So. My No Yelling Challenge.
I HAD intended on updating you weekly about how it was going; the writer in me imagined that I’d see real progress over the course of the month and I could close out the challenge with a neat and tidy ending: I learned so much about myself, and I’m kinder, gentler, and a better mom and wife to boot!
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
I still yell sometimes, even AFTER working at it.
Part of it is years of ingrained behavior and reactions. My default to pretty much everything is annoyance. Little annoyances over the course of a few days turn into frustration. Lots of little frustrations build up over time, and like a pressure cooker, I inevitably POP.
And then I’m yelling.
It was clear to me that first day (where I yelled at every one of the Important Beings In My Life at least once) that this was going to be a REAL challenge for me.
Because it’s a simple fact: I am not zen, as much as I’d like to be.
So last month was not a success if you define success as becoming a zen mother/wife/dog owner who never yells.
But it was a success in other ways. Because I figured some stuff out.
The first thing I figured out? Generally, I yell before I even realize I’m yelling. It’s a weird thing to say, I know. But there was a moment soon into the month where, as I was talking, I realized that my voice was raised and I was punctuating my statements with emotion. I wasn’t angry at that point.
But I could see how someone outside my head would think that I was mad.
I had never noticed that about myself.
And, of course, it makes sense that I don’t just go from calm to screaming in 60 seconds, that things build up before I lose it.
I spent time trying to figure out how to prevent getting into a situation where I yell. What were my hot buttons? What did it FEEL like when I was getting into the red zone where I snapped and let my frustration out?
I noted a couple of things:
1. I need space. I need, on average, an hour or two a day where I don’t have to interact with anyone, where I can be alone with my thoughts and feelings and breathe. (And yes, this confirms that I’d be an abysmal stay at home mother.) I struggle with this, because time alone seems like such a luxury. But I am a better person for it.
2. I need to simplify. My worst days are the ones where I am trying to do too much: squeezing in a run before daycare drop off then 3 hours of commuting time and a busy workday, only to have to go out for dinner with a friend or do dog training classes or whatever. Then, Jeff’s focus on work only while I’m gone – the coffee cup on the dining room table, the dirty dishes in the sink – are enough to blow my top.
3. I need sleep. I can subsist on 6 hours of sleep for a bit, but it’s not enough, and when I’m tired I get snappish and grumpy and have very little patience. Ideally I need 7-9 hours each night. Which means I need to commit to a regular bedtime, no matter what. And I also need to be on alert when I haven’t gotten enough sleep that I will have a harder time with patience.
4. I need to let go of expectations. I discovered that I was far more stressed out and therefore yelled when I was trying to do something special for Owen or Jeff or the dog. Seriously, go ahead and laugh, but I was that mom/wife/owner who was hissing through my gritted teeth I am doing this for YOU, so you better [expletive] ENJOY IT. And it was because I had set myself up with EXPECTATIONS. In my head, I had created a fantasy image of how things would go, and when it didn’t meet those expectations, I would get angry at them. Which, if you think about it, is a twisted sort of hurt. Acknowledge, please, I’m doing something NICE for you? I’d love it if you thanked me for it.
The biggest thing I got from this month was the ability to take a step back and observe my actions and reactions. Because until the Challenge I had never really acknowledged that my yelling was because *I* was missing something – either sleep or space or my expectations were out of line or I was doing too much.
I always explained it simply as the fact that no one listens to me, and they only way they listen is when I yell.
I still find myself raising my voice more than I prefer to, and I will be the first to admit that there are days where my patience is worn thin within minutes of waking up in the morning.
(Or when I say something to Owen for the THIRD. FREAKING. TIME and he looks up and says, “What, Mommy?” like he’s never heard my voice before. ARGH.)
So, yeah, it is inevitable that there will be days where I’ll snap at him or Jeff or the dog. This is real life, not some fairy tale where I make some sweeping changes which results in Happily Ever After.
But when I do lose my cool, it’s a warning: I need something. And if that means I need a few minutes with my pandora Trip Hop station or I need to text my best friend and bitch or I need to go for a walk around the block, then that’s what I have to do.
And so I’m calling last month a Win.