I have occasionally mentioned in previous posts that as a young woman, I struggled with controlling my temper. Now,
I’ve never been the kind of girl who would physically throw down on someone; instead, I had a snarky mouth, talented in the art of sarcasm, and a true gift for honing in on the one thing about a person that they truly struggled with themselves about. I don’t say this with any pride at all, and I got God-Smacked upside my head many, many, many times before I was able to truly take a second and filter what came out of my mouth even a fraction of the time.
The level of control, or actually, the lack of it, and degree of snarky-ness was always in direct relation to the amount of hurt or embarrassment these people would inflict on me and how defensive they had made me feel. I can truly say, this sort of reaction from me was just that… a reaction. I almost never attack first and have rarely been unprovoked.
As I’ve matured both in age and spirituality, I can say that this knee-jerk, angry reaction rarely happens anymore with the exception of when something scares me. Ask my kids…they know from first hand experience!
I would have been comfortable saying a few months ago that I had succeeded in controlling my big mouth for the most part, and struck that little lesson as “done” off my mental list of character flaws that needed work.
And of course, Chef decided right about then to launch into a full-blown midlife crisis at the very same moment, and I suddenly felt all the stability, security, and trust of two decades shift a bit to the left of what I was comfortable with…And that was pretty scary to me. Fear begets anger in me. And, instantly, I felt myself reverting back to the old defense mechanism of using mean, snarky, sarcastic humor to attack and thus deflect from something I didn’t want to address or make the opposing argument seem stupid, irrelevant, or just plain wrong. So much for mastering that lesson. Put to a real test, it became very clear just how much more work I really needed to do controlling my temper and my mouth.
I have NO character flaws checked off that stupid mental list!! None.
Now, before everyone gets all defensive of the Chef, let me assure you…I can hold my own in Snark Wars, but Chef is the reining King of Snark in this household. He has even less of a filter than I ever did, and he’s twice as funny. When we first got together, I was considerably quieter than I am these days, and when he would occasionally lose his temper using that kind of blunt, but hilarious, humor, I couldn’t help reacting angrily…and laughing at the same time. They don’t comfortable mix well when pouring out of your mouth at the same time.
Over twenty something years, most of Chef and my battles have ended with one or both of us cracking up. It would break up the tension of the moment, and it always made communication calmer and less emotionally charged. We never would have guessed how that dynamic would really work for us. A completely accidental, but highly valued marital tool for us…
Well, I’m in new territory these days with a crisis that I can’t fully understand, and frankly, most of this midlife-man stuff going on I find completely appalling and very un-funny. Add to these stressful points, God’s directives to me personally about my role in Chef’s War Against Time, or actually lack of a role, has thrown me in a quandary of confusion about where my personality ends and my godly spirit begins. I’ve had to learn some new ways to handle the stress that keeps popping up causing me to just spill my juicebox and snark all over the man!!
It is with true sincerity that I say, I’m really, really trying. I took God’s message to heart, and I am not fool enough to ignore that very clear direction. On the flip side of that, I’ve had a somewhat controlled mouth for a long time now but I also haven’t had this level of stress to contend with on an almost daily basis since my children were babies. Every day, I’m kind of surprised how quickly I am able to revert back to that scared, defensive young girl one minute only to pendulum back to the sane woman I eventually became. Lol…I am making myself dizzy..and Chef is just completely confused all the way around.
After months of advice, some internet counseling, lots of prayer, and some dashes of uncontrolled anger, venting blog posts, and repentance prayers just to keep everything real, I realized that I was beginning to look like an escaped mental patient with severe constipation. I was physically trying to hold in the initial reactions to some pretty crappy things, while at the same time looking like a gentle, respectful, and peaceful wife in order to show Chef the love of God and the respect I was ordered to show him. And, as it tends to happen for me, the whole thing just fell apart quickly and completely.
Simply put, I’ve been just too blunt and honest with my Chef for decades to try to fool him with this insincere, fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude now.
One morning, as he was getting dressed for work, and mildly annoying me already at 4:00am in the morning, I locked my “Peaceful, Respectful and Gentle” mask in place and let the irritating remarks slide down my back, like nails on a blasted chalk board.
Pausing as he was tucking in his shirt, he looked right in my eyes and asked, “What is wrong with you lately? What is this weird look you keep giving me?”
Taking my opportunity to show him just exactly how I was sacrificing for the success of our relationship despite his ungrateful and somewhat unenthusiastic participation, (if you asked me, which no one ever really does :) ), I told him I was trying to be a godly wife, peaceful, gentle, and respectful, and that I thought the whole lesson was going to cause me to have a fatal aneurysm, and probably pretty soon. “And then you’ll be sorry!” I informed him.
” Well, could you stop it? You’re creeping me out! You are the worst actress I’ve ever seen in my entire life. No wonder you were the only kid in sixth grade that didn’t get a part in the Christmas play!” He practically bellowed so loud my dogs jumped in my lap for protection… Nice that he remembered me telling him that story a million four hundred years ago. But, I did crack up, because yes, that is a true story. :) And once I started laughing, he did, too, and the tension was dispelled.
After he left, I had to agree that this almost month-long effort to be some kind of biblical-looking wife was a bust. Now what? I decided to take the day off from being anything different than I’ve always ever been. I needed time to map out a new plan.
Later that evening, we came back to the subject, and he pointed out that those qualities- peaceful, respectful, gentle — probably couldn’t be faked, especially by me…I would actually have to become peaceful with the situation, respectful of Chef for real, and in turn, this would help me deal gently with him, instead of stabbing him with sarcastic, angry words when I felt like he was being insensitive or careless about all the things I treasure the most in this world.
I hate it when he’s so obviously right about something that I completely missed the boat on. He has a way sometimes of teaching me some really basic, somewhat obvious biblical principles, and yet he is a really baby Christian. He was right though, and as things have gone on, each day, I actually do become less emotionally reactive, and more peaceful, learning to just trust God and stop trying to fix everything, silently. Lol..I could write a whole post on what a woman can do with silence. And as for respectful, I came to the decision after much soul-searching and several conversations with Chef. And with his agreement, we agree that respect isn’t an area we ever have struggled with to any great degree. I have mad, crazy respect for Chef, even when I’m annoyed by him. And lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to actually pull off some gentle responses, and they weren’t fake or insincere at all. Go figure. I still blow it sometimes, but I think I’m on the right track now, and I see some progress…albeit tiny.
For the times that I know that if I don’t get my angry thoughts out of my hyper-vigilant brain, I’ll just explode, I’ve taken to writing out my sarcastic, snarky, bitter, angry, or just plain rude remarks in my journal. I think it was actually God who pointed me in that direction knowing that I’d blow a fuse if I didn’t have some way to get some of that pressure building in my soul out. Plus, it also reminded me yet again that He is a patient Father, and He understands me and my struggles in a very personal way. He never expected me to be insincere or fake…He uses the very unique set of traits that He specifically gives to each and every one of His children in such a way, His good will is accomplished through their own set of flaws and strengths, if we surrender ourselves to Him. And He’s patient with those of us like me who tend to ride the spiritual short bus sometimes when putting what we think He wants in action without really understanding quite what we are doing first.
An unexpected result of this habit,though, is that I have to admit, I wish I’d started this little exercise the day I could string together some words to create a whole sentence, because turns out, when I’m writing out my retorts, I’m way more witty and clever than when my mouth just opens and my brain throws up. I was looking through it this morning, and I have A LOT of rants in this thing, and I actually started snorting while laughing when I read some of them. I was pretty wound up!!! After this trial is completely over, I’m going to show them to Chef….he’ll get a kick out of some of them.
I’m thinking I might have a book in me after all! A few more weeks dealing with the Midlife Crisis, and the book will be finished!! :)