Good Afternoon and Good Night.
That, by the way, is Truman’s catch phrase and the final line of the movie.
As for me two of those are true.
Yesterday was a beast.
It had all the makings of a lovely Sunday. Basking in the afterglow of a Patriots post season win, tea in bed. A jigsaw puzzle. Skipbo with Oliver. PJs all day.
I could feel the storm brewing early. I started with a list of what it takes to keep our house running and felt small bubbles of anger that I wasn’t assigning any Os or Ls next to the tasks. The anger was at myself, and the list was a means of harnessing it into something useful. Guess how well that went?
Steve and I talked about a plan. Or I talked and he sat next to me.
When Leo refused a hike in the woods Steve and Oliver left to brave the melted water and walk over the river to pick up a few things at the store. Usually the thought of this makes me thrilled about where we live, but instead I felt sorry for myself that I was stuck inside with my tea and puzzle. Then angry that I hadn’t just dragged Leo away from the computer so we could all go.
15 minutes later Steve send me pictures of a river swollen with melt off and an upassable, muddy slope. The bridge which is usually 12 feet above the river is only a foot higher, and the sturdy wooden ladder on the far side is underwater.
They turned around.
They set out again in the car to get some hockey gear and pick up lunch and I felt my upset swirling. This time I didn’t even want to go with them. My father was an angry man. Everyone around him knew it. Servers at restaurants, people working at front desks, he frequently felt slighted and it showed.
At home he would rage in general, and sometimes particularly at my mother or me. When I was younger I would yell too. My mother screamed back at him. I don’t know if it is in her nature, or if she raised her voice in an attempt to be heard in the midst of his tirade, but when he got going it was loud in our house. Slammed doors, broken dishes. We always rebounded quickly. A very short time apart. Stroked hair, apologies. No one was ever scared. It was just raw uncontrolled emotion that erupted and calmed. Rarely did the anger effect any change.
In my early relationships I yelled. When things felt out of my control I would explode like my father had. In the face of calm I would get louder and meaner until finally I broke the other person too. Into tears, or yelling, or flight. It was a short lived victory. The anger was always about me, despite my attacks I was always the intended victim. The punishment was showing these people who loved me how wrong they were.
As I got older I learned to control the anger. Or at least not vent it. I have heard sometimes that depression is anger turned inwards. I don’t know if this is true but the timing works. The sadder I got, the less angry I became.
For weeks now I have been feeling really good. Just like myself. Not depressed and best of all not muted behind a wall of soggy nothingness. I have found things funny, and engaging. I have worked on some projects outside of the house. I have GONE outside of the house.
And then yesterday I couldn’t control it. I tried. While Steve and Oliver were out on errands I tried breathing, meditation, self talk. I could hear the echoes in my head of the words I would say to hurt Steve. What sort of minor transgressions I could use against him. I have always been excellent at breaking people down. I can sense their vulnerabilities. Maybe we all can, and most of us are just too well behaved to know how skilled they are at an attack.
They were out longer than I thought they would be. I had extra time to calm the fuck down. However their lateness became the seed from which my anger grew.
So I exploded. The boys were far away and I went at Steve. He was late, and didn’t text. Why didn’t you text me he asked reasonably. We have not fought. I don’t think I have yelled at him in the 12 years we have been together. Not once. I rarely even speak sharply. When I have an edge in my voice it surprises him. That’s how well I have controlled my anger over the years.
He took it well which was trouble because I had to keep escalating until I hurt him. I think this is how abusers feel. In this moment maybe thats what I was. Then, as soon as he showed that he was hearing me, being effected by my words I turned the wrath to the true target. Me. I am so angry at me.
Just like me father once I erupted it was over. Steve and I apologizing to each other and hugging. He feeling sorry for the crappy small things I accused him of, and me feeling sorry for dragging him into my misery.
Then this morning I am fine. There is no cloud, not even a shadow.