“I mean, what kind of a monster am I?” Even as I laughed at my friend’s rhetorical question, the essence of her question continues to resonate with me. You see these last few days, maybe even weeks, I haven’t really liked myself. It seems whenever I open my mouth something unkind, impatient or inappropriate comes out of it. It feels like most of my energy has gone into apologizing where necessary – much more often than I would prefer – or rehashing reactions where I can only question the correctness of my behavior.
This unfortunate phase started several weeks ago when I was adamant about making a specific point at a church board meeting, only to question later at home if I hadn’t overreacted (just a bit?) and to realize several days later I had been going on misinformation and misunderstandings. Uck. Since then I can add to my sorry list several emotional overreactions, one that included yelling at some kids (boy, that’s really something to be proud of) and on-going mistakes of one kind or another, not to mention unexplained outbursts while interacting with my children.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Come on, relax, it’s probably just some hormones getting all crazy or you’re having a tough time in life right now.” Sure, we all know those times where things are not running smoothly and it effects our mood and actions. Yes, it could be feasible. Thank you for trying to give me a way out. I appreciate it. But no, there is no unhappiness in my life to speak of right now. Nothing to blame my ridiculous behavior on.
Someone wise once said “if you never do anything, you can’t make any mistakes.” I understand that in a way, this wise tidbit is meant to encourage, is meant to be that under-the-arms oomph that sets you on your feet again. I get that and there are moments when I do feel encouraged by it. But really, when I’m in such a phase like I am now where everything I say comes out wrong, I am tempted to take this little piece of wisdom at its literal meaning: do nothing. If I just hide away, we might all be better off. I couldn’t make a fool out of myself and constantly need to feel ashamed and no one could be hurt by my sharp tongue and forever hurt feelings.
Maybe the image of a monster is a bit melodramatic, as we all know human monsters do scarier things than having uncontrolled emotional outbursts, but I feel it’s an image I can work with. There is a part of me with monster tendencies: uncontrollable and unpredictable. And as with any monster we’re familiar with, both imagined and real, it’s those two traits combined which bring unease, as anything erratic tends to be scary.
I believe naming something and taking the time to see it as it really is takes away its power. So by naming my monster and writing about it, I hope to tame it. Knowing that part of me waits for a moment of inattentiveness to strike reminds me to calm my breathing and thinking before reacting. It reminds me holding my tongue is often the better alternative to letting it lash. It means allowing myself grace when I make mistakes and extending that same grace to others. Of course there are times when my monster will win. But maybe by acknowledging its presence, I can take its strength and allow the real Dora that I hope is motivated by love and respect to become bigger.
I guess hiding away isn’t really the answer. But taming monsters might be.