We had just pulled up to the parking lot at the Children's Museum and both boys were asleep in the back seat. I got out, stretched, and sat in a patch of dappled sun. It was a perfect fall day: cool in the shade, warm in the sun. That was when I saw the uncomfortably familiar vehicle parked across the street at the plant nursery. Oh shit. It had a skybox. It could most possibly be her.
I took a breath. I putzed with my cell phone. I checked on the boys. I kept an eagle eye on the green van. On second look, it seemed more silver than green. Besides, what would the ice queen be doing down in this town, anyway? It was possible that it belonged to her, but probable that it belonged to someone else.
But then she appeared, holding her daughter as any mother holds a child (i.e. not in a particularly bitchy way) and dropping off a wagon in the front of the store before disappearing back inside. My heart thumped, thumped, thumped, thumped. I could feel each beat distinctly, powerfully. The moments were amplified by the sound of my own blood pounding through my own ears. I couldn't tell if it was the coffee or the adrenaline or some combination therein, but I had to take a shit and I had to do it soon.
Now I started using my phone as a phone, calling the short list of trusted friends and family who had seen the slow collapse of my emotional stability as I survived the ice queen's verbal beating upon verbal beating. I thought about the people who would understand the intensity of the present situation and who would have the sensitivity to know the right thing to advise.
Because the more I grow up, the more I learn that it's not always a great idea to make decisions while I'm hot. (Ask my mother; she probably knew this to be true by my third birthday.) On one hand, I didn't want to pass up a rare opportunity to stand up for myself. The ice queen had silenced me once with those icy tentacles, and I was eager to empower myself by finally responding to her... albeit two years later. These are the lines I came up with:
"Hi! Just wanted you to know you're still the most evil bitch I've ever met!"
"Hi! You look awful! I still hate you!"
I'm not proud, okay, but that's the best I could do. I called my friend who was escaping from an emotionally-abusive romantic relationship at the same time I was escaping from my emotionally-abusive professional situation. She helped pull me out of my hole and I helped pull her out of hers. She wasn't home.
I called my friend who just moved out of state. She knew everything about me and was level-headed. She didn't answer.
I called both my mom and my mother-in-law. Nothing.
I called my sister. I called my friend who knows the ice queen professionally and has expressed retroactive sympathy for the abuse I suffered. I called my other sister. No answer. No answer. No answer.
Let me be clear: I didn't want to KILL the ice queen, but I was struggling with my own dark and light responses to her. The trouble was that I didn't know which was which. If I said something would I regret having instigated something (anything) with a she-devil? If I said nothing would I regret having been passive and weak? What was the "right" thing to do? What the hell WOULD Jesus do?
In the end, I decided to sit back and glare. I did find it in my heart to flip her off as she turned onto the main road; this expression of quiet anger felt remarkably appropriate. As she drove away, Baby D woke up. I said a silent thank you for having somewhere along the way transformed into the kind of mother/ kind of person who doesn't have to make a scene. I felt like a grownup and my heart began to beat normally.
I considered how I could schedule meditation into my weekly routine, brought the boys into the museum, and went on with my day.
And I think that's a good thing.