Friday, July 25, 2008

Anger Management Is A Problem For Me

It has come to my attention that I have anger issues.

Now, one might say, "Why, Haley. You are such a good, sweet little Southern Girl. You're polite and like cuddly things, like dogs and bunnies. You wear lots of pink and have blond hair. How, oh, how could you possibly have anger issues?"

I hear this a lot. I mention my dark side and people look at me skeptically. This leads to all the tales--the Asian man in D.C., the woman in B.J.'s, being banned from several establishments in Cleveland, TN. Sometimes, I even call my Mom in as a witness, after all, she's been there for a lot of it. She likes to think of me as opinionated and high-strung. I think that's probably just a nice way of saying that I'm a psychotic bitch, but since she's my Mom you can't really fault her for trying to put a nice spin on things. At the very worst she might say, "She's crazy as a Bessie Bug, bless her heart." After all, she is a good Southern Girl too.

I have a nice smile. I'm able to fool a lot of people. I am, however, a pretty angry person. There's not one good particular reason for it. I don't have some sketchy, abusive childhood or anything. I grew up on a farm surrounded by a giant family who loved me a lot. I did have a few traumatic romantic relationships as an adult, but frankly, who doesn't? If that alone was a trigger the world would be fueled solely by hatred. No, there doesn't seem to be a very good reason for it all. Most of the time, I am able to deal with it pretty well. At times, if I am extremely high-stress, little things push me over the edge. For the most part, though, there are only a couple of triggers that really get me going, one of which I would like to discuss here because it's appearance is in my imminent future: a relative of B's. And this relative is coming to visit this weekend.

Let's back up a bit. For those of you who don't know, I was married once before I married my current husband. The marriage was brief, even shorter than the three-year courtship. My ex-husband had a crazy, Jerry Springer-like family that was unmatched by anything I had ever experienced. We're talking, immediate family members with serious addiction problems, frequent stays in mental hospitals, the works. Getting rid of that load in our divorce was probably just as beneficial to me as getting rid of the ex. At that time, I swore that if I EVER remarried, the guy would have to be an only child, and an orphan at that. NO MORE RELATIVES. I can barely handle my OWN crazy family. God knows I don't need someone else's adding to the chaos OR to my stress levels. He could be ugly or stupid or completely useless if I loved him, as long as he was alone.

Then I met B. B is not ugly or stupid or completely useless. B is neither an orphan NOR an only child. As a matter of fact, his family is very Brady Bunch, and then some. He has a sister, stepbrother, half sister, Mom, Dad, Stepmom, ex-Stepdad, ex-step-siblings, and many other various cousins, steps, and whatnot. All I can say is that I must have really loved him a LOT. I did. And I do. Otherwise, we would never have made it through seven years of togetherness, including two children (one unplanned), three bouts of cancer in the immediate family, two grandparent deaths, several career changes, and moves spanning four states and numerous homes, along with an assortment of other roadblocks. During all this drama, I have grown to love his nutty family. With one exception.

I will not get specific as to who that exception is, for B's sake, on the off chance that somebody (anybody?) ever gets bored enough to read my ramblings. I will just say this: there are few things in this world that cause my anger issues to flare like this relative does. This person has harmed my children (unintentionally, but through neglect, which is still unforgiveable). This person has psychologically screwed with my kids, as well as my husband. This person has done things that I will never, ever forget and never, ever forgive. I'm not Christian enough for that (see my Homeboy blog if you don't believe me). Yet, I am forced to endure a relationship. I am forced to endure visits. I am forced to endure news, holidays and photos.

I am forced to endure. And I am very, very angry. Yes, folks, I am one pissed off little Southern Girl.

The problem comes in when I try to figure out what to do about it. There doesn't seem to be an answer. I have to stay close by to protect my children, so I can't avoid this person. My husband won't keep this person away. I fly off the handle easily and might pull a Ninja and flip out and kill somebody with a spoon at any time if I have to keep this up. It's not fair and it's not healthy.

So what do I do? Right now I stew, and shave years off my life with a sharp dagger of hatred (I may be furious, but I'm still quite poetic). It makes me mean and angry and particularly unattractive I'm sure, but I can't seem to control it. And THAT, that loss of control, is the worst part of all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You suck! (AKA: Oh, how I love vampires)

I never understood the Harry Potter phenomenon. I tried to read the books. I curled up on the couch with my hot tea and my cozy blanket, all ready to leave the Muggle world and emerge myself in the mystical. The Harry Potter series had been around for a few years, but I was still a Potter Virgin. I hadn't had the time to read them, but when I did, I just knew I would love them.

I didn't. I hated them. I made it halfway through the first book, skipped to the second, was bored stiff, and then just gave up.

After that, I tried watching the movies. I listened to critics on television discuss the amazing story lines, the breathtaking special effects. I was certain that, regardless of my feelings for the books, I would enjoy the movies.

I didn't. I hated them. I watched the first one, tried to watch the second, and never even finished it.

When I tell people this, they have been known to wonder aloud about what may be wrong with me. Apparently, I am lacking some important Harry Potter gene. Don't get me wrong, I think J.K. Rowling is probably one of the most creative novelists of our time, but I just don't like the material. I could care less about some stupid school of wizardry. The characters annoy me, and Harry is the biggest dork ever, but not in a way that makes me love him. More in a way that makes me want to kick his ass.

With this said, despite my disgust with wizardry, there is something in the supernatural genre that I adore, love, and cherish. Vampires. Yes, that's right. Vampires.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved vampires. I find them to be about the most fascinating creatures in the literary world. I've read dozens of books and articles and essays on Vlad the Impaler, taken an entire semester on Bram Stoker, and spent endless hours perusing vampire material both in the library and on the Web. I know all the legends and stories, the superstitions and curses. I know how you're supposed to find them, lure them, and kill them. I am a connoisseur of vampires.

In case you are curious, I do not believe vampires actually exist, nor do I believe that I am one. I saw a documentary on vampires once and learned that there are actually thousands of people in America alone who believe that they are the undead. They sleep in coffins, drink blood, stay out of the sunshine-- you know, the whole vampire kit and caboodle. I don't do any of those things. (Well, except stay out of the sunshine. But that is less because I am afraid of turning to ashes and more because I am of Irish descent and get burned very easily.) I am just terribly interested in the macabre, and specifically, vampires.

Imagine my delight when I heard that there was a new series of vampire books by a previously unknown author named Stephenie Meyer. These books, The Twilight Series, are geared towards the Young Adults of the world, but have become wildly popular with all age groups. It took me a while to get around to reading them (vampire obsession aside, I do have two babies to raise) but now I have been SUCKED IN (no pun intended). Even with my extremely limited recreational reading time, I read TWILIGHT in two evenings. Although it reads quickly, it is not a small book--about 500 pages. As soon as I completed the last page, I immediately began reading its sequel, NEW MOON. I had to drag myself away from NEW MOON last night around 1am so that I could get some sleep and be ready to deal with my children this morning.

It's not often that I get to wallow in my weirdness, but Meyer's novels have provided me the catalyst to do just that. I can celebrate my love of the undead without even standing out in a crowd--it seems like everyone is reading the Twilight series these days, and they are found in every bookstore and superstore. So for all you vampire lovers in the world, go out and pick up TWILIGHT. Curl up with your red wine and your turtlenecks (just in case) and enjoy. Who knows when another good vampire series might come around.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Finding wisdom at.....Kohl's Department Store

Sutton, my beautiful boy, fell headfirst today into the Terrible Twos. He's been teetering on the edge for a while now--testing the waters, dipping in one toe at a time. A tantrum here, some backtalk there, but he has always pulled back when I put on my stern Mommy face or used the stern Mommy tone of voice. He says he's sorry, he puts his chubby little hand on my arm or leg or shoulder, and he looks up at me with those huge blue eyes and the cutest face I've ever seen. It will melt your heart. Today, though, was a different story.

The kids and I had gone to Kohl's. We were not at Kohl's with the intention of being at Kohl's, we had actually gone to the pharmacy about a block away to pick up a prescription. It was miserably hot, the kids were bored, and fighting like crazy. So instead of taking them straight home, I figured we'd wonder around Kohl's for a few minutes. They have toys, they have books, it was something different for a little while. And all was fine. That is, until Sutton decided he wanted me to carry him.

Now, Sutton is a little guy. He's always been beneath the measureable size on the pediatric growth charts. Both Blaker and I are small in stature, it's to be expected that our children will not be large people. Perhaps not even average sized people. But even though Sutt is small, since I'm not very big either it makes carrying him get old QUICKLY. At 2 years and 8 months, he's active enough that usually he's fine running around on his own. But when he does want to be carried, and I'm the one playing pack mule, I am not able to last very long.

Today is a miserably hot, humid, sticky day--the kind where you can't stand the weight of your own clothes on your skin, much less the weight of a toddler and his clothes on top of your clothes on your skin. So when he demanded that I carry him, I said, "no." I expected him to fuss a little or argue. I did not expect him to plop down in the middle of the aisle and commence screaming, "You carry me!" at the top of his sweet little baby lungs. Full volume, on a loop. Lucky me.

I'm no stranger to kid tantrums in public places. Bellamy threw some doozies when she was a toddler, one specifically in Target that actually caused several Target Team Members to approach me and ask if I needed assistance as I sobbed and shook my head. I am the Queen of smiling apologetically, gathering my wailing, kicking, flailing child and heading for the nearest exit. I'm used to the mix of sympathetic looks from other Moms and the appalled sneers of the "others" (those who have clearly never had to wrangle a child anywhere, especially a child between the ages of 1-5) who either can't or won't understand. Every time is the same, every time we slip out, every time we are a noisy anonymous. This time, though, was different.

As I was gathering my child into my arms, whispering and bargaining, threatening and soothing, a woman stopped beside me. She was older than me, probably an entire generation ahead, with graying hair and a serene face. As she stood next to me, I looked up at her, and she layed her hand on my shoulder and smiled. Not with pity, not even with empathy, just with....peace. As she smiled, she looked me straight in the eyes, steady and unbroken, and said, "You are OKAY. You are doing a GREAT job. It WILL get better and you WILL be fine. Don't give up." Then she walked away.

What she did not know, could not have known, is that I needed that, more than I've needed anything in a long time. This point that I'm at in my life is filled with so many wonderful things--a husband I adore, two healthy and beautiful children, a nice home, blessings galore--but it's often so busy, so complicated, that I can't absorb it. I can't wallow in the joy I'm wrapped in. I'm so tired, so harried, so mired in the day to day care of two little people who need me for everything that I don't always know that I'm going to be okay. I don't know if I'm doing a good job. I don't know that everything will be fine.

I will most likely never see that woman again in my life, but I think I will always remember her. One could argue that the words of a stranger should carry less clout that those of someone near to my heart, or at least near to my life. But sometimes, SOMETIMES, the words of a stranger are so much clearer, so much easier to listen to, than those from the lips of one your love. Clear enough to be heard over the screaming.