ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching
Book Two, Chapter 314: Tame the Wild Horse
Before heading out this morning, I look in my full-length mirror. Would Ernie recognize me?
My hair is shorter. I’m wearing clothes he never saw — including this rust-colored turtleneck. I’ve bought four turtlenecks lately, in periwinkle, white, rust, and olive green. I’m giving away my black ones. They’re too harsh for me now.
Bella told me my eyes look different. “You did look like a Basset hound. The skin under your eyes drooped. Now your face is animated. It moves.”
My relationship with Josh is changing. I’m still scared to talk with him at times. At other times I talk too much.
A few months ago, he planned to audition for the role of a train conductor — named Ernie — for a local hotel’s month-long Christmas program. “It’s good money, and it’ll be easy work, “ he said. Instead of nodding and wishing him luck, I made him think this would be costume work, not real acting work, and beneath him. I said that going to that gig every day for a month would make him angry. But Josh likes electric trains . . . and this character’s name was Ernie.
Josh didn’t go to the audition. I don’t know if he would have been hired, but I interfered with his plans. I acted as if I could read his mind. Now, thinking about all this makes me cringe. How could I have said what I said? Undermining his decision-making. Every time I interfere with him, it lowers his sense of self and increases his resentment and irritability. “Yanking my chain,” he calls it.
At last night’s Al-Anon meeting, a friend said: “Instead of reaching for alcohol or another drug for strength, we reach for control. Control is our crutch. It’s our knee-jerk reaction. It’s what we did in childhood, our coping mechanism, to try to outsmart the stupidity we grew up with. It’s what we’re still doing. It’s a habit, a way of thinking. But we’re not helping the other. We’re weakening the other. And weakening ourselves. We’re putting ourselves in a perpetual-worry cycle. We’re losing ourselves.”
I will catch myself the next time, won’t I? I will tame this wild horse I’ve been riding for so long.