One day close to 40 years ago, while I was pregnant with my third child, I came close to crossing the line when disciplining my first born. Sarah was only 5 years old at the time and she and her younger sister were playing and running around in our two bedroom apartment. I don’t recall what the offense was but I do remember how angry I was. I chased them both into their bedroom and as they scrambled onto their bed to try to get away from the monster that had invaded their space, I lunged forward and manage to land my open hand on Sarah’s upper thigh. As I pulled my hand back to lay another blow to her upper thigh I caught a glimpse of her tiny face looking back at me in a way I knew I never wanted to see again. I understood how easy it was to cross that line when you’re angry. Immediately I turned around and headed to my room ashamed of myself and sad beyond comprehension. I later came out and held them as I cried and promised that Mommy would never do that again. Sarah is now 42 but I still can’t erase her face from my memory. This incident defined me as a mother and would determine the way I handled conflict throughout my life.
Earlier this week I had the misfortune of getting into a heated, ugly argument with my youngest daughter and my husband. I was caught in the middle of a situation that began with good intentions but spun out of control very quickly mostly due to personality differences and life challenges at the moment. I won’t go into the details of the incident because that’s not what this post is about. This post is about what I discovered during this argument and about what I learned in the process.
For the first time in 37 years I felt the rage rise inside of me again, only this time, to levels I didn’t think were possible. As I struggled to contain the Kraken unleashed inside of me, I became aware of the physical impact my rage was having on my body. I noticed my heart was racing and pounding out of my chest making it difficult to breathe. I couldn’t catch a full breath and began to hyperventilate. I couldn’t form a complete thought and I felt confused. My teeth were clenched so hard I could barely speak. I knew I had to leave. I walked out the front door still hyperventilating and having a total meltdown. I drove myself to a nearby park and sat there for an hour until I felt human again. I returned home.
Two days later, I got into it again with my husband and it got ugly. The Kraken made it’s appearance again, but this time it didn’t take as much coaxing. It was hiding behind my smile, waiting for the right moment to pounce, and it did at the smallest provocation. As I spewed vile through my locked jaw at my poor husband who had no control over the situation, I was shocked and ashamed.
Who was this woman? I didn’t recognize her and I didn’t like her. I don’t ever want to see her again. Then I realized that I had been feeding this monster for years. I understood that I wasn’t reacting to the circumstance at hand but instead to years and years of suppressed emotions in an effort to keep the peace. Then it dawned on me that being strong, caring, supportive, giving, thoughtful, encouraging, kind and loving at all times wasn’t realistic; I was doing myself and those around me a disservice. I wasn’t being my authentic self; I had become passive aggressive.
So I am sending the Kraken back and starving it until it dies