20Jul
Natalie's letter

Mt. Grampie

Sweet, honest Natalie.

We had a bit of turbulence throughout our morning today. No gales or typhoons, mind you, but enough rough patches that I ended up expressing my displeasure in a rather loud way that may or may not have involved yelling into a pillow. The girls convened with each other in whispers and then tiptoed into the other room, emerging several minutes later with the above letter held in front of them like a shield. There were giggles, kisses, and plenty of “I’m sorry”s nuzzled into forgiving ears, and the girls cheerfully got back to their day. I, on the other hand, spent the next hour in mental self-flagellation.

I have never been not frustrated as long as I can remember. I don’t know how much of this is my personality and how much of it is from growing up in an environment where perfection was expected with the understanding that I would never be good enough to attain it. I still don’t get how a too-heavy sense of responsibility can coexist with utter helplessness, but the mix has stewed under my shoulder blades for nearly all of my life.

Most of the time, it’s just sort of there, not doing anything worse than fogging up my sunglasses. Other times though—for instance, if I’m tired or hungry or, God save us, both, or if I have to call any form of customer service, or if (hypothetically) it’s the second morning of post-vacation summer break and the girls and I can’t remember how to occupy the same house without sounding like screech owls—in times like those, the simmering mess bursts like lava up my throat, and the only way I can find to direct it is out.  Thus the mistreated pillows and the formal requests from my kindergartners to please not be so grumpy.

There have been some Conversations around here lately about my similarity to Vesuvius, and while I’d be happy to cut back on the lava eruptions, I simply don’t know how. My coping arsenal consists of two strategies: 1) remove self from the frustrating situation, and 2) put a lid on it. The problem is that #1 is rarely an option—I often feel helpless in the face of existence, and there aren’t many socially acceptable ways to take a breather from that—and #2 usually just results in the lid rocketing out with the rest of the molten angst. All new frustration! Now with projectiles! Hard hats recommended!

Ergo my question: Which direction besides downward or outward do you channel chronic frustration?

Revised question upon realizing that you probably don’t have a stratum of helpless negativity simmering somewhere south of your clavicle: How do you deal with turbulent mornings without earning a cease and desist letter from your six-year-old?

 

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8 comments

  1. My dear cousin! You have bravely put into words my entire time in motherhood! We all explode, and sometimes it happens all over our children. I’ve done many apologies to my sweet girls. First, it is wonderful that your children are able to be honest with you and feel strong enough to counsel you. That should be a feather in your mothering cap! Second, a beautiful lesson is being taught to them when you apologize. I want my girls to know mistakes are made, even by mothers. Apologies help them know how to recover gracefully. At least that is what I tell myself!

    Here in the midwest, we are on our 2nd straight week of temps in the 100s. I am ready to pull my hair out while crawling into the fetal position to cry. My girls and I are having “moments” too. You are not alone, you are a remarkable parent, and you are blessed with a talent to share your life with the rest of us! Thank you!

  2. O! You DO have my sympathies, being a pot-boiling, explosive type myself. That letter is ADORABLE. Put that in the keepsake box, STAT!

  3. My first thought: everyone gets angry and loses it in front of their family members at some point. Someday Natalie will probably have kids of her own, and while people like you and I who experienced abuse as children live with the constant fear of reverting to that violent behavior in a moment of weakness, Natalie is much more likely to revert to yelling into a pillow. Perfect? No, thankfully, just safe and sane and healthy. She may thank you someday for modeling these healthy behaviors for her. :)

    In answer to your question, though, I’ve found a combination of meditation and regular relaxation exercises (including stretching) very helpful. I am incapable of letting my emotions loose and carry my stress with my physically, so it’s important for me to take the time to intentionally undo those tension knots and catch my breath.

    For myself, I have gone as far as I can go on my own now and I am preparing to take the next step: anti-anxiety medication. That’s not for everyone, of course, but I’ve come to the realization that I will not be able to move on from my past until I stop carrying it with me. It’s locked into my muscle memory, and I need to physically disconnect myself from those negative experiences so that I can embrace my new life as an adult. Hopefully I’ll outgrow the need for medication over time…hopefully very quickly, because I am the biggest whiner in the world when it comes to taking pills. ;)

  4. Prescription for Turbulent Mornings

    1) Send it back to the factory and crawl back into bed.
    2) Make a second cappuccino…wait for it….GUILT FREE!! So there!
    3) Lots of sex.
    4) Fling paint. Seriously. At a canvas, not the kids. It’s great therapy.
    5) Have the girls rub mommy’s feet. Or hair. Tell them it’s keeping the grampy away.
    6) If they say no, then see #3.
    7) If that doesn’t work, see #1.

  5. umm, i really have to agree with most of rain’s suggestions. of course…i’ve never, um, done a few of them. hehe.
    me no likey turbulent mornings. :P

  6. Well, I am GRUMPY too. More than I care to admit. Sarah says, “Why are YOU so crabby today???” And that is my check. Usually I just spit the reason right back at her though. I love (LOVE) Rain’s suggestions. Writing them down….

  7. What you describe as the too heavy responsibility coexisting with a sense of hopelessness is so familiar to me. I’m not a mother, but I run into the same feeling, and the same nearly explosive responses in other situations. The big things I’ve found that help:

    Eating breakfast. I’m really not much of a breakfast person. I’d be perfectly happy drinking a cup of coffee as a run out the door and quite often I do. At one point in a particularly traumatic point in my family, I accidentally developed an eating disorder, my stomach shrunk, and it ended up continuing on and off for several years. What I found when I started eating more regularly–good things with plenty of protein–was my mood shifted to a more stress absorbent place. Even now, I usually wait until I’ve been at work for a couple of hours before I eat breakfast on a fifteen minute break, and there’s a subtle shift in my stress coping abilities after that. So what I would suggest–don’t skip eating well and taking care of yourself in that basic way. It’s so easy to get in a rush or distracted and not eat, which only makes the situation worse. Eat. It’s a biological imperative.

    The second thing I’ve found helpful in the last couple of weeks. I work near a bus stop, and every day, several times a day, the bus will pull up with people riding from the “under privileged” parts of town. I live in the part of the country that’s getting the 100 plus degrees day after day after day, and I was outside one day and it occurred to me that I could bring water to those at the bus stop. A few years ago I didn’t have a car and had to walk everywhere. Some days you’d give anything for a bottle of water. The looks of surprise and gratitude and melted crusty exterior just made me all mushy and smiley inside no matter how much my coworkers were getting to me. I had one day where I skipped, and it felt like skipping blood pressure medication. So my advice, while you’re eating and taking care of your basic physical needs, find a way to help someone else with theirs in a way where you can SEE their reaction. I know you’re a mother, and you do this every day, but your kids aren’t surprised when you extend yourself to them. People at bus stops are.:)

    Oh, and Rain’s flinging paint. I gotta agree. Pretty fabulous therapy.

  8. Profile photo of Bethany

    Sheri – Is it okay that I’m glad you and your girls are having “moments” too? I’m cracking up thinking about you in a ball on the floor pulling your hair out… :) Thank you, thank you, thank you for the encouragement (and the laugh!).

    Liz – My keepsake box is really just a computer folder; I gave up on a real one after seeing our room literally swamped under piles and piles of my girls’ artwork. You’re right, this one is definitely a keeper! Commiseration from one boiling pot to another (and P.S. – your kids seem to be turning out just dandy).

    Grace – Thanks for the ideas! I’ve heard great things about yoga, but the problem is finding the time to do it regularly enough to make a difference (instead of it being Mom’s Booty In The Air Silly Time every once in a while… ha). I hope your anti-anxiety medications do the trick; I’m proud of you for taking the steps to care for yourself!

    Rain – My goodness, I think this list needs to be written down and posted to the wall over my desk… scratch that, the wall over my bed. So. Awesome. (Also, my husband at lunch: “You know, that friend Rain of yours has some good ideas…” hehe)

    Beka – Hey, next time you have a turbulent morning of your own, come on over here and we can have a second guilt-free cappuccino together!

    Megsie – It probably helps your children when you explain your reasons for crabbiness rather than resorting to muffled shrieks, I’d imagine. :) Thanks for the empathy!

    Abigail – I love your idea about the water at the bus stop. I’m pretty good about remembering breakfast, but I could certainly be doing more for those in need rather than getting wrapped up in my own turbulence. Thank you for passing on your experience!

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