Today was a busy 5+ hours of garage sale-ing, rock climbing, swimming, friends, family. It was jam packed with laughter and in/out, go go go go go. For the adults, we were feeling the tired feelings and watching the kids begin to express them. The tired turned to exhaustion at about 8 pm when my eldest began to lose his shit over the small stuff. His focus factor had diminished to nil and I asked for his toy so he could put his remaining energy into his teeth. He threw the toy and my youngest fled the room in tears. After 20 minutes of working to understand the rapid decline in behavior mixed with careless words and sobs, we finally got to the root of the problem.
After the long hugs and apologies, on multiple sides, he said something really interesting. “I wish I was like Jesus because he could take all these frustrating feelings and blow them up.” This was such a beautiful moment to teach my kids that all of their emotions are holy and okay.
Jesus overturned tables. He made a whip. He cursed a tree. He showed us angry. Many could even argue that it is an angry God shown through much of Scripture. And if God can show angry, we can too.
What is hard about communication in general though, whether between humans, gods, or any mix therein, is that it involves more than one. With my son, in order to understand what he is feeling and trying to communicate, I have to learn a new language. He speaks 7 year old, I speak 36 years young. He doesn’t experience things through my lens, he experiences them through his. His experience is no less valuable than mine and his emotions are just as valid.
Children are people. They are important. They have inherent worth. And so do I. So do you.
Anger is hard and uncomfortable. But it is holy and, I think, it is because anger reveals what we truly value. My eldest valued his toy and autonomy, both were violated and anger was the tool used to communicate it. So I learn, grow, and adjust. I can change how I approach him and he in turn can change how he responds to me and vice versa.
When I experience anger, my first inclination, every single time, is to evaluate whether it is reasonable or compelling. What caused this situation? Did it feel intentional or more accidental? Why am I angry and reacting with such feeling? Usually, I lose myself in other points of view because anger is such an exhausting emotion; but also I figure that expressing my feelings probably isn’t beneficial to the situation. I got the wrong order at the restaurant that I was really looking forward to? “Maybe I just ordered the wrong thing or didn’t annunciate and the waiter does look really busy, I bet he has a lot to do. And it isn’t easy waiting on all these people. Maybe I can make life easier and just eat this. Food is food.” Now, super simplified. I know. But put it in a different context such as trying to understand my past. I reach out to a person, hoping for help in understanding, and they shut it down. “Maybe I asked incorrectly? Maybe I wasn’t clear in what I was hoping for? Maybe I reached out on a bad day? I can just work it out on my own. I could have asked how I could have helped them.”
While I still want to ease the burden of those I emotionally engage with, my emotions… my perspective… my experience is just as valid as those with whom I am trying to relate. I am now aware of how much I have put my experiences, my thoughts, my emotions on hold or dismissed altogether; now the struggle is helping/letting/encouraging the voice and experience of others WHILE making sure I also embrace my own as equal. I don’t want to be on the teeter totter– it isn’t about bouncing back and forth so that people are either yelling or silent. This is about me stepping off the ride because I am beginning to value my voice and my experiences as much as I do others.
Emotions are commonly compared to a roller coaster. We allow them to control us or we shove them away or we plant them to burgeon forth another day. Anger is an easy emotion to let control the moment, but there has to be something useful about it also. Maybe if it reveals to us what we really treasure, it also provides the motivation to bring change. Change in ourselves, in our environment.
It is hard to sit with out joy and not worry when the other shoe is going to drop. It is hard to sit with our anger and try to understand from where it came. But it can be/is also hard to sit with another’s joy… another’s anger…. Another’s pain.
In Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown, she writes, “When we are reckless with other peoples stories, we diminish our own humanity.” With my child, his story was different than mine, but no less true. I want him to learn that his story is valuable, but that it is also valuable to listen and believe the stories of those around him. I want others to know that my story is valuable, so that meant I too needed to realize that it is… even when I am angry.
It has now been over a month since I wrote this. It began as a therapeutic process for me to understand my pain and my anger as well as claim them as my own. Your story with all of its pain, anger, and joy is vital. Share it with those you trust, who will handle you with care. Because you are important.