Control is one of those coping tools that so many people use, including me, to deal with unresolved feelings from their childhood. According to Webster’s, to control is to adjust to a requirement; to regulate; to hold in restraint. Whether it is people, feelings, or situations, it’s all the same. Controlling is exercising authoritative or dominating influence over these things. Some people have no idea what causes controlling attitudes to surface. For me, even though it has taken me years, I have realized that mine comes from what I call The Waiting Game.
My mother’s idea of ensuring that I had everything that the Jones’ had was to enroll me in dance classes. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school, my mother dropped me off at Joel’s House of Dance for Ballet, Tap and Jazz class. I walked home from school each day while my mother was still at work. She would pick me up at home after she got off work and drive me to the dance studio.
I anxiously entered each class anticipating the lecture I would get for not having the correct tights on that day since at six years old, I packed my own bag. I would have asked my mother to pack it the night before if she had been home instead of out at the local bar. When I did have the correct tights, I endured the staring eyes at the hole near my knee or the same stain that had been on my leotard throughout the last two or three days of classes. As soon as the music began, I became a prima ballerina in Sleeping Beauty that the Prince had magically awoken from her long drifting sleep. I tapped like Shirley Temple and Bill Bojangles with fiery feet and precise rhythm. I commanded my mind to embark on a journey to exotic stages where I was the star of the show, to remove myself from that small town dance studio where I was meager than the other girls who surrounded me. I knew if I had worried about what would happen after dance class I would never be able to be in the moment of the movement and the music. Once the music was over, my trancelike state was revoked as the realization of a long, lonely wait came to fruition.
I dilly-dallied we were dismissed, changing my clothes and shoes as slowly as possible in the hopes that all the other girls would be gone when I walked out the front door. I knew my mother wouldn’t be out in the parking lot in her old Toyota station wagon waiting for me like the others, but still, hope resided in my heart. What I didn’t know is when she would finally arrive to pick me up, anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours later. I waited, gazing in the direction from which she would be arriving. Each time I heard the faint sound of a humming engine approaching, I literally crossed my fingers, pleaded God, promising to be good if only He would make this car be hers. Hungrily, I hoped. Thirstily, I longed. Exhaustingly, I prayed. When she finally appeared, each time, I almost wished I hadn’t wasted so much energy on hope, except that many times it was cold outside and the warmth of the interior of her car embraced me. You see, she was always so angry about picking me up. I had a sinking feeling that she had wished she could have left me there forever.
There were times in the past that I waited inside the building, watching the big girls’ classes, enjoying the sounds, being warmed by the heat and cooled by the air conditioning. The last time that happened, the owners were ready to close up shop for the night, but waited for my mother, scolding her for leaving me, warning her not to do it again. I paid the price for the tongue-lashing she got and was told not to ever wait inside again. I carried the resentment of The Waiting Game for at least thirty-years, maybe more.
My aggrieved feelings may have been lessened if my mother had been working during the times I waiting in the cold without food or drink for her to pick me up. If her car broke down… If she had a flat… If she had to work late… If she was helping a friend… But none of these were the case. She was out at a bar, flirting with married men so that they would buy her drinks, spending the child support check on beer and wine. That was always far more important than her children.
There are those who call me an ingrate for begrudging her in the first place, who say there are girls who would have been more than obliging to have an opportunity at dance classes. But those people don’t understand narcissism in the way that I do. Dance classes were for her; they were a way for her to pronounce herself as a “good mother” for “sacrificing” in order to pay for dance classes. (My father paid for dance classes. I gave the check to the secretary every month.)
The Waiting Game didn’t just happen at dance class. It happened any time she vowed to pick up my brothers or me from a friend’s house, an after school activity, the movies, a party, etc. To this day, I abhor being even a few minutes late for anything. On the off-chance that my husband has to pick me up, ten to fifteen minutes before that time a great amount of anxiety will overcome me just as if I were sitting outside of Joel’s House of Dance again, all those years ago.
People who know and love me sometimes wonder where all my control issues stem. Control was the perfect tool to combat The Waiting Game. As soon as I was able, I stopped letting myself be in a situation where I may have to wait and relive the anxiety that left me with feelings of hopelessness and abandonment. Although I would love to write at this point that my control issues have subsided and are completely under control, but I have to be completely honest with myself in stating that control is still the biggest demon that I am facing in my life.
Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering. Paulo Coelho