bracing for the flood

Once, when I was 16, I broke a nail in gym class. The class was divided into small groups of 3 or 4, and we were doing basketball drills. The ball had made contact with one of my long, carefully painted nails and snapped the tip right off. (It seems so alien to me now, that I had invested time into the appearance of my hands, but what can I say? I was 16.) I shrugged off the broken nail and kept going. Another girl in my group of 3 had noticed me dealing with the broken nail and said, “I’d cry if I had nails like that and one broke.” I laughed. Then, before I even realized it, the tears started flowing. To all appearances, I was crying because I’d broken a nail.

The girl who’d made the comment looked embarrassed for me. I was glad that third person in my group was my closest friend, but she too looked baffled and embarrassed for me. I couldn’t explain why I was crying. I know I was lovesick for a boy who had no interest in me, and that was the explanation I gave. But really, my life had just gone through some major upheaval. It was nothing too dire. My mother had recently remarried, and had moved to France to live with her new husband. I had opted to stay in California, and finish my junior year, before joining her in France. I moved into my best friend’s house to stay with her and her family for 2 months. My sister, who was 19, moved into an apartment of her own. While much that was going on was happy, it was a stressful time full of transitions. I hadn’t even realized that I’d had tension building up until I broke a nail.

The trouble with being strong through a stressful time is that my emotions don’t actually go away. I bottle them up until I have time to deal with them. That broken nail in high school was just one such instance. I have had other equally messy and embarrassing episodes, always a few weeks after some major stress.

The past month has been a trying one. I have dealt with one crisis or ordeal after the other and kept going, because there was still more that needed to be done. I have packed my grief away and have carried around crankiness instead. Now, though, the crises are letting up. The pressure from outside is easing, and I sense that my internal pressure is still high. I can’t help feeling that the flood is coming, just waiting for the right catalyst.

I just hope I won’t make too much of a spectacle of myself.

13 thoughts on “bracing for the flood

  1. Interesting how you can know yourself so well, but still not know exactly what will send you into the flood. I wish you the best– whatever may come your way.

  2. You have coped with far too much to worry if you break up a bit. No one who knows you could possibly be anything other than sympathetic as all get out.
    I do the break-out thing, but it comes out as anger. Now THAT’s embarrasing.

    1. Ah, Mary, but the anger may come, too. And then anger may trigger the tears. And while I don’t mind crying in front of friends or people who know me well, it could happen anywhere. Once it happened on a plane at boarding time. (And that one was triggered by anger.)

  3. For what it’s worth, there’s no way I would have been able to handle living with a friend for 2 months in high school and then relocating to another country, even though there are cool aspects to both. I’d have been crying well before the broken nail.

  4. I’m sorry it’s been such a hard and stressful time! I am sure that whenever the “flood” happens, it will be cathartic. Hang in there!

  5. I am the same way. I deal with what I have to deal with at the time with what appears to be grace and strength, and then in a seemingly quiet moment or uneventful time, I fall apart and everything I thought I’d “managed” is resurrected.

    1. Glad to know I’m not the only one like this, V-Grrrl. I know you’ve been dealing with a lot lately, too. Too bad we can’t get together for the catharsis.

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