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Steph gets to the heart of the matter

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Anger sucks, literally. It sucks my breath away. It sucks my joy away. It sucks the life I want away.

It is a raging, violent torrent that I can’t control.

I am a rage-aholic when I rage. Fire licks out of my eyes and tongue. My ears spew thick, black smoke emerging from what boils within.

I think I really started dealing with the problem seriously when I had kids. Those times when they were toddlers and when my head would spin around seven times and I’d really let them have it.

That’s when it occurred to me that maybe I had a problem.

One time, I recall standing by the door where I’d been waiting far too long for them to get ready, coaxing and cajoling calmly, before I finally lost it.

“Why the hell do you think we pay all this stupid money to live in this stupid city that is so f------ expensive if we are never going to go to any of the museums? Why do we live here if we’re never going to do anything, or go anywhere? Get your f------ shoes on right now and let’s go!!!”

Um, yeah. That one stuck, that little speech, how I actually tried to blame the small children sitting before me, dumbstruck, for choosing to live in a ridiculously expensive impossible place to live. Like they chose. Like it was their fault.

But you can see my point. It didn’t make sense to pay all this and not take advantage of what New York had to offer, and if they never cooperated, it was impossible!

Breathe, Stephanie, breathe. Even years later, I can conjure the rage, how it felt not to be able to do what I wanted, or in any time frame resembling what I wanted.

Me, me, me. Jeez. They don’t teach you in school as well as they should that it isn’t all about you. That there are other beings in the world, ones that think like you and ones that don’t, ones that will cooperate with you and ones that won’t, even if you are parent to them, and you’re going to have to sometimes compromise.

Aaah, compromise. It began to seem like a necessity. I began to see that my toddlers didn’t respond particularly well to my angry rants, and my pre-teens just took longer when I got mad, and now, my teens could run away and never come back if I lose it.

I guess those are the things that remind me to keep my rage addiction in check. I have had to remind myself at every stage that being angry doesn’t work, except to feed my pervasive stomach problems. It doesn’t particularly matter what I want when dealing with my kids (or anyone, really), because you have to figure they’re probably thinking about themselves.

I can hear you naysayers saying “nay” in the many ways you do.

“I should be in charge.”

“I should be ‘the parent.’ ”

But I’ve said it forever, and I feel more and more sure about it every day: Wow, do our kids need us to be their friends (the nice ones, not the jerks). They need good older pals with some resources to try to help them figure this crazy world out. They don’t need some insane angry rage-aholic freaking out on them every time they make a mistake. They will make lots of them, just like we do, and so it makes sense to make forgiveness part of the family agenda.

Forgiveness. Forgive yourself; forgive your kids; forgive your partner if you have one, or the ex-partner you got rid of or who got rid of you or who died; forgive your parents, dead or alive; forgive the neighbor; forgive the postman; forgive the guy who honked at you when you didn’t move within a millisecond; forgive the guy you just honked at because he didn’t move within a millisecond; forgive the dog; and yes, even try to forgive the cat (Ok, maybe not the f------ cat).

I can’t get angry anymore. I am too old. It takes too much out of me. And I have long since figured that it doesn’t do anyone a damn bit of good. To work things out, we’re gonna have to be loving, and kind. And when we should fail to be those things, which we will — over and over in a million different ways — we will have forgiveness, and we will move on.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.
Updated 5:56 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

OMG says:
Your anger is really scary!
Imagine if you actually had pressure in your life, and weren't an unemployed person who's biggest stress is apparently visiting a museum while living in an expensive apartment?
Maybe you're easily angered because you're spoiled and just get everything exactly as you want all the time? Maybe it's shocking for you to live like most normal people and have to deal with the pressures of reality? Like things not always going exactly as your whims dictate.
Aug. 18, 2017, 6:42 am
stan chaz from Greenpoint says:
Stephanie,
I presume you're relatively young and still filled with idealism and hope, especially for your kids, and bless you for that.
There’s no doubt that love and kindness is better than our never-ending cycles of repeated anger, hate and violence. And anger is of course a two edged sword, one that cuts and festers and eats away at the source as well as the object of the anger. And no one disagrees with the premise that we should try to control our emotions instead of letting them control us. But to say that "anger doesn't do a damn bit of good"? --that's a bit much.
On the contrary anger does at times serve a worthwhile purpose - sometimes acting as a motivating force that strengthens our will; sometimes as an energizing force that emboldens our resolve to correct that which needs to be changed and challenged.
For example, anger at the hideous statements and actions and choices of Trump. Or anger at the way we are screwed and manipulated by the 99% as they laugh their way to the bank. And anger at the way the world is going to hell all around us.
The poet Dylan Thomas once eloquently told us:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”.
Although he was talking about old age and the end of life, the words can be applied to much of what is wrong with the world - including our passive reactions to it - no matter how old you are. The ends must be consistent with the means for the lasting change we want to see in this world, but anger need not be inconsistent with good, humane and compassionate outcomes.
As for forgiveness, although I suspect that your concept of forgiveness is a lot deeper than the dictionary definition, still, perhaps we would need to be that martyr hanging on the cross to truly forgive, as when He purportedly said: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do". As for the rest of us struggling and flawed humans …if all is forgiven then all is permitted.
And that can't be good….
Aug. 18, 2017, 10:13 pm

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