziness has slid behind the couch, hoping no one notices her.
From upstairs, we hear what sounds like stomping. Is it a kick that shakes the walls? We look at each other, eyebrows raised. Then I get up from where I was on the floor, wrapping the waffle iron, and climb the stairs to the guest bedroom.
Sure enough, it’s Self-Loathing. In the last couple of days, she has gone from slightly pathetic and bewildered to noisy and irritating. I open the door to her room just as she kicks the wall again. She is wearing heavy boots, like the ones my brother wore in the army. There are already scuff marks on the wall. I hate myself! I’m just disgusting! I hate everything!
I watch her for a moment, and she turns it up, now that she has an audience. She runs her hand behind the novels on the bookshelf and knocks them all to the floor, then walks over some of them. I can’t stand it! I can’t do this! She rips the bedding off the bed and stomps over it as well.
I enter the room and touch her arm. She stops for a minute. “Hey,” I tell her, looking her straight in the eye. “I hear you. You are upset, and you want us all to know it, right?”
Yes! But you don’t want to listen! You try to shove me up here in this room by myself. You want to ignore me! Because you think I’m worthless. I AM worthless…
“Maybe we have wanted to ignore you, maybe that’s been true in the past,” I agree. “Not that you’ve ever made that easy. But we’re doing it differently now. You have been invited into the house, and like everyone else here, you get a voice. But here’s the thing. Right now is not the time. We’re getting ready for our trip. We have to leave early tomorrow. This isn’t the moment when we can give you the attention you want.”
You see? You never have time for me! I don’t matter to anyone! I know that.
“We’ll make time for you. We have 10 hours on the road tomorrow. Some of that time will be for you. You can say whatever you like, and we’ll listen. We want to know what’s going on for you and find out what you need. You can come down to the table in the common room, and a lot of the others will gather, and you will be center stage.”
Self-Loathing grows quieter, but her body language–cross arms, chin up, head to the side–signal defiance and suspicion. You’re just trying to shut me up tonight. But you’ll never get to me, never really make time. You’ll always put me off.
“You might think that now, and I know that feels bad. But you’ll see tomorrow. We really will show up for you. For now, I need you to recognize that you are just part of our family and not the one that runs the show. I run the show. I have to balance a lot of competing needs. Right now our primary need is to get everything ready so we can leave early in the morning and hit the road. We need to be all the way to South Dakota by Thursday night. Also this effort is about showing up with happy energy for our niece’s wedding. You don’t loathe Tamara, right? Only yourself. So for Tamara’s sake, we are going to take care of travel preparation tonight, and take care of you on the road tomorrow.”
All right. Fine, then, she tells me, reluctantly. As I turn to go back downstairs, she kicks the wall again, one more time, just to remind me that she’s still got those shit-kickin’ boots on.