That’s as opposed to “closing time” which was when people like me used to rush the bar to get the last shots of alcohol. The time came when I didn’t wait for closing time because that would mean I was too drunk to drive. Did I quit drinking? No! I carried my drinking rear home and continued a party of one.
Now you would think that would have been a sad and lonely way to party, but by the time I had gotten to that point, I wasn’t much of a fun party girl. Besides, I had the committee in my head to talk to. (“When he said that, I should have said…” or “Let me tell you what happened…”) The voices in my head always agreed with me and if they didn’t I shut them up with another drink. There’s a point where even the voices in your head have had enough.
A smart woman like me should have known that I had passed the magic hour of quitting time with my drinking. Overstayed my welcome. Was the veritable guest who smelled like stinky fish. But no. Knowing when to say when has never been a talent of mine.
I used to play “Uncle” with my sisters. There were two actions that might make you call “Uncle.” One was to pinch an inch of skin and twist. The other was an Indian rug burn. That’s when you grasp the victim’s (a.k.a., sister’s) forearm firmly in both hands, and then twist your hands in opposite directions about her arm, causing the skin to stretch, making it red and sore. In the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand they call it Chinese rug burn. In India and China, it’s called buffalo rug burn.
We perpetrated those actions on one another until you couldn’t keep twisting or your sister cried “Uncle.” I rarely cried “Uncle.” I learned that toughness from my sister, Georgie the Elder, who would pit the two of us against our four boy cousins in china berry pelting wars. The war usually ended when our cousin Matt would burst into tears and get his dad because my sister had an accurate and deadly pitch and would brave china berry bullets in the face so she could get a good aim and maim the “enemy.” It never ended because we two girls surrendered.
Refusing to quit has held me in good stead at times and kept me in the stew at other times. I persevered at construction estimating even when I didn’t have enough knowledge to do a good job. Then I thought I would know more if I had either gone to college for estimating or worked on a construction site. Today I know that it takes years of experience and mistakes to learn how to do a half-way accurate job of estimating work. I know that the most detailed estimate still depends on factors beyond my control. Weather, spiking fuel prices, budget constraints, or an intransigent and inexperienced engineer can explode the costs and sink the budget.
I might have walked away feeling that there was no point to even trying this career. It is a career that has helped support us for years. It is both challenging and rewarding. I wouldn’t have known that if I’d just quit and taken up something different.
When I continue an argument well past quitting time, I have put myself into a stew. Determined to have the last word, I have injured others directly with my words. Sometimes I say the words face to face; more often, and most injurious, have been the words spoken behind someone else’s back. The last word in those instances have had a painful ripple effect that I didn’t foresee. I am a verbal hit man.
In sobriety, I’ve had to make amends for my inability to just quit talking and leave the fight alone. I wish I could say that stopping drinking caused this character defect to go away, but I am still guilty of wanting to have the last word by whatever means are available.
I do glass cutting for both concrete inlay and stained glass. Sometimes I make my pattern and sometimes I am idiot enough to freehand cut the glass. There have been many times when I’ve wanted to throw my hands up and quit. Often the offending design will sit on my drafting table waiting for me to come back to it. Inevitably, I go back and finish. It would be easier to quit, but I would never get to see my vision in 3-D. I was talking to my niece about times when I want to walk away from a project. Easy work. Won’t quit. Repetitive work? Want to quit. Impossible work? Want to quit. Impossible work once I’ve figured out how to make it work? Can’t stop for sleep or food. (Which never happens. The food part, not the sleep part. I can do without sleep. When I quit eating, I will be in a ceramic urn.)
It has taken me a few years to believe that I have no control over anything that is beyond the tip of my nose. I’ve spent-oh, heck, I still spend-time trying to manage my life and the lives of those around me. And the lives of other people, places and things nearly always run counter to my happiness. Maybe not all of them, all at once, but I’ve never been able to get a unanimous “Margaret’s way is right” from the universe. I make myself miserable when I insist on universal approval.
I went to a meeting this morning and a friend told about a time when his life was in tatters. He said he ran into an acquaintance at HEB’s who asked him how things were going. “Everything’s going according to plans,” he told her. “Oh! Isn’t that nice! I love it when that happens,” she trilled. “It’s not my plan,” he added.
We all laughed. If I can quit playing God and know that God’s taking care of things, I can release my death grip on my concept of how things ought to be and I can have some measure of serenity no matter what is happening in my life.
That’s when yelling “Uncle” is a good thing.