Hair trigger

It hasn’t been a very calm few months at our house.  Which is strange, because in other ways it’s been very calm.  We haven’t done much other than work, physical therapy, and homework (me, Matt, and kids, in that order).  But everybody feels frayed and tense, not to mention tired, and we seem to be blowing up at each other with uncomfortable regularity.

Often the mornings are bad.  We bicker and argue over breakfast (and “we” here is usually the children and me) and then pile into the car to make the 0.75 mile drive to school.  There’s some escalation of the disagreement in the car and by the time I drop Grace and Whit off I am filled with a toxic mixture of sorrow and regret.  I feel awful about having argued with the kids, usually it is at least partially my fault, and I can’t shake it off.

While I have said over and over and over again that Grace and Whit don’t belong to us, I do know that Matt and I to a certain degree create the weather in which they are growing up. I feel terrible that I’m responsible for too many tense moments and thunder storms in the last months.

I started this post before the election results and it feels self-indulgent to write about how things are snappy inside our house when I worry about the state of the country generally. But at the same time, I realize that maybe the only thing I can possibly influence IS what’s inside my house, so I need to focus there. Since November 9th I feel enormously more sorrowful and anxious, but somehow, also more focused on keeping things peaceful at home.

There are several things that keep running through my head these last few days, but chief among them is the line that I have used two times on our family holiday card.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

This is what I want to do, to be, to model.  I just have to figure out how to stop snapping long enough to do it.

How are you doing, out there?  I’m honestly curious.


21 thoughts on “Hair trigger”

  1. Oh, my friend. You are not alone.

    Just last night Phil said: “Are you mad at me?” And I am mad. Not at him, though…but isn’t that the way it goes, sometimes? When I feel scared, angry, or powerless, it tends to seep out through my pores around those I love the most. I see Emma do the same thing to me, and I try to remind myself that while her hostility is directed AT me, it’s most likely not ABOUT me. If anything, she feels safe enough to let it all hang out.

    Last Wednesday morning, things went off the rails in my house. What started as a fight about Emma finding her sneakers erupted into her storming off to school alone (on foot) and me slowly following her in the car, begging her to get in. We passed another mom and child from school along the way, and I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. Emma never got in the car – I waited until she got in the building, and then went home and cried.

    I emailed the other mom that morning….partially to let her know things were ok (sort of) and to apologize for our little spectacle. I don’t know her well, and her surprising reply saved me from a serious shame spiral:

    “Please don’t apologize,” she said. “None of us are ourselves today.”


    We are in unchartered waters, here. And the reason I post this rambling reply is because I think it is so important that we reach out and combat feelings of isolation, fear and shame. I think sharing these tough moments – when we lose it, or are the not the best version of ourselves – is the most radical act of self-care we can take right now.

    When I share these moments, instead of hiding or feeling ashamed, I am able to let it go and begin again.

    Thank you for your courage and transparency. It helped me this morning. And go easy on yourself;) I think we are all just trying to put one foot in front of the other right now. xoxoxoxo

  2. No, you are not alone. I think you’re right that we need to start in our own home. But it also is those closest to us that trigger us like nobody else (I went on a spiteful rant on my husband last night because he interrupted me at a bad time when my photo website was not working. The stuff I hurled was so ridiculous that I don’t know whether to laugh or to be ashamed). That does not mean we shouldn’t do better by them. But maybe realizing, and letting them know that it’s not really about them is a small step. xo

  3. Oh Lindsey I have had similar mornings. So so hard. You are such a thoughtful, loving parent. Be gentle with yourself. You are human. Your children are human and you will all be ok. But it is so hard in the meantime. I sometimes would stay in my car in the driveway for ten minutes after I got home from work taking deep breaths to prepare myself for the evening ahead. Sending good thoughts your way. It will get better. ❤️️

  4. So far I’m tending to direct my anger at people who can’t actually receive it: the person who cuts me off in traffic, steals my parking space, and so on. (It seems to be mostly traffic related, actually.) I feel edgy, but not snappy. However, I feel incredibly physically tired. I worked out last night for the first time in two weeks and it nearly killed me. I have phoned in several meals. And I’m ready to collapse into bed by 8:30 every night. Grief is exhausting, and that’s basically how I’m feeling right now – sapped of energy and initiative across the board.

    On brighter note, though, I’ve registered my 8yo for our school’s chapter of Read, Right, Run. We have reached out to our church for service opportunities around Thanksgiving. And I’ve started looking into Big Brothers and Big Sisters. And all of those things give me breath as I swim upstream. I think that is what will get me through the next four years – knowing that I’m not taking this lying down.

  5. “Since November 9th I feel enormously more sorrowful and anxious, but somehow, also more focused on keeping things peaceful at home.” This is exactly where I am. I have this new, constant low-level anxiety that never lifts, and which makes me increasingly more irritable, but also this intense desire to control what I can control and raise good, kind, thoughtful people. If that is what I can contribute to this broken world, if I can do only that (which is simultaneously a tall order and not at all enough)…well, for now, it’s a start. With you in this, always…xox

  6. Love the post and the comments. I’ve been doing all of these things. thank you for making me feel normal. We are in this together and we shall all be okay. Peace.

  7. Oh Lindsey, I could have written this post. I had the EXACT same thought just yesterday when I realized I was being less than patient with everyone in my house. Let us all begin in our homes, but let us also be kind to ourselves. Sending love and light, my friend!

  8. I’m with you, Lindsey. I have felt a thousand emotions since last week but some are fading away and a few are standing strong. Namely, a motivation to work, to do something. For me, that means peace and understanding in my house, and in a broader sense it means a re-commitment to the political work I engaged in in my 20s and early 30s. This time, though, it feels less laser-focused and more mature, in the sense that I realize there’s a whole group of people (a few close friends included) that I have to, however uncomfortably, listen to. Anger is easy; I’ve always said this. Now I’m finding out how incredibly difficult understanding can be.

  9. When life is like this, it’s so so important to take whatever compassion you can muster and give it to yourself first. You have been under a lot of stress taking care of a household singlehandedly AND bringing home the bacon.

    When Scott was in Bahrain, I yelled more that year than any time in my life. I was sharp and worn down and so so tired. I felt guilty all the time but I was also doing my very best just like you are.

    It’s just a season. It’s not the whole.

    So much love to you. Xoxo

  10. First time commenter, long time reader. Thank you for writing about exactly what’s been going on in my house every morning lately. You are not alone and your writing makes me feel less alone. Especially as I cry so many mornings after dropoff- 11yr, 9 yr, 6 yr, trying to keep the lasso on my emotions. Love your posts!

  11. I am right there with you. We’re so tired, at our house, and so snappish with each other. I feel awful about that and I have to find a way to move forward, but so far I just can’t. Be gentle with yourself, my friend. xo

  12. Lindsey- Josh DeWitte, who conducts the Middle School group of Cambridge Children’s Chorus, programmed songs of peace for the kids to sing way back in the summer and it’s perfect now that we have election results and the subsequent feelings. Arrangements of Dona nobis pacem and Let There Be Peace on Earth are two they are doing! Will be thinking of you. <3 -Debbie

  13. I am with you! I can’t wait to read all these lovely comments, so thanks for sharing. I’ll share my own turmoil, which could include many moments lately, of which today’s incident is a random snapshot. I’ve been overactive on Twitter recently, and today HuffPO tweeted a link to a benign post about tricks to discipline your children. I tweeted a snarky reply about how I assume that list doesn’t include “reading the news followed by storming into your children’s room to yell at them to clean up their shit” (as I had just done minutes before). Then I realized a member of the adorable family who just sold us their parents’ house follows me on Twitter, and I got embarrassed and deleted the tweet.

    I don’t know how we’ll find inner peace. But I remember my grandmother telling me I can’t be kind to others unless I’m kind to myself, so I’m trying to start there, as hard as it is. xoxo

  14. I wasn’t sleeping the week before the election, and since the 9th it’s been worse. The last few nights I’ve been passing out around 830, but wake in the middle of the night from horrible election dreams. I’ve never experienced this level of fear and anxiety about our democracy. I want to stay plugged in, informed and active, but I also need to find balance and calmness. Will be difficult to achieve given these uncertain times. Deep down I’m incredibly sad and let down by the racism in our country.

  15. Thanks Lindsey for providing this space. It is so helpful to read how all of us are coping. This is a new normal and I’m not comfortable with it and have such little control over the outcome, so angst, stress comes with it. We want to be hopeful for our children, not let them sense the unknown and the fear but it is hard to do. As many readers have mentioned self care and just allowing these feelings is a first step for me. I also am glad that I feel so intense about this election…I wouldn’t want to be the person who says what will be will be. I have to take some sort of action…I just am not sure yet what that will be.

  16. Reading this brings back a lot of memories, bad not good. I have been there. My house once felt like a battle zone but now my girls are 22 and soon to be 25 (on inauguration day-how crappy is that?). Between work, a 45 minute commute, financial problems, and the battles at home with two teenage girls, there were days I knew I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. All I can say is, walking away is sometimes the best solution, and if they’re the ones who to walk away-e.g. to school, let ’em go. Arguing and pleading with teenagers gets you nowhere. Unless their lives are in danger I would let some of the smaller things slide. Looking back I realize my girls were struggling with independence. They were trying to break free and if I was honest with myself i once acted out in the same way.

    This fall I visited my oldest in Lake Tahoe and we went on several hikes together. I enjoyed her company and I won’t get into the details of why I thought this would never come to pass, but it did and I look forward to seeing her again. My youngest daughter and I are planning to attend the Million Women march in DC the day after the inauguration. There were many days I thought I was the worst mother in the world but both my daughters have thanked me for being patient and more importantly tolerant.

    There are times I almost miss those days but then again, I’m happy we made it through them. I’m blogging about the aftermath of the election and I’ve finished a 4th novel which is begging me to find a literary agent. It many ways it’s nice to be on the other side of the storm called adolescence.

    Hang in there. You may not realize it now but you’re doing a great job.

  17. I really appreciate your saying that. Doesn’t feel like it, often. My son is going to be 12 on inauguration day, so he and your daughter must share a birthday! Crappy, yes. He’s bummed about it. xox

  18. I wake up every morning since November 9th with this low-grade feeling of dread and then remember why. I’ve been trying to drag myself off the Internet news, which is a horror show, and back to my family– but then something happens and I think, I need to do something about this. Today my husband came home and told me that he told a colleague/friend that if she and her husband have to register as Muslims, he’s going with them to gum up the works and to protest. He’s Irish-Italian and a cradle Catholic. I said I’d go, our 16-year-old son said he’d go too– and then I thought, what is wrong with this country that we are legitimately having to think up ways to protect people from having to register because of their religion??!! So, I’m trying to strike a balance, and I’m not doing a very good job.

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