Krissie: Anger

Had a GREAT time with Alex. Tim took him home at the end of the day when the kitchen filled with water, but we had fun decorating, and then I found a box of old toys (god knows why they were here) and brought them down and Alex was entranced and then, heh heh, he took them home with him! One box less, and one happy grandson. I have no idea why we saved them — it’s one thing to save Legos and Playmobil and wood trains. But plastic army stuff?
I gotta not clean and decorate today because my back is really protesting after two days of heavy lifting. Ooooh, it’s Hannukah? Potato pancakes!!!
So today some sewing, some wrapping, a little food shopping (gotta buy the liquid plumber). Just a day for fun.

Ah, but let’s talk about anger. My anger issues are all shaped by my mother. Well, no, maybe shaped by my family.

But first my mother. I think she had an addiction to rage. In fact, she was proud of it. She called it part of her Viking heritage, the berserker rages. She thought being berserker (a Danish term) was something to be proud of. I remember when I was seven my sister and I tried to see if she’d get through one day without a rage. (She didn’t). My father had an inappropriate sense of humor, and he called her “Hurricane Virginia” or “Old Yeller.” (He was pretty funny). She would turn red in the face and scream, she’d smash dishes, throw things, she went after me with a fire poker (tried to break down the bathroom door I was locked behind) went after my sister with a knife as she ran into a neighbor’s kitchen. I don’t know what would have happened if she’d caught either of us. She wasn’t warm and fuzzy when she wasn’t angry. What we did together, the fun, warm times we had that I can remember, was when we went into Philadelphia to shop. We’d go by train, and go to the department stores and eat at places like the Crystal Tea Room at Wanamakers. It’s no wonder that I connect shopping with happiness.
She always felt ill-used, though in fact she wasn’t. She did disappear into mental hospitals a couple of times, and then finally ended up spending weeks (months?) in the local hospital having shock treatments. Didn’t cure the rages though it knocked her out of her depression. As a child she was very sickly, and she was also the baby, and apparently she had amazing tantrums and screamed a lot. I’m surprised my tough grandmother put up with it, but since my mother nearly died, maybe that was why. I also suspect my grandfather may have molested her and my aunt (it’s a long story). We’ll never know, but my cousin and I put some things together.
But I can’t go smash things because the sound of smashing dishes (even one dropped accidentally) sends adrenaline shooting through my system. Even slightly crashy-sounding cleaning noises freak me out (she could never do any cleaning without slamming things around). Even though she adored me for the last twenty or so years of her life and the rages were mostly gone, I still react. (I think her chronic panic attacks were simply a form of her rage issues).
As for my father, he was funny and charming and bipolar and an alcoholic and pill-popper. But when he was okay be was so much fun. He was a musician (as well as an editor) and we shared that (I was the musical one). But when he was drunk he broke things (including the record player, which, trust me, was like tearing my heart out back then). He slapped me across the face a couple of time too (which as a parent you don’t do).
My sister had a temper. She’d break things too. I remember her shaking her babies’ cribs in a rage when they woke her up crying, though in general she was an excellent mother. What she lacked in day to day stuff she made up for in love. No matter what, her children knew she loved them, and that got them through a lot.
And my baby brother was brilliant, with a sly, wicked sense of humor and alcoholism and addictions like my father. My father died at 58 (fell down the stairs and broke his neck) and Dougal died at 40 (alcohol poisoning) and both were bipolar (the drugs and alcohol were self-medicating).
So no wonder anger terrifies me. The sound of a broken dish or glass makes me panic. It’s either someone in an uncontrollable rage or someone’s drunk again.
I remember when I was a lot younger (teens or twenties) thinking that if I lost my temper I would become catatonic and never come back. Seriously, I believed that. (I must have known there was incredible rage hidden inside me).
So … the one person I could fight with, at least a little bit, was my sister. The last fight I had with her was right before Kaim (Tim’s sibling) arrived, 29 years ago, and it was very calm (at least on my part). Calm, biting anger. And that only came out with Taffy. With Richie I sulk or even snap a little bit (and then apologize).
That’s probably one reason Richie and I are so happy together. He’ll yell occasionally, he’ll get angry in a healthy way (at Tim, sometimes at Kaim, at his sister etc). But he’s basically calm and steady and oh, maybe a little bit passive.

So, bottom line, anger has terrible connotations for me. I don’t know to use it. The few times I let a little anger loose with Kaim when she was little she would say that I scared her. (And I very seldom got angry with her). Mainly if something made me angry it first made me feel sick and then made me cry.

And despite everything we’ve gone through with Tim (I first typed “Tim has put me through” but that’s my mother talking. I believe in taking responsibility for my own reactions because I can’t change other people). Anyway, despite some really awful things and real emotional abuse I’ve never even snapped at him. In fact, one time when we visited him in a therapeutic school I asked him if I could get angry at him. (He was always really mean to me when we visited). He said no.

So the total spazz-out was a long time coming. My voice is still raspy five days later (this happened on Monday). I can’t believe I could have done permanent harm. I hope not, because I love to sing, and my soprano was getting very strong after Sound of Music (I couldn’t believe how powerful it was at the Christmas luncheon last Saturday). If I’ve lost it …

I probably haven’t. My voice just needs time to recover.

So I need to learn how to embrace anger in a healthy way, not to bottle it up until I go nuts. I’ve been dealing with suppressed anger toward Richie over a number of things, when I’m never mad at Richie. And I was never angry in a healthy way at my parents. Or at my brother and sister for dying of their fucking addictions and leaving me …

Enough. Don’t want to start the day in tears. It’s another day of nesting and sewing and having fun. And my therapist and I will talk about anger next week.