“When we embrace anger and take good care of our anger, we obtain relief. We can look deeply into
it and gain many insights. One of the first insights may be that the seed of anger in us has grown too
big, and is the main cause of our misery. As we begin to see this reality, we realize that the other
person, whom our anger is directed at, is only a secondary cause. The other person is not the real cause of our anger.”
–Thich Nhat Hahn
It’s been a long time since I’ve acted out of anger. Usually I am able to work with it, not to act from that place, but tonight I broke.
It started this morning. Sami was out of sorts. His father skipped his weekend visitation this week. I always get irritated that he doesn’t ever bother to call and check up on Sami when he’s not with him, especially in the weeks where he skips visiting him. He just sort of randomly appears and disappears, not at all a consistent presence in Sami’s life.
We went to the farmer’s market. My son was fussing mightily as I tried to talk to a friend. My instinct told me to stop talking to the friend and work with my child’s upset. But she subtly denigrated my desire to do so, sort of implying that he should be able to wait until our conversation was done. As she was talking to another friend, I took the opportunity to move on, hoping that a change of scene would do him some good.
He saw the husband of my friend, a man who has always been gentle and sweet and great with kids, and nearly bolted to him, crying that he missed his daddy. The man, God love him, knelt down to Sami’s level and, with the patience of a saint, kindly talked to Sami, helping him to work though the pain, talking to him and validating his feelings in a very Non-violent Communication kind of way. He spent about five minutes talking to Sami and Sami felt better.
I, on the other, hand, blinked back tears with ferocity. I thanked him for his kindness to my child. And tried so mightily not to just lose it.
That’s all we need, the single mom losing it at the farmer’s market amidst the high-priced produce.
I tried to distract myself from the pain with that task at hand: through purchases of milk and eggs and rainbow chard and garlic with the stems still on; green, red, and purple peppers; white peaches; honeycrisp apples; cucumbers. So many thoughts went through my mind. I‘m so embarrassed. So humiliated. So angry.
It burned in me. The weight of it. This predicament; the single mom predicament that I still have not made peace with. I seethe with rage when I think of how Sami longs for an absent parent; how I know that longing. Unresolved in me, for parents who were never there; and are now dead. I cannot tell where my sadness for him ends and my own grief begins.
I tried to tap into the gratitude for the kindness of my friend’s husband, and I am truly touched by the loving attention he showed, but all I could feel was the pain and sorrow - though Sami had long moved on from his emotions and was having a grand old time.
Guilt. Shame. Despair at where I am. This feeling of defective alone-ness. Hate for his father. Strong feelings blasting through like a cyclone, amidst the happy, well-fed chaos of the farmer’s market.
When I got home, I cried, but not as hard as I wanted to. Though I tried to hide it, Sami heard me and insisted I get a kleenex. He tore some paper towel off the roll for me. I have always felt weird about losing it in front of my son. I worry that it’s too intense for him to see me cry. He has only seen me do so a very small handful of times in his life.
I wiped away the tears, and held it in until the night, when I sent a self-righteous text to my ex:
“Your son misses you. You might want to consider calling him between visits sometimes.”
He texts back: “I will when I feel like it”
Then another: “And pls do not text me if it is not an emergency with your advice. Sami can call me anytime he wants.”
He’s 3, you stupid heartless asshole, I wanted to rail back. He might not even know that he wants to talk to you. He just knows that he misses you.
I knew I had done an unskillful thing when I sent that text. I knew it as soon as it had been sent. I was trying to relieve my anger by putting it onto him. I wanted to make him suffer like I was suffering. And I know that never works. I did apologize for the text, trying to sweep my side of the street clean, while I wanted to call him every name in the book.
As I write this, the anger still churns within me. I filled with loathing and hate for my ex. The quote I opened with feels far away. And that is OK. I do commit to no longer acting from the anger. I will not send another text out of anger. Nor an email or phone call. No good ever comes of it. Ever.
Welcome to this blog - my chronicle of the illuminating, character-building path of single parenthood. I'm making this up as I go along. My life is my practice, and my five year-old son is my greatest teacher.