Here is another great guest post worth heeding. Anger is a dangerous weapon and kills a lot of relationships and spirits Pay attention to this blog on how to deal with your anger.
The Antidote to Anger
This is the lin to the blog to Stay Happily Married
The Karma Series, Part 2
After attending meditation class for a few weeks, I asked my teacher, “Could you do a series on parenting? Because I have a lot of trouble with that. You see, my daughter whines, and it drives me crazy. I don’t want it to drive me crazy, but it does. That whining sound just irritates every cell in my body, and before I know it something has snapped and I’ve turned into an angry person who I am not proud of. Do you have a solution for that? Can Buddhism help me?”
She smiled and, as if she were sharing one of the world’s greatest secrets, lowered her voice and said, “Yes, it’s called patience.”
I stared at her for a few empty seconds. She stared at me and smiled.
“Yes,” she said. “We’re doing a series on patience next month.”
I thought, “Really? That’s the best you’ve got? Patience? No Captain Spock grip that I can put on myself to stop the anger? No mantra that I can say over and over again? No special meditation technique? Just patience?”
It took the better part of a year before I understood that she was right. It took lessons on impermanence, compassion, emptiness, self-cherishing, attachments, karma and more. It took me meditating nearly every day, twice a day. (More on that in a future post. It’s not as taxing as it might initially seem). It took nearly a year.
But eventually I realized that she was right. Patience is the antidote to anger.
What follows is the story of the night that led me to fully understand that teaching.
The Day I Did Not Lose My Patience
It was two weeks ago. We’d just returned from vacationing in Colorado, where I had become incredibly lax about my daughter’s diet. By the end of the trip, the girl’s primary food groups had been donuts, chips, fries and Mac-n-Cheese.
That, of course, could not go on forever. Otherwise she’d develop diabetes, heart disease, and cancer by her 18th birthday.
So, upon our return, I made a decision about dinner. It was this. I was only cooking one meal, this one meal was going to be healthy, and she was going to eat it or she was going to go hungry.
I might add here that, in retrospect, the timing of my Dinnertime Intervention could have been better. My daughter’s sleep schedule was all bollixed up from the time change. She’d been awake until 11 pm the night before, and then I’d woken her at 7 am that morning to get her off to summer camp.
If you are a parent, then you might be able to see where this is headed. If you are not a parent, here’s a hint. Kids who don’t get enough sleep have a tendency to morph into something resembling the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes.
So here we were coming up on dinnertime. My daughter asked, “What’s for dinner?” I said, “Corn on the cob and…”
She cut me off. “I hate corn on the cob!”
I said, “Oh, that’s too bad.”
I plated everything up, and I served it.
She took one look at her plate and said, “I. Don’t. Like. Corn. And. I. Hate. Chicken!”
She had steak on her plate, not chicken, but I knew that information would be wasted on her in that moment.
“You don’t have to eat anything if you don’t want to.”
“Can I have dessert?!” [Read this with a loud whiny voice].
“But I don’t LIKE corn!” [Remember, whiny voice]
“You know the rules. If you don’t eat your dinner, no dessert.”
She morphed into the Tasmanian Devil. I sent her to her room. I ate my corn and steak in relative calm.
She returned a short while later.
“Are you ready to eat?”
She got whiny and sassy, so I sent her back to her room.
I could hear her screaming. I could hear her sobbing. I could hear her telling her stuffed animals that I was the worst mommy on the planet.
I smiled. “This moment isn’t going to last forever,” I reminded myself. “She’s not going to hate me forever because I made corn on the cob for dinner. Stay strong. Stay calm. You just have to wait this out. “
You just need to be patient.
And, then, I had one of those, “Dang, so that’s what she was talking about a year ago” moments.
My daughter’s Tasmanian fit went on for more than an hour that night. At one point she sneaked out of her room and into the kitchen so she could erase my name off a picture she’d once drawn for me. At another point she came out with red eyes and stared me down. I asked, “Can I give you a hug?” She screamed, “No!”
I said, “When you are ready, I’d love a hug.”
“I hate corn!” she yelled and then ran back to her room.
She emerged some time later and said, “I want dessert!”
I said, “I’m sorry, but that’s not happening and you know why.”
I sent her back to her room a few more times, telling her that she could come out again when she could talk without whining and without getting sassy.
She emerged a few more times with the whine and with the sass, so I sent her back.
I looked at the clock a few times. I thought, “I can’t believe this is going on this long.”
I did wonder at one point whether she would ever calm down. It did cross my mind that perhaps my daughter had just entered some new Mommy Hating Phase of Life, one that might last an entire year.
Then, at some point, it occurred to me that she might stay whiny and sassy for years—perhaps into adulthood—and that this phase would never end and my only respite would be the day that I finally died from the pain of it all.
So I again reminded myself to be patient. I reminded myself that all hardships—even this one—eventually come to an end. Nothing lasts forever, not even a sassy fit. Everything is impermanent.
After about an hour and a half, the energy in the house shifted. My daughter walked up to me and stared at me with these pitiful eyes. I asked, “Do you want a hug?” She said, “Yes.” She crawled on my lap. Her tears spilled onto my shirt. I said, “I’m sorry we had such a bad night.”
She said, “We had a bad night because you yelled at me!”
This time, for once, I had not yelled at her. In the past? Yes, I’ve yelled. This time? No, I had not. This time I had been calm. This time I had loved every little molecule of her being—even the sassy molecules—the entire time. I had not lost it. I had not been angry.
I’d been patient. And, now, I still was.
“I’m sorry if you heard me yell at you. I love you more than anything in the entire world. I never want you to be sad.”
We hugged for a good 10 minutes.
And then she ate her corn on the cob.
And then she wrote my name back on the picture. She used a pen because, she said, you can’t erase pen.