Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Anger and Patience

I am not generally a patient person. I am solid, I know exactly what I want even when I don't know exactly how to describe it, and I know that when I want something, I want it now. When I want something to go a certain way and it doesn't, I start getting this chaos in my mind ... it's like on the outside I'm calm and just fine, I'm okay and no one even knows there something wrong. But on the inside? There is a fire burning, slow but hot, the way a volcano can build up to an eruption without anyone knowing what's happening until the explosion has begun.

And the explosion ... the eruption ... it's ugly. That's when I just can't take it anymore, when the noise inside my head caused by fighting my irritation has competed with the noise outside my head which is usually the source of the irritation for so long that I just can't hold back. That's when I go a little nuts in my head. Words come out of me the way lava explodes from the volcano, they spill out with a heat and speed that are unbelievable, usually with a remarkable volume as well. The volcano is a perfect comparison.

Lately I have been working several  strategies in my life to combat this feeling because the stress is getting to me, and because I do not want to be an angry parent. I am usually able to keep my anger to myself, but what I mutter to myself is still poisonous, and I want it to stop ...

Wow, this is harder to talk about than I thought. Even though there is virtually no one reading except a few people, only one of which I know personally.

When I am angry at some situation, I wait until I am alone, then I might mutter a bit, but usually by then I'm so angry at myself for being so angry that I just cry. But when I'm angry at a person? I'm angry. Furious. Hateful. I turn into the very worst of my father and mother.

My mother when she is angry just goes on and on ... she believes that she is invincible, and she is not afraid to talk a lot of smack. I don't talk smack, and I don't believe I am invincible ... but I go on and on. When I finally decide to be publicly angry, I am ANGRY, and I want everyone to know, and I want everyone to know why. But my father ... This is where the real poison comes from. I remember things that he used to say when he was angry at my siblings and I when we were kids. I remember hating when he would say those things, things that were mean and hateful, maybe even a little degrading, things like:
  • I remember times when he would be annoyed about something, and he'd stomp around the house scratching his head and saying to himself, "Oh jeez, I should have had twelve damn kids." We knew he didn't mean that he wanted twelve kids ... in fact, it felt like he meant he didn't want ANY kids. Like he wished, just for a moment, that he'd never had us, that we could just disappear and be out of his way. I have said that myself, though I always swore as a child that I would never say something so hurtful. I do not think my daughters have heard this, and I am determined to stop muttering it to myself before they do hear it.
  • I remember times when my father would be impatient with us for one reason or another, sometimes because we weren't moving fast enough, and sometimes because we didn't "get it" ... whatever it was that he wanted done. And he would instruct us very simply, as if we were all complete idiots who couldn't possibly be trusted to do the simplest task. And he'd always add, "Don't forget to breathe when you're done, I wouldn't want you to pass out." My brothers and I laugh about this now, and have even thrown it back and forth in jest as adults ... but I remember hearing it as a child. I had always prided myself on my intelligence and my maturity, and so had my father. He had always treated me like an equal, like an adult ... except for those times when he remembered that I was just a child, those times when I frustrated him. I remember being incredibly hurt that in that moment he could think me so stupid that I would forget to breathe. And that's aside from the idea that my passing out would be nothing more than a hassle, slowing him down when he was most likely already in a rush. Because my brothers and I are somewhat de-sensitized to this from being silly enough to joke around about it ... my oldest daughter has heard this one once. Thankfully she isn't old enough to understand the words, and she has even replied, "You don't forget to breathe mom, you just do it." But she does understand the tone of voice ...
 There have been times, when I am alone at night or purging my emotions in the relaxation of the shower pounding down around me, when I have hated myself for being so angry. When I have literally despised myself. Then I remember that by God's grace, I have been able to protect my family from most of this, and I am thankful for God's guidance in that He is showing me this now before it can damage my children. And that's not to say that I am afraid of myself with them or afraid that they are in danger because they certainly are not ... but I'd hate for them to be hurt by my impatience. I'd hate for them to have memories of "Mommy" that are tainted by mean things said in anger that should never have even been thoughts.

One of my favorite strategies for dealing with this is to be thankful. When I've had a long day with Teenybop's constant chatter and I'm going a little stir crazy, I remember why I'm thankful to have her in my life. Sometimes I'm so far gone and thinking of how challenging she can be that the best I can come up with is that "she is here to teach me to love the unlovely" because I love her ... no matter what. I remind myself that she is precious, I remember how I felt the first time I held her and stroked her soft cheek with the edge of my finger. I remember how I felt as we nursed for the first time, and I close my eyes to vividly remember the picture in her baby book where I am holding her in the hospital mere hours after she was born, and I am so full of love and joy that in the picture I am crying. I remember watching her learn to walk, watching her learn to play and to treat others with kindness. I remember delighting as she learned to speak and would use such big words that it would take us weeks to interpret the mutilation of her toddler-speak. I remember such joy in the years that I have known her, and suddenly she looks different to me. She is not terrible, and she is not troublesome. She is young and beautiful, she is trusting and forgiving. Her eyes are so like mine, and the reason I get angry with her is because her personality is like mine. It seems that there are some parts of my personality that I don't get along with.

Anger at Piglet is a whole different story, often borne of frustration at the end of a long day when she is unable to sleep or perfectly tired but choosing to fight the release of slumber. Last night she screamed for an hour and a half, partly fighting sleep ... and partly because she had a belly ache. I hated it that she was uncomfortable, I hated it that her little stomach kept her from resting as she would close her little eyes and cuddle her face close me, only to stiffen up again, screaming. I was so angry that she was fighting! And I was angry with myself for being angry ... It seems the vicious cycle always starts and ends with me when it comes to this.

First stressed and annoyed with myself for not being able to handle the stress better (Not like it's a big deal, I'm only raising two girls on my own right? Piece of cake.). And then annoyed at external things because that's easier than listening to me lecture myself in my head. And the simmer starts because my kids can feel my tension and they feed off of it, growing more tense themselves. And then I'm angrier than before at myself because I know that it all starts with me, and eventually I've got a headache and my hands are shaking. I have been doing deep breathing techniques with my girls lately, and I have noticed that if we start in time, before the lava begins to bubble to the surface then we can avoid the eruption ... We breathe "in with the good" and "out with the bad" ... and it calms all three of us most of the time.

It's just learning to keep using these strategies earlier and earlier, before I'm erupting and spraying red-hot poison throughout my household. I guess that's why I'm still a work in progress.

"Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Saviour
I know for sure all of my days are held in Your hands, crafted into Your perfect plan
You gently call me into Your presence, guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes
I'm captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know You're drawing me to Yourself
Lead me Lord I pray

Take me, Mold me, Use me, Fill me
I give my life to the Potter's hand
Call me, Guide me, Lead me, Walk Beside Me
I give my life to the Potter's hand

You gentlly call me into Your presence, guiding me by Your holy spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live through Your eyes
I'm captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know You're drawing me to Yourself
Lead me Lord I pray ,,,"