As soon as I picked him up, lifting him from his little shoulders, bringing him to ‘my height’, as if that was something to be proud of, I knew it was wrong. Yet I pushed through. I couldn’t stop myself. I got him to see eye-to-eye with me and then I delivered my: ‘I have enough!’ speech and set him roughly back down.
It was one of those days. ‘Those days’. The ones where it feels like all the energies around are against your goals and wishes. Those that make your skin crawl and itch. Those days that many times are the beginning of an end. That was precisely the day.
Matthew’s allergies were getting out of control. Potty training was a task needed to be done for his start at school and regardless of our methods, wasn’t getting even near to accomplishment. And then there was the eating fiasco. His pickiness, his stubbornness, his will to say ‘NO!’ and survive on air. All got to be too much and I lost it.
Now, this isn’t like the mom in the supermarket who loses it and shouts. This was an epic-degree of losing it, at least in my standards. I physically grabbed my almost 3-year old and picking him up, shouted and then pretty much dumped him down. This was a road I NEVER intended to take as a mother, and yet here I was.
And, as many times happens when we do something incredibly-not-us, as soon as I snapped out, which was probably 2 seconds after putting him down, my first thought was: ‘Holy shit! What have I just done?’
At this stage, of course, Matthew is whaling in fear and shock, Philip is shouting non-stop at me, my mother is sitting next to me, frozen, probably for what this scene brought back to her memory, and I’m washed by a wave of fear, guilt and, undoubted, shame.
I grew up with a fairly abusive, both physically and verbally, and violent father. He’s not a monster at all, in fact he’s mostly ridiculously charming, but his fatherhood style including daily rations of shouts, spanks and threats. I think that’s why for most of my life, my default was anger.
That anger that’s so powerful that embodies you and makes you grow in size. That anger that transforms your voice and face and makes you feel powerful. That was my ‘factory setting’ when it came to difficult situations. Whenever something went wrong, Anahi-Hulk would come out and attack with all its power.
Still today, most times that happens. But, although my first reaction might be that, 99% of the time I get it controlled, I tame it and transform it into another emotion which I can carefully express, remembering that this whole mindful filtering process is what keeps me being me, what helps me remain authentic.
That day, that moment, that was my 1% out of sync. That was my ‘one-who-got-away’. Unfortunately, like it so often happens, it was also a defining moment in my journey as a mother, daughter, woman and wife; one that will hunt me and my marriage forever.
Shouts, screams, threats, hatred. All of them flew around us whilst I kept fighting full-Hulk-façade on to get Matthew so that I could apologize and move on, and Phil kept using his body to protect him, to push me away, to create a barrier between mother and son.
The more he shouted, the more I shouted back and the more Matthew cried. It was a vicious cycle and, even though I knew better than to engage with him like that, I was on a mission to win this one. I was not going to stop.
‘What the fuck were you thinking?’ he screamed. ‘Let me pick up my son!’ I yelled at him without ever stopping to put my arms out, outstretched to call Matthew to me, showing him I was there, moms was back, fighting for him.
Eventually, I prevailed and managed to peel Matthew of his arms and take him outside for a little talk. But it was a victory tainted by the shame of the whole situation, by the pain of knowing life was never going to be the same again, by the realization that this was a breaking point I would forever remember.
Matthew was ok. Once we sat down and talked he seemed unharmed and well. We played outside, talking about ants and flies and birds, whilst Phil paced up and down the house with a crying Michael who clearly awoke thanks to our battle.
‘Daddy is angry’ said Matt. ‘Yes, he is angry. But, he’s angry at mum, not at Matt’ I responded, making sure not to let my emotions take the best of me, focusing only on stating the facts. ‘Mami angry?’ asked Matt with a mouth full of chicken. ‘Yup, mami’s also angry. But, not at you, mi amor’. This went on for a while until the humidity pushed us inside.
Back in the house the tension, the shock, the emotions were making the air damp and uncomfortable and, barely minutes after our return, Phil and I were back in the boxing ring, shouting, poking, taking swings at each other. This wasn’t going to stop soon.
I had a flash of my childhood come in the middle of the absurdity of our fight, and with it the need to run away came and I had to fight myself into staying put throughout this hell. How could I get here? How did this happen and, worst of all, in front of them? Where do we go from here?
Our day continued and ended with the busyness of routine and the resolution of those focused on staying active to avoid a painful fact. In between tidying the living area, making bottles, washing things and packing leftovers, I opened the sofa-bed in the guestroom and moved all I needed to sleep there.
Then I took a shower, changed diapers, nursed Michael and, eventually, went to sleep in a foreign bed, without my partner in parenthood and life for what would be the first of many nights. Just like that, my marriage was over.
How do you recover from this? How do you move forward when so much has being said and done? Where do you get the will to work on fixing a relationship when every cell in your body tells you that you have had enough?
I kept thinking about our sessions of Couples’ Counseling. What would Monica said right now? Where would she start to untangle all the emotions and feelings left splattered in our marriage? How would she ‘fix’ us now?
The answer is unclear and, there more I think about it, the more I realize I honestly don’t care anymore. The people-pleasing part of me who pushes me to beg for approval and love from others, specially those close to me, isn’t moving the hurt part of me who still wants Phil to fuck off. Her soothing message of reconciliation and love isn’t clear in the noise of screams that the ‘other me’ keeps emitting with a message much stronger, louder.
So, here I am, at a crossroads. With a heart full of many things but love, and a head packed with freedom and emancipation ideas, contemplating plans to escape and not finding excuses to prevent me from executing them, and when the only pleas pro-marriage are those based on technicalities, the road towards reconciliation is one fucking difficult one. So, here I am.