I Lost My Temper, and Lost Everything

Freya. Little Freya. Five feet nothing, thin as a rail. Powerhouse. Strides in from the outside deck, leaving the door wide open to the frigid, whirling snow and cutting wind. Which wasted no time rushing in and wrapping itself around me, doing its best to freeze my tropical butt off.

house in the snow

January, 1996

I’d just gotten home, settling down at the table for some hot soup. It’s January. We’re at 6200 feet elevation in the hills south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s been snowing all day. Knee deep so far.

“Would you please close the door?” I asked.

She looked at me as if I was crazy – why on earth would I want to close the door?

Freya was from Denmark. She claimed that no matter the weather, every day they opened all the doors and windows to the elements. Kept the house fresh and clear, she claimed.

I’d had a terrible day. I was upset already, but this threw me over the edge. I felt my belly clench, hot blood climb to my face.

A surge of fury rushed through me. Why couldn’t she just this once close the freaking door? She knew I was from Hawaii, and the temperature was at least a million degrees colder than what I was used to. And that I hated the cold!

But oh no. Face-eating smirk. She slowly shook her head.

Remembering the times she’d lost it on me, screaming and spitting her opinions right in my face, and not wanting that to happen right now, I did my best to rein the fury in.

I asked again, nice as you please.

“Freya, I’m freezing, would you kindly close the door? I won’t be in the kitchen long – you can open it after I leave. OK?”

Smug grin. “No, I don’t think so,” she said softly.

Testing me.

I hate being tested. I wanted to slap that grin off her face.

A minuscule space of time blossomed open. In that nano-second, a slew of fully-formed scenarios flew through my mind.

Asking again, nicely.
Screaming full volume at her to close the damn door.
Going over and strangling her.
Getting up slowly, walking out, and going calmly to my room.
Throwing a tantrum like a 4-year old.

In the short eternity of that time, I knew – I knew – I could choose any one of those options.

The choice to scream at her floated to the top.

Without a shred of doubt, I also knew that that would mean war. It would mean massive conflict. Major danger.

A hurt part of me whined, ‘but she yells at me, why can’t I yell at her? It’ll feel good! I can finally say how I feel! She’s been tromping on me for how long? Why shouldn’t I stand up for myself!’

The strength and power of that inner voice and its temptation to try the Fates was more than I could resist – even though in my very bones I was keenly aware that to yell at her would be the beginning of The End. That it would lead to a complete disaster.

But I did it anyway.

The time blossom snapped closed.

I blasted up out of my seat, my chair tumbling backwards, careening and skidding across the floor.

Leaning forward, chin jutting out, hands on hips, I let ‘er rip.

“I just got freaking fired today. I had a flat on the way up this god forsaken hill and let me tell you what it was like changing tires in 3 feet of g-d snow on a 45 degree slant. My hands are still blue. My feet and ankles are still blocks of ice. You know damn well I hate the bloody cold, and you want to fill the entire sodding house top to bottom with it. What the hell is wrong with you that you can’t let me have a little warmth tonight? What’s wrong with you that you can’t be considerate of someone else for once?”

Surprise. Shock. Rage.
Fake, sweet, kind face.

“Oh,” she whispered.

She turned away from me, stepping over to the counter behind her, putting her purse and bags down. She turned back around, leaned against the counter.

For a split second, her face was the unbridled essence of evil rage. Her hands clutched together into fists with invisible 6-inch razor-sharp claws. I imagined gleaming sharp scales all over her body.

Like a vicious dragon whose hoard you have mistakenly stumbled into. Or maybe like a vampire who’s been kept from drinking blood for centuries.

I can’t think of anything as hideous as her face in that moment. I will never in all my remaining days forget it.

It only lasted the shortest flash of time, instantly becoming the Mask again. The sweet, kind, fake, I’m-so-nice face.

And then, the volcano.

She erupted. A tirade unlike any other she had unleashed upon me before. I won’t repeat it.

I was floored. She’d let loose on me before, but nothing like this. I’d never in my entire life been the brunt of such a vile tirade.

I stood there stunned. Frozen.

In my head, that wee keening voice had the incredible audacity to squeak up again. “Are you going to take that?”

Before it could go on and seduce me into more trouble, somehow my feet came unglued. I rose fully upright again. Purposefully, slowly, I picked up my things from the table and strode over to the inside door.

I stood in the doorway for a moment, looking right at her. I wanted her to feel the daggers in my eyes. Daggers like the curved killing blades of pirates of old. I spun around and walked through. Slammed that door closed as hard as I could. She hated slammed doors.

In my room, I perched on the edge of my bed. I was in such shock I felt like a blank slate. Any coherent thoughts had flown the coop.

After a bit, they came back, and filled me with confusion – what do I do now? – and wave upon wave of terror. I wondered if she’d murder me in my sleep. I put the top rail of my chair against the doorknob that night, and all the nights after.

I knew I had to leave. There was no way on earth I’d stay in that house with her. I had no place to go, but remaining there was out of the question. I gave notice.

I never saw her again. She’d leave notes on her door. I replied the same way.

What a damn bother. I’d set up really nice studio spaces for carving and painting. Now I had to dismantle it all – my easel, my painting stuff, my carving equipment, air compressor, tools, supplies – what a damn hassle.

All because I couldn’t keep my head in the face of a psychopathic narcissist.

But what did I know about narcissists? Nada. Back then, we didn’t have those names, those facile definitions of behavior. We didn’t even have mobile phones yet, much less access to handy-dandy vaults of information like google, YouTube or facebook.

I had no support at all. All the folks I knew in the area were involved with the gal who’d just fired me. No help there. It didn’t matter that she’d fired me because of a mistake – even if she did apologize, I’d never go back to working for her.

But I know how to hustle. I found a storage locker and stashed my stuff, got a great job working for the main newspaper in Santa Fe, and started living in my car.

Have you ever seen a Kia Sportage? Imagine an SUV that someone plonked into scalding hot water, shrinking it into half the size of a Forerunner. That car became home for me and my dog.

All because I lost my temper.

Only thing was – I didn’t lose it. I threw it away.

In that nano-second of time where I saw all those options, I could have made any of the calm, rational choices.

But I didn’t. So along with my lost job, I lost my home, my studio, and any semblance of balance.

At least I had a car. But let me tell you how cold it is sleeping in your car in the winter at almost 7000 feet elevation.

I was blessed to have my dog companion (she looked like a combo of a Husky and English Shepherd, and that same size). Every single night we huddled together in the back of the Kia, where I cried myself to shivering sleep, unable to get fully warm. I wondered if I could last until warmer weather, and where I’d end up.

I learned very quickly never to mention I was living in my car. The stigma around being house-less is monumental. Suddenly you go from being a fellow human to a filthy, slathering, grasping pariah in peoples’ minds.

Thankfully, there are plenty of gas stations in Santa Fe where I could get clean and change clothes, so it was never physically obvious I had no home.

I applied for all the house sitting jobs available, but having a dog was a big minus. Especially if they had cats. On some of the job interviews, I ended up leaving my dog in the car, saying there was just me – I would have done about anything just to be able to take a shower.

Finally, my friends Jack and Amy took me in, giving me a spare room in their house. I had been homeless for three years.

All because I chose to yell at someone.

That was in 1996. I’ve never once yelled like that at anyone since then.

If I could go back and redo that whole scene, I’d know not to fall prey to my weenie pathetic hurt vengeance voice in that minuscule blossom-moment of time.

I’d choose humor. Although, actually, not being one of those clever-on-your-feet people, I’ve never been able to do that kind of spur-of-the-moment funny banter that lightens the world.

So maybe I’d just zip lips, and not say anything at all – just get up and take my dinner to my room. Because there is no rational way to deal with someone like her.

I’d still move out. To continue living with such a monster would have been unthinkable.

That one incident was the cause of so much pain, so much trouble, so much heartache – I’ve looked back on it at least a thousand times, redoing it in my mind, making alternate choices.

But the damage was done.

My entire universe, destroyed, in less than two minutes’ time.

I’ve had many blessings along the way, but man, if I could? I’d go right back to that one moment.

I’d look so carefully, in that micro flash of infinite time, and make a better, wiser, more mature choice.


Thanks so much for reading my story. I hope it has served you in some way – perhaps to inspire you, make you think, or be glad you’ve made better choices!

What would you have done?


Story: I Lost My Temper, and Lost Everything
© Angela Treat Lyon 2024

Image: January
Prints available.
© Angela Treat Lyon 2017

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