I am a sharp and pointed thing. My tongue is quickly poison-painted. Fighting talk? My words are weapons, and I’ve used them to wound. There is a cruel satisfaction in leaving a barb in an opponent’s tender places.
I am not proud of this. But it is my truth.
Over time, I have learned to wrap my rage in cooling sheets and camomile. Now I am a real-life-card-carrying-grown-up-woman-lady-with-responsibilities I practice caution. Hurting people is not Nice, you see. It is Unkind. I want to be loving and nurturing and other good things. I believe in Kind. ‘Kind,’ I say to my living children, ‘be Kind.’ That’s the most important thing, to be Kind.
But sometimes all becomes hot. My rage bubbles and boils. Kind evaporates rapidly, and all that’s left is the salty residue of Mean. And that’s when I unleash the wicked tongue. And it is merciless.
I often thought that grief would make me good. But it has just made me more of who I am. Damn it.
I see a counsellor. We talk about the Mean. We talk about the way that seems to be the essence of me when all the rest is boiled away. We talk about a special, stop-shouting-at-hapless-acquaintances strategy.
‘TRY THIS’ she says (she is very loud my counsellor)
‘WHEN SOMEONE DOES SOMETHING THAT YOU FIND UNACCEPTABLE, THINK “ASSERTIVE” NOT “AGGRESSIVE.” YOU SIMPLY FRAME IT LIKE THIS:
‘WHEN YOU.... ‘(insert description of provocative behaviour. Note I said description. Not judgement)
‘I FEEL .....’ (insert feeling. It is OK to have feelings. It is OK to name your feelings. But do not blame.)
‘NEXT TIME I WOULD PREFER THAT YOU....’ (give a suggestion or a solution. Something constructive.)
‘Thank you so much’ I say ‘What a delightful and pleasant way to interact. That would be a better way to deal with my rage. I shall try it as soon as I am given the opportunity.’
And so, I do. And in situations that do not involve dead babies, I promise you I am being the MOST constructive, assertive, shiny-eyed Kind person I can be.
Then all becomes hot. My rage bubbles and boils. Kind evaporates rapidly and all that’s left is the salty residue of Mean.
‘WHEN YOU... appropriate someone else’s dead baby tragedy to illustrate what a heroic, selfless paragon of virtue you are for taking round a frozen lasagne once and then never speaking to them again...’ (Judgmental, moi?)
‘I FEEL... like stabbing this pencil up your nose and into your brain.’ (What? I’m just naming my feelings.)
‘NEXT TIME I WOULD PREFER THAT YOU... did not bring the worst of yourself to dance all over the most painful part of my heart, but rather fucked off and bothered someone else with your solipsism.’ (Well... it IS a suggestion. They don’t HAVE to do it.’)
And there I am. Mad mama of a lost baby. Raging, raging at an unfair world where lasagne doesn’t make it better and all the assertiveness training I could have won’t take that that salty Mean away.
Are you angry in your grief? Do you ever boil over, or does your rage simmer quietly? What soothes your temper, and where can I get some?