Let your lion roar: Why I took up boxing.
Naked truth moment: I have a mean temper. Rageful, violent even. I like to hit things. I particularly like to hit other people, but lucky for me (or them?) I usually have enough self control not to.
Most people don’t know this about me. Only a rare few (lucky?) ones have ever been close enough to me to experience it first hand. I keep that side of me in check 99% of the time, but that other 1% is not pretty.
Before my daughter, my rage was typically directed at the usual suspects: parents or boyfriends, or objects that represent them. But now that I’m a parent, I’m learning a whole new level of frustration and a whole new importance of keeping those feelings in check or at least channeling them in a safe way that doesn’t hurt anyone.
Here’s a truth about parenting you don’t hear much: it’ll drive you to edges you didn’t even know you had. I’m convinced it will bring out the rage in even the most saintly, peace-loving earth mama. I have come to the conclusion these little creatures are born precisely wired to know what our deepest triggers are and to press them over, and over, and over.
Now before you run making assumptions, I have never hit my child and don’t plan to. But I’m going to be straight with you: there are times when it has taken every fiber of my being NOT to.
You’re exhausted and strung out from your day. You’re just trying to get some groceries for dinner on the way home from the park, and your toddler decides that now is the time to pitch a fit. This can be for any reason: from not letting her keep the box of faux bacon bits she grabbed on your way through the spice aisle or just because you handed her the cheese sample she asked for with the wrong hand. She throws herself screaming and flailing on the floor of the store, ramping up her screams every time you try to pick her up and goes “boneless” as my girlfriend would say, making it even harder to actually lift her.
You can feel the disapproving stares and raised eyebrows. You try to reason with your toddler while laying boundaries (you certainly don’t want to teach her that tantrums actually work but you struggle with your parenting ideals versus just getting out of the freaking store). You manage to calm her and get out of the store at last. She climbs happily into her carseat (or so you think) except as you load the groceries into the trunk you realize she’s climbed into the front seat to play “driver” and now screams bloody murder when you even hint that it might be time to go home.
When you finally get home, you load yourself up with diaper bag, purse, and multiple bags of groceries. She walks along side you cooperatively for a minute when she throws herself down onto the dirty sidewalk and screams “pick me up!!!!!!!!”
This has actually never happened to me. But I’ve heard tales from other moms…
At the end of a day like this, I’m clinging to the last shreds of patience I can muster and let me tell you I’m not at my best. I’m not a good mother, I’m certainly not a good wife (I’ve been holding it in all day long, so guess who gets the gift of my inevitable emotional outburst?) and I feel a combination of exhausted, guilty and a total failure as a parent.
And then I found boxing.
You see I was working with my life coach, Deb (she’s so much more than a life coach, but that’s the simplest way to describe it) who helped me understand that big emotions like this – anger, rage, frustration, even deep sadness – are just that: big emotions. And emotions are designed – in fact they NEED – to flow. What happens when we suppress them is that they get bigger and take up all sorts of mental and emotional space, until they burst out in some wildly inappropriate, usually embarrassing, and sometimes hurtful way.
When I shared some of my fears and guilt around this pattern, Deb encouraged me to let my anger out. To carve out time in the day to literally go hit things: take a tennis racket to the bed, beat up some pillows, kick, scream – anything to get the energy out. I tried these things, but we live in a really small space and I couldn’t find a private space to freak out in (and I certainly didn’t want my daughter to see mama go nuts like that).
So I took up boxing. And I have to tell you, it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself as a mother, wife, and woman. Handy that it’s a great workout, too.
The satisfaction of being in a safe place where not only am I permitted to hit things – another person even! – I’m required to do so, is beyond liberating. I may not have the best form (although my trainer Buba is working on that!) but I can let the punches FLY. I pour all my frustrations, fears, and unspoken tensions into those gloves and just give it every last little drop. And when I come home, I’m a better person on every level because I let the energy move.
As women, we’re not encouraged to let our anger out. But here’s the thing: holding it inside isn’t doing any of us any favors. We all know that it ends up exploding in some wildly inappropriate way about something minute and trivial – probably exactly all over those people we love the most and want to hurt the least.
And so, I box.
How do you let out your anger? Are you consciously giving it space to be felt and heard so that it doesn’t control you and burst out later? I challenge you to take some time this week to go and let it out. Scream at the wind, punch your couch, beat up your bed with a tennis racket, go for a hard run, box, kick something soft, rip something up. Let those emotions fly and see what hidden gems are underneath them. Better yet, discover who YOU are without your anger and frustrations subconsciously controlling you.
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