I heard once that anger is really nothing more than unresolved sadness. Nothing more, and yet, is there anything that fills the heart and mind than more sadness?
Sadness. The emotion that, almost more than any other, has a shape shifting quality. Like a gas, it seems to grow and fill any vessel it occupies.
And when we can no longer sit with our sadness, we allow the warm and pacifying waters of anger to spill out of our heart and through our mouth and onto anyone who stands in it’s wake.
I’ve come to the the gut wrenching conclusion that I’m guilty of unquantifiable, unjustifiable, unacceptable anger. Anger that is only ever directed at the people I hold most dear in this world. Anger that would shock and surprise the casual observer of my life.
Anger that surprises no one more than me.
Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you, like me, are a naturally calm person. Easy going. Good natured. Prone to be more quiet than loud. And maybe you, like me, have found yourself slipping into actions and behaviors at home that confound you to your very core.
You are not an angry person. You are not one to lash out. So why, WHY, do you?
I’ve had a lot of reasons for my frustration. I’m always careful to call it “frustration.” Frustration seems so normal. So digestible. So acceptable. I’m sure to lead with my list of frustrations so that you understand that my frustration is REAL. My frustration is the result of very frustrating experiences. Don’t you see? Don’t you understand? Don’t you justify my frustration?
The truth is, I’m pretty good at convincing everyone that the hard things in my life are totally deserving of my frustration. I’ve been convincing myself of this for years.
But the reality is I’m not frustrated.
I’ve felt entitled to things that my children do not give me. I’ve felt entitled to being treated a certain way. I’ve felt entitled to order. I’ve felt entitled to peace and quiet and calm. THOSE ARE MY VALUES after all. How dare you, little people, not bow to my values.
And when mommy doesn’t get her way. She gets mad.
But of course, I don’t tell you this.
I tell you all the ways my kids are hard. I tell you all the extra crazy things they do so that you understand that my frustration is to be expected. I need you to tell me it’s ok to be frustrated, because I need to feel that my anger is ok.
But of course, it is not.
I become angry at my kids and lash out because I have not yet dealt with the sadness that I still feel from becoming a mother and realizing that I cannot control, I cannot contrive, and I cannot contain.
I can’t control my environment anymore. I can’t make it picture perfect and quiet and calm. I have to BE the calm amidst the storm. And I resent that.
I can’t contrive a life that looks a certain way or emulates the picture perfect life I want you to think I have. My life is full of little people who don’t care what you think. And I resent that.
I can’t contain my imperfections and shortcomings. I can’t hide them behind closed doors. They spill out at the grocery store and on play dates. They spill out when I’m late for church or have to bail last minute on plans because I can’t.get.it.together. I can’t contain the energy and abundance of three little lives BRIMMING and shimmering with life and words and movement. I cannot contain life into a safe, pre-packaged box.
And I resent that.
But rather than face that resentment. Rather than stare that sadness in the face and say to it, “I will sit with you sadness. I will give you space in my life and heart so that I can face you and honor you because you are the result of hard things that are REAL but also hard things that MATTER. I am not afraid of you sadness, because I know that you represent something that must be faced in order for it to be felt, and felt in order to be processed.”
Rather than making room for the sadness in order to make room for the healing, I get mad.
Anger, though we hate to admit it, can be such an easy band aide to our hurting hearts. Anger brings heat and movement. It deceives us into believing we are in control of the situation. Anger tells us that we are the victim and that we DESERVE to react. We deserve to lash out. We deserve to get mad.
Friends, oh my sweet friends. Our emotions are such powerful tools. But I wonder, who is wielding the tools of our emotions when we are angry? When I lash out at my kids, I am no more “in control” than when I clean up a 6×6 square of my home to take a photo and put it on social media to show the world that I HAVE EVERYTHING IN ORDER. I AM IN CONTROL. I AM OK.
I realize now that for many many years, I’ve felt this guilt over how I respond to my kids. And it usually plays out like this. I reach out to a friend. I tell them “how hard” everything is. I make sure they understand the full extent of just “how hard” my life is right now. And then I mention that I may have overreacted. I’ll be reassured that sometimes life is just hard and that we all overreact from time to time and that it’s “ok” and that I’m a good mom. So I swallow the sinking feeling in my stomach and reassure myself that it’s not me, it’s my kids. It’s motherhood. It’s the lack of sleep. It’s the stage. It’s the season.
And it all sounds so good. It sounds SO CLOSE to the truth that for years now, I’ve convinced myself that it was truth.
But it’s not.
The truth is I AM a good mom. Life IS hard. Being a mom IS the hardest job in the world. These kids DO totally suck from time to time. This IS just a stage, a season, a phase.
But my behavior when I lash out in anger is NOT ok.
My job, as a mom and as a human being is to ask myself why I am angry. And the answer is that I am sad. I’m sad because some very real, very selfish preconceived notions about life and about what I deserve are crumbling down around me. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING causes your preconceived notions about life to come crashing down at your feet and then rise up to smack you in the face over and over again like having children. Motherhood has been THE most refining and defining experience of my life. And sometimes, rather then allowing this stage and season to continue to refine me, I get angry at the chisel. I get angry at the tool used for my refinement – my children.
Friends, I want to be careful not to throw shame upon your head as you read this. Brené Brown says that shame makes us feel unworthy and unlovable, while guilt motivates us to create positive change. Guilt says – I am wrong, but I am not defined by my wrong behavior and I am free to take steps to make this right.
I know this post is going to strike a very real, very raw nerve with some of you. We mommas work so hard to love our people, and it can be very hard. And it can be very exhausting. And we can feel like we are failing so miserably. And it causes some very ugly things to be uprooted in us. And so, we lash out. Because when we are trying so hard and feeling like we are working with the odds stacked against us, the last thing we want to do is work on ourselves. We feel like we have nothing thing left to give. We feel like we have no time, energy, or motivation to deal with the junk that is simmering in our souls.
But friends, if we don’t deal with the junk, the junk will deal with us. And it will deal with our kids. And it will deal with our spouses. And it will ultimately deal a hand of death.
The bravest thing we can do in our relationships, especially as mommas, is to look that junk square in the face. Look at those preconceived notions about how our life “should look” or “should have turned out” and face that sadness and disappointment head on. There is a stark difference between facing our sadness and letting that sadness wash over us and carry us down the river of despair.
It’s actually not that hard to be an angry momma. Pick your poison – spilled milk, a destroyed piece of furniture, feeling lost and alone at home, or the sting of all eyes on you as your child acts out in public. We’ve all been there. And we’ve all been angry. But dear ones, you aren’t really angry. You are sad. And the only way we can get through this and move past it all is to face that sadness.
The good news is that there is hope and healing for our sadness. Over the past years I’ve read and listened to so many good things that have helped bring me to the point where I’m even able to talk about this with you today. I listened to this podcast on the subject of overwhelm and it BLEW MY MIND. Maybe you aren’t angry, but you are overwhelmed. Listen to this podcast. Brooke Castillio says, “overwhelm is not something that happens to you. It’s something you create.” Boom. If that doesn’t punch you in the gut then I don’t know what will.
Also, anything written by Brené Brown is another great place to start. Her book, Daring Greatly is a book ever human being should read. Or recently, I listened to this podcast and felt inspired to take some important next steps in my own journey of facing my sadness and moving from angry mom to, to a truer version of myself. The version that feels the whole range of emotions, but doesn’t let those emotions dictate my behavior but instead, indicates areas of my life that need a little more attention and work. The version of me that doesn’t stomp and yell and demand that my sweet little babies bow to my values, but that teaches them and models those values for them. And not just the values of peace and calm and patience. The values of humility and mercy and grace. The value of forgiveness.
I’ve focused really hard the past year on asking for my kids’ forgiveness when I mess up. This year, I’m also going to get better at taking a moment afterwards to offer forgiveness to myself. Because you know? Life is hard. We do face really hard things. And we don’t always handle those hard things well. We don’t always model the grace and kindness that we know is in us, but that gets lost in the disappointment and frustration and sadness. But we are still worthy of our own forgiveness. Because we are not our mistakes. And we have everything we need to face those mistakes, learn from them, and move on.
Oh friends. Sharing in your sadness today. Sharing in the reality that life is not always easy to navigate and that sometimes we navigate it poorly. But also, looking forward to our shared healing and growth. Because we all have a big, beautiful life to lead. Let’s now allow our circumstances and our poor responses to those circumstances to steal all that we are meant to experience, enjoy, and offer.