I am anxious.
I’m anxious about the virus. I’m anxious about medical tests and the fact that I have not had any work this month. I am anxious about money and the future and about the driving I have to do tomorrow and how my son will cope with exams and my daughter’s cough… and illness and death and misfortune.
I am anxious about something else… I do not know what. My whole body tingles, on edge, restless. I cannot place it, like a word on the tip of my tongue.
Hormones surge and mix and interact. Anxiety merges with irritation, transforms into anger. I cannot control it.
The children are fighting, screaming at one another. They are playing an invented game but cannot decide whose turn it is. They will not listen to one another. I try to intervene, but they just shout louder, over the other. My daughter’s screech is like a needle in my ear.
I want to lie down in a dark, silent room. I want my thoughts to float off, like clouds. I want my mind to pour away, like water falling from a mountain. I want the children to just stop screaming.
All morning, my patience is stretched. My son cannot cope with the slightest deviation from his expectations and I must be ready, poised to catch any issue, to fix any problem, to give the right answer. I am already so tired. My daughter craves attention, seeks to divert it from that task and reroute it back to her.
As they shout and grab, there is a moment, perfectly balanced, between hopelessness and fury. My eyes brim with tears but my chest burns with rage.
Please stop screaming. Children. STOP. Listen to me. That is enough.
But they do not listen, and the balance is tipped…
IF YOU DO NOT LISTEN AND STOP SCREAMING THIS INSTANT YOU ARE BOTH STAYING IN YOUR ROOMS WITH NO TABLETS ALL WEEKEND!
My scream is full of rage. It is loud, much louder than my usual shouts. It is said through gritted teeth, fists clenched, body tense.
The shock on their faces is almost instantly followed with tears – huge, great choking sobs as they try to understand what could have happened to their mother to make her behave this way.
Instantly, the white-hot rage evaporates and all that is left is shame. I am ashamed that I could not control myself. I am ashamed that my body and mind betray me. I am ashamed that I have frightened my children, that for a moment they did not feel safe.
I call them to me. I cling to them as though my life depended on it.
I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I should not have shouted like that. I should not have scared you. But you must stop fighting. You must stop shouting at each other. Shouting is not a good way to solve anything, is it?
Two tear-stained faces nod solemnly.
I am stunned by the beauty in the curve of my daughter’s nose as she brushes a curl of hair from her face. My son’s eyes are so wide, so blue.
So much wonder, so much beauty, everywhere. I am afraid to lose it, I think.
But I must control the fear.
And so I hug my children, I tell them again that I made a mistake, that I was not feeling so good, but I am better now, that I am sorry.
And I try again.