Torn roots

I’m still in denial that we moved so far from home. Away from our friends and my family, from the places and things we love. I’m blindfolded and spinning in this Western province, and I ache for the sights, sounds and smells of our humid francophone city. I feel forgotten by our friends – out of sight, out of mind – and I feel little point, and less financial ability, to visit. I have always hated it here, and now that we have friends, I hate that we’re going to leave. I hate that we’re going to do this all over again within the next two years. I feel trapped, I feel burdened.

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You killed dad

Big, tall, long-fingered Annie. Rough, loud, with sudden mood changes. You are bigger and taller than me, and I am taller than dad was. You overpowered Dad on August 21, 2002, and his heart stopped working, so he left us forever. You were not in control, but it was your fault. I think you know it, too, and we can’t blame you for it. But I can be angry at you for taking my dad away so violently. He deserved better than that. Fuck you.    violent-criminal_318-56374

I see you, you little beast

This anger management thing is challenging. I have committed to learning how to process this strong emotion. I joined a support group on Facebook, I read articled online, I blog here, and I took a book out of the library. After my life-changing realization two weeks ago, I felt elated and that anger wasn’t going to be such a big deal any more, but it takes work, because many things make me angry:

  • My step-son. How often? Constantly. How frequently do I have to deal with him? Daily. For example, he just taught my toddler “WHAZAAAAAAAAP!” which my toddler will be screaming at the top of his lungs for the next few weeks. While the baby is sleeping. In the car. In public. Step-son also mumbles, and interrupts, and needs vigilant reminders to do the same, basic things we’ve been telling him for near a decade.
  • Driving. I am an aggressive, angry driver. It stresses my husband out, and I see now that it stresses me quite enormously. Every other driver is the problem, of course. Typical anger issues.
  • Dinner time. See: step-son. He has horrible interpersonal habits, bad table manners, and teaches my toddler all of these things.
  • My husband. Sometimes, he’s worst than my step-son because, as the other adult in the family, I don’t feel like I should have to ask for the garbage to be taken out, for help tidying the house, for him to do his typical chores. This makes me feel an undue amount of pressure. For example, Sunday is my day off from cooking. He never remembers and I remind him at around 5:30 p.m. weekly that he needs to get things rolling.

I could make a super-duper long list, so I’ll leave it at those key stressors – triggers – for the time being.

Just when I feel like I have my anger under control and that it won’t take over my evening, boing, there it is, peeking from around the corner, throwing hot coals at my gut. I know anger is a normal emotion and I will always feel it, but I would like to see the hairy little beastie as a warning sign rather than let it burn me.

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In-laws

It was my son’s third birthday a few days ago. Nobody sent him anything, or called (except for one out of five aunts/uncles). I’m heartbroken and angry. My husband’s parents – my son’s grandparents – didn’t call. This makes me feel so neglected and let down. Nobody likes being neglected, naturally, but it’s one of my triggers.

It was a challenge to focus on my son and his well-being rather than the pit in my stomach that justified my anger and hurt. I doubt any other grandchild would have been so ignored. If they don’t want to be part of his life, then I’m happy not to keep them informed. Relationships take effort, and my son is very much worth the effort. He is a bundle of pure love, silly energy, high intelligence, and love of life.

I sent the grandpa an email the evening of my precious one’s day of birth. It read ‘someone was very sad not to hear from his grandparents on his birthday.’ I do hope it makes them feel at least as bad as they have made us feel.

Day-to-day stress explosions

My anger expresses itself as impatience. It’s like having an invisible army tugging at my skin telling me to go faster, and not to accept anything that might slow me down. Impatience, meet the toddler, who is an excited ball of energy going at his own stubborn pace. Toddler and impatience, meet the newborn baby, who currently throws fits if not continuously held by me. To the invisible army, add a swarm of bees in my mind, and just out of reach, the solace of me-time on the couch, while both boys intermittently sleep, which hums over the chaos.

Having kids is a stressful, everyday joy. It takes an hour to get ready to leave the house to go anywhere. There’s a conga-line of clothing and diaper changes. The constant need of my attention and care, every day, all day and night. Then there’s the added stress of 3 p.m. when my step-son gets home from school, then it’s time to make fucking supper.

There’s the stress of how sadly fleeting these days are, that I don’t want to cheapen by never feeling calm and peace and enjoyment around my kids. I don’t want anger and impatience to rob me of their childhoods. I don’t want their memories polluted by my negativity. I didn’t get to have a childhood, and my parents were constantly stressed. I don’t want to repeat that. I want them to have banal things to complain about. I want them to have that luxury.

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Life is testing me

At least once per day, my step-son enrages me via some snide comment, or by blatantly ignoring me, or by giving me his masterful teen eye-roll, or me needing to remind him of something for the 1366732353656884252335-billionth time, or influencing my toddler to take up a bad attitude, interrupting, etc.

Yesterday, he left the dinner table a mess at his spot, a glass of milk half-empty, and the milk jug out. I pointed this out, and he said “So?” UMEXCUSEME?!!!???? And today, he kept banging the floor. After I asked him to stop, and then same snap-response. “So what?” YOUDONOTSPEAKTOMETHATWAY.

Many deep breaths were taken. Typically, this (yes, these tiny, insignificant instances) would hurtle me into a pit of anger for the rest of the day. Yes, he’s being a snotty rude teen, and that’s annoying for any rational person, but my strong emotional, deeply negative reaction is not healthy. I expressed to my husband that I am working on controlling my anger, but I can only handle so much, and would you please go talk to him to reiterate that it’s not ok to talk to people (ME!) that way. Step-son actually apologized, on his own. I had to control my anger to respond, but I did thank him for apologizing – something I would not have done before.

Life is testing me, as life is supposed to do. Stresses aren’t going to go away. People doing upsetting things is never going to go away, but I can try not to let being angry be like poo in the punch bowl.

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The big fire

One life event, more than others, was a big fire that burned me to the ground. What built around the ruins of my former self were vines of vindictive anger. They grew easily because the root system was healthy and robust beneath the flames. The fire helped fertilize the soil so when they grew, they grew fast and strong.

Everyone reacts differently with loss. First, my father, then, my first son. I was lost when dad died. We were allies. I feel he understood me better than anyone alive ever could. Partners in pain. He went through plenty of trauma in his brief 59 year stay on this planet. Losing him threw me into the wilderness. Losing my son, well, that threw me out of the stratosphere so I spun aimlessly in space – a vast unknown. Only the tethers of that angry vine brought me back to solid ground. I became mean, and delighted in it. It felt right. I was justified. Anger became firmly established as my modus operandi.

Let’s review, shall we?

  • childhood abuse
  • parental neglect
  • numerous unhealthy relationships (friendships and boyfriends. Looking at you, Tina, Chrissie, Seb and Owen)
  • dead dad
  • step-son
  • dead firstborn child

I’ve been told, and absorbed through various media, that if I were to remain angry for the rest of my life, I would be completely justified. I mean, look at my impressive list of pain! The thing is, Anger keeps me hurt, and collects hurts as I move through life. So I am never free of pain.

Pain is a difficult companion to leave behind. It wants to be the centre of attention. I want it to be present only when necessary. Anger, and pain, have made my life a struggle. I would like to enjoy my life without faking my way through. I want to genuinely enjoy my children, and not just be a madame of the rule book, an enforcer. Yes, I lost a child. That pain is part of me, but I want to reject the anger that keeps the wound fresh daily.

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Evil step-mom

We have rarely gotten along, and he has ADHD. Living with another person with a disability is a trigger. Annie needed constant reminders for proper behaviour, and so does my step-son. I get the same feelings as I had when I was small, only now, I’m the adult. I hate it, and it sometimes feels like a living nightmare.

I know I sometimes treat him badly. This has been where my anger has dictated my behaviour. My husband, my beloved, pointed out that when we first met, my anger was directed at causes – environmental, human rights, etc. Gradually, my anger turned its ugly head towards the step-child and his mother. She deserves it, but he doesn’t. At least not as often as I feel it swelling up and taking over. I embraced the evil stepmother persona as a humorous coping mechanism.

Needing help to deal with my conflicts with him is the key that opened my Pandora’s box of anger. It’s a bittersweet gift. There’s a lot of unpacking to do from the contents of this box.

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Parents

Growing up was mostly terrifying. The safest place in the world was the bathroom, locked. I sat and waited for the out-of-control freak out to move to another room or stop before I came out. After my violent, autistic sister, Annie, was no longer a threat, I carried on with my day in a stage-fright type stress, all in the gut. Hot stones churning butter that coursed through my body, tingling me all the way to my face, which, unsurprisingly, developed unvoluntary nervous tics, and gave me social embarrassment and anxiety from the fear of being noticed.

After the shock waves of Annie the Terrible subsided (and this happened almost daily), I do not remember many instances of being comforted by my parents. They may have, but I don’t remember if they did. And if they did, it was infrequent enough to be unmemorable. This has been stimulating feelings of anger in me today. I have never been angry at my parents before for the way my childhood played out. Now, I wish they did better by me because I am having a hard time being happy about going through all this shit as a 36 year-old woman. Seriously.

My parents lived a life of burnout, and my lifelong mantra has been one of understanding. No one had a choice. Annie was unpredictable in her violence, mostly targeted at me, the little sister. Our house was a battleground, and for many years, my untrained parents fought alone on the front lines. It was catastrophic for all involved. I always understood that. There has never been a time in my life where I would think any different. Until now. Now, I am pissed.

What could have helped was do something – anything – to help me feel like I am worth anyone’s time and effort. Come and spend time with me after an episode. Buy me fucking jewelry or toys. Take me out for ice cream. Bring me to the park.

Yes, they were overwhelmed, over their heads, drowning, struggling, barely hanging on, etc., BUT I WAS THERE, TOO, GODDAMNIT. I NEEDED YOU, TOO.

I knew not to make demands. Keep to myself. Don’t make things worse. Surely I didn’t always act like a princess. I was a stressed out, hyper kid to parents already stretched to chronic limits of human endurance. Yes yes yes, I always understood. Well, here is me, now, three decades later, feeling for the first time that it just wasn’t good enough. Because now I have:

Impaired sense of self
Cognitive distortions
Interpersonal problems

Thanks a bunch. Now I have to ‘heal’ some more and stop being an angry person who, in turn, makes others suffer. Wonderfulfantasticfuckyou.

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Personality cancer

I’ve been angry for a very long time, and I just learned that about myself only today. Of course it’s clear as day to the people closest to me, and I’m likely going to feel embarrassed and shame about that, but that’s all part of the fucking journey, isn’t it?

I’m a 36 year-old woman with four kids. One of them is my teenage step-son, one of them is dead, and two of them are adorably young (three years old, and seven weeks old). My anger trickles in to them, and that has to change.

I feel like my anger is a personality cancer. I’m beginning to see how it seeps into my thoughts and actions. At some point, I suppose I’ll have to make amends with people I have hurt, but thinking about that right now makes me feel like throwing up.