Today was my first Christmas without my father. My mother passed away several years ago, and my father died early this year. Every Christmas since I moved back home in 96, we have spent Christmas as a family. Before that, my parents would drive out to CA during the holiday season, either for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or both.
I have been grieving this week, and today. Crying some. Remembering things from the past.
One of my memories was of my mother. When I lived in California, mom and dad would drive out twice a year – once in the spring/early summer after school got out, and once for the holiday season. In addition to that, my mom would take the bus out twice a year – in the fall and early spring.
We usually had good visits – up until the very end. But for years, visit after visit, no matter how pleasant of a time we had, either the day before she left, or the morning that she was to leave, something would happen, and she would get angry. Angry with me, upset with dad, mad at my sister, who also lived out there…
It finally dawned on me that it hurt her to leave her children and her grandchildren. She loved us, and missed us a great deal. She didn’t want to leave us so far away to come back to her home. But if she got angry at us, that would give her a reason to want to leave. Anger was easier to deal with than being sad and hurting. So she would contrive to pick a fight. That way she would want to leave.
Once I realized that, I wouldn’t let her pick fights with us anymore. I pointed out the pattern, told her what I thought she was trying to do and why. And eventually, with the occasional reminder, she stopped finding the excuse to be angry when she had to leave.
I was talking about this particular memory with someone a few days ago. For myself, it has always been far easier for me to be sad than to be angry. There have been times when I have felt angry, and stuffed it inside. It is more acceptable for me, in my own mind, to be to cry, to feel sad, to overeat, than to feel anger, regardless of how righteous or justified those feelings might be. I think that sometimes I think I am depressed, when actually I am angry, and just don’t know how to recognize that anger or express it.
We so often do not even realize how we repress certain feelings – but they are still there, and they will come out, one way or another. Feelings of sadness might come out as depression, as anger at someone else, as overeating, as falling in love over and over – just to avoid being alone…Feelings of anger might come out in the same ways. For me, it is easier to be sad than to be angry. For others, it is easier to be angry than it is to be sad.
This memory of my mom has helped me to try to look beyond whatever obvious emotion that I see in others. And sometimes it has helped me to recognized when I am actually feeling anger, rather than sadness.
Sometimes it is easier to be sad than to be angry. And sometimes it is easier to be angry than it is to be sad. Look beyond the emotion.