I am the Kraken
I would like to think we all have tempers. That at some point we are all pushed way past our normal, when a fuse has been lit that cannot be undone. I like to hold on to this idea as an ever present “get out of jail” card for me. Yet, I know people do exist that have no fuse or have learned to let things go. Sometimes, I think about that internal dialog such a person would have with themselves while confronting an intolerable situation that causes mind-altering-seeing-the-color-red anger. I would like to learn how to be that type of person with an incredible internal dialog but until that happens, I am the Kraken.
To understand my Kraken, I need to start by explaining my chaotic childhood. Until I moved in with my father at 15 years old, I had an incredibly volatile relationship with my mother. Very rarely was I safe from her wrath and it was only after she was on her deathbed did I learn that she had silently suffered and struggled with mental illness for most of her life. At a very early age, I learned that fighting back gave me a voice louder, in some cases, than her illness. I was a fighter and a survivor by the time my father was able to get ahold of me. He provided me with stability, unconditional love and a sense of family that allowed me to heal, but it did not change my fight. Whenever I was in an uncomfortable situation, I would feel threatened and my initial response would be to fight to be heard. Too fearful of exerting physical violence, I became a mean girl. My fight was always below the belt and vicious. At one point, I was around 17 years old, on the train with a boyfriend arguing, and he looked over to this old lady sitting next to us who was thoroughly flabbergasted by our conversation and said, “she looks all cute and innocent but under that hair sits some retractable horns”. He was right! I did have horns, but what captured my attention the most, even at that point, was the realization that they were retractable. And were not permanent. In my mind, that meant that I wasn’t always a terrible person and I could change.
By the time I reached my twenties, I became fairly nonconfrontational. Always assuming I was in the wrong and always saying sorry before it escalated. I would take someone’s poor behavior over and over until I was pushed too far and then those horns would come out. And when they did, I released a fight that there was no coming back from. I lost friends and boyfriends, although looking back on it now, I’m pretty sure they were not the kinds of characters I would want my daughters hanging around with, so it was most likely for the best. Nevertheless, there was a fear in me that I was broken and that my temper would always get the best of me.
I attempted to distance myself from my temper and had succeeded in avoiding it for several years until I had children. “Mommy needs a time out” had never been more appropriate than the early years with my girls. Not remotely shocked that in 2013 Mommy’s Time Out, a nice Pinot Grigio, was making a big splash with all the mommy groups. I clearly was not the only one! However, I was petrified I was going to be like my mum with my kids. I certainly did not want my children to feel unsafe or scared of me. Sometimes my temper would flair and I desperately needed to figure out how to handle it. My first attempt at the MammaYoda Pause started then. I would take time outs. I would stop whatever I was doing and lock myself in my bathroom. Once there, I would take several deep breathes while look at myself in the mirror (making sure I did not have the look of my mother) and get myself under control. There was a lot of ugly face crying on my part and a ton of tiny hand holding to get me through those early years.
As the girls got a little older, I could no longer lock myself in the bathroom. My kids were on the move and my oldest would follow me around the house screaming at the top of her lungs. So the Kraken was born. Why a Kraken? I mean, I guess I could have viewed myself as another monster but I think on an unconscious level I chose the Kraken because of the destructive power it had, which is how I viewed my temper. Honestly, I’m not exactly sure how it came about but one day sticks out in my mind. My oldest daughter had been pestering her younger sister all morning. I was very aware that if the pestering did not stop my middle child was going to go off the deep end, she did not return until she was removed from the situation completely. Think getting into her classroom or going to bed. This child is capable of holding grudges and crying about not being loved for several hours if not majorly distracted. I told my oldest “do not release the Kraken”. At the time, I was not exactly describing myself but more my middle daughter. I explained to my oldest that I did not want her to release the bad mood she was set on instilling in her sister. She thought it was fabulous.
Luckily for me, at the time, they had not seen Clash of the Titans so the fear of the Kraken or my temper was pretty much lost on them. I explained to them, that for me, the Kraken was a very scary version of myself and I would desperately try not to have the Kraken visit. In fact, I would give them very specific warnings as to when I was reaching my threshold. The Kraken was me losing it and I did not want to ever lose it with them. Explaining myself as a Kraken became a very tangible warning for them to learn to back off. It was also a disturbing realization that describing myself as a terrible murderous monster probably wasn’t a good look. However, the few times I gave them the Kraken warning, my temper had usually fizzled out. By making the absurd statement, I had released the fear and power that my temper held over me. Not to mention, the blank stares followed by giggles also helped my mood tremendously. Thank goodness, the Kraken has never been released, but we started to use the term more frequently, as a way of letting each other know that we are either not in the mood or someone is very close to losing it our composure and patience.
My temper is something I want to shield from my children and husband as much as possible, but in truth, I am always working on making it disappear completely. I’m not sure I will ever be one of those people who has the perfect, clear-minded internal dialog that allows them to never erupt, but I am constantly trying. In the meantime, I will focus on the tools that help me stay present and keep the Kraken locked firmly in her watery abyss.