Sunday, April 25, 2010

On Anger

In last Friday’s post (see “I’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”), I wrote about how I’ve been reading some of my old journals for my book project (more on that later). Here’s another post, albeit a bit darker, about this looking into my past via my own words.

1987. I was 23 for half the year, my daughters were 4 and not quite 3, and I was married to husband #2. I was dieting, as usual (I weighed about 250), and wrote a lot about my first husband who’d been dead only four years.

Much of this particular journal was painful to read, especially knowing the outcome of marriage #2 and the growing pains I endured as a mother. In this journal, I wrote about the time I told Carlene to shut up. I felt horrible and went to her room and apologized. She hugged me, not wanting to say anything because if she did she knew she’d cry, and Carlene hated to cry.

Soon after that entry, I’d found a poem by Peter Meinke that I copied in my journal. In the margin I wrote “daughter Carly” next to the author’s reference to his son Peter. Here’s the poem:

This is a poem to my son Peter
Whom I have hurt a thousand times, whose large and vulnerable eyes have glazed in pain at my ragings
Thin wrists and fingers hung boneless in despair
Pale, freckled back bent in defeat
Pillows soaked by my failure to understand
I have scarred through weakness and impatience your frail confidence forever
Because when I needed to strike, you were there to be hurt
And because I thought you knew you were beautiful and fair, your bright eyes and hair
But now I see that no one knows that about himself
But must be told and retold until it takes hold
Because I think anything can be killed after awhile, especially beauty
So I write this for life, for love, for you, my oldest son Peter, age 10 going on 11

I copied this poem because it reminded me of Carlene, of my failings as a mother to understand her fears and vulnerabilities. While I didn’t yell often, and not always at my children, when I did, it ruined so much of the good we had. It made them walk on egg shells, not wanting to rock the boat of my inability to express myself more civilly.

I remember clearly the day in 1992 when I slammed the phone a dozen times and shattered it in the receiver after fighting with my almost ex-husband. Carlene, brave and soft, said to me, “Mommy, it scares me when you yell.” She was 9. She said her sister agreed. Carlene faced me knowing my response might be more anger. But it wasn’t. I was embarrassed and humbled and so very very sorry for having frightened my children. I was rarely ever angry at them. I was angry at my life. Angry at death and hardship. Angry at myself for bad choices and regret. I promised her I’d never yell again, and I truly made every effort not to. I still had my moments, but at least in those moments I remembered Carlene and her brave voice telling me how she felt and my tone was less venomous.

Reading my journals is rarely a happy trip down memory lane. I seemed to always write about the bad stuff of me, flogging myself nightly for the things I did wrong and not the things I did right.

I’ve done this often with my body, too. Even now, I get angry sometimes when I think about what I’ve done to it and for what it can’t do anymore, much of it due to having been morbidly obese. But just as I promised my daughter I’d try my best to never yell at her again, I’m going to promise myself to do my best to stop the cycle of anger, grief and guilt I put myself through with much frequency. I will do this by journaling more positively and finding alternatives to self-flagellation as solutions to my perceived failings.

One positive alternative and something that makes me happy is to share things that have been helpful to me throughout my weight loss and now in maintenance. What I’ve found is that the more informed I am about food and exercise and the psychology of what motivates me or holds me back the more successful I am. Knowledge is power and so I’m passing some power on to you.

I’ve gone through my book shelves and found 11 books and two DVDs that I’m going to give away here, one at a time until they’re gone. The only thing I ask in return is that if you win a book or DVD that you either pass it on when you’re done (if you’ve found it helpful and can part with it) or keep it and donate a non-perishable healthy food item to your local food shelf.

I think I’ll start with the DVD “Pure &Simple Stretch” with Karen Voight.  Not only is this a great introduction to stretching (or if you already stretch, this could teach you some new, interesting moves), Karen Voight has a calming presence. We can all use that now and again.

Leave a comment or send an email to lynnbering@verizon.net if you’d like to throw your name in the hat for this DVD. I’ll draw a winner on Tuesday.

Regarding my book: I have completed the proposal (which, ask any published author, is a bear and often harder than writing the entire book). It is being shopped around by my agent, so right now it’s up to publishing industry. WHEN someone buys it (I’m staying as positive as I can), I will then finish writing the book. So it will be at least a year, but I thank you so much for your support.

21 comments:

  1. "I was rarely ever angry at them. I was angry at my life. Angry at death and hardship. Angry at myself for bad choices and regret."

    This quote just hit me like cold water. I just sit here and cried shameful tears. I am guilty of doing the same thing... Literally.

    Thanks, Lynn. I needed this wake-up call so I can make some needed changes.

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  2. Ouch - what a painful post to read (and I'm sure, to write). As a mother, I can identify - we've all had those times where we weren't at our best in front of the kids. That guilt is a hard, hard thing to let go of.

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  3. My son and I often butted heads when he was little and the times I yelled still haunt me. we now have a very close and loving relationship and when I ask him how he felt about those time he barely remembers my anger. Time and love cure a lot of wounds!

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  4. I love your blog & have been reading it before you were on the Oprah show. I figure now is as good a time as any to let you know that you probably have so many more readers than you think. We read & have plenty to say at times but the words just don't always flow. I love your writing & the subject matter most of all. I am struggling now with about 60 lbs that I need to loose. Even though I haven't had the strength or will to take it off I read your blog for ispiration. I love your stories about present & past. The one about your trip somewhere & conversation in the kitchen with Bob (I think his name was) about what you will & won't eat made me laugh & at the same time I fantasized that I may have a conversation like that with someone some day.
    Exerscising is hard for me & I usually can't make it through an entire video so I thougt that entering to win the stretch video might be just what I need.
    Thanks for everything.

    Stacey
    SWPA

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  5. Please put my hat in the ring! A calming presence is a video I could certainly use....not to mention my stretching abilities are lacking for sure. Congratulations on the progress on your book...that is awesome!

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  6. I agree that knowledge is power. My hardest times usually come when I know I should be staring some truth in the face but find it easier to bury my head in the sand...

    Please include me in the drawing for the Karen Voight DVD. I discovered her when she did an exercise tape with Elle McPherson in the mid 90's. I love the way she coaches!

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  7. I never realized that you had married again and had another baby so quickly. (I thought the girls were year apart). I can well imagine the feelings/fear that (might have) lead to all that. You poor thing. And I know about anger. and woulda/shoulda/coulda's. I can well imagine how complicated and hard it is to read through these old journals. As you work on this - how does it 'splash' on your current day?

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  8. I thought the girls were YEARS apart - not a year apart.

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  9. {{hollie}} I wish you peace as you make the changes you feel are necessary. Sorry I made you cry, but maybe that was a good thing?

    Shelley, there's nothing quite like mom guilt. ...sigh...

    Stacy, I think you're referring to my trip to Louisville and my conversation with Dennis. That was almost a year ago! Great memory! I really need to go back for another visit...

    Vickie, my kids are 21 months apart and *ahem* I wasn't married when I had #2 :) I didn't even marry her "father." Scandalous, I know...but it will all be in the book! LOL

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  10. I can't wait to read your book. You write the words that I feel/think and it's inspiring. Thanks.

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  11. Anger is a hard thing and I understand where you are coming from. I once threw a can of peas at a tree when my stepson made me made. He did not see it thankfully, but I did it anyway. You have me starting a journal and I have been writing in it for a week. Thanks,

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  12. Boy - Murgatroidgerow took the thoughts right out of my head. I have a hard time even thinking about the times I yelled at our son (now 15) when he was a toddler. It makes me cry and feel inadequate, shameful, and all-in-all a horrible mother. We also have a very loving relationship today, and I agree that time and love heal the memories, but my heart still clenches when I think of the rants he had to endure years ago.

    Great, provocative post, Lynn!

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  13. Being a mom is tough and like Hollie I found myself welling up with shameful tears. I think I have some writing to my children to do. Thanks Lynn.

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  14. I would love to win the stretching DVD. I have read your blog for quite awhile now. I really like your writings. I have been on a path to a healthy lifestyle for about 1 year now. I have lost 80+ pounds and have gone from 5 insulin shots/day to none. I exercise 5 days per week at 4:00 am. I have fibromyalgia, so had to start exercising very slowly. I am now signed up to run my first 5K in May. Stretching is really good for my fibro, so learning some new kinds of stretches would be great.

    Juice

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  15. One thing I've realized is that I rarely write in my journal when things are wonderful, and I feel happy with the world. Those days are the ones I enjoy and am too busy enjoying them to write about them, but the down days, those are the ones that get written down and written about. Maybe we write more on the bad days to help us process them.

    A few years ago I burnt my old journals because I didn't want anyone to think all my days felt as awful as the ones I wrote.

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  16. Everything you said rings so true with me also. Thank you so much for the reminders. I've been trying to focus on this myself lately. I' m hoping focusing on the positive of things and having grace with others will make lots of life tough spots more bearable. Thanks again for your insight. Judy

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  17. Hi Lynn - Thanks for the powerful words. They made me feel hugged. May your dreams be blessed with the knowledge that tonight, you made a difference.

    Hugs,
    Kirsten with http://results-not-typical-girl.com

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  18. I have come to understand that just being overweight for so many years has created displaced anger that sometimes spills over to the one I love and trust the most. In reality I am really angry (and sad)within myself for all the years I have lost to this struggle: the functions and celebrations not attended because of being ashamed of how I look; not allowing myself to feel loved because I don't feel worthy; the pretty clothes not worn and the bike rides and hikes not taken with my family. These are just examples of missed opportunities for joyful interactions with the others in my life.

    That's my story, and I'm trying to change things before it's too late. Congrats to you for the changes you have made in your life and for the inspiration you give to others.

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  19. Debbie, I'm glad you started a journal. Don't worry if you don't write in it every day, but be sure to write some good things about yourself in it, too :)

    Thank you so much for your posts. Mom guilt...or any guilt for that matter...is so tough to work through. Jane, I completely understand where you're coming from. In fact, one of the things I'm going to write about on Refuse to Regain is obesity guilt. How do we forgive ourselves? Such a difficult thing to work through.

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  20. I am so glad I found your blog. I was at 274 lbs. Now four months later at 242 (but discouraged) and want to be at 140. I am a grandmother and almost 59. It seems like my metabloism only burns up about 1,000 calories a day. I admire you.

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