Don’t poke the f**king bear.

There’s a well known saying, “don’t poke the bear,” which is used to refer to a bad temper (Madadook, if you will). People said it about me and I used to be embarrassed by it. At one point, I pretended to embrace it, but inside it truly hurt my feelings and I would cry because I felt like I was viewed as a monster.

As I got older, I got calmer. I learned to harness the negative feelings into art, work, my dogs, and now the baby. Don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect whatsoever. There are times where this terrible twos baby tries me too hard and I snap. Nothing crazy, just raise my voice or drop what we are doing out of frustration.

The most recent example was earlier this week when I was trying to untangle some string lights – if you want to test your patience, that’s the way – and she kept wading them back up together. I would get frustrated and start again which she thought was funny. So I gave up and raised my voice saying, “fine, I will just throw them away!” And I walked away. I went to the bathroom (#1 because I know you were wondering) and when I came back into the room, sat down next to Peanut and apologized for my reaction and explained why I got frustrated. Then I asked if she would forgive me, to which she gave me a hug. I know what you are thinking, she is only two years old. Yes, this is true. But I want to establish these patterns early in her life. I want her to know that I am human, I make mistakes, it is okay to admit when you are wrong, it is okay to apologize.

In my life, I have mad many people treat me wrong, but their pride and inflated sense of self / lack of self awareness never got them to a place where they apologized, so I had to forgive them for my sanity and peace. Rarely have I heard, “I am sorry,” from those who have hurt me the worst because I loved them the most. This is why I want Peanut to make sure to hear it from me when I hurt her. I want her to love me the most, and know that I will do my best to protect her but when I do mess up, I will tell her I am sorry, and let her hold me accountable for my actions. I want her to know that she should expect this level of respect from those she loves.

Mama Bear

Since I got pregnant with Peanut, I am often referred to as a Mama Bear (as many Mothers are). It lends to the nick name Teddy, which was often said when someone would be intimidated by me and my best friend would say, “nah, she’s a teddy bear!” And now that I have my child, she loves a show called Masha and the Bear – about a little girl who lives alone in the forest and is best friends with a Bear. This show feels appropriate in our household given covid and quarantine. My daughter and I live much like the characters on the show. She is my tiny terror and I am the grumpy big bear that hangs out with her and watches over her. We live fairly isolated thanks to the pandemic – even though we are in the suburbs.

Angry Bear

There is another bear that is inside me, Madadook. The bear you should not poke. In the past, this would be a bad thing, but I have learned that I can harness her powers to my advantage. I can keep her rage at bay. At times, this is a lot of work. A lot of meditation, concentration, and determination. But I have grown, and I have learned. Which is good and bad. It has allowed me to weed out the wolves in sheep’s clothing in my life. Ridding myself of imposter friends and one-sided loved ones. On the other hand, it has let people think that I have let my guard down, that I am soft, weak. That I’ve lost that special rage fuel that gets things done.

Madadook and Babadook did not go anywhere. They are here. These sorts of things don’t leave, they either take over you or you take control of them. So I learned, I researched, I sought help, and managed to learn how to control them. So today, when someone warned me about backing down as to not upset the delicate temper of another – and this was the second time a family member “warned” me of another’s temper – Madadook made a brief but memorable appearance and said, “I am not afraid of any of your tempers. But you should be afraid of mine if you keep pushing hard enough.”

I think that is a mistake often made in humankind. People who are perceived as weak or soft or too nice are pushed. Then pushed again. Then pushed some more. Then pushed even harder. Until Madadook takes control. Because we all have a Madadook. Some just have a much more dormant or generally chill Madadook monster. Mine was large and in charge from birth, unfortunately. And most of the time, if you don’t take the self-accountability and put in the work of learning your monsters and controlling them, they will take control or cause some sort of damage.

Madadook is like letting her out of a glass case. Once the glass breaks and she comes out, you can’t undo it. For some people, who didn’t realize the mechanics of it, and with glass there is no putting it back together quickly or easily enough. I, on the other hand, broke the glass (cut myself nearly to death with it) and glued it back together wrong, broke it again, used tape, broke it again, bought a new glass case, tried to be friends with Madadook then had a bad friend breakup, and finally realized that a glass case is not a great way to lock a monster up!

Moral of the story – don’t poke the bear. And don’t break the glass case. As a matter of fact, find your Madadook and your Babadook, see what kind of case you have them in, then invest in some reinforcements – maybe steel bars. Or at least like, a fence? Something. (And if you don’t get what I mean, it means find your demons and work on them through therapy, journaling, or at least talking to someone you trust).

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