Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Anger

Last night Chloe was REALLY pushing it with bedtime. She needed a drink, then she wanted another story, then she got up to tell me that her bed had a crumb in it and it was hurting her. This girl can stall like nobody's business.

So after about half an hour of catering to her every whim (I joke!) I firmly told her "If you get up again, or ask for something, you are going to lose your cartoons tomorrow." That really got her and she rolled over with her eyes closed.

I retreated to the living room where I spread out my notebook, Biology notes, textbook, and notecards and started studying. After a few minutes of quiet, broken only by the rustle of my papers, I was startled by Chloe at my side. I opened my mouth to tell her how upset I was and she put her little hand on my shoulder and said "Mommy, don't be angry. I want to say I love you and goodnight!"

I had to laugh though, hearing "don't be angry" out of her mouth was just too cute, she has never said that before. Then I walked her back to her room, gave her a kiss and a cuddle and tuck her back into bed where she went right to sleep. I am 99% sure that when she came out to the living room she was intending on using another stalling tactic, but changed her mind when she saw how "angry" I was.

After she went to bed I still had a little grin on my face. She is so witty and sweet. But the grin faded after a bit when I realized just how significant that emotion is. Anger. The word itself sounds harsh and mean. In her three year old mind, anger means Mom is upset that she won't go to bed. Or she is angry at her sister for taking her toy. Or angry at the pedal on her trike that she can't get to rotate fully. I've always tried to acknowledge her feelings, while also teaching that she needs to control herself. It's okay to be angry, but it is not okay to push Baby. It is okay to be mad, but you cannot yell at us. Etc. Etc.

So in the past year that the topic of anger has come up, I think we've done a good job in helping her express and control her emotions. And even though she feels mad several times a day, how wonderful that her anger is still innocent.

She hasn't yet experienced real fury. And she probably will, sooner than I imagine. But when is anger truly justifiable, when is it real?

In grade school when a classmate humiliates you?

In middle school when your best friend blabs your biggest secret?

In high school when that same best friend steals your boyfriend?

I can think of only two instances in which I have felt true fury, felt so completely out-of-control and filled with rage. Both times the intense emotion was a mask. A cover up for the grief.

In high school I was very close friends with a boy named Garry. Our friends all hung out together, he was the funniest guy. We partied together, we talked in the hallways, my close friend was his girl friend. Everyone in school knew him, just an all around cool guy and class clown. On January 9th, we were all shocked to hear that someone in our town had killed himself. He was a sibling of one of our friends, and quite a bit older than us. The news shocked our small town. That night I spoke with a friend on the phone and said "Can you imagine that happening to one of our friends? I don't think I would be able to handle it."

Five days later, on January 14th, I left school and went to my boyfriend's house. We called Garry to come hang out and when his father picked up the phone he was sobbing. When my boyfriend became alarmed and said "What happened????" Garry's father revealed that he had just walked in on Garry, he had killed himself.

It happened so quick. I was laughing and talking and then my world shattered and then the next moment I was walking out of the house, almost in a trance, to where Garry's girlfriend worked. I walked into the resteraunt and grabbed her hand. I was crying and couldn't choke out the words I just sobbed "Garry....Garry". It was one of the worst moments of my life.

It didn't happen that night, or the next. It was the day after his funeral that the anger hit. I was furious. Furious at some stupid boy who thought his problem couldn't be solved. Furious at a God who would allow so much suffering. Furious at myself and furious at everyone else who didn't see it. A fit of rage that left me exhausted and ragged, and feeling well beyond my 16 years, because no one on Earth could possibly feel that much pain and hurt.

The fury slowly subsided, the pain ebbed away, and the memories started to fade. Long periods went by and sometimes I thought I had forgotten what his face looked like. But I still feel a little ache, a tiny pull at a once angry heart.

Last night, after Chloe was back to sleep, and I got up to get a kleenex, my thoughts turned to the second time I felt true rage, just over two years ago. Two close friends had gone partying, they were driving too fast on too dark roads and they were too intoxicated. Even now, if I close my eyes I can hear the tires squeal and hear the screams and then hear the sickening crunch, even though I was nowhere near the horrible scene, or the lifestyle.

I worked with Bree, I partied with her, we confided in each other, we even raced our cars against each other. We went skinny dipping, we walked through the county fair laughing and joking, and we spent many sleepovers together giggling and whispering. When I decided to move away, get married and start a family, she stayed behind and continued the party life. Sometimes I envied how carefree she was (especially when I was spending my nights changing diapers). We still saw each other occasionally, and laughed over our days as crazy girls. She was so beautiful.

I knew Shanel for many years. We went to school together, hung out with mutual friends and laughed together. I still have a videotape that we made in fourth grade, so young and innocent. When I watch that tape I search her face for some clue, some hint that she wouldn't live past 18.

The fit of anger was similar, but so different. I was older, I was a little more distanced, and too familiar with grief. But I couldn't help feeling furious with Bree. What a stupid decision to make that cost her everything. It took a very long time for the anger to fade. Now I wonder if I spent too much time feeling furious, and not enough time remembering and loving.

Last night, after the second round of Kleenex's, I had to smile again at Chloe's words "Don't be angry Mommy." Her little grip on my shoulder and her half toothless smile, her bedhead and her nighttime stalling, her middle-of-the-night wakings, and naptime antics......they remind me that too much time is wasted in anger. Is it all sunshine and butterflies and rainbows? Of course not. But I cherish this time when three year old 'anger' still means a dropped popsicle or a stubbed toe.

8 comments:

Laura said...

Wow, great post. That really puts things in perspective, Julie...thanks!

Kimi said...

Wow! Makes me stop and think. Thank you for writing that, Jules!

Jen said...

Thanks Jules! You got me all teary now! ;) I did need that after the past few days I've had! :)

You are SO right!

Susan said...

Definitely makes you think before you react, thanks for making me think tonight ;)

Mary Ann said...

Wow Julie! What an insightful post. Thanks for the reminder. I'm so glad you are blogging again!

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