I never considered myself a particularly angry person. I grew up in a house with a lot of turmoil and conflict, but I thought I got out of it intact by being all Zen-like and avoiding conflict. The reed that bends in the storm doesn't break, and whatnot. It turns out, not so much.
|Those reeds are way too serene. There must be a dead body under the water, or an alligator.|
|It looks so peaceful from here ...|
|Don't even get me started.|
Since then, I've talked to a lot of moms about this issue of anger, and I have learned the following things.
- Everyone's kids sometimes, more often than they like to admit, cause them to feel incandescently, mind-blowingly angry. This is normal.
- Ditto for spouses, even the good ones.
- Many kind, rational, loving women with small children will tell you that they have had at least fleeting fantasies of leaving their families in the dead of night, changing their names, and moving to Arkansas (or somewhere else nobody would ever think to look for them). This is not, however, generally condoned as a solution to one's problems.
While I was glad to know I wasn't a complete freak, I still had to learn why my anger seemed so much worse, and what to do about it. Bottom line: I needed to grow the hell up, and fast. Ultimately, I was angry because I had never learned to confront people, take responsibility for the course of my life, and work through uncomfortable feelings, and I didn't like the place where that led me. Even worse, I had no one to blame but myself.
In childhood, when things got rough, I buried myself in schoolwork, a book, or a daydream, and I did my best to acquiesce and be good so nobody would bother me. I carried that avoidance into adulthood, and nothing terrified me more than confronting a friend, my spouse, my family, or my co-workers. It didn't all come home until I had children because I had responsibilities I simply couldn't avoid, no matter how I felt. The anger was actually a gift to me - a message that I had to deal with my feelings rather than let them chase me into a corner. As unpleasant as it was to have to learn this lesson on such a delayed timeline, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Children are blessings in all kinds of ways.
I'd like to say that I'm now a fully well-adjusted adult and that I've figured everything out now. Of course, that would be a load of crap. What I can say is that in the moments when I would most like to duck and run, I make a conscious effort to turn and face the person, situation, or emotions that are bothering me and deal with them. I might not always get it right, but when I instituted this change in my mindset, much of my anxiety, frustration, and anger lifted like fog. Learning to face my demons was the best thing I could do for my children.
I'm sure Gwyneth is breathing a little easier now, but if she writes a check in the line ahead of me at the grocery store, all bets are off.