Don’t take a pill, instead have a strange impulse…
I’m sitting at the kitchen table with a coffee and a book, Lydia Davis’s ‘The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis’. I’d arrived home only ten minutes earlier after doing the school run and I’m basically procrastinating before I start working on the computer. Flicking through the short story collection I pause at the paragraph-long story ‘A Strange Impulse’. A smile creeps onto my face. An ironic smirk actually. The story starts with the narrator looking down from their window and who watches with surprise as shopkeepers cover their ears, and then the narrator observes:
“And why were there people in the street running as if pursued by a terrible specter? Soon everything turned to normal: the incident had been no more than a moment of madness during which the people could not bear the frustration of their lives and had given way to a strange impulse.”
And why did I smirk? While driving my daughter and friend to school on my so-called-day-off, (day off from the real job) we became grid-locked, the kind that brings a city to a breaking halt. We weren’t even travelling into the city, just going from one suburb to the next, but still we were caught up regardless. Sitting at intersections and roundabouts I constantly restrain from shouting at impatient drivers and their constant near misses.
My daughter flicks from one radio station to another for music, but all she can find are talking heads. The kind of talking heads who laugh at their own jokes. One station the DJs are making play dough figures. And what’s the point of that? How many of us driving during drivetime can see their ‘artistic’ creations? How many people of us have the time at that time of the day to check their social media site and laugh with glee at their kindergarten antics? And when it comes down to the nitty gritty who really cares about which DJ could sculpt the best. Hear my frustration?
The daughter keeps flicking. Why doesn’t she just plug in her phone I think in irritation? But it’s one of those mornings where my opinion will only be scorned, as only a child can scorn a parent.
And the car crawls.
The morning hadn’t been exactly going smoothly even before we hopped in the car. I’d already lashed out like a crazed toddler. This was due to: Teenagers who didn’t think they needed to wash their own plates and place these plates into the dishwasher. Teenagers who fell out of bed late and then blamed their mother for all that then went wrong in their mad panic to leave the house. Teenagers who didn’t do the chores they were paid to do, just because they thought they could. I was over teenagers. I was over my children.
I’d forgotten my new Zen promise by now…letting go…living in the present…not holding grudges…and moving on… No I was going to blow, snap and be the kind of parent I detested.
The flicking of the radio station, the traffic, the teenager behaviour – it all came to head. I grunted and then another noise escaped, a rather low pitched scream – I’d just surrendered to a ‘strange impulse’.
“Mum!” The daughter raises her eyes.
Well at least the boiler top didn’t explode. The roar more of a squeak. A moment of frustration when life wasn’t living up to my expectations. A minuscule, but definite moment of madness.
And still the car crawls.
Often when the boiler is starting to surpass room temperature you often can only think of two solutions, ignoring it till it explodes or breathing deeply.
This time I took the middle road and had a ‘strange impulse’. A simple scream.
As long as you don’t mind strange sideway glances or people crossing the road in fear, it’s a rather satisfying option…and surely must be better than taking another pill!