I am an extremely calm person. One might assume that nothing disrupts my sense of calm. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Unbeknownst to many, I am a passionate, loving, and considerate person who has learned how to pick my battles. That is not to say that I have never lost my temper but now, my demeanor is more reserved and relaxed, much to the chagrin of the eight million individuals in New York City who try to get me riled up during my daily commute.
Some may assume that kindness equals weakness, and anger equals strength. Although the world is a covert advocate for anger and violence, it is apt to assume that the one who speaks the loudest yields the most power, prestige, position, and followers—either in real life or social media platforms— and those who are quiet have a limited view of reality. Being an angry person does not garner respect; only fear. I have discovered that anger’s eloquence is not the best advocate for pain and grief.
I am a Brooklyn, New York native and had the pleasure of being reared by my mother and father. My father worked full-time and my mother stayed home to raise my sister and me. The fact that my mom stayed home to raise us wasn’t uncommon; in the 1960s and 70s, families were able to survive and live comfortably on one income. Every day my mother would pick up my sister and me from school and make lunch for us, and after we completed our homework, we would either go next door to play with our neighbors or outside to play with kids on the block.
It wasn’t until my mother decided to get a job that my sister—as well as other kids slightly older than we—became my guardian to and from school. Depending on the time my parents arrived home from work, our babysitter would stay with us or we would stay at her home, with her mother, until early evening. One day our babysitter took my sister and me to the home of one of her friends whose dog had puppies – yes, we took a puppy home. Our parents were a little miffed, but between the puppy dog eyes and our ‘please, please can we keep him’, we were able to keep him. I was ecstatic and couldn’t imagine my life being any better than it was. My family was happy and complete.
By the time that I entered the third grade, we moved from the neighborhood where I was born to another neighborhood in Brooklyn. My brother, 12 years my senior, came from down south to live with us as well. It was a huge adjustment for my sister, my brother, and me because we didn’t know each other and had to suddenly get along and behave as siblings should.
In time, we relaxed our uncertainties and began to develop trust and cherished our burgeoning relationship. I appreciated the additional love and each new thing that we learned about one another only brought us closer. I missed my old friends, but now I have a brother and collectively we familiarized ourselves with our new environment and through outdoor activities and school, we all made new friends.
Then it happened. My brother was stricken with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The diagnosis meant that he would periodically have to be in the hospital, and neither my sister nor I understood what the severity of the diagnosis meant, how it would affect our family, or what the prognosis would be. All we knew was that a monster ravaged our home and possessed our brother’s life, and his once infrequent visits to the hospital soon became long-term hospital stays. This unwelcome, inconsiderate monster took my brother away for good, and from that point on, my life would never be the same.
The death of my brother affected my entire family by turning our family upside down. It was very difficult to understand what the future would hold now that this disease had invaded our lives. I felt a huge lump in my throat and weight on my heart that made it difficult to smile. He was my older and only brother, and despite our age differences, his presence held court, and this absence was uniquely different than any other time where he ‘left temporarily’ for treatment. This time, he was never coming home.
I didn’t know how greatly aggrieved my mother would be, and I am sure that her sadness and despair was par for the course – but the loss altered her once gracious, loving persona, and turned her into a very outspoken, intimidating, and aggressive woman who literally had no qualms against putting the fear of God into our lives. It was a very difficult and painstakingly, arduous journey to walk every day, never knowing when you might step on a landmine. I was challenged to maneuver my father’s serenity with the incessant anger of my mother. Furor had taken over my home and there was nothing that my 12-year-old self could do but try to be invisible. Every day was a battle to keep my composure to the outside world because I didn’t want anyone to know that my life family life was in disarray.
My father did his best to keep our life on track with school and extracurricular activities, but it didn’t matter. The monster who took away my brother had resurfaced and took possession of my mother, only this time it manifested itself as anger. She never recovered from losing her child – my brother – the rage, nor grief. Nor did she recover the loss of her two other children, my sister and me.
Anger is selfish and has an unyielding perception of righteous indignation. Its “take no prisoners” attitude admonishes anyone who dares to question or feel and if you are fortunate enough to escape its wrath, you have to continue to be conscious that you are not sharing the wealth to undeserving people.
Throughout my life, I had moments where I allowed my emotions to react without consideration of the circumstance, and when I think back, I know that I was lucky that the receiver of my thoughtless behavior did not reciprocate in kind. Although I wasn’t a bully, because of the first-hand exposure of anger with my mother, I surrounded myself with people who were angry, and it affected me, unconsciously. My mother passed away in 2012, carrying her anger to the grave. It was at that moment that I decided that I would never allow anger to take over my life.
Phtoo credit: Pixabay