I believe in God because I have never hit my children. It is my miracle. Was I born with a temper? I don’t know. But I was fierce and violent and angry for long time.
It is winter in Connecticut and I am in seventh grade. The pond outside our middle school is frozen solid and for P.E., we are playing ice hockey. My best friend since second grade is the goalie. She let’s the puck slide by and I whirl around on my skates and whack her with my hockey stick. It happens before I have a chance to stop it.
In tenth grade a good friend of mine makes a joke. I slap him across the face while standing by my locker. I don’t even remember the joke.
I am weaving my Jeep Gran Cheroekee SUV in and out of my lane as I tailgate the older couple in front of me. I end up running them off the road. For going to slow. I am in 12th grade. I have no place to be.
My emotional outbursts are even more common than my physical reactions. I call boyfriends horrible names. I scream and threaten. I cry in wracking sobs whenever confronted with losing an argument.
I am not proud of these events. I hate that I can go story after story on my sharp tongue and clenched fists. It is not comfortable to admit to them without being able to read your face. To sense your judgement.
The truth is I get away with a lot of behavior for a long time, but I wish to be free from anger while I keep embracing it. Running and dancing with it like anger and I are best friends. I don’t understand that I have other options. Because it always happens so suddenly. I would be minding my own business and some minor transgression occurs. Rarely important in the scheme of things. But I would be awash with rage. Like a dying animal whose last instinct is to take everyone down with me. And I’d lash out and up and down and then I’d come to. And try to find ways to justify the holes in my walls and the tears of my boyfriend.
Today it is easier to admit to these because I don’t hit anymore. I don’t scream. I don’t call people names (well to their faces at least). In fact, it’s been many years since I succumbed to that side. Of me. In me. And if you aren’t there yet, if you still scream and hit, you won’t find judgment from me. Unless you don’t want to change. Because I understand living with anger. But I don’t understand enjoying it.
Why have I changed? I don’t really know. The only significantly different action in the last decade of my life is an active and ever-expanding relationship with God.
Do I worry that I sound like a Jesus freak? Yup. But it’s not just believing that changes me.
During my first year of hanging out with God, I have a reprieve from my anger. And I think that I am free. Just made God my BFF. I’m good to go. And I meet my husband during this time. Yay! I’m still a bit crazy but in that quirky, write-a-book-about-me, way. I think.
But when Scott and I get engaged, I lose it. I become a hateful, raging lunatic, again. And I only do two things right during these awful months: I don’t hitting anyone and I believe that I can change. I believe that I don’t have to act on the anger in my heart.
So I learn to pray: God please remove my anger and direct me to the next right thing to do.
I learn to count to ten before opening my mouth. I would’ve laughed at you (or smacked you upside the head) had you suggested it before I am ready to grow. But for me, it works. For so long I thought that the rage would just sweep me away. I had to act to survive. But often my anger falls away just as rapidly as it rises. If I let go. If I give it time.
But sometimes ten seconds is not enough. So I learn to take space. Back then, I would lock myself in the bathroom and breathe. And cry with balled up fists of impotence and embarrassment. Today, space sometimes looks like my daughter crying in her crib. My son in front of the television. Me typing on my computer.
In my attempt to stay off anger’s doorstep, I do even more. I ask for help. After ten months of not sleeping more than two hours at a time with my first child, I lose my mind. Literally. A friend says: Ask for help. Now. You sound like a lunatic. So I do. And just one person, for one hour, once a week, helps enormously. I don’t even leave the house. But I can cook dinner. And that feels like a life again.
Eventually, I learn how to integrate help into my parenting world. And when I don’t have help but see the edge creeping closer, I just don’t do overwhelming things. If the day isn’t going well, I cancel plans. Or I make plans if home isn’t going well. Sometimes a change of scenery changes everything.
Honestly, since my first year of marriage, I spend most of my days calm. I may over-relate to my son’s temper. I may take pictures to remember the fun of it all. But I rarely find anger in my heart.
Don’t be fooled though. That mama is inside me. The I-will-give-you-something-to-cry-about mama. And I hate her for being inside me. I hate what I am capable of.
Until I remember to be grateful for her. Because if she wasn’t there, I might forget why I believe in God. You see, my children have never met that mama. And that is my miracle. I have never hit my children.