Point happy, point to sad

I currently have this book sitting on my desk for review, and I hope the authors don’t mind me borrowing from their title. (The book is great; it gives kids on the spectrum practice with identifying emotions via facial expression. I can only assume that the correlating adult book would feature such directives as “point to socially acceptable” and “point to pretty,” instead, but I prefer this version.)

My folks headed back home, yesterday. In the middle of the afternoon I got a helpful automated phone call from their airline, letting me know that their flight had been canceled. As they were currently stranded in Philadelphia I’m not sure how useful that was, but it sounds like they eventually made their way back to the homestead. While I was sorry for their complicated, longer day, I was not sorry they didn’t take the call, as the voice on the other end was just so downright chipper in regretting to inform me that the flight had been canceled. That’s the sort of thing that can spark a good rage, you know.

I am somewhat prone to those sorts of rages. Sometimes I think I majored in righteous indignation in college. As we muddle through helping Monkey and the school deal with his meltdowns, every bewildered “He just gets so ANGRY” from someone who doesn’t quite get it is a little knife in my heart. Anger is a shielding emotion. It’s much easier to be angry than to be sad. Misery is vulnerable; outrage is invincible. I know why Monkey gets mad—being pissed at everyone still feels like being in control, while admitting that you feel lost and hopeless is a free-fall.

I’ve been harder than usual to live with, lately. I kept apologizing to my dad; I was sorry I had to work so much while they were here, I was sorry I wasn’t more cheerful, I was sorry that I’m really not my best self right now. He understood. He’s a pretty forgiving guy.

When Otto and I dated the first time, shortly after my divorce, life was pretty stressful. The kids were struggling and I was going from one terrible job to unemployment to the next terrible job. I wasn’t exactly jovial all the time. And Otto has always been the guy you call when you need a ride to the airport or help fixing your plumbing or someone to lend you a tool. He’s very generous that way. But as life got hard and my ability to cope decreased, he became impatient. I’m not saying it wasn’t warranted. I was short-tempered and preoccupied and not exactly the model good-time girlfriend.

But the worse I felt, the more he pulled away. Which made me feel worse. Which made me ACT worse. Which made him pull away more. Etc. Finally, there was the fateful phone call where we argued, and he said it:

“This isn’t any fun anymore.”

He said THIS isn’t any fun anymore, but what I heard is “YOU aren’t any fun anymore.” And he was right: I wasn’t. But… life isn’t fun all the time.

I got angry. Otto would probably tell you angry is an understatement. He was immature, he wanted everything to be easy and happy and life isn’t like that. I got furious, and I broke up with him.

Never once did I tell him how much what he’d said had hurt my feelings. I didn’t tell him that what he said made me so sad I could barely breathe. What I heard was “I am only interested in being around you in the good times.” And I have been around long enough to know that not all times are good ones. I wanted someone who loved all of me, and with that statement I was sure he had just told me he never would.

We didn’t speak for two years.

Y’all know there’s a happy ending here, because he came back and we’d both grown and changed and matured, and it turns out that we really do love all of each other. Thank God. But I have a little mental scar from that conversation. It’s not even poor Otto’s fault, really. Lord knows there’s been plenty of “you’re not fun anymore” moments in my life with other people—both before and since—it’s just that he’s the one who had the misfortune to say it the way that he did.

So when the stress comes, now, I clamp down. I say I’m fine. I get angry, maybe, if I can’t quite keep it all in. And I try to hide it from Otto.

That’s stupid, of course. And I know it, but I do it anyway. Old wounds heal hard.

Finally, I break down and talk. I talk and talk and cry and I apologize, a lot. I’m sorry I’m struggling, I’m sorry I’m burdening him, I’m sorry that I can’t seem to get on top of this, right now, in a more productive way. He listens. He loves me anyway.

We lie in bed together at night, in the dark, holding hands.

“How are you doing?” he asks.

“I’m sad,” I answer, both remorseful and so relieved to be able to just say it.

“I know,” he says. He squeezes my hand. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I know,” I answer. And I do.


  1. Javamom

    I never thought of anger and rage in those terms. You managed to shed light on my own anger and rage. Often I feel that when I’m in the midst of anger/rage meltdowns it’s all my fault. I can’t control myself, I can’t set an example, I can’t handle such and such. But you’re right. It’s about shielding something more profound.

    Thank you.

  2. Leandra

    I do that, too. Clamp down. And poor Kent. He can read me so well and he begs me to tell him what’s wrong, but it’s like I can’t even admit it to myself until I reach a certain point.

    Hang in there, lady. {{hugs}}

  3. Damsel

    Oh, dear… tears at work. That Otto, he’s a keeper. I have a keeper, too. Thanks for the reminder to go home tonight and remind him that I know he’s a keeper.

  4. Randi

    When I got with Scott I was just off of a bad relationship, where he wound up dating someone who was 16 (I was 20) because she “is just like you except without being a b*tch”. So I intentionally tried to push Scott away. Thank God he wasn’t easy to push away and that he stuck. I think, sometimes, the one we’re meant to be with finds us, or we find them, no matter what.

  5. Momsy

    When I read one of your posts that I find especially moving, I often start to comment, can’t quite say what I want to, and don’t comment at all. This is one of those times.

  6. Lynn in Mass

    Thank you for sharing. It made me sad it made me happy. I was just telling a friend the other day parenting is the toughest job. I think the only thing that may be tougher is a relationship with a spouse.

  7. Kelly

    I think I had that conversation with my husband last night when I broke down in tears… he held my hand and asked what could he do, and I know he’ll be here. Man its hard to not be the strong one sometimes… I needed to read this today. It helps. I mean, I know others obviously aren’t always happy but … this really tugged at me and how I’m feeling right now. Thank you again, you are often what my soul needs Ms. Mir.

  8. Jen B

    happy love thursday, mir.

    that's all i wish for anyone in this world – to have someone who isn't going anywhere. i'm glad i've found that person, i'm happy you have that person – i hope everyone can find that person.

    you're a good man, otto… and you're an amazing woman, mir. :)

  9. cookie

    It is more precious that I can even say to have someone that “gets” it. Holding your hand when you’re sad and braving the emotional storms should be written in the vows somewhere, I think. Its rare to have someone who is so completely on your side. Someone who you can just say “its bad and it hurts” to. Its rare to have a love like that and it sometimes eases the disappointments.

  10. Sheila

    Point to Otto. Good man.

  11. amy

    AWWWWW!! Why is so hard to open up to the person who is the most understanding and supportive? It was SO hard for me to admit to my own husband that I am depressed. Even though he already knew. And I knew, that he knew. Sigh.

  12. Amelia

    point to love.

  13. Teresa

    Remember when I told you I understand your emotional outbreaks? This is one of those times. I hate burdening people with my sadness and lack of control. And I get angry a lot. And I totally feel you. Thanks for this. And for reminding me that my husband sits through my shit and loves me anyway.

  14. jennamom2boys

    Wow, I can so relate to this, and it gives me a new perspective on some of my aspie’s behavior. Hope I remember this the next time he’s losing his mind. Also, I’m so sorry you’re struggling, Mir… maybe it might be time for a little pharmaceutical assistance? Better living through SSRI’s? I am a huge, huge fan of Lexapro. It really helps me cope.

  15. Megan

    I was a very angry child, match-flare temper, loud, throwing things, all that lovely stuff, and grew up to feel that anger was somehow a sin (along with JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING). It took a long time to come to the conclusion that anger, like a lot of other emotions, is just that, an emotion, and the real problems with it aren’t moral but more about whether or not it’s constructive (sometimes) or whether it’s an indulgence (also sometimes – emotions are addictive little buggers!). I was just going to write, smugly, how rarely I get angry now but remembered that I was furious last night when I found out my landlord has filed for bankruptcy WITHOUT WARNING ME.


    Now I’m angry again!

    TL:DR, fascinating insight about control and anger – I had always felt anger was a LOSS of control, and as I hate losing control I wouldn’t go there. This is a good nuance to consider, and probably much healthier.

  16. Suetois

    I have three sons with Asperger’s. (They’re 13, 16, and 19yo so we’ve been doing this for awhile.) During grade school they all went through a phase where they were desperately unhappy and cried all the time. As they matured they quit crying so much and started being angry. (My 13yo is in the process of making that transition.) I actually saw this as an improvement because it meant that they weren’t internalizing their frustration and confusion so much, but had moved on to blaming something else for those emotions. The anger gave them a sense of power. With more maturity, they moved on to understanding the cause of their anger, and that meant they could control it much better than when they were younger. Sometimes anger is, relatively speaking, a good thing–especially if you have enough insight to know what’s really causing it.

  17. Chris

    I don’t know what to say other than I have to keep my promise to not read your site during the work day so as not to be a giant ball of tears. Point to love.

  18. Ruth

    Wonderful post about the ups and downs in any relationship; I am still a clamp-up and retreat kind of person and would love to be anything but that type of personality. Your post gives me some hope that the work I am doing in that regard will eventually get me to a point of comfort in accepting the sad part of the anger. As usual, well said. Thank you.

  19. CindiS

    First time visiting your blog and I feel like you are writing about my life. I am glad I stopped by…. I will come back soon. Thanks.

  20. Kira

    Oh…hon. Love you.

  21. Beth R

    First off, Welcome, CindiS! Mir has developed a great community here and I think you’ll enjoy the archive of posts as well as the comments. It’s one of only 2 blogs I regularly read through all of the comments for each post (the other is Joss Jackson’s Faster than Kudzu)

    Second off: thank you, Mir. I’m still struggling with dealing with anger in a healthy way – both allowing myself to be angry and then learning to let go of it. I hadn’t consciously thought of it as a shield, but it really is.

    Hugs to you and everyone in Casa Mir!

  22. Half Hearted Hippie

    Oh, Mir. I could have written this post myself (if I were as eloquent as you). I generally let people assume my quick temper and righteous indignation are just a side effect my Irish heritage or my political passions. But the reality is that it’s easier and less vulnerable to be angry that to be sad/hurt. Many people in this world have seen my wild-eyed angry, but very few have seen me cry. And I too live with a fear that people will only love me/want to be with me if it’s fun and easy. My scars are from my childhood — being bounced from relative to relative until finally losing contact with my entire family once I reached adulthood and no one felt the obligation to continue being a part of my life — and from exes and ex-friends who dropped me so easily and never looked back. But it’s my partner who suffers for those scars. Because I hide my fears and sadness until I can’t anymore and then it all boils over. And because even though I KNOW she loves me and is fully committed to me through good and bad, there is a part of me (a bigger part than I like to admit) that keeps waiting for her to change her mind. We had a stupid fight this week (really stupid and minor) and I spent days afterwards walking on eggshells, trying to catch my breath and begging the universe not to let this be over. And she was completely oblivious to my agony because it was a STUPID fight that didn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. I can only hope that every time something like this happens and it DOESN’T result in her leaving, that will strengthen my faith and make it less likely for me panic the next time.

  23. Headless Mom

    I”m bookmarking this post to share with my son who gets angry like that. I hope it will spark some good conversation. Thanks for this, and yay that you have each other and aren’t going anywhere. That’s good.

  24. Kelly Allan

    Wow. Beautiful. That really hit a spot for me inside…especially with the morning I’m having. Thank you so much for this post.

  25. Jessica

    I’m the same way. I just let the frustration build and try to deal with it, and then I blow up for no reason (but the reason really is the bigger issue I’m trying to deal with on my own). My husband is the same as Otto, and he just tries to be there, no matter what, which is amazingly awesome (and can I have more commas in that sentence?) But…I really would love to change my reaction to those things, and no matter what, it still stays the same. I know where it stems and why I am this way, but…

    We’re both lucky to find guys who are just there and who will be there.

  26. The Mommy Therapy

    Geez Mir, I was ready to read about baseball or pubic hair, but got this instead. Tears.

    I had never once thought about the power of anger versus the vulnerability of sad. So well written, so true. So very, very true.

    I am so happy you have Otto. You have learned (or are continuing to learn) to trust, to just say it when you are sad and that you don’t have to always be fun. No one is.

    I hope you feel fun again soon.

  27. Lynne

    Mir, I have enjoyed your blog for quite some time and have been impressed with your ability to communicate insights so well. Your thoughts on anger vs. sadness/misery were well put and succinct. I read your blog through the eyes of a 60 year old, and believe me when I say that I understand and am praying for you. You are going through one of the toughest times in your life and there are more ups and downs to come.

    However, I have good news, when you turn 50, you are visited by the “Fifty Fairy”. When she whacks you with her magic wand, she gives you the gift of perspective. Life starts to make sense in ways it never did before. The kids begin lives of their own (not without angst on your part–but that gets better, too).

    So far, the “Sixty Fairy” has not been as impressive as the “Fifty Fairy”. But there is still time, I have only been 60 for a month. At least, she didn’t arrive using a walker or on life support.

  28. Kristi

    You have what you need, right there, with Otto. How awesome it is to know that.

    And thank you for your brilliant statement that getting angry makes you feel like you have kept control and is much easier than admitting to sadness and the seeming freefall you get from that. That gives me great insight into a family issue of my own. I never approached it that way.

  29. Jaelithe

    I think I majored in righteous indignation in high school, actually. Let’s just say I was a gifted student of misdirected anger.

    I think sometimes one of the hardest things about raising a child who is Definitely Not Neurotypical is seeing so much of myself in him, so much of the time. It seems like my ability to empathize with his feelings and understand his motivations because I’ve been there too ought to make things easier, and in some ways it does, of course. But at times it does feel like ripping open my own scars.

    But maybe I need to. Maybe they never really healed.

  30. Karen

    This is my very life. My SO wishes I could just cry, but that’s not what I could do after some hardship as a child. Anger is strong and scary; it can chase away unwanted people. Maybe get attention from people that you otherwise couldn’t by being sad. But as you said, it can push away your closest ones too. There was a period when I would get so angry that I was scaring myself…but that was also the most vulnerable period of my life… :'( I’m glad that’s over now. Mind you, I’m still a very angry person. I don’t know when I’ll be able to turn into a softer person.

    <3 Love you, your post, and your Otto for being there. .

  31. s

    how sneaky of you putting that total tearjerker at the end there. what a guy, and what a good lesson for us all – to reaffirm when we are not happy with a situation or someone to frame it like that – this isn’t the way it should be but I’m not going anywhere so what can we do…. love it.

  32. Laura

    It is just too weird to try to comfort someone in a comment, so instead, please know that I am sending you the bestest and brightest thoughts today.

  33. Darcie

    That second-to-last line by otto killed me. I am crying way too hard! Sometimes all we can do is hang on to that hand and ride the wave of sad/struggle until we get to the shore again. Sorry for the lame metaphor, but you get the picture. So glad you have that hand to hold in your life. Hugs!

  34. Chris

    You speak for alot of us. Thank you for that post. Made me cry.
    So true though!!! Happy Love Thursday right back at you!!!

  35. Tracy

    “Misery is vulnerable; outrage is invincible.” Oh, Mir. You had me here! I just think there is no better way to explain it. I’m so glad that you and Otto found each other again. There are certain “life lessons” that happen to us that are unexplainable and make absolutely NO sense as they are happening but eventually, the explanation is clear. Happy Love Thursday to ALL!

  36. Melanie

    What a keeper that Otto is. :)

    Also, I thought the title was funny because I purchased that book for my spectrum kiddo last weekend.

  37. Angela

    Waaaaa! Honey, you said it! Thank God for good men. It’s nice to hear about those, when alot of what you hear out there is all about the bad guys. Thank God I got a good guy, too, although it took several years for us to realize what the anger was covering up, and actually deal with the real issues. Fortunately, we took the anger out of the equation (mostly, you can’t ever get rid of it all!), and talk about the vulnerabilities. Crying together is MUCH harder than yelling at each other, but the problems actually find some resolution! Thanks, Mir, you explain what everyone else is thinking, beautifully!

  38. Lucinda

    This is why I love reading you. Your words pierce my heart and find that vulnerable spot that reflects exactly what you are talking about. While I was lucky enough to find my own Otto the first time around, I still know what you mean. It takes a long time to build that trust and heal those old wounds. It took me nearly 15 years with my husband before I really understood that he wasn’t leaving, no matter what. I’m glad you’ve got that too. Now I need to go find a Kleenex.

  39. Lara

    Very moving and insightful post. I can so relate. I think it took me about 10 years or so to accept that a bad argument with my spouse didn’t mean he was leaving!

    I am hoping for happier times for you, and Monkey, soon.

  40. Kelly O'Sullivan

    I’m just discovering you today and this was a great piece to get me started. The last few years my anger has come out in tears. Uncomfortable girly tears. Before the tears I was angry with words and action. Maybe it’s hormonal–i’m inbetween weaning a toddler and menapuase! Anyway, love your take on anger and trust and Otto!

  41. PopC

    Wow, is it Thursday already? Great post…

    A. Lurker

  42. Mare Martell

    Anger. Check. Sadness. Check. Fighting because I can’t express what I mean effectively. Check.

    I focus my anger at the people who I feel are harming my kids and/or my husband. Jeesh!

    Unfortunately, one of the side effects of my funneling technique is that eventually I run out of others to blame. My husband asked me last night if I wanted to go get boxing gear, you know, with the helmet, gloves, and mouthpiece. I’m a 215 lb woman who is rather sedentary, why in the world would I need that? He said to make it hurt less when I beat myself up. I love my husband.

  43. ramblin red

    This hits me in the heart on two levels. One re: the anger thing and knowing it is true for me and recognizing it is probably also very true for my daughter – who is dealing with wakening hormones on top of the anger shielding practices. two being the push people away thing, so that I can be justified in my expectations that they will go away. Thank God for ppl like our husbands who stay.

  44. Flea

    I’m the Otto to my husband’s Mir. The anger and depression start to peek through and he just needs to let it all out. I’ve learned to face into it, ask him to tell me everything that’s weighing him down, upsetting it. Some of it is always me. But when it’s out, it’s better somehow. It doesn’t go away, but it’s shared. Sharing really is good. :) You’re a good woman, Mir.

  45. Jill

    Bingo – I am still working through my leftover rage (sorrow, fear, devastation, disappointment) from five+ years of blow after emotional blow. It’s taking a while to climb out of the hole… the best thing for me is focusing outward, otherwise it seems like the world is aiming all the bad shit at me, on purpose. Not that everyone is this way, just how things happen around my skull.

  46. Anna

    Very touching, thank you.
    I can’t say I’m all perfect and mature, but I have gotten to a point where anger isn’t my only reaction to stress. It is so incredible! I kind of panicked my husband recently when I started dealing with stress in a completely different way. He thought there was something wrong! No really, honey, I’m okay.

    Anyway- I DO still just completely lose it, and often. But I am happy to know that I can do better, sometimes.

    I have a t-shirt with all of those feeling faces on the back. I keep hoping my kids will get something out of it. ;)

    And God bless Otto, truly. I have a wonderful husband who is willing to wait out my hurricanes, and I am so, so, thankful.

  47. mamaspeak

    “I am somewhat prone to those sorts of rages. Sometimes I think I majored in righteous indignation in college. As we muddle through helping Monkey and the school deal with his meltdowns, every bewildered “He just gets so ANGRY” from someone who doesn’t quite get it is a little knife in my heart. Anger is a shielding emotion. It’s much easier to be angry than to be sad. Misery is vulnerable; outrage is invincible. I know why Monkey gets mad—being pissed at everyone still feels like being in control, while admitting that you feel lost and hopeless is a free-fall.”

    This paragraph is me right now. It’s me I’m angry with; me and this damn FM. I’m angry w/everyone who doesn’t understand, because I feel these are the people who should understand and should help me. I know, in my heart, they are doing the best that they can do. But the fact that I need more, make me sad, and scared…and angry.

    I’m glad you have Otto, and I have my husband, who for all the bitching I do about him, is my rock in all of this. I constantly apologize to him too. I can’t understand why he puts up with me and all my shite. He wasn’t family, he choose to be here, knowing what he was getting at the time too. I know when he says he’s not leaving he’s not, it’s just hard to believe when so many others do.

    Thanks for giving a voice to feelings I have so much trouble expressing on my own.
    Here’s to the end of the week, and a large glass of wine.

  48. karen

    At the end of the day, this is really all that matters. Wonderful, honest, gut-wrenching heart-felt post, Mir. Thanks for sharing and know you are so totally not alone in those dark moments. Ever.

  49. Brigitte

    I’m just so glad you two were able to come to this after the first break-up; I still remember your hurt nickname for him, Otto is a much better one.

  50. Melissa

    I have been a lurker for a few years now and just love your posts and the messages that resonate deeply within. HUGE HUGS I wish to find someone that can understand me fully like you have with Otto…a learning experience but one that you don’t have to do alone. HUGE HUGS

  51. Otto

    So there’s a little part of this that my beautiful wife left out … I am fully aware that the breakup was painful and not well handled. And while she might like to wish it never happened, in a way, I am glad it did.

    Wife, you were wallowing. You couldn’t see beyond the crisis of the moment and nothing I tried was helping you. Nothing. Everything just seemed to make it worse.

    But look what happened after that moment. You turned a corner. You stood up and said no more. No more crappy jobs. No more mistreatments from your ex. No more putting up with useless, pointless relationships that didn’t give you what you wanted, needed AND deserved.

    You started writing shortly after that moment. And look what you have done in just a few short years – you built a great business, you built an audience and what you do helps you and others.

    None of that would have happened if I hadn’t been the jerk.

    Things are hard some days and great other days. The difference now is you know, you believe, that the good days will be there – for you, for the kids and for us. Even in your darkest days, you have hope.

    What we have now has more to do with the changes you made in your life than me, because I’m still a jerk sometimes. But I love you more now than I ever could have then.


  52. dgm

    ^ Wow.

  53. HC

    WAH that just made me cry!

    My husband once told me that “eventually I’ll just get tired of this and leave”. And ever since then I’ve walked through our marriage like the carpet is about to be yanked out from under me. So not fun.

  54. Daisy

    Controlling anger and rage also requires early recognition of the factors that might cause that rage. With recognition comes intervention, and ultimately, control. It’s harder than it sounds. I’ve had lots of training through teaching and a lot of experience raising my 19yo with Asperger’s. I wish you luck, but more than that, knowledge and peace of mind.

  55. Jdub

    Nice perspective Otto. As someone who lives with the angry person, I have to really give Otto the respect he deserves. The fact is, while we do understand that you are trying to deal with everything and your anger is not all so much directed at us, it still PISSES US OFF. But, yep, we deal too. And we love you. But don’t ever think our side is any better than yours.

  56. Nancy

    Whew! I love when you express exactly what I’ve been thinking. I’ve just come off of meds for depression (they weren’t that high in the first place, and it was for a bad situation I was in) I feel sometimes like I just can’t express what I need to. He is always there, holding my hand at night, trying to understand why I’m crying that my son is going to graduate school far away, when its what I’ve been hoping for – for him. I’m totally un-understandable, and he understands. After the first marriage disaster, sometimes this is so wonderful I think I don’t deserve it. Thanks to you for understanding too.

  57. Aimee

    That Otto — he’s a keeper! But then again, so are you.

    I struggle with these same things, and you always seem to make me feel better about it.

  58. Kath

    I have that with my Barry. “I am not going anywhere”. Sweetest words ever.

  59. Jessica

    “Misery is vulnerable; outrage is invincible.”

    That statement absolutely rocked me. Immediately called to mind moments of wild rage from my son, who was recently diagnosed as dyslexic and dysgraphic.

    I need to tell him – I’m not going anywhere. It’s ok to be sad.

    Thank you.

  60. Pam

    Oh my God. Just to have someone say ‘I’m not going anywhere’ and mean it…

  61. Victoria

    I learned about your blog today. My 6 year old has Asperger’s and will have meltdowns with the appearance of anger. Thank you for what you explained, what lies beneith. I’m still learning.

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