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Greetings Fair Readers! This blog has been permanently relocated to my new website www.kateemccracken.com. Please visit me there to keep reading! xo Kate


what's underneath anger

Historically, I haven't done anger.  And I don't mean that I haven't done it well, I mean I hadn't done it at all.  It's not my favorite emotion.  It's not one that I'm comfortable expressing.  It's not even one that I'm comfortable having.  It's taken quite a bit of my adult life to develop a healthy relationship with it and, just like most things, as soon as I think I've got it I realize that I still have a long way to go.

Anger came up as a big theme for me a few years ago.  I had just gotten back together with my husband after a period of separation, initiated by me, and when I went to the doctor for a battery of STD screenings to make sure it was safe to get busy without protection I was surprised with a positive test for Hepatitis C (which is rarely transmitted sexually, by the way, so no one really knows why they tested for it at all, except for maybe the folks up in the sky orchestrating the universe and my life lessons).  They retested me in case it was a false positive (it wasn't) and sent me to a specialist who was booked for months.  In the interim I ran to my trusty chiropractor/naturopath's office to get cured the legitimate way. *wink*  She suggested she go see someone I had seen before: a bioreprogramming therapist who specializes in how our brains' programs effect our physical health.  To the bioreprogrammer I went and there I learned that our liver is associated with anger...

Ew.  I thought.  That's not me.  I don't get angry.  What could anger possibly have to do with what's going on in my body?  I never get angry!  Never!  NEVER!

Turns out.  Everyone gets angry... even me.  And when those of us who don't know how to feel or express it keep it buried inside it takes up residence in our liver.

In this case my brand of anger was "rancor": malicious resentfulness or hostility; spite.  And as soon as she defined it that way I knew what it was and where it came from.  I had no absence of rancor towards my husband or his family.  I didn't want to die, or turn yellow... so I allowed myself to feel anger... rancor.  The bioreprogrammer helped me process through it and predicted that if I was retested for Hepatitis C in 6 months that the tests would be completely negative.  No trace of anything ever having been abnormal.

To prepare for my meeting with the liver specialist I had to get a new set of tests done.  When I was sitting in his office a few months later for our first appointment I learned that my test results were 100% normal and as far as he could tell there was no reason for me to be there.  There hasn't been a recurrence since.

For the past several years I have been walking around believing that I had this anger thing down.  I get angry all the time.  Sometimes I even yell at people (from the safe confines of my car or my head)!

Yeah... that's not really mastering anger.

Anger has started coming up again lately... I went back to the trusty naturopath for a checkup and found out that I had a liver toxicity that needed clearing up (liver!  ding ding!  anger!  ding ding! go the alarms in my head).  Then last week in writing class another student said about my piece "you sounded very angry."  Which I didn't agree with or appreciate hearing so I got pretty pissed about that too.  It didn't help that I was already pissed at her saying that the persona in one of my other pieces (who is also me, I pretty much only write about me) was selfish, manipulative and had no self control.  Grrrrr...

In therapy last week I figured I'd get my money's worth so I plopped down in the chair and started talking about my relationship with anger.  In a moment's time I had learned that:
notes from therapy.

  1. I get angry when I think I look stupid
  2. I find "looking stupid" (or unreliable, loud, bossy, annoying, selfish, manipulative, not possessing of self control, etc) to be the worst possible scenario on the planet
  3. I also get angry when people fuck with my kid (apparently this is natural and healthy--yay!)
In describing my relationship to these states of being and why I was so opposed to appearing "selfish or manipulative" or not having any "self control" I found myself saying (and this is a direct quote because my therapist had me write it down and I'm transcribing it off the paper right now):

I don't want to ever give anyone a reason to know me for anything but my brilliant selflessness

And as much as I know how unhealthy that sounds... I also love the way it sounds.  It represents a huge part of me.  It represents this persona I carry inside, who learned to take the reigns many, many years ago and has perfected the craft of managing my life so that most people only do know me for that (or at least she is tricked into believing they do.  turns out they also see my yucky stuff and they still love me anyway)!  

I got the spend the rest of my therapy session honoring her for her contributions and then collaborating with her about how we are going to deal with the inevitable beasts of anger, impulsiveness, selfishness, and manipulation.  It's good to have an inner producer.  Especially a really good one.  *smirk*


bad at being happy

I have been in a state of perpetual crisis since I was about 9 years old.  Some of the crises were things we would all agree are crisis-like (untimely death of a parent, for example), others were specific to an adolescent (and then prolonged emotional adolescence) point of view.  Some came to, at, and through me without an invitation and others I completely brought upon myself.

The result: I get bored easily.  When there's nothing wrong I don't know what to do with myself.  I am uncomfortable with feeling comfortable.  I don't know how to do it.

My 2013 vision board.
Basically just says "keep being awesome.
keep letting awesome happen to you."
Just this past weekend I was sitting in my beloved's lap on the floor and sobbing.  Nothing had happened.  Nothing was looming on the horizon.  I was simply full to bursting with emotion because there's nothing wrong with my life and I don't know how to cope with that.

I tried to fill the open space by listing all of the things that are wrong with me:

  • I wait too long at 4-way stops, it confuses people, and then I get mad at them for being confused
  • I don't clean, but I want things to appear neat 
  • I hog the bed
  • I have stinky feet
  • I eat things that have been dropped on the floor
  • I have a stretch mark at the bottom of my droopy, post-pregnancy belly that is at least an inch in width (width!)
  • There was more... it's not that important...
I even tried confessing to one of my greatest sins against humanity:
  • once when I was baking something I needed baking soda and didn't have any in the cabinet so I took a teaspoon from the box in the fridge instead (you know, the one that sits in there absorbing odors for a while).

Don't worry current loved ones, it was years ago...  I have higher standards now.

As the words came out of my mouth I struggled to hold back giggles; sometimes I couldn't manage to.  She waited until I was finished (I probably went on for 20 minutes about how "awful" I am) and presented me with a "guess what?  I still love you."  And I knew it was true, which was awesome.  Even awesomer is that I didn't love myself any less for any of these things either.  They all sounded pretty ridiculous.

I don't know how to just be happy and content.  I only know how to struggle and cope.  I know how to keep my head down and plow through.  I don't know how to take it all in when there doesn't seem to be much of anything going on to take in.  I don't have much experience letting it be.  I've built a reputation on fixing and planning and coordinating life into a perfect outcome.

For 21 years I've been toiling away and hoping to get to someplace or some time when I would have what I wanted to be happy...  Well, I made it.  Now what?

In the past I would have made up something to be upset about.  I still see myself doing this, but when I see it as it happens it takes the wind out of its sails.  I hear a lot of folks self-sabotage at this stage.  I don't think I do that.  I think I just whine.  A lot.  And when I'm tired of whining I work from home so I can eat lunch three different times or I obsess about things like whether I should sell my iPad 2 on eBay and buy myself an iPad mini instead (I definitely should...)

Last night I had a dream that I was making a list of all of the things that were right about my life.  It lasted all 7 hours.

I'm starting to feel guilty about complaining about this.  Now that's a feeling I know what to do with!


positive feedback

As you heard, I marched myself into the principal's office last week when I finally decided that conflict avoidance wasn't worth the lifelong impact having a shitty relationship with his teachers was going to have on my kid and asked for what I wanted/needed.  I had a lot to say.  Things along the lines of:
  • I'm getting the message that the school/teachers are giving up on him
  • I'm also hearing that you're unwilling/unable to support him (especially because/even though his support needs don't qualify him for any kind of special support)
Kind of big stuff, no?

I also mentioned at one point that I never hear anything positive about him.  That seems to have been the biggest take away.  Last week I ran into both of the teachers on separate occasions when we were stopping by school at the end of the day to patronize the book fair.  Both of the teachers had clearly been "talked to" and I found their reactions to this "talking to" to be very focused on the "never hear anything positive feedback."  The first said, while shrugging his shoulders "he mostly does good in my class" and then made awkward small talk for a few moments until he had to run off to a conference.  The second flagged me down from across the playground and apologized for the note that suggested parenting techniques.  He said, "that wasn't meant for you.  You can use those ideas if you want, but they aren't meant for you."  Funny, because you drew an arrow on the front of the page you sent home to me indicating that I should turn the page over and read what was on the other side... (I kept this profound statement to myself).  He them proceeded to very loudly and very enthusiastically tell my son how great of a job he had done.  That day, that week, always!  SUCH A GOOD JOB!

I noticed the notes and homework assignments are coming with lots of smiley faces and exclamation points on them and I am very aware that I have not effectively communicated my point.  I'm not getting anything that says "we are committed to supporting your child."  I'm getting a lot of reactionary "I got in trouble by my boss because of something you said so I'm going to try and prevent you from talking to her about me again by being excessively nice to you."

Not exactly what I was looking for.

First, a clarification.  "Never" was an exaggeration.  They have said positive things about him, they are just on a 1:10 ratio of positive to negative.

Second, an explanation... When I express that I want to hear positive things about my child, I don't mean that I want to hear how happy you were when he behaved the way you wanted.  I want to hear positive things about HIM, not about how he acts.  I don't place much emphasis or importance on how compliant he was for the day.  To me, his level of cooperation is a direct reflection of his emotional state.  He has unmet needs, and until they're met they are the only thing he can focus on.  I get that this isn't a particularly functional way to live, but he's not an incomplete 30 year old, he's a complete 5 year old... and this is what he's working on.
original artwork by the child in question.
it's me, and a christmas tree, and it's raining presents.
good times. :)

Here's my message to all the teachers out there (and thanks to those who already do this).  Please do not measure my child's worth by his performance in your class; on the test or in his willingness or ability to sit still.  Please do not shower us with happy faces when he made you life easy and send home red X's on the days he doesn't.  When we have a conference to talk about his progress, let's look at where he's progressed and talk about the areas where there are opportunities for development by collaborating on how we can help him develop new strength.  If you must tell me about something he does or doesn't do, tell me a story about the time he stood up for, helped out, or was generous with another child.  When I come into your classroom I see these stories happening every moment as the children interact.  Talk to me about the things that get him excited and the areas where he appears to be bored or disinterested and then tell me how we're going to infuse the boring, less interesting stuff with the stuff that excites him.  Show me that you see him, know him, and understand him.  Show me that he's more to you than a red, yellow, or green card, a pile of worksheets, and a score on a standardized test.

Or, tell me that you won't.  But not that you can't.  Because you could.  You may not have known that it was an expectation or even an option.  Now you do, and at this point if you still don't, it's because you're choosing not to.