Saturday, 24 January 2015
60. Walking away
Many years ago, I was brought up by an angry man. Easy to offend, I still recall the ringing in my ears and the sting from getting a backhand that sent me clear across the room for ‘insulting’ him. How? I had made a Father’s Day card and drew a series which started with a baby and ended with old man. The caption: “Through the years, I will always love you. Happy Father’s Day!” The reason for the violence? I had insulted him with the “old” bit. Sigh. A memory that is as unbelievable as it is unforgettable. Luckily for me, many years later, I met and married an incredibly good man who taught me what real love looked and felt like – and that I deserved it.
Which brings me to another angry man in my life. Because of our shared history, I often made excuses every time his angry rants arrived in my inbox or showed up on my mobile. His heavy workload. His difficult upbringing. The chip on his shoulder that he had no control over. Under that guise, I allowed him to treat me unkindly for many years. Accepting all the blames he piled on me – regardless of how petty or crazy the charges. It was always my ‘transgressions’ that caused him to get so angry with me. My fault. Except the load recently became too heavy. Tired of the mood swings -- vacillating from being incredibly charming and funny one minute to becoming mightily insulted and a raging mass of ill humor the next, I finally said I was “done”. A slammed door was predictably followed by childish emails and messages. And yet, if I was to be honest, my initial reaction was relief from the realization that I don’t have to do this silly ‘dance’ anymore.
As I often do when unsure how to proceed, I walked away after writing the above paragraphs. And I slept on it. I dreamt vividly. In my dream, my mother was there. And I was angry with her. I woke with a start and a question. Maybe, without realizing, I too am an angry (wo-) man. Psychoanalyzing my dream, I obviously still have residual feelings of disappointment from our mother abandoning us and leaving us with the angry man who was our father.
Can it be that I too am like the angry man I grew up with? Do I also have rage just simmering under the surface, ready to explode at the first sign of a perceived slight but not realize it? I had previously read somewhere that quite often, you are drawn to or repelled by someone because they possess traits that you also possess. Am I being a hypocrite?
And so I have been mulling over this these last few days. Wanting to be fair. Yearning to be honest with myself. Trying to be a good role model for my children. And this is the conclusion I have reached: I am a flawed human being who like so many others have had to deal with a childhood filled with less than stellar memories. I use those memories to drive me to be a better kinder person every day – to make a difference whenever I can. To learn, correct and improve as I go along. I also realize that having tried for the best part of these last 20 or so years to help this angry man without getting swallowed whole by the toxicity of it all, I have reached the point where I no longer want to be anybody’s punching bag, no matter the shared history or blood connections. After all, what good is “blood” if it makes you sick to the stomach with anxiety? As such, with an affirmation to surround myself with kindness, I draw a line in the sand to acknowledge my limits and to move on without prejudice or hate. One cannot be drawn into a storm if one chooses not to participate and instead just walk away.
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