Laughing always helps. Over the years it’s proven itself to be the best way to diffuse my bouts of atomic anger. I wouldn’t characterize myself as an angry person in general. I think I just got gypped on patience the day that it was being handed out amongst the newborns. Got heaps of stubborn and disrespectful though. Oh yes, lots of those.
But back to patience. My temper has always been the result of my significant lack of patience. Not from some inherently angry demon troll that lives within. Nothing crazy like that. But I was that kid that would erupt in rage, seemingly out of nowhere, to the horror of my family and many bewildered onlookers alike. That is, if we happened to be in public when the very last imperceptible vestiges of my patience had waned. And by waned I mean instantaneously depleted the second something fucking stupid happened.
Yeah, I was that kid. I’m sure my mom got plenty of those glances anytime I went off in public. You know, the “wow, your kid’s got mental problems” glances. She probably got lots of disbelieving eye-rolls too. I’m sure she did, how could she not? Don’t you roll your eyes at the screeching red-faced little brat in the supermarket that just won’t take no for answer when mommy tells him he can’t have a candy bar? Yeah me too, what a freak that kid is!
If we were at home though, I had the luxury of relative privacy when going all berserk on whatever had incited my rage that day. If a toy wasn’t working it would be hurled furiously across the room before an attempt to investigate the root of its malfunction had crossed my mind. If my sisters were pissing me off, I would hurl myself furiously across the room in an attempt to bash and claw their jerkiness out of them. When a crayon dared to step out of line, threatening to ruin another would-be masterpiece of colouring excellence, the colouring book page was viciously torn to shreds.
But just as suddenly as my rage would ignite, it would extinguish too. I’d scamper over to that toy I’d hurled in haste, pick it back up and treat it more kindly. My sisters and I would decide that teaming up and using our combined jerkish wiles to terrorize the neighbourhood kids made more sense. Underneath the ripped out page an even better page would appear, with much more masterpiece potential than the previous one had. I’d erupt and cool down almost simultaneously.
During those intense throes of eruption, it was like I would momentarily leave my body. It was like sanity had stepped out for its regularly scheduled break. I would step outside of myself, silently observing as my physical being proceeded to freak the fuck out over something usually quite trivial. Then the realization of how ridiculously I was behaving would strike, and I’d laugh myself back to reality.
I vividly remember one time just going apeshit, and savagely beating the life out of an Eggo waffle because I’d gone to the tremendous effort of toasting it a beautiful golden shade of brown, only to find out after the fact that we were out of syrup. That’s an astonishingly shameful true story. It haunts my dreams, for reals. Then I laughed it off two minutes later when I noticed a new jar of strawberry jam in the cupboard. I could just dip the massacred bits of Eggo into that, and it would all be okay. As long as my mom didn’t see, of course.
As I got older, I learned to control myself. I had tantrums less and less. I learned the joys of shoving everything that ever bothered me deep down inside myself and internalizing it for all eternity. When stupid shit pisses you off, just breathe deeply and seethe. Sometimes I still have an outburst, but it’s usually only brought on by things that really warrant it. Like when bitchy cashiers close their checkout lane and tell me to move to the next one after I’ve already unloaded half of my shopping cart onto the conveyor belt. Yeah, I’m talking about you way-too-skinny-and-unnaturally-tanned clerk at Loblaws. Or annoying morons talking way too loudly on their cell phones in the morning on a crowded train. Guess what, I don’t give a shit what happened at the party on Friday or what you’re baking for the holidays, just shut the fuck up and have your conversation somewhere out of my earshot.
As a recovering Tantrum-aholic, I’m pretty good at spotting the warning signs in others. I’m perceptive. I can sense when someone is on the brink of a complete meltdown. Like D, on Sunday.
We didn’t have the energy for cooking anything too complex on Sunday, so we opted for soup and grilled-cheese sandwiches. A simple, satisfying staple. D does the bulk of the cooking, mostly because he’s good at it and I don’t want to. But for some reason, he has problems with grilled-cheese. He’s burnt quite a few of them in his time, burning as the result of negligence. For some reason he just gets negligent around grilled-cheese. Maybe he thinks it’s too easy and just switches his brain off, I don’t know.
He was in the kitchen making dinner and I was watching T.V. I got up to get a glass of water and I glanced at the frying pan. There was an unusual amount of smoke coming up from the sandwiches.
“I think they’re burning”, I mentioned casually.
I looked up at him and his jaw was tense. His brow had creased, and he was sporting a formidable frown. I reached for a flipper, and he grabbed the pan off the stove at the same time. He drew in a steady, menacing breath as I manoeuvred the flipper under the first sandwich. “They better not be fucking burnt” he growled. I looked up at him as I flipped the sandwich, and offered a pre-emptive “it’s okay” to soothe the fury that was brewing within him.
I could see the sandwich as it started to turn, and sure enough every inch of it was pitch black. I looked at D gently, beseeching him to accept it and let it go. But it was too late.
“GODDAMIT! I FUCKING KNEW IT! THIS IS SUCH BULLSHIT!!!!”
D is quiet and collected by nature, so a freakout of this magnitude from him is quite rare. Still clutching the frying pan he dashed towards the kitchen door, his intentions were clear. I knew that if I didn’t stop him those sandwiches were on a one-way trip down 24 stories to the visitor parking lot. I jumped in front of him, blocking the way.
“It’s alright, we’ll make new ones! It’s okay”, I pleaded. He glared back at me, still furious. I smiled. “Imagine that poor person who walks out to their car and finds two grilled-cheese sandwiches on the windshield” I said.
He hinted at a smile. “One side all burnt to shit and the other still raw. Think of how ridiculous that would be if it was your car”, I continued. He considered, rolling the image around in his mind. Then, when the realization of how extreme his reaction to a couple of burnt sandwiches had been D laughed and so did I. It would be ridiculous. To find two sandwiches in such a way on your car. You’d be able to deduce exactly what had happened too. You’d see the burnt disgusting side, and you’d just know.
My heightened tantrum-sensing abilities had kicked in just in time. I was annoyed that the sandwiches had burnt too, that was my dinner after all. But diffusing D’s tantrum just took precedence. Laughter saved the day, it always does.
Having given in to many a temper tantrum in my day, I always appreciated it when others who’d borne witness just shrugged it off and acted casual, like I hadn’t just beat the living shit out of a breakfast pastry. It was outrageous behaviour yes, but understanding helped. Catching that slight, affectionate twinkle in my mom’s eye after I’d settled down made me feel better. I knew she’d get on the horn and laugh about it with my nana later that day. But that was okay, laughing about it made it better.
And I’d sensed that D needed the same thing. He needed to freak the fuck out and have me not make a big deal about it. I stopped him from doing something completely absurd, like chucking the sandwiches off of our balcony. But I also let him shout it out and helped him laugh it off.
We ate the burnt sandwiches anyways, and laughed our way through every bite.