Hello internet readers. So sorry it has been so long since my last post. It’s been a very busy year and if I’m honest with you, there’s been a fair bit of mild depression keeping me from doing anything more than the absolute bare minimum.
I was always a happy-go-lucky, carefree kid. I was the girl who smiled all the time. People used to describe me as being steady, grounded, thick skinned to the point that problems left me unruffled and slid off my back like water off a duck. I was hopeful. I was an eternal optimist. I could see the silver lining in anything. I was a devils advocate, but always on the side of finding virtue in anyone. I still am those things mostly, but none of us are immune to the world around us and somewhere around high-school my strong persona started taking hits and cracking. Of course I didn’t know this at the time. It wasn’t until sometime in College that I started to notice the damage. It wasn’t until after I got married and had kids that it really started to weigh me down. And, it wasn’t until last week that I truly realized what it was and the extent of what I had been internalizing.
Let me preface by saying, I love my kids. I am intensely protective, but try not to hover. I am constantly teaching, but try to let them discover. I research EVERYTHING, but try to find the middle ground in every opinion. I work hard to give my kids structure, but try to be flexible enough for their personalities and needs. Living this kind of dichotomy is draining and exhausting and you get very little recognition or quantifiable rewards for it. Recently I found myself being short tempered with my kids and struggling with this constant underlying simmering irritation. While manning a yard sale for my mother-in-law, I found a book titled, “Getting The Best Of Your Anger” by Les Carter. I was intrigued, so I picked it up. To be honest, I was kind of expecting it to give me actionable steps to control anger. It did, to an extent, but not like I was expecting. The majority of the book was about what anger is, how people express it, what causes it, etc.
Obviously everyone has some working understanding of what anger is, but I was really surprised by what I learned in that book. Anger, a perfectly normal and even beneficial feeling at times, is simply our response to injustice, legitimate or not. Obviously I am paraphrasing. I don’t have room to write a book and it’s already been written. You can go buy the book yourself if you are curious (and I would highly recommend it!). The point is, we all want to feel valued and appreciated. We can either get angry at injustices toward others that devalues or insults them, or we can get angry about injustices towards ourselves. If the anger is destructive, it is an unhealthy use of anger. If the anger is constructive and respectful, it is a healthy use of anger. The problem is, most of us default to unhealthy uses of anger. Stuffing it is an unhealthy use of anger. Silent treatment is an unhealthy use of anger. Depression can even be the result of an unhealthy use of anger, as well as the stereotypical expressions of anger; yelling, hitting, guilt tripping, etc. The book described many ways of expressing anger (in both healthy and unhealthy ways), but what I found for myself was that my underlying anger and mild depression was a result of feeling undervalued and disrespected by my family and stuffing it rather than expressing it in a healthy manner because I had the false impression that anger is all bad and ignoring it would make it go away. Right. Like that has ever worked.
Sometimes, it really isn’t healthy to express the anger, even if it’s legitimate, because you know it won’t be received well or it’s not the right time or you can’t think of a respectful way to do it, etc. In such cases, we should drop the anger and move on. Of course that’s harder than it sounds. Typically when people “drop” their anger, they actually stuff it and internalize it and hold on to it, allowing it to fester inside until it turns into apathy or depression or something like that. If we choose to drop something, we have to drop everything about it. No stewing over it. No bringing it back to sling dirt later. Honestly, this is actually something I’m good at. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve been unable to remember past offenses, even though I know they happened, because I chose to drop them and forget them. BUT, I am also a pro at internalizing things. Re-hashing them. Analyzing them and picking them to pieces. So yeah, reading the book about anger totally changed my perspective on it. I could see it for what it was now. I could see my loved ones anger for what it was. And the overwhelming feeling I got from it, was compassion. I could understand now. I could relate. I could empathize. Sure reading it hasn’t changed my situation, but it’s changed me. It’s changed how I view anger. It’s changed how I choose to respond to my own anger, and to the anger of those around me. Why did I feel disrespected? Because it seemed like no one noticed my efforts and my kids were constantly disobeying (of course, they are just toddlers, it’s kind of in their job description to push limits), and I had this subconscious belief that my work should be noticed. Was I doing it to be noticed? No. My motive was and is to raise healthy, kind, well adjusted, kids and my choices and efforts are a result of that. BUT, the underlying expectation was there, and when it wasn’t fulfilled, I felt disrespected and undervalued. There will probably be other expectations I am unaware of that I will have to work through. Such is life. But I do what I do out of love for my family and I know my value is no less or better than theirs, or anyone else. I choose to do what I do because I feel it is right. For now at least, I am satisfied with the knowledge that I’ve done right. I choose to call anger what it is and move on because living with hidden underlying anger doesn’t do anyone any good and just perpetuates the cycle. My kids deserve better. My husband deserves better. I deserve better.