When I returned from Cape Cod, where my family and I got to spend some wonderful (and chaotic,crazy and loud) time with our various family members, I became angry. This was the kind of anger where one minute your fine while the next involves flashing lights, demonic screams, and appalling acts that leave you both 3 inches tall and full of unspeakable guilt. This is the kind of anger I experienced and was markedly disturbed by. It was 2 years ago that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, where my life became so bleak it felt like a giant rain cloud was living in my head. I heard those demonic screams emerge from me on a daily basis. I committed appalling acts frequently. I would tell my husband, my primary champion, to get the hell out of my face. I was a mess. But through a combination of meditation/prayer, medication (yes I am a fan!) and returning to my beloved therapist, I got through it. For most of this summer I have been calm and patient, taking in stride the frequent tangles that involve both my special needs boys. Then I returned from the Cape and it all fell apart.
I had a glorious summer. I wrote in my backyard daily, my new puppy at my side, surrounded by beautiful flowers and endless hummingbirds. I picked up my kids early from camp and spent time hanging out. I finished my memoir and was fueled by the charge that comes from accomplishing such a feat. I was in love! I knew by the end of the summer that all I wanted to do was write, a realization I had known for some years, but completing my memoir amplified this so fiercely that it became a giant neon sign flashing, “You must write!” I also knew returning from the Cape that my regular work schedule was imminent.
So I was quite troubled to realize that the “houseguest” anger had returned, uninvited, and was leaving messes everywhere. I sat down to write this post and got as far as the first two paragraphs before I put it down for several days. And in that period something magical happened.
I stopped being angry. It wasn’t that my anger just up and went, because we all know the most unwanted house guests never do that. I was reading a book about Buddhist parenting that talked about the concept of “dukkha,” a state of suffering where one is anxious, stressed or dissatisfied. Louis and Aiden were both wild and difficult and I was suffering horribly, something I see as an invitation for anger to come and high-jack your house. But how does one stop suffering when their 8-year-old can’t control their body or words and is hurting others, either verbally or physically? Much of what Louis does is not his fault (read my previous blog entry, “My Story/My Son,” to read more about Louis). But still I needed the endless fighting and noise to stop, and it didn’t. And then the anger came and made it worse. So I had “dukkha.”
So I made a decision, inspired by what I was reading. If I could just detach myself from this suffering for just a bit, stop trying so hard to make Louis something he’s not, which includes dropping the desire for him to have more self-control and empathy than he’s capable, than perhaps I could walk with less anger. Attachment is a big concept in Buddhism, as many lessons involve letting go of the attachment of how we thought life would be. So I let go of my attachment to how I thought Louis should be, and the anger went away. Returning to a place of compassion, something I have worked quite hard to cultivate towards Louis, led to a more positive path of dealing with his behavior. A route that anger never crossed.
If you can muster up any amount of compassion for those in your life who leave you consistently triggered, cultivating compassion will almost always lead to a smooth road. There’s simply less charge and more understanding. Life is still pretty challenging with these boys, and I continue to find myself frustrated, and sometimes even angry. But the possessive anger that moved in and held me hostage in my own home is gone, at least for now.
Photography By Diana Ray