I’m screaming at her and my voice is hoarse with spat words.
An angry man. I never thought I’d grow up to be an angry man. I was a meek child. I would hunch as I was dressed down by my father. I was not a screamer or a rager. I would sit there, cowed, and sob once it was done.
I stop, and she’s looking at me with the flat eyes of a stranger. I’m breathing heavily and I realise that my hands are shaking, and I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.
I wrote this about a year ago, but only rediscovered it a few days ago. I was clicking through my folder of writing and by chance opened the document that had this small snapshot. On reading it I was both satisfied and frightened by how accurately this tiny sliver of writing portrayed how I had felt.
I remember I wasn’t angry at the time of writing. I was on that post-fight plateau where all emotions are muted. Numbed. I no longer cared about achieving happiness. I was in a space where I was so worn out it was a relief to give up and resign myself to the knowledge that I could not make things better.
The scene described had taken place a few hours beforehand. In the midst and fury of an argument I’d had a horrible insight into my own behaviour. It had been like stepping to the side and watching as a third-party, and discovering that scarlet hiss of anger in my features. It reminded me of times I’d seen couples fighting in public and wondering how they could have so little self-control and such little respect for one another. Only this time I was the embarrassment. I was the infant throwing a tantrum, the man not in control of himself.
It’s the final line of the piece that resonates strongest. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I was so far beyond my threshold of patience and unhappiness that I was lost. I had reverted to the animal instinct of screaming and lashing out in frustration. All the moral codes I thought I followed, all the constraints I put upon myself and proudly thought I upheld had disintegrated under my torrent of anger. I felt helpless. I felt all my happiness and effort slipping away over some triviality, and had no way of stopping it. I felt encased and my battering only served to solidify the barrier around me.
These are not efforts at justifying my behaviour, only reflections on how I had come to a place where I had lost myself.
I don’t like feeling out of control. It’s a point of pride that I can keep my composure, that I can rationalise any heightened situation enough to keep the important things in perspective. But when it came to my relationship I seemed to invest too much into it, and that maintenance of perspective became skewed. This meant that any imbalance in understanding between me and my partner rocked the foundations of all that investment, and it scared me. It scared the shit out of me. Unfortunately my response to that fear was anger.
What struck me most when reading my story fragment was how I had discarded my perception of self. I walk around every day with an image in my head of the man I am. I picture my strengths and weaknesses, my ideas and beliefs, and believe they are unwavering. That I am who I think I am. But that image of self was torn like tissue paper the moment my stress overwhelmed me, and I became a man I didn’t want to be. A man I didn’t even like, and one I didn’t want to be able to relate to. And what made it worse was I did it without any insight until it was too late.
The thousands of thoughts and convictions that made me up were forgotten in one scalding instant.
What I like about this snippet of writing is it so clearly demonstrates that moment when I realised I had lost control. The juxtaposition between who I thought I was and who I was being. It’s a hard thing to see in yourself, but that just makes it more important. It’s necessary to be reminded that the border between restraint and abandon is more easily crossed than I like to think. It’s not something to be ashamed of, but it is something I should be aware of.
I hope I’m not that angry man anymore. I hope the trials I’ve faced and the reflection I’ve given have taught me to avoid my own pitfalls, but it would be foolish to forget what I’m capable of. By writing this, by reading my own illustration, I hope I can keep in mind how fragile a sense of self is.
But also to remember to be proud that I’m getting some kind of idea of what the hell I’m doing.