I’ve been frustrated most of my life. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing; irritation simply follows me. On the outside, I am engaging and good-humored, but beneath the surface is a pinched up shrew with the patience of a 2-year-old.
One of my many hidden talents is the ability to roll my eyes without splitting a nerve. It is a skill that requires equal amounts focus and fury, and one that I’m sorry to admit I have mastered.
Whether I am standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in the doctor’s office, my cuckoo clock eyes are perpetually in motion. For the most part, I keep the verbal anger to a minimum, which explains the pulsating vein on the side of my face and the reddish hue of my cheeks. But every so often I snap, causing a whirlwind of impetuous behavior.
We were living in Florida when I was eight months pregnant. It was mid-July and hotter than hell. I was on my way home from the gym when I saw an SUV in the rear view mirror speeding toward me. I assumed he would drive around since we were on a two-lane bridge, but instead he sped up and revved his engine directly behind my car.
I could feel the blood boiling in my hormonal face when I glanced up and saw him pounding his fists on the steering wheel. He was testing my patience, which was destined for failure, but I rejected his challenge and gestured for him to pass.
When he pulled alongside my car with a mouthful of contempt, I exploded. It was the only time I had ever unleashed that kind of fury on a total stranger, and I let him have it all. I was so angry that my hands were shaking. There were two of them, and two of me; one of which was still in the oven, yet I couldn’t let it go.
We continued the charade until the next light, which happened to be red. There was nowhere for me to hide and no one around to witness the insanity that was about to ensue. I was trapped, alone, and very much afraid.
I could hear them screaming at me from their windows as I eased my way toward the light, and watched in horror as their car shook to a stop. When the driver stepped out, he slammed his door shut and began stomping his way over in my direction; by now my heart was beating out of my chest and I could not catch my breath.
To this day, I honestly believe he might have killed me right there on the spot had his friend not pulled him away when the light turned green. I had allowed myself to become totally unhinged for the first time in my life, and it easily could have been my last. What a foolish thing to do, particularly for an expectant mother, and I am thankful my child wasn’t around to see it.
When I got home that day, I could not stop crying. I felt like the worst soon-to-be mother in the world and was too ashamed to tell anyone what had happened, so I didn’t — until now. The thing about losing control is that it makes you realize how swiftly it can materialize.
Looking back, it’s probably a good thing that it happened before my daughter was born. It allowed me to see the dynamics of anger and taught me how to stop myself from taking it one step further.
I have a strong-willed child. She is the spitting image of her temperamental mother, minus the elevation. When she was little, every request was an invitation to push my buttons, and she picked at them with everything she had. If I asked her to do something, she would puff out her tiny body and challenge me to a verbal joust. If I told her not to touch something, she would ease her way over to it with the grace of a swan and throw a finger on top of it while giving me a side-eye. She was relentless, and I was beginning to lose control.
We had just finished finger-painting in the kitchen one afternoon when I asked her to help me clean up. As expected, she dismissed my request by running to her room for cover, but this time, I followed behind. I wanted to set an example for future behavior, and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. We bickered back and forth until the conversation became heated and a familiar feeling began to build up inside of me. My hands were shaking — just as they were on that hot summer day — and I was afraid of what would happen if I stayed.
I knelt down on the floor with tears in my eyes and hugged my little girl. I told her to stay in her room and think about her behavior while I went into mine to do the same. Then I ran to my bedroom closet, closed the door, and sobbed my way back to sanity.
It’s hard being a parent at times. Children can push you to the ends of the earth and all you want to do is scream. You repeat yourself 10,000 times a day as if no one is listening, but they are… and they hear everything. It only takes a second to reach the point of no return, yet finding your way back can last a lifetime.
When I lost my temper that day on the road, intolerance rattled my foundation and awakened self-control. In one thick moment, I learned the importance of keeping my cool and counting to 10: a lesson that could have come at a much higher price and one that we all need to embrace.