The Meanest Hog

Posted by jael on Aug 14, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey |

“I didn’t come to fool you,” throws down quite the gauntlet.  Especially as, “I did my best, it wasn’t much,” is more my daily bread.

Moments like today with my daughter, Ester, for example burn my cornea with enough light to blind.

I had asked my daughters, Ester, Harriet, and Sophie to take the remnants of toenail polish off their toes. I offered them the “big girl,” privilege of going in my bathroom to reduce their resistance to saying goodbye to this last vestige of their summer swim team, lip-sync contest costumes.

I knew the three of them wouldn’t finish before I put their lunch of microwaved, leftovers on the table, so I thought nothing of it when they asked to return to my bathroom after eating to complete the job.

I heard Eli, our son, grow restless upstairs.  He stomps with the subtlety of an elephant.  A whole day incarcerated in the house with just me and his sisters for company had made him anxious for escape to the pool, or truth be told, anywhere.  His cue was desperate enough to signal me that 30 girly-girl toe-toes notwithstanding, his sisters were a long time in the bathroom.

I went to check on them.

Ester, our oldest girl, visibly shrank to see me. Curious, I asked the girls if they needed any help. Clean-toed Harriet blithely reported that they had run out of nail polish remover. Sophie tangoed atop a polish free pedicure as she reported that Ester did not want to tell me that the bottle was empty.  Harriet reported in her helper voice that Ester had done both of her sisters’ feet first, and by the time she got to her own toes, the bottle had run out. When Harriet asked Ester why she didn’t just come and get me, Ester replied that she could finish the job herself and that they should just let it be.

Her sisters resolutely sat on the bathroom floor as Ester tried to scrub finger nail polish off her own toes with water. Ester was determined to do what I had asked.  It wasn’t until I sat down on the floor with them, Harriet’s foot in my lap so I could file her nails, that I understood that more than Midwestern work ethic had motivated Ester.

I didn’t come to fool you.

Ester is an abundantly kind hearted, old soul.  She wanted me to think that it was exclusively her desire to please me that kept her from asking me for help, when, in fact, it was fear.

Ester was afraid that I would get mad if she came to tell me that we were out of polish remover.

Ester was afraid of my anger. 
Sadly, this means I’ve gotten angry about petty, unimportant things often enough that Ester anticipated that I would get mad about this too. It made more sense to her to scrub her toes with water and the sheer grit of her will rather than to risk my wrath.

I wish that I could tell you that her conclusion was wholly illogical.  Sadly, she has cause to wonder what might set me off next. My face purples and the tendons of my neck bulge when I pitch a noisy, Mamma storm as unwelcome to my children as sudden squalls to sailors.  The transformation mutates me into the incredible hulking eggplant, a crimson beast that must certainly frighten the children like a-plant-so-vile-even-vegetarians-loathe-it ate their mamma’s head!

Help!

Good thing the toilet was close; it made me sick enough to want to puke.  It was like the bathroom had become a court and I had been found guilty of the worst of imaginable maternal war crimes.  I broke my daughter’s trust.

Ester taught me that my anger breaks Hallelujah.

Worse… so much worse… my anger could break her Hallelujah too.

Anger is a maintenance struggle for me.  It digs a default hole into which I un/consciously bury more vulnerable emotion.

My anger blazes hot and fast and familiar.

It devours my resources like a hungry forest fire.

And, oh, the triage…

the energy…

the sheer aerobic activity of it!

Such distraction!

Such projection!

Such folly!

Anger keeps me busy, it mimics movement; it camouflages my true work.

Even unarticulated, it festers and simmers like rancid stew inside of me when I feel most afraid, vulnerable or alone.

Anger is a beast I befriended foolishly. I thought its use secured my safety and control.

Instead, it robs me of both in jaundiced disgrace.  Anger’s thick, yellow, pancake make-up masks Grace.

Ester humbles me.  White, pure and bathed in light, I relish her Hallelujah!

Ester, Baby Girl, Mamma’s sorry.

Mamma’s wrong.

I need to become accountable to my Defender and surrender anger so that it doesn’t become a family Hallelujah breaker.

It has already been a long journey- and I am nowhere near complete- and my pace and course has been uneven.

I have learned some things about my trigger(s) and myself. I was raised with anger.  It was well modeled and practiced in my home of origin like mutant manners.  Anger feels familiar; I know how to do it.  Anger covers more vulnerable and powerless emotion:  fear, anxiety, helplessness, and self-loathing.

I’ve come to realize when I was/am angry that I was/am rarely mad.  Usually I was/am hurt or afraid or embarrassed or ashamed underneath the anger drama.  I use anger to reposition myself from a perceived position of fear or vulnerability to a pretense of protection or power.

Anger is a thief that robs hope and divides resources.

Anger cannot bear the legacy God promises my children.

I am the adolescent when I misplace my anger on the children.  Anger, like dating a bad man, offers lots of thrills and a slick ride on the back of the meanest Hog.  The furious wind blows my hair here, there, everywhere.  Its sightless heat consumes perspective and melts traffic signs.

God’s a better partner on a finer road.

I pray the abundance of quiet strength God so generously shares will allow me to show Ester peace and more truly vulnerable ways to journey together without anger detours.

Hallelujahs don’t get broken or fixed by one long stint on a cold, bathroom floor.

It was time to get my butt and heart off the bathroom floor and Rise. I drove to Food Lion and got two new bottles of nail polish remover for the girls.

I pledge to turn away from anger every time I can.  I offer Him my hand and will walk ahead with God.  He will deliver Ester and Harriet and Sophie and Eli, and even me, like Moses.

And when the oceans rage, I don’t have to be afraid because I know that He lives and loves.  His bottle of finger nail polish remover is never empty; His well never runs dry.

I did my best,
it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel,
so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth,
I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

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