I am a work in progress. That's what I always tell myself. I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, or 5 years ago, or even a year ago. The ability to change is one of our greatest gifts we have as humans, and one I think a lot of us overlook.
Change what you can, learn to deal with what you can't. That's become my inner mantra lately.
I'm working hard on changing the things I can: my fitness, my parenting, my outlook on life, my income, etc.
One thing I'm continuously finding myself stuck at?
I don't feel a lot of it, and certainly not constantly. But it spikes up when I least expect it, and when it does, it feels like bumping into an intruder while walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night..."What the hell are you doing here??" I want to ask it.
I want to change this part of me, the way I react to anger and the way I let it get the best of me.
I want to learn how to let go of it, for good. I'm not naive enough to think that I can eliminate the feeling of anger from my life, God knows there are infinite sources and in all honesty, I think anger can be a very positive emotion in some cases (think about it...it was my anger about being too fat for my jeans that got me back to the gym). But I tend to let anger curl up in a little ball and rest right on my heart, let it seep into everything like a bad flavor instead of shooing it out the door like I should.
And that's when I do things that are so not good for me, or anyone.
It's when I send a bitchy text or email.
It's when I say something hurtful to someone I love.
It's when I do something self-destructive, like pour a glass of wine or eat something I shouldn't be eating.
It's when I withdraw into my own little miserable bubble.
I am angry at anger. Go figure.
To figure out how to learn to let go, we have to think about how we were taught to handle things when we were growing up, and learn from that.
When I was growing up, I spent the majority of time with my mom and stepdad, with some weekends/holidays spent with my dad and stepmom.
At my mom's house, anger was dealt with in one of three ways: screaming/yelling, name-calling/profanity and physically. Anger was a constant in that house. I'm not saying it to be all "woe is me, it was awful!", just stating a fact. There was fighting, there was yelling. There was physical stuff. There was road rage and demeaning name calling and sarcasm.
At my dad's house, anger was dealt with one way: silence. It wasn't acknowledged, it wasn't talked about. It was folded up into a neat little square and filed away. And then there was the silent treatment. The silent treatment could be temporary, say a day or so, or it could go on for years.
And that's how I learned to deal with anger.
I spent a good portion of my life doling out the silent treatment. The grudge, if you will. It's how I became the Queen of Shutting People Out.
But I've also gone down that other path. I've yelled, I've said truly mean things. I've never hit, though. That's one positive in all of this. I've never hit. The mean things I've said have mostly been to the kids at the very tiptop of a stressful situation. I've called them names, like Mr. Furious and Molasses and Rainman and even worse, I've called Charlie names that I regretted the second they slipped out. Lazy, dumb, selfish, manipulative. Yep, I'm admitting that here. I will say that the times I've let those zingers fly have always, ALWAYS been said in the morning, trying to get him up and out of bed to make the bus. I'm usually in tears by the time I let them out, usually at the very end of the thin, fraying rope I hang on most days. And then I'd get it in return from Charlie, and saw the vicious cycle in the flesh.
That's when I stopped. When I realized that Charlie was mirroring me. Returning my venom with some of his own. For just a moment, I imagined grown up Charlie, dealing with a child of his very own in the same way I was dealing with him. I saw the chance right then and there to stop this pattern, to change it. And so that's what I've been doing.
Funny how it goes...when you stop and take a moment to recognize not only what you're feeling but how you handle it, time slows down for just a bit. It's almost as if you can see that dark cloud of anger building up right in front of you, preparing to rain down and saturate you and everything around you. Stopping, and acknowledging it gives you an umbrella.
This has been another work in progress for me, this whole Anger 101. The results are good. I'm able to step back now, hold that inner mama bear at bay for a while. I have found that removing myself from the situation works well. Charlie and I still have those mornings, but now? I state to him, calmly and quietly, his options: get up, get dressed and get the bus, or miss the bus and find your own ride. Of course, I'll still drive him if he's close to being tardy, but I haven't had to do that in at least two months now. One morning, last week, he missed the bus. I had to work that particular morning, had to get myself and William ready for the day, so driving him wasn't a possibility.
"What am I going to do, mom?" he wailed.
"Call your dad." I said. And he did. And Big Daddy picked him up. Kudos to all three of us, that morning. Me, for not lashing out. Charlie, for asking Dad for help, and Big Daddy, for putting on his parenting hat and stepping up to the plate.
Of course, I'm only one half of the anger management team for my children. They have another teacher, at another house, and I have no clue what goes on there. I do know that when one of my kids calls me a lazy fat ass, they didn't just make it up on the fly. I know they've heard it somewhere else, most likely uttered by someone they look up to. And that stinks. The kids still talk about a cat-kicking incident that happened at our old house a long time ago, again done by someone they look up to, and have come home jabbering about the time they saw a tiny little designer dog get kicked across a room. That stinks, too, but aside from letting them know how wrong that is, there is nothing I can do about it.
I'm changing what I can, and I'm learning how to deal with what I can't. So far, it seems to be working.
Have a peaceful day, my friends.