349 days of not yelling, 16 days of loving more to go!
Dear Mike T.,
I apologize for how I broke up with you years ago. It was just a wee bit insensitive especially given how well you treated me. When that fortune cookie read “Friendship is the greatest gift” I just felt it was the perfect time to tell you that we were meant to be friends. It was just easier to say “It’s not you, it’s me” than to say the truth (that it was you). Ironically, twelve years later, now that I am a married mom with four kids, it is incredibly hard to say “it’s not you, it’s me.” Anyway, I started this Orange Rhino Challenge 350ish days ago and have learned on my journey about looking at me and telling the truth and I keep thinking of you and our breakup. And I just wanted to say sorry.
I hope you are well, you deserve the very best,
The Orange Rhino
It was May 2001. I had been dating Mike for about four months. He was a great guy with a great career. By day he worked in advertising, by night and weekends he was a volunteer EMT. He drove hours with me to meet my mom once and he rescued me from a drunk man hitting on me on Cinco de Mayo. He really was a great guy but in the end, he felt more like a friend than a potential serious boyfriend. So I dumped him. I told him all sorts of lines (lies!) that seemed easy at the time. I told him I didn’t want to be in a serious relationship. Eh hem. I met my husband two weeks later!
But the line that I still remember saying most clearly was “It’s not you, it’s me.” That was so easy to say at the time. It felt right even though it was a LIE. It felt easy to lie.
And now as a mom, as a person who has focused on figuring out how to not yell for the last year, it is INCREDIBLY HARD to say “it’s not you, it’s me.” Because that is the truth. If there is one thing I have learned ever so clearly on this journey it is that I often yelled at my boys not because of them, but because of me.
It’s not you I am mad at … it’s me. I am mad at myself for running late.
It’s not you I am angry with … it’s me. I am angry with your father for something he said.
It’s not you I am frustrated with…it’s me. I am frustrated with the insurance agency for not paying our bills.
Oh the list goes on and on and on. And just like I still feel a twinge of pain for lying to Mike twelve years ago, I still feel a twinge of pain for lying to my kids all the years I yelled at them. I still feel a twinge of pain for yelling at them for something that wasn’t their fault. I still feel a twinge of pain for yelling at them when the fault was my mood, my environment, my stress, my issues.
And right now, this day, that twinge is HUGE. Last Friday, I didn’t yell but I snapped A LOT more than I like (even if within my “rules”) all because of my issues. Right now, all my snapping is entirely because of me and I don’t like to admit that. I don’t want to tell the truth. I don’t want to say to my kids,
“I’m sorry I snapped at you. You are being great today. It’s not you, it’s me.”
Because WELL I don’t want to admit that I have issues right now. It would be so much easier to yell at my kids than it would be to admit that I am struggling. Oh, but am I struggling! My struggles are big and real and ugly and painful. I don’t want to look at me right now, I want to blame someone else. I don’t want my feelings to be real, so instead I am tempted to take my anger out on the real people in front of me; the people I really love. Because while that would be uncomfortable, it would be more comfortable than dealing with me, with my issues.
For the past twelve or more years I took some really ugly skeletons and I shoved them in a box. I tied that box up so beautifully even Martha Stewart would be proud. No, she would be more than proud. She would be envious. But now, for various reasons, it is time to unwrap that box. And it has my soul rattled. It has me rattled. It has me sad and upset and overwhelmed and more. And I want to lash out. I want to scream at the top of my lungs.
In the old days, I would have yelled at my kids without thinking twice. Shoot, I’d have laryngitis by now. I would have yelled at them for anything and everything. But now, I can’t. I WON’T. Because my kids deserve better. Because I love them so. They deserve my love, not my wrath. And so I am struggling. Because when life is stressful and ugly it is hard to own it; it is easier to be nasty to anything in sight. It is hard to not yell BUT it would be harder to deal with the emotional aftermath if I did.
So I will keep saying the line that I so easily said twelve years ago…even if it is hard. Every time my anger tries to unwrap itself and tries to peak out at my kids, I will think to myself “It’s not you, it’s me.”
And then I will hug my kiddos because that truly is the most comforting thing in the world.
* Don’t worry about me. I will be fine. I just needed to write this. I debated not sharing it BUT so many people have dared to share hard stuff with me that I felt it was safe to do the same. Seriously, no worrying about me!!! Go hug your kiddos instead. And then laugh with me. I mean really. I have worked hard for 350 days to not yell and I have to be tested in the most ridiculous way the last 15?! Seriously, it is kind of funny! See, just writing and I feel better already!