A woman representing an Irish cultural organization told me yesterday that I have Irish eyes. I thanked her, because these are my mother’s eyes, the clear blue, arrestingly wide eyes framed by tilted eyebrows suggesting sorrow even as the irises twinkle with laughter. It is the one visible trait I received from my mother.
More prominently, I received some invisible traits from her; I sing, and while my voice is not nearly as beautiful as hers, I revel in that connection. I love to play with children, and have her same child-magnet quality. I remember being in line with her in the grocery store, when children sitting in the cart in front of her would stare unblinking at this woman who was, to their eyes, astounding and miraculous. Today, kids look at me in the same way. I still don’t understand why, but I remember it happening with her and I smile and enjoy the secret unspoken bond we have. Children loved her, and children love me.
And she had a temper.
There are tropes about Irish women and their tempers. There are tropes about redheads and their tempers. My mother was a redheaded Irish woman. And she could go off like a bottle rocket when the situation arose.
Living with my father, who had a different kind of temper, the situation arose frequently.
Therapists would call her mood “unregulated.” That’s probably fair. What I have to grapple with is my inheritance of this trait which has only recently risen to the surface.
As a young mother, I made a conscious decision to contain my outbursts in order to provide stability to the children. In difficult situations, I was always the one in control, or tried to be, so my kids would feel safe. Tim has had his own issues with anger, which continued my persistence in self-control. I believe it’s a good trait, this governance on my impulsive outbursts.
But in the last few months, with no one around, I’ve relaxed my containment system. Most of the time, this has resulted in exultation, jubilance I was too embarrassed to display even around my family. Occasionally, though, I’ve touched the live wire of my genetic anger, and the voltage has shot through me unfettered.
I’ve been frightened by the power of this anger, and am seeking understanding in my usual–and some not so usual–ways.
Everyone develops at their own pace. I have realized this applies to adults, a realization that makes me feel foolish, as I see the imbalance of years between childhood and adulthood; we can’t possibly develop into full human beings in merely a quarter of our lifespans. What growth we encounter as adults is surely as profound as what happens when we are “children.” And so I grow and seek to learn and discover things about me that I didn’t know before.
And I don’t like all of them.
Some of my anger–the righteous anger in defense of the oppressed–I will not relinquish.
But I can take time now, in my solitude, to ponder and explore my innate channels, and sweep away the parts I don’t want.
I’ll keep these bright eyes that made Tim never forget me. I’ll keep the gentle voice that softened my children into sleep. But this anger, Mom, this brilliant and terrifying and self-serving rage, I think I’ll send this one packing.