I grew up in a house with yelling. When we got mad, we got MAD. There was door slamming, stomping of feet, and most of all, yelling. I still express my feelings by yelling, and I’ve got to admit, it feels pretty good.
But it terrifies my children.
I yell at my three-year-old and he immediately starts crying. He doesn’t even know what I’m saying—the minute he hears the loud roar of my voice, the tears start. Whatever I’m trying to communicate doesn’t get through. I yell because if my kids don’t answer me, or don’t immediately jump up and do what I’m asking, I think they didn’t hear me. I yell because I’m frustrated because this is the third time in 24 hours that I’ve stepped on a Lego and my poor feet can’t take it anymore. I yell because I’m tired, because I’m hungry, and because life is sometimes just so God-damned hard.
When I fell in love with Chris, I realized that I had committed myself to a non-yeller. I tried to get him to yell, don’t get me wrong. When we moved in together and he didn’t make any room for me in his closet, I piled his clothes in a box willy-nilly and threw them down the stairs. He picked up the clothes and asked in his calm, unruffled way, “Don’t you see how ridiculous you’re being?” Early on in our relationship we decided we would never use the word “divorce” in our fights, and we haven’t. We are committed to each other, for better or for worse. But when you take the most hurtful word out of a yeller’s vocabulary, there’s not much left in the arsenal to fight with.
About five years into our marriage I finally asked him, “Why don’t you yell at me?” I thought I wanted someone who was passionate, someone who cared about me enough to fight with me, even about the most mundane of life’s problems. He said, “I don’t yell at you because I love you. I don’t feel like yelling at you shows you I love you. I think it hurts. So I don’t yell. You can yell at me if you need to, but I’m not going to hurt you back in that way.”
Well, that sure threw me. To express love by not yelling? Was that even possible? The answer is of course, yes. I often think I married Chris because he balances me out. He is the yin to my yang, the calm to my crazy. While he may not yell, we still have (very civilized) fights and we still find a way to make up at the end of the day. More often than not one of us just starts laughing. Do you know how embarrassing it is to be laughed at when you’ve just been shouting about the importance of which outlet is the right outlet to use when you’re vacuuming? Shuts me up real quick.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been having a hard time lately. I don’t know if it’s the holidays, or the extra pressure I put on myself at the holidays, or the extra pressure society puts on me to ENJOY the holidays, but I have been in an unrelenting bad mood for a few weeks now. And while I’m maybe not yelling as much as I used to, I’m not the sunniest person to be around either. I’m grumpy, I’m short with the kids and with Chris, and I feel pretty powerless as to what to do about it. It’s like the words are out of my mouth before I even think about them and once they are, I realize how bad they sounded, but it’s too late. They’ve already had their effect. One child is already crying. Chris’s eyebrows are already raised. It’s too late.
I thought I should increase my depression medication, but then, I don’t want to be someone who turns to medication every time she can’t handle her life. But maybe I can’t handle it. I mean, why do I feel this way? I love my family so much. SO much. I can’t get enough of them. I quit my job to spend more time with them. And I know they love me—they tell me every day. But I just feel so undeserving of that love. How can they still love me—how can Chris still love me—when I treat them so horribly all the time? I don’t understand why they keep showing up for me but one thing I do know is that I definitely don’t deserve it. Or at least I don’t feel like I do. But then, how do I get to a place where I feel like I deserve to be loved?
I just don’t know. But I wish I did, because then maybe I could figure out how to act like I love my family every day. To not yell, not fight, not cry. I realize it can’t all be sunshine and roses when you’re trying to raise respectful, responsible children, but I also know it can be better. I can be better. And I know that somewhere in my heart of hearts, in a tiny little space, maybe at the bottom, that I do deserve their love (maybe only a little bit of it). But I sure don’t feel that way all the time, and I wish I did.