I’ve been wondering lately, which ‘me’ is the real one?
Is it the one excitedly pointing out cows and diggers through the car windows? Or the snarling, pushed to the edge version when my instructions have been completely ignored by the kids one too many times? Perhaps the passionate, inspired variation when I’ve just resonated with a new idea about doing life better? Or the task manager ordering toys into different boxes during pack up time? Maybe it is the writer sitting in the corner seat in a cafe creating narratives and crafting pieces.
If I’m to be honest, my narrative of self is probably derived from the ‘me’ that was most exhibited over the past three days. If I have kept my temper under control, met emotional outbursts with patience, kept the washing up to date, had time to reflect and read books and blogs, I feel as if I’m doing OK.
On Monday I was lying on the couch reflecting to Mum, “I can’t actually remember the last time I *really* lost it at the kids. I’m better at forgiving myself and moving on now, rather than moping and punishing myself for the mistake, which in turn ironically just ensures I make more bad parenting decisions.”
Unfortunately, it turns out that ‘knowing’ this rationally wasn’t quite enough to save us all from a toxic rage-cloud that very evening.
Dave was absent for Parent Teacher Interviews and I had decided against asking one of our parents to help out with crazy hour. “I think it will be good for me to try and do it by myself… it might even be easier in some ways,” said the Control Freak to Dave. “Though I’ll probably regret saying that.” Oh, if only I had utilised that foresight instead of laughing at it.
Let’s just say that someone must have injected a large dose of adrenaline into both boys and they were almost literally bouncing off the walls and each other. All the ‘fun’ things I had planned ended up being taken off the table in response to complete failures to listen or follow instructions.
When it got to 6:30pm I was done. My ‘nice’ voice had been depleted, and the only tone that was left resembled more of a snarl. After finally getting Ivy into bed and attempting to read stories to the boys, I asked Hudson to choose a book and come to the bed. Ten times. On the last time, for emphasis, I pointed emphatically down at the bed next to me with my extended index finger. My impassioned movement misjudged all measurements of distance and I connected with far too much force, snapping the top half of the digit backwards on impact. There was much swearing and crying. I thought I had broken it by the searing pain that consumed me. Both boys immediately turned into angels and started stroking my hair and shooshing me, “It’s alright, Mummy, we’re sorry, are you OK?”
We limped through the rest of the bedtime routine and when I finally emerged from the warzone I felt a sense of complete shellshock. And shame. “No other mother would behave like this”. I thought morosely to myself. Despite my finger throbbing angrily, I refused to take any pain medication because I thought I deserved the torment. And despite spending the last two hours willing the kids to be in bed so I could have a break, I was reluctant to even choose an activity that would constitute a form of enjoyment because I had behaved with such lack of care.
Rationally, and after the swirling emotions subsided, I know how completely silly my response sounds. But in that moment, with the shame ‘demons’ dancing victoriously over my slumped and defeated body, Logic was not invited to the party. I sent a brutally honest and tear-stained confession to Naomi and Monica. It was the last thing I felt like doing, but the very thing I needed. Shame’s strangling grip began to loosen.
Today I went back to the Enneagram (I’m a Type One Wing Two) and my mind was blown. It was as if it described exactly the course of events from “sudden fits of hyper-critical rage” which “become more food for the self-judgment spiral”, “guilty remorse”, “intense sessions of wrenching, hand-wringing despair”. As a result, “self-punishment is necessary” along with “every kind of refusal to experience any sort of pleasure”.
I love the Enneagram. If it can predict with that level of accuracy the ways in which I will have an outburst and the reaction upon my failure to ‘control myself’, it is pretty bloody amazing. It also helps me understand that this experience doesn’t define me but simply display when I’m under significant stress. It was crazy hour, I’m not sure why I expected it would be anything else!
My still swollen (and thankfully unbroken) finger hopes that this is the only time I need to learn this lesson, and it is my wish that I will be able to recognise the telltale signs of reaching my capacity before I reach the tipping point, but for now I’m choosing to learn from the experience. Sometimes we need to fall down further to realise how much we really don’t want to be there.
Turns out that yelling is pretty pointless. It rarely receives the results that I hope for, and rage just leads to pain. I’m trying to not become so emotionally caught up in the little things and learn to stand back and observe the situation. Taking more note of the beautiful moments and being thankful for them. Marvelling at the little chubby folds on Ivy’s arms, Hudson’s striking Arctic blue eyes,
Eli’s self-conscious glance to the side as he shares a story.
In other news, I’ve started Bullet Journalling, an analog system of organisation that fluidly allows you to capture moments, tasks, intentions and reflections all in the same little notebook (I found this article very helpful in breaking it all down).
At the heart of it, each of us go through periods of stress and growth (sometimes in the same hour!) and I find it so helpful to have a way of understanding ‘self’ that doesn’t rely merely on how I am feeling or performing in that given moment. Thank goodness for the Enneagram.
Have you had any light-bulb moments with the Enneagram? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.