I often talk on here about loving others as hard as you can. About standing up for people and lifting others up and doing your best to make those you care about feel valued. About believing the best in all circumstances and seeing the positive no matter what. And that’s all true. It’s what I believe in, all the time.
But here’s another truth, one I rarely talk about with friends and never on here: I get hurt easily. And when I get hurt, the emotion is followed by a need for self-protection. And when I self-protect, my temper can flash. And when it flashes, I want to retaliate. And when I feel the need to retaliate, sometimes I do. In the form of a cruel word, usually muttered to myself. Or in the form of a text, sent in a moment of weakness when the hurt/self-protection/temper lasts more than a minute. Or in the form of a harsh word, spoken in haste when muttering to myself just doesn’t seem satisfying enough to get my point across.
All are immediately followed by regret.
I’m not a mean person. I can’t stand a harsh tongue. I hate getting angry. I resent the way it makes me feel.
More than any other time in my life, the last couple of years have made me aware of this shortcoming. Whether it’s brought on by feelings of abandonment, a sense of not being good enough, of not being able to do much right, or just a lifelong and very strong desire to save the world and heal the broken, this sense of hurt has crept up more than usual. The past couple of years have been both good at times and rough at times. I’ve made great friendships and lost good ones. I’ve grown closer to some people and farther away from others. I’ve known a need to protect my heart and the hearts of my children from those whose intentions weren’t the best for either one of us. That’s the thing about a mother’s heart—hurt us and that’s okay, hurt our kids and things get a little stickier. A lot stickier.
Temper is wrong, especially if it’s directed at others. Anger is toxic, especially if it blinds us to the love we’re supposed to show. Hurt is a normal part of life, but retaliation is not—even if it’s nothing more than a knee jerk reaction in a moment of self-protection. This is what I’m learning. This is what I’m still failing at. This is what I hope to conquer eventually. I’m not there yet, but I think I’m making progress.
Take tonight. Something hurtful happened with my daughter—on her birthday of all days—and my first reaction was to lash out. My second reaction was also to lash out, but in a less obvious way. My third reaction was to blink back angry tears. My fourth reaction was to paint all sorts of unlikely scenarios, all of which were a waste of time on my part. My fifth reaction was to let it go. Fifth.
I’d feel better if that reaction would rise to the number two spot or even number one, but fifth is better than nothing. It’s certainly better than getting even or having the last word.
After all, who cares about the last word?
I’m a writer…a lover of words…a master at painting best case and worst case scenarios with all my overthinking ways. But when it comes down to it, I don’t care about having the last word.
Or at least I’m learning not to care about it so much.
People and our responses to them are always more important than that.