The therapeutic sofa, part 2
So the question that took me to the therapist was: How much of the anger is circumstantial (Babies = hard. Marriage = hard. Career = hard. Approaching 40 = hard.) and how much of it is…something more serious.
The only way to find out is to take care of the circumstantial part, she reasoned. Then I can see what’s left rolling around in the bottom of the old psychological boat. You know, is it some muddy water and a worm, or A FIFTY FOOT PYTHON WITH A RABID TIGER TEARING ITS WAY OUT OF THE PYTHON’S BELLY AND THE TIGER HAS EBOLA.
So I started bailing. And she gave me a couple of good buckets of different sizes to use instead of the rusty old tin cup with the hole in it that I would have brought to the task. Man, I’m loving this my psyche is a boat metaphor I created. I need to write a self help book immediately wherein relationships are like yachting, just in time for jackasses to throw in their beach bag for the Hamptons.
So let’s take this one dimension at a time, though of course, OF COURSE, all the dimensions are interconnected.
Babies = hard.
This is two separate issues for me, the fact that parenting is difficult, and the fact that being all drained by parenting reduces you…and by you I mean ME…reduces ME to a more primitive state. One in which I don’t have sympathy or energy for anyone but my children. Not myself, and certainly not my spouse. Hence the endless blowups and the deep, deep misery about them. She recommended three buckets:
Bucket #1. Keep track of your triggers to see what’s pissing you off. I did this for a week. The result is not much of a surprise. I know that when I try to accomplish too much with my babies I end up being angry at them. I end up being worn down and not having any happy times with them. I also know that when my husband does small things that irritate me, I get angry all out of proportion. More on this subject when we get to Marriage = hard. But the exercise was worthwhile in that it let me do something quantitative, which I enjoy, and it revealed one pattern I wasn’t totally aware of.
What do I do differently now? Two things. First, when I’m taking care of the babies, I think about what I want to get done around the house, and then I tell myself: I CAN do all those things. But there will be a cost. The cost is that I will be tired, I will probably lose my temper with the babies, and I will not have any real interaction time with them. So then I decide what kind of experience I want, and I find the right balance between things that are good for me (like getting dinner ready, or cleaning a bathroom) and things that are good for them (like being read to, or taken outside to admire the birds, though note that I firmly believe seeing me do chores is also good for them, because life has chores in it, and it trains them to amuse themselves). Second, the unexpected pattern is that are certain situations that occur multiple times a day and that drive me FUCKING WILD and always, always, always result in misplaced unkindness. And they are 100% fixable, and I haven’t been fixing them. For example: Bunlet loves to play with Bun Bun’s toilet (he wants to MARRY that thing, but he can’t, because the piece of SHIT state I live in believes that marriage is between a man and woman) at all times, but inevitably thirty seconds after she’s filled it with human waste. It’s not like I can’t predict it. It happens all day long, and every time I do the wrong thing. I move him five feet away and try to deal with the waste situation. And he crawls (HE’S CRAWLING FOR REAL NOW! Oh, how I love to see that sweet baby crawl!) back like lightening, and I move him and he’s back again to strike at the toilet like a SNAKE and I lose my temper entirely. Ridiculous. So the second thing is about anticipating moments that are going to put too much pressure on me and having a planned solution, rather than behaving like a moron. There are only about four of these in my life, and all can be solved by putting a door between whatever baby is involved in the situation and myself. So now that’s what I do. Sometimes the baby cries. But you know what? I’d rather make my child cry for a few minutes than be so angry I might hurt him or her. And you know also what? They are getting used to this, and now don’t cry much. Conditioning, y’all.
Has this helped? Yes. Loads. I feel like I’m in control a lot more of the time. Am I still losing my shit? Yes. Absolutely.
There are two more buckets! But you’ll have to wait for them. If you’re American, eat some corn and set off some illegal fireworks. If you’re not, think about what assholes we Americans are.