Monday, January 21, 2008

taking on the shadows

i lost it the other day. threats, venom and anger. spewed all over my family. damn. i hate the shame of it all. my kids were scared, bawling and ashamed and i was self-righteous, angry and wounded. liam was confused, guilty and defensive. it was a mess. what should have been a wonderful family day together was scarred by some ugly behavior by all of us (well, buck was pretty innocent, but did whine a few times...). the most frustrating thing was this was a re-run of a family day we had in october when we went to the city to spend time together, shopping at thrift stores, eating out and supposedly enjoying each other's company. i lost it that day too.

liam drew the parallels for me and reminded me of a time in our relationship when we had the same argument on the same steps in front of a restaurant in dallas 3 years apart. sometimes things repeat themselves because we don't learn enough from them the first time.

i am so ashamed. my points were valid, my pain real, but the method of my delivery was abusive and scary. i sat in the drivers seat of the parked car and threatened my family that i was never doing this again. the shadows of the october trip did much of the work for me so very little had to be said. my family knew that day (my birthday) was ruined by temper tantrums and passive aggressive behavior - and my ultimatum in the car - for that trip i drove us home the three hours it took in complete silence.

what i failed to realize was the shame that had crept into my day along the way that pushed the buttons that brought us to that place. my daughter acting like trying on clothes (at the thrift store) was akin to child labor in the coal mines, my son's attention span lasting a whole 15 minutes in a store and persistently asking every five minutes when we would be done. my husband not engaging in the day and missing out on conversations and statements made and blowing past things that were important to me. my own frustration and shame at clothes not fitting, cramped dressing rooms and thrift store merchandise. all of it boils into an ugly stew.

by the end of the time i am shredded.

saturday i had found a spring jacket that i thought was so stylish and made me feel beautiful in. it was tailored and expensive - the tag at the thrift store was even asking $17.99. i tried it on to show liam after all of the drama of the change rooms with my daughter and he looked at me like i had vomit on my clothes. he swears it had nothing to do with the price tag and that he had no consciousness of the look on his face, but i was so demoralized i put everything back on the rack and left the store. i tried to calm down in the freezing parking lot, but obviously it wasn't cold enough to cool the boiling rage i felt inside.

when they returned to the car i began. i didn't swear or scream - but i did threaten and abuse the power i had to instill fear and frighten my kids. this isn't the kind of behavior they are usually party to. i usually only bestow on liam. pink will be 12 this spring and i don't think she's seen this more than twice in her life, but i was brutal. damn.

one of the things we have learned is that when emotions get ratcheted up this high there is always something standing behind them. shadows of unresolved issues from the past that are tweaked and buttons pushed that rarely have anything to do with the situation at hand.

bags must be unpacked, closets opened and aired out if we are going to come to the bottom of this to stop it from happening again. i just am not sure where to start.

i know that the passive aggressive behavior my daughter has found as her weapon lately pushed every button i have. alas, this is why she has chosen it. she has learned from the masters. my husband and mother-in-law use this weapon well and when i see it in her i want to crawl inside and root it out of her brain with a spoon.

the shame of the thrift store looms large for all of us. they are usually dirty, the dressing rooms crowded and ill equipped and the lines you have to wait through just to get one are filled with others who really don't want to be there and are living out their own stories of shame and frustration (except of course for the pack of teenagers who are having an absolute ball trying on hats and weird old men coats - they are the most fun to watch at the thrift store - and i miss that part of me).

how can we carry around so much baggage all of the time. damn my hands are tired. i want to put it down and leave it somewhere to rot.

the family meeting is coming, but i want to wait until the raw emotion has some time to settle and liam and i can have a better understanding of why this returned to haunt us. i am tired of living in the shadows.


Anonymous said...

I have never found thrift stores that daunting, but then, I don't have kids either. Try this, "Pause when aggitated" then ask yourself, "How important is it?"

Anonymous said...

((((Bobbie))))) I hear ya. It's like trying to untangle a mess of stuff you find in an old jewelry box or junk drawer. (I guess it's the thrift store images..) Sometimes, you create a few more knots when you pull on some strands in the hope of loosening another area. Eventually, though, things start to separate and it's easier to see what you're dealing with. In the meantime, it can be frustrating and hurt like hell though, eh?

Losing it every so often though does not obliterate all the love and goodness that you have invested in your family.


bobbie said...

DD - I LOVE thrift stores and shop at them almost exclusively, but I realized that there is probably some hidden shame and emotion that I'm in denial about or I wouldn't have been so bothered by my daughter's attitude.

We don't just make the trips to the thrift store out of environmental concerns - it is a financial reality in our lives because we choose to live simply. I guess I haven't really faced the idea that my husband's and my choice to do this has costs/benefits to our kids that they will need to weigh out for themselves. I want them just to be little robots I program to always agree with me, but alas it is not possible or healthy.

Mich - thanks for the virtual hugs! I needed them! And I LOVE the tangles jewelery box metaphor - it is EXACTLY how I feel.

And hurting like hell would be fine if I just could keep it to myself, I am so generous with my pain though - have to spread it around to everyone... misery loves company...

Thank you so much for reaffirming that this doesn't cancel out the good!

Heather said...

Hey Bobbie, I've "heard" a recurring theme going around even on the "frugal" blogs that sometimes you just don't feel like being frugal. Even though you guys have made great choices with living simply, there have to be moments when it just doesn't feel so rewarding. Hang in there and be gentle with yourself! Isn't it crazy how the days you have high hopes for are always the ones that can disappoint the most.Hugs!

Hope said...

I don't think we ever escape the shadows. But we can acknowledge them and work with what gets revealed by them. In that way they are a gift.

Please don't heap condemnation upon yourself for being a broken human being in need of God's healing touch.

"Losing it" doesn't define you. I continue to have such admiration for the way in which you are parenting and your heart's desire to do the best you can no matter how much inward looking that takes. Parenting is a marathon and you continue to put one foot in front of the other in order to keep moving forward. That takes courage. It takes courage to face stuff like this. I don't know about you but never once in my family of origin did my parents ever discuss a 'losing it' situation after the fact. It was never mentioned again and I was left with thinking if only I would be good they would be better. Your kids don't have to internalize that shame, you have taught them to have a voice. Be proud of yourself for that.

I love you. Hugs to you today dear friend.

anj said...

Oh, the pain of families....I hear what you are saying about shame, and unpacking. I hear your regret with your anger and venom, I hear it and I hear how painful it is to look at, and hold in the Light.I trust that the Spirit will speak to your condition and that you will hear.

I don't know if another viewpoint will be helpful or not, but wanted to throw this one out and if it splats, okay. The boys and I had often enjoyed what we called "Adventure Saturdays", special things on Saturdays - museums, thrift shops, exhibits, park visits. Until about three years ago. Then they just quit being fun, they quit working.They became difficult and there was connection lost instead of gained. The last one was The Natural History Museum in NYC (my kids have always been museum freaks) within five minutes they were bugging me to go the cafeteria (something that was not usually part of "Adventure Saturday"). Long faces, you know the drill - it sounds like you just experienced it. We left, went to the street hot dog vendor, walked Central Park and you would think I asked them to run the Marathon. That was the last adventure Saturday we had. I miss them. But they are not in a place to enjoy them. And outings are supposed to be fun.

Instead of forcing yourself to do something that may not work, is there a way to be kind to yourself and get it done differently?

Sorry for the length of this comment.

wilsonian said...

No short way through.

You know, the only way to find the source of a shadow is to follow the source of light... the shadow is merely the absence of Light when something else gets in the way.

Deb said...

Here's a hug from me as well...(((((((Bobbie)))))))))

I really like Wilsonian's comment. There's a lot of truth there.

bobbie said...

Heather - yes & no, I have been there (the frugal/not frugal thing), but I really think this had a lot to do with other things. Your second insight though strikes home - I really want those days together out and about to be special and get so frustrated with getting frustrated...

Hope - they are a "gift" but only AFTER! not during! :p I need to remind myself that I have taught Pink to have a voice - and that is a good thing - (AFTER, not DURING!) :)

Anj - I love the idea of "Adventure Saturdays" and resonate with your pain in their loss. We're just on the edge of this time when friends are more fun and important than family. It's hard to bear.

I can and will do my own shopping during school hours from now on, but I haven't so far come up with a creative idea on how to do the kids shopping. Liam thinks that a stringent "no knew clothes" until they understand the need is the solution. I on the other hand think that there is probably some middle ground.

Erin - you are so wise, and probably won't ever see this as you are in Africa - but I love it and am posting it on my blog - it's beautiful and it's helping me find my way through - thank you.

Deb - how I have missed you friend - thank you for the HUGS! Wish they were in person!

Jules said...

Bobbie I am once again humbled and inspired by your honesty and courage.

bobbie said...

thank you jules!

Kel said...

i love what erin has to say here

and bobbie, how wonderful for you to be surrounded by so many blog buddies who are willing to take on the shadow stuff with you

i love thrift stores too (or op-shops as we call them here)and 90% of my wardrobe comes from them
but i've learned not to take mr x with me, or it turns into a scene strangely like the one you have just described

bobbie said...

op-shops - that's a great name Kel! and YES - the support here is a beautiful thing! love my blogger buddies!

Sarah Louise said...

oh honey. I remember losing it this summer in Yellowstone. It was the nicest lodge and we had sat down to lunch but my dad did something that triggered me and the monster came out. It had been years for me too.

Sending hugs. (I think it has something to do with the fact that we think family outings should be fun, and then we're smooshed together and it all comes out.)

So humbling to remember that day as I read about yours. I take grace that I'm not the only monster out there. And hope that we both live another day to be our real selves.