The Seahawks lost the Super Bowl last night. I can't say that it mattered to me one way or the other, as I don't enjoy football. But, man, it mattered to my husband, born and raised in Washington State, and to my two sons, who are their father's children. And, as I understand it, the loss was wholly preventable and the Seahawks snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, which made the whole enterprise that much more difficult to swallow. At this point you are probably asking yourself why you are still reading this seemingly irrelevant post. But please hang in, as there is a pony in here, I promise. The point is that my beloved men were not happy campers last night, despite the fact that we'd had a triumphant weekend preceding the devastation of Sunday night; my son had earned first place in a debate tournament, my husband had returned from an extremely productive work trip, and my boys' high school whupped their arch nemesis in basketball. None of that mattered, though, when the Seahawks lost. And my men had a hard time rising above it. They behaved badly in their disappointment. They took it out on me, albeit in a relatively restrained manner. Nonetheless, I didn't appreciate it. But I've learned a thing or two from reading my beloved fantasy books. And one thing I’ve learned is not to kick a loved one when he’s down. I've learned to ride the wave of acting out and lashing out. Because, as Mac Lane, Dani O'Malley, Anita Blake, Jane Yellowrock and Mercy Thompson have taught me, people need love most when they deserve it the least.
You don't have to know the characters of which I speak to know of what I speak. Think of the people closest to you. Hell, think of yourself. How well do you act towards others when you are sad or mad or frustrated or disappointed? Well, if you’re me, not so well. As my son pointed out last night, “Yeah, Mom, like you never take it out on us when you’re in a bad mood.” Horrid child, that one. Just kidding. He was right, of course, and don’t think I thanked him for pointing out my own failings. I didn’t. Shocking, I know.
But I think it’s instructive to explore the why of the bad behavior just a little bit for a moment. Why do we lash out in anger or act out in frustrated hissy fits? I have a theory about this (I pretty much have a theory about everything, and if you’ve read enough of my posts, you have been exposed to a lot of them). I think that it is much, much easier to be mad than sad. It’s easier to be annoyed than wounded. It’s more comfortable for most people to be offended rather than hurt. And while I know there are those out there who revel in the role of victim or martyr, I can’t say I spend a lot of time with those poor souls because I absolutely cannot relate at all to anyone who would willingly offload their self-determination to someone else and then blame them for their troubles. I always blame myself—if it’s my fault, then I can do something to rectify it. If it’s your fault, I’m SOL. And who wants to be SOL? Not me, that’s who.
How many times have you experienced a major melt down of the shoe throwing variety because of a situation that has left you feeling devastated in one way or another? When that happens to me, I know that the unwelcome tears are not far behind. This is analogous to referred pain—like when your leg hurts and your doctor tells you it’s really your lower back. When I’m gripped by a spasm of grief, the intensity of the sadness is almost always preceded by a bout of belligerence, usually aimed at my long-suffering husband (and yes, I realize that I called him on his bad behavior after the Super Bowl and expect him to put up with mine—but, seriously, are we really going to equate grief over the death of someone close to us to the loss of a freaking football game?!). The point here is that I am rarely behaving badly during the sad/hurt/vulnerable/crying phase of my emotional roller coaster. It’s only during the aggressive, bitchy prequel to the brokenhearted, inconsolable main event that I’m at less than my most loving, sensitive self.
So, if my theory is correct, and people behave badly because they are feeling sad and therefore vulnerable, what is the appropriate response? Anger? Annoyance? Irritation? Impatience? No, no, no and, you guessed it, no. This behavior is usually a cry for help, a message that says, “hey, I’m feeling exposed and defenseless right now, and we all know that the best defense is a good offense, so please, instead of being angry with me, please, please, please, offer me a hug, a kiss and a little understanding that I’m going through a rough spot here and could really use some support.” At least that’s what I usually mean when I’m being testy. Most of the time.
But knowing this doesn’t make it easy. After all, I knew my menfolk were sad last night. But because I didn’t really agree with the source of their sadness, I was prepared to discount it rather than honor it. Not cool, in retrospect. I need to remember that the Golden Rule is shiny for a reason. People need love the most when they deserve it the least. Me most of all, so I’d better put up or shut up when it’s asked of me in return.