It’s an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. I had to remind myself of it yesterday when I crossed paths with people behaving as if the gravitational forces of a full moon had compelled them into lunacy. (Note: no full moon yesterday, no scientific proof it matters anyway.)
I was tired – too many late nights and subsequent early mornings dealing with unexpected issues and 8am soccer games. I was angry because people are stupid and, oh yeah, I was tired. Not hungry, not lonely. But too much of any one of those four letters – H.A.L.T. – and I’m screwed. We’re all screwed. And therefore, I halt. Stop. Breathe. I ask myself, “What’s going on? Why do I want to burst into tears right now?”
Wednesday, I was taking the dogs for a walk. A third dog joined us, our friend Lucky (I call him the Luck Man – he and his nickname have no bearing on this story whatsoever). One of them pooped; I scooped it up with a bag and, this being trash day in the neighborhood, I threw it in the closest black bin out in the street. Suddenly, a banshee’s voice was heard. “Really?! Seriously?!” A woman in her 60s, brunette, casually dressed for a day at home, came out her front door speaking to me as her big dog barked behind the driveway gate. I had no idea what she was implying. “You’re going to throw that in MY trashcan?” And then I realized she was upset at what I had deposited in the aforementioned black bin. I was calm.
“It’s a trashcan,” I reminded her calmly. What is dog poop but trash?
“I can’t believe this! No, no, no. Not in my trashcan. You can’t put that in there,” she told me while her dog continued to bark.
“I’ve been doing this since I got a dog. I pick it up, I throw it away. That’s what they’re for. They’re TRASHCANS,” I said again, as if my emphasis would force her to come to her senses.
“No, take it out,” she ordered me.
“Really?” I couldn’t believe she was speaking to me as if to a child. Nothing irritates me more than being treated as if I were one. And yet, I moved toward the bin.
“Yes, take it out. Throw it in your own,” she demanded.
When I lifted the lid to reach in, I knew this was absurd. The sanitation truck was due to arrive any moment and take it all away. “It’s full, ya know?” I told her. And then she shook her head, as if in that moment, she realized I was a neighbor she’d see again and that her hysteria was based on thinking I’d tossed a smelly bag into her empty bin to sit there for another week. I wouldn’t. I didn’t.
“Oh, it’s full. Okay, leave it then,” she said and walked back into her house.
Moving on, feeling my face get hot, I pulled Jack’s leash as if it was his fault and watched his tail go between his legs. Poor guy, living in a human world where, because we’re hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired, we burst into tears and yank their chains.
Later that afternoon, driving the girls back from somewhere, the car in front of me stopped short in the middle of the block. I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting them from behind and barely escaped denting their bumper. Then I watched as the driver of said car gesticulated to their passenger, yelling, ranting, berating. It was a mother to her child (I could see, I was that close) – a parent who thought it a good idea to deal with her family issues in the middle of the street, me directly behind her unable to go anywhere. It was weird and I didn’t want to continue watching, so I honked my horn. No reaction, so I honked again. The woman flipped me the bird and drove off. We pulled up ahead to the red light side by side, so naturally, I rolled down my window to essentially ask, “WTF?” She dismissed me with a wave of her hand while continuing to yell hysterically at her teenage daughter. Wackadoo. I felt my face get hot again.
Last night, throwing dinner on the table, it was apparent that I needed more sleep. Without it, the world would suffer. Without it, I’m only able to deal with craziness up to a point – and it’s been a peculiar few days. Without proper sleep, I’m capable of becoming peculiar, and unpleasant, myself. Same thing happens when my stomach is growling or when I desperately need someone to talk to. I unravel and it’s hardly gentle. Without taking care, I’m likely to exhibit behavior I’ll regret, for which I’ll have to apologize. Ugh.
H.A.L.T. It’s a twelve-step acronym, useful for everyone to remember. Don’t be the crazy lady on trash day. Yell at your kids in the privacy of your own home.
Breathe. Eat. Sleep. Talk to your friends. (B.E.S.T.)