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I was eleven or so. One afternoon my parents called me into the living room for some minor task, and inquired almost angrily what my deal was.

My face working, I stammered out that I was trying not to cry.

Well, what did I have to cry about?

I had cut my finger just moments earlier, while peeling an apple in the kitchen.

So why didn’t I cry?

“B-bec-cause y-you told m-me n-not to,” I wailed.

Oh, well then, cry away! I was told, with the largesse of a Victorian philanthropist, and I burst into tears.

I don’t recall being told not to cry, but I’m sure that I was. My mother was sexually abusing me nightly, although my conscious recollection boiled down to an eternal blazing fury: I hated my mother, but didn’t know why. My dad, on the other hand, as ignorant of the abuse as I, merely beat me a lot with his belt, mainly for not cleaning my room. To this day, when I hear somebody sweeping, there is a flashknot in my stomach.

But despite the abuse and neglect, I was not allowed to cry. What to do? I stuffed it, of course, and those tears waited with corrosive patience until an excellent therapist coaxed them out in my 40s. It took a lot of therapy, and to this day I am what’s called a “stress crier.” It’s a pain in the butt, if only because my sinuses swell from all the mucus and I can get a migraine from the pressure unless I hit myself with four sprays of fluticasone, which tastes unpleasantly of an incongruous lilac but works well.

I still stuff emotions, primarily anger, but I’m working hard on that. I write the feeling words large and circle them in my journal. The result is something that looks a lot like cantankerousness: I suffer fools badly, and have started to show up for myself.

I am trying to turn into a cranky old lady; to further this end, I have stopped dying my hair now that I’ve buzzed most of it off. My face still looks ten years younger, due mainly to genetics, not smoking, and sleep and hydration, but the crop of silver on top is like a snake rattle: Step over my log with caution, because I’ve been here for a few many turns around the sun now, and I have learned how to bite.

I nipped somebody this morning over something small, and was amazed at the level of satisfaction it afforded. (There is somebody who has taken it upon themselves to walk the website I manage, and if they find a 404 link, they email all of upper management. It’s been annoying for eight years, and I finally had enough. I told him that this tactic just made me look bad, and I would appreciate being given a private heads-up, being the webmaster and all.)

I’ve been chanting to change my karma, and (coincidentally I’m sure) had the most stressful month since I was homeless. I thought meditation was supposed to mellow you out, but maybe the mellow has to clear away a whole lot of muck before it rests easy in your soul. What do you think?