Apparently I had quite a temper when I was a little kid. I got this observation mostly from my Grandpa who was a pretty chill guy himself. One thing I remember happening with him was he picked up a toy I was playing with and I guess I had a minor temper tantrum. He took note of my reaction and just to see what I would do he put it up in the shade cover of the chandelier. Then I really lost it. He chuckled a bit as he gave it back and then dubbed me Hot Stuff, the Little Devil after the comic book character.
When I was five, my Grandpa gave me a challenge that if I could go a whole month without losing my temper he’d give me a dollar. Challenge accepted. I didn’t make it one month. But my five year old mind came up with a work around: Maybe each time I lost my temper my Grandpa could knock a penny off of the dollar and I could still come out of it with something. Don’t believe I ever got him to agree to this, but I started an informal count anyway. According to my calculations, it wasn’t long before the dollar was completely gone. Then as I continue to have anger management issues, all within the same month, I concluded at some point that I had lost my temper so many times that I probably owed my Grandpa money.
Now as an adult in my fifties I’ve realized that I’ve pretty much been angry my entire life. Several different church members – independent of each other – commented to my wife what a negative person I am. She withheld that from me for several years in order to protect me, but finally shared it as we were trying to figure some things out.
My mood often ranges from irritable to rage. But apparently I wasn’t born exactly this way, because my Mom told me something interesting once. She said, Sister so-and-so at church told me that I really love all your kids, but the one I love the most is George (me), that’s because he’s always so happy. And I’ve seen pictures of myself as a toddler looking pretty happy. So why did my Mom tell me this? I’m guessing that I was having some anger issues and she had noticed the difference between then and before then, and was trying to get me to be that happy kid again. Having made note that I’ve been angry pretty much my entire life, it looks like my Mom’s strategy didn’t work very well.
I’m reminded of a comment my nephew’s wife recently made that her daughter has anger issues. She shared an observation and conclusion she had made but what really bothered me was that she didn’t indicate that she had tried to understand why her daughter had these issues. Why is incredibly important because the cause could lead to answers about how to help alleviate the anger. It reminded me of my own Mom’s way of handling my anger. It wasn’t very much about why and much more about you didn’t used to be this way and it isn’t good so don’t be that way – or just general ambivalence to my anger. “If you’re mad, go out and hit the tree” she used to say.
So what happened? Why did I change so much sometime between the ages of two and four? Why did it take me five decades to even realize that I really had been angry all that time. And why did I never get over it. I’ll explore these important questions in future posts about my emotion journey and ultimately, show how they are intertwined with My Faith and My Pain journeys.