Can we please talk about anger? No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to admit they ever get angry. I didn’t really even know I had any anger in me until I had children. Ben, my first child, was only a few weeks old. It was sometime after midnight and before 6 a.m., and Ben was awake. Awake for the fortieth time that night. Awake and screaming for unknown reasons. I stammered out of bed, and anger swelled up from my feet, through my legs, and settled in my chest. I was fuming. Why wouldn’t this child sleep? What need could he possibly have that I had not already met during one of the previous 39 visits?
This angry feeling took me quite off guard. Up to this point, my sweet child, my beautiful new baby, was a miracle to behold. He hadn’t slept through the night on any of his previous nights with us, but I was angelically patient with him. This night, however, would signify the break from my past self. It signified my first meeting with “the end of my rope”. I had never really even felt anger before, not like this. I frankly didn’t even know I could have these feelings in me. I was under-rested, and over-loaded. Many reading this will understand these feelings.
Maybe that’s why I liked Ailene Long’s piece so much from our Spring 2005 issue.
So, let’s fast forward around 9 years. Anger is more a managed part of my life. I feel anger, at some point, every week of my life. I hate to see that in writing. I hate that it has truth to it. But it does.
I found myself out of control a few days ago, when two of my children attempted to fill the basement with water for unknown reasons. Fuming and yelling, I threw towels toward them, hollering about water damage, hundreds of dollars coming out of their allowance, I think I may have even called them criminals at some point (“what’s a criminal??” my 6 year old stammered out through her tears.) I hadn’t been this angry in some time, and when my husband got home, offering to skip his Mutual meeting with the Young Men so I could leave and go for a drive alone, I declined. I did not want to feel better. I wanted to keep being angry. When I started to calm down, I would pull the picture of water pouring out of the bathroom door into my mind to keep me good and mad.
Hours later, when I had inevitably calmed down, I reflected on that desire to hang on to my anger. I sat on the couch in my bedroom and sobbed. I don’t want to be a parent anymore, I cried to no one in particular. I obviously don’t have what it takes. I hate feeling angry, I hate watching myself yell. I hate seeing how I am ruining my children. The problem with these emotions, of course, is that they constitute a part of the natural man. They represent everything we are supposed to shun. Feelings of anger, inadequacy, hurt, self-loathing, they all intertwine with the adversary’s plan.
Of course, I don’t think seriously about giving up. But the idea of sitting on my couch, telling my husband that I am done being a parent somehow consoles me. To merely verbalize my own inabilities soothes my aching nervous system. Where did this horrible monster inside of me come from? The answers are too obvious for me to readily accept.
I shared the story of my flooded basement with my friends at playgroup. I told them the problem and the run-down of what happened. I did not, however, tell them I would have liked to walk out of the house and come back in a year. I didn’t tell them about how I was hording my anger and keeping it close to me so I could keep myself from feeling better. I didn’t tell them about sobbing for ½ an hour in my bedroom later that night for all the conflicting feelings that were coursing through me.
This, I know, can be attributed as “MY PROBLEM.” I, until recently, thought it was solely, “my problem.” I am beginning to believe otherwise. At the very least, I am clinging to the hope that I am not the only woman in America who has these feelings, and actively works to try and subdue them from sight.
There is certainly a level of necessity in not baring all for the world to see every moment of the day. We as a society would never accomplish anything if we laid everything bare and were always blubbering about our innermost feelings to anyone that would listen. I am not talking about that kind of disclosure. I am, however, talking about finding out that you are not alone. It’s the kind of feeling you get when you see someone else’s child throwing a huge screaming fit at the grocery store. I always exhale a healthy sigh when I see those scenes. It means I am not alone. It means that woman trying to ignore the screaming mass of flesh stuffed into the cart understands part of me. And I understand her. Without speaking to each other, one more crack has been placed in my wall of misunderstanding and fear.
And when Ailene says things like, “It’s so hard!…It’s impossible!” I somehow feel I’ve found a kindred spirit. Am I a crazy lady? Yeah, don’t answer that.