I have finally gotten around to reading Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, and thank God for it, because there is apparently something called 4-month sleep regression and the White Coats are threatening to come get me again. The Kid had Round 2 of his immunizations on Friday–yes, Friday the 13th–and things started going downhill soon after. My version of downhill, at least, which to most people probably looks like a slight decline of the road with no readily available snacks or bathrooms for a mile or two.
I’ve long lived with an undercurrent of anger nipping at my heels, threatening to expose me for the wreck that I am, and I thought that once I stopped trying to pretend to be what I’m not–once that whole charade fell apart and I started being honest and even got a blog where I tell the truth publicly and frequently–that the anger would dissipate, like the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz when the bucket of water hits her. But, much like Wicked proved that scene to be a parlor trick, I’ve learned that my anger issues aren’t ever going to just pack up and march off into the sunset. I realized recently that the ugliness rears its head when I’m engaged in an activity that makes me feel like I’ve got to prove myself. Like working out at the gym or cleaning the house. I’ve got to be in shape…I’ve got to have sparkling toilets. I talked it out the other day with The Husband, also known as The Least Angry Person I Know, and he tried to understand the foreign language I was speaking as I described why I yell at the vacuum cleaner. And last night, when TK began to cry out and TH went to soothe him, then bring him to me for a feeding, I didn’t have to describe the anger. It spilled out of my mouth and all over the comforter. Infancy, sleep deprivation, uncertainty–all of it has a way of bringing that latent anger to the surface. TH understands this about as much as I understand what he does for a living, but we tell each other about our stuff anyway because that’s what we do–we share life, even when it gets ugly (usually for me), and so when he put TK in my arms and I wailed, “I don’t UNDERSTAND! I can’t DO THIS ANYMORE!” and I entertained thoughts of climbing in the car and just leaving, he listened and waited for the storm to pass. And I nursed and looked down at TK, who had the nerve the grin back at me. I looked at the two male members of my family, patient and happy, and thanked God for putting me here even as I lamented being the odd/angry one out.
But I didn’t have to wait long for commiseration to arrive. I just read Anne’s words:
“…one of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage…I have always known, or at least believed, that way down deep, way past being kind and religious and trying to take care of everyone, I was seething. Now it’s close to the surface. I feel it race from my center up into my arms and down into my hands, and it scares the shit out of me.”
This morning I was driving him to daycare and an old man in a tank of a car decided he would just come on over into our lane. He was on my right side–on The Kid’s side–and I lay on the horn, yelling horrible things at him and thinking even worse, and I realized that, for all my moments of rage at the ways The Kid’s schedule interferes with mine, not only would I never hurt him, but I would be hard-pressed not to kill anyone who would. And as I returned to the quiet house, to dirty diapers and soaked towels, to a bone-aching weariness, I sat down and closed my eyes and tried to file through my rolodex of Truth. The one that’s so hard to locate at three in the morning. I placed myself back in that moment when TH lay beside me and TK lay in my arms and he grinned up at me, and I remembered what happened next: I smiled back. And it struck me that anger is not the deepest part of me, even when it’s the loudest and most accessible; that grace is working even when I’m too tired to feel it; that gratitude will always show up when invited. That sometimes, at three in the morning, I will be awake when I don’t want to be. But I am not left alone, without commiseration or comfort. I have the words on my nightstand and the man beside me and the boy in my arms and the truth in my heart down deep beneath the anger. Everything that matters filling this space as I wait for the light to come.