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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.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dude. I want to read about the two other buckets NOW. I would much rather read about your buckets than pack up my car and coerce my daughter into eating lunch. Buckets. Now. Please.

    Yes, you can put my whining behind a door with the babies. I also like doors. And your boat metaphor. And I would TOTALLY read your self-help book.

    July 3, 2013
  2. Misfit #

    I love this. Sail away psyche, sail away. I am up for the 3-hour tour, btw. I call dibs on being a Howell, in case that was ever in question. Being wealthy and stranded is how I roll.

    July 3, 2013
  3. I’m loving your analogies! And I’m glad it’s helping a little!

    July 3, 2013
  4. Ana #

    seriously. i need the buckets. corn is over-rated and i am terrified of fireworks. i need the marriage bucket for any possible sliver of advice you or your therapist may have! (yes I realize that I probably do need my very own therapy. i’m slowly coming around to making it happen. “finding therapist” is under “all that other stuff”)
    I think this is brilliant—going through the day and figuring out the triggers and how to avoid/deflect them. its so common sense no one ever thinks of it. am going to work on this in my mind tonight.

    July 3, 2013
  5. Fascinating stuff, Bunny! Just make sure no one on your boat gets sea sick, because that is a LOAD of bodily fluids to clean up, I know from experince (teak decks need to stay vomit free, or the owner was a total jerk) and I would hate to think that you have to do the cleaning up. Otherwise, tigers should stay way from ebola and doors are a marvelous invention.

    July 3, 2013
  6. So curious about the next two buckets!
    And sorry abut Bunlet’s failed marriage plans – maybe your state will come round eventually.

    July 4, 2013
  7. “One in which I don’t have sympathy or energy for anyone but my children. Not myself, and certainly not my spouse.”

    This is totally me. My poor husband can get yelled at for the faintest imagined misdemeanour–one thing I hate myself for is jumping down his throat over how he’s dealing with the children instead of letting him get on with things his own way (since my intervention only raises the stress levels of all involved).

    I also like your point about many triggers being fixable. I have had that ‘duh’ moment many a time (as well as the: “I know how to fix this, but I really don’t want to have to do that so I shall keep on as I have been and hope the stage might pass overnight” moment.)

    I never got round to commenting on your last post, but kudos for doing this and being so open about it!

    July 4, 2013
  8. SRB #

    You have no idea how much you are me and your therapist is now my therapists via these blog posts. I want to go to there. I need to go to there. For now, thank you for this reassurance, this help, this validation that my tiger has ebola.

    July 4, 2013
  9. Roccie #

    Kids, clean house, sanity.

    Pick two.

    July 4, 2013
  10. Gemini Momma #

    I scroll. I scroll. I scroll. MORE BUCKETS! MORE EBOLA-RIDDEN PYTHON-EATEN TIGERS! You have so many good one-liners in this post I can’t even focus on the deeper content at the moment (your POS state not allowing Bunlet to marry the potty? The asshole Americans? I mean come on. You are on a tear my friend). Okay, I’m really going to try to focus now. … So I’m super glad your therapist has you thinking through these things and you’re figuring stuff out. Since I share all categories of the circumstantial shit storm that you listed, I am eagerly anticipating future sequels to this post.

    July 4, 2013
  11. My analytical mind loves this, and the practicality of it. Also, I agree with gemini momma, your lines on this post are f*cking hilarious. I’m standing in line in the rain for your self-help book fer sure. Keep on keeping on.

    July 6, 2013
  12. I have no patience. More buckets, now, please! (No pressure though. I really don’t want a fifty foot tiger-eating python set upon me). Am glad the therapy is proving useful. And I would totally read a self help book where relationships are yachts.

    July 6, 2013
  13. I’d rather make my child cry for a few minutes than be so angry I might hurt him or her.

    Yeah, this. Gwen and I have our moments, too… (Really.)

    July 6, 2013
  14. ArchMama left this lovely comment, but WordPress doesn’t think you people deserve to read it. I disagree.

    “Late to this post (well, late to everything anymore, pretty much), but just wanted to raise my hand in solidarity. Not as a fellow therapy-goer (yet), but as a fellow festering pile of anger and put-upon-ness and raising-my-voice-to-regrettable-levels-ness. A seasoned mama friend of mine said to me when I confided [some of] my struggles finally to someone that “you’re not a real parent until until you have more than one child.” ALMOST EVERYTHING about that statement makes me itchy and annoyed from an ALI perspective, and I am loathe to repeat it…but…well…I think, for me, there is some truth in its implication that your parenting changes when you’re balancing more demands. I never had the dark “Who AM I?” moments like I do now, and though things feel as though they are on a rebound, it’s been a crystal clear window into who I am as a parent and how I manage stress and how I manage my fragile sense of self-worth when shit goes down flaming. All that to say, you are not alone. Good on you for taking care of yourself.”

    July 6, 2013
  15. Also very late to this party, but I come with wine so please forgive me.
    I read this kick ass post on vacay and savoured it again with my good friend in Boston who is a huge fan of yours.
    Pithons with Ebola… Love it!
    I’m so glad you are baling the boat and looking at what’s at the bottom of it. And I too am at the edge of my seat, holding my breath for the next bucket.
    Also, I admire how courageous you are to take a look at your anger. Most of us girls are raised to deny or repress it and then to just nag and bitch instead. Bunny doesn’t do that: she puts her big girl pants on and deals with it. I look up to you for that, dear woman.

    July 8, 2013
  16. Actually thinking how intelligent and brave Americans are. Well, if you’re anything to go by, bunny, yiz are all brill.

    (Have been missing your posts due to sad demise of Google Reader. Normal commenting will resume forthwith.)

    July 9, 2013
  17. i’ve been reading. i even commented (i thought) on your last post but it was eaten by the internet ethers, it seems. and part of me is practically heartened by how many of us seem to be in your boat(!) but, of course, very sad about that, too. i think i can’t comment that much because, well, you know how much i relate to all of this and if i were to say much about it, i’d just be using you as my own therapist… and i have one of those, now, so that seems downright greedy.

    thanks to you, i’ve been thinking about my own triggers, too. there are a lot of them, but i realized one of my biggest ones is the outright defiance, especially when it doesn’t involve anything but child. So, for example, spitting. the boys decided the other night that spitting huge gobs of drool everywhere was hilarious and the more i (ahem) *discouraged* it, the funnier it was to them. or when they hit/head butt. these things don’t involve objects i can take away and with something like spitting, i can hardly hold their mouths closed to prevent it. so we talked about introducing “time-ins” – wherein they have to sit somewhere until they decide they’re ready to play and interact without the undesirable behavior. this is, apparently, in contrast to the time-out in which parent decides how long is enough. we’ll see, we start this weekend… As for the marriage bucket, yikes. I’m quite anxious to read yours and quite sure i could write an essay in response. but, uh, i guess i’ll let you write the post first 😉

    July 11, 2013

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