“To exercise power costs effort and demands courage. That is why so many fail to assert rights to which they are perfectly entitled — because a right is a kind of power but they are too lazy or too cowardly to exercise it. The virtues which cloak these faults are called patience and forbearance.”– Friedrich Nietzsche
I have been hiding behind the cloak of patience and cowardice for years. Avoiding asserting the right to a peaceful, calm, supportive home for my family. I’ve been waiting for things to get better without actually taking action. Watching, hoping, praying that Andy’s explosiveness would abate, that Daryle’s anger would subside, that Daniel would be able to handle his anxieties more easily and that my own personal issues would resolve themselves. Wanting everything to get better. Poof – just like that.
Don’t laugh, I truly thought things would improve on their own.
Lately, the cloak of patience and cowardice has been feeling excessively heavy. However, with each step I take to deal with my family’s hand of cards, the cloak lightens. I’m not saying that things are any easier, yet. But we’re openly discussing concerns, reading books, making counselling appointments and I’m doing my very best to look after myself and my loved ones.
The anger and lashing out at one another needs to stop. I usually excuse Daryle’s yelling by considering that he had a tough upbringing, that he reacts as he was taught when he was growing up. He knows that the yelling doesn’t solve anything, but he really doesn’t have any other tools in his kit to handle his anger and frustration differently.
My “a-ha” moment occurred just the other day when a woman spoke to me about the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her spouse in the early days of their marriage. All those years ago, she had stood up for herself and her husband stopped hitting her. She didn’t articulate this, but she must have stood by when he took his anger out on their children, both verbally and by hitting them. I can’t imagine how intense and explosive his anger must have been. It was a heartbreaking, hurtful, deep, dark secret that the family didn’t deal with. To this day the mother doesn’t see or feel at all responsible for any of the pain that her children must have endured.
All those years ago, as the abuse continued, the mother stayed in her marriage “for the children”. How many women stay in abusive relationships on the premise that they stay for their children? Who are they protecting? Are the children benefiting? How many times have I witnessed my own boys being yelled at and reduced to tears? Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I type. I have failed both myself and my boys and Daryle too. I mustn’t lose sight of the fact that he’s equally unhappy with where we’re at. I’ve betrayed the trust my boys have put in me to protect them. How could I let it go on? The simple answer is FEAR. Fear of a horrible explosion. Fear that he would be unwilling or unable to change. Fear that our family would fall apart. Fear of losing everything. Fear that I would fail. How ridiculous all that fear was – I was already failing. Had failed.
Like the woman’s children, Daryle learned his angry response habits from his father. How often do our parents’ words and phrases fall out of our lips before we realise it? Have you ever thought “I sound just like my mother or father?” As an adult, Daryle wants to break the cycle and refuses to hit his own children, but doesn’t have any other tools to deal with his own anger and frustration other than yelling and adding more and more rules to the household.
Today, as I begin to look at my life through a different set of lenses, I am interpreting my own fear as cowardice. In the past I couldn’t face dealing with things, so I hid from them. Ran away from them. Avoided and procrastinated. What good did it do? None.
Determined to keep my family together and mend our relationships, I’m committed to coming out from my cloak to move towards healing. Here we go… this is how our conversation went last night when I returned home from my doctor’s appointment:
D: Anything new?
Okay, clearly this type of conversation isn’t going to help us move towards a healthier relationship. There’s so much I want to say to him, but nothing’s coming out. I’m fearful of a big explosion, but I need to speak openly with him. Unable to sleep the previous night because of the weight of the patience-cowardice-cloak on my shoulders, I’m running on empty. My mind-numbing exhaustion doesn’t matter, there will be no better time than the present to talk. Only I have the power to speak what is on my mind. Now, more than ever before, I have the courage to exercise the power to become a better woman, wife and mother.
M: My left arm is almost gone, it is very numb and I’m dropping things a lot. My ribs still really hurt as well. But at least I’m able to walk okay and my vision is good. He gave me an adjustment and has adjusted my meds. Hopefully my arm will show some improvement in the next few days.
– brief silence –
M: I think Andy is explosive and Daniel is over-anxious partly due to our yelling at him. No one is pointing the finger of blame at you or me either, because I know we’re only trying to do our best with the tools we’ve got, but we need to put some more tools in our toolbox. Yelling isn’t a healthy way of communicating with the boys.
D: I don’t want’ to yell, but this is better than when I was growing up.
M: Absolutely. I’m proud of you for wanting to break the cycle. I understand that when you react by yelling, you’re doing so without thinking. It’s your “go to” response. This may be hard to accept, but you’re actually not able to deal with things in a more positive manner. But we can change that. We don’t need to accept that yelling is the only answer. I know that you don’t want to hurt the boys. I don’t either. Would you come with me to see a counselor? We can go together.
D: I suppose. But I can’t take time off from work.
M: No problem, I don’t want to leave work early either. I’ll make an appointment for 4:30 or later.
And so begins our healing.