I’m struggling to write this. Not because it’s too personal, but rather that I simply don’t know how to write about anger. I don’t know all the reasons for my own anger let alone anger generally. I’ve rewritten this post at least four times, rearranging paragraphs, deleting, adding. I’ve decided to post it in whatever form it finds itself in. The topic itself cannot be distilled to this simple post. So it will feel incomplete because my thinking on it isn’t complete. I do feel that this has everything to do with creating social change and being there in the world we want to be in. Harnessing creativity and intersectionality. Anger and frustration are fleeting yet wide-gripping, short and very long.
I am an iceberg. The top that shows above the water is small or at least appears small relative to its underside. The deep sea side which is huge. I mean massive. There are metaphors about icebergs and our own selves. This is my own interpretation mixed with pre-existing metaphors. The top portion is what I show of my personality to the world. It’s the stuff others would see, maybe describe me as. It’s also how I consciously perceive and put out to those around me. And then there’s the deep sea side. The side that’s brushed under the rug to not worry about or pay no mind to. It’s the junk drawer in my kitchen and living room and the boxes stuffed under my bed. It makes soft commentary whispers in my mind reminding me that it’s there that it’s overflowing from under the bed and the drawers are ready to break through the bottom. It wills me along as I try to pretend it’s not there redirecting itself through the filter of ego and lack of recognition. I’m always trying to grasp it as if I could grab this deep sea space by the neck and say, “what are you doing? Where are you and leave me alone!” Try gripping a ghost it will probably be the same affect. After all these years I’ve built up a certain level of cynicism towards harnessing my under-sea iceberg. Unless I decide to be a buddhist monk, it’s impossible. The frustrating, annoying, completely aggravating side to this is that I see the potential if I was to face that underside. But doesn’t it sound better to just watch Netflix with my partner?
As of late, I’m either frustrated, annoyed or just plain angry. My deep sea side is no longer so deep. It’s no longer under the bed but covers the entire bedroom floor. The drawers aren’t just broken, the so-called junk is growing. I’m not some super internally woke person. I didn’t start noticing this over a long stretch of personal work. It just kind of happened. If I recall correctly ( I have issues with linear timelines), that’s probably not true. I’ve been doing internal work off and on, here and there. Regardless, this post is about a bothersome topic for a bothered person.
What is anger? Why do I (or you) become angry? There’s anger about racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, white male-dominant culture and its unwavering grip on us all. But then there’s anger and frustration that is just felt internally. Maybe from a past love relationship, parents, family members, or the weight of capitalism and patriarchy. It feels like a tight chest and clenched teeth with straining muscles. My thoughts are boiling over a too small pot ignited by each feeling and each feeling ignited by a thought.
Once I was lucky enough to feel the oncoming anger in slow motion. It was like time remained the same everywhere but within my body where I felt every nook and cranny of it. I felt the anger rise up from my stomach. Like a hurricane wave it rolled up from my pit to stomach. As it hit the bottom of my chest, I had chills. My hair was standing. I became nauseous. Overpowering, the almost rage enshrined my body. It hit my upper chest that was already tightened like the antarctic. By the time the wave rolled to my shoulders I knew I had to excuse myself or say something really dumb. Five out of ten times, I don’t leave. I take the bait. I leave feeling unsatisfied, apologetic, and to put it mildly a crappy person. The other five, I leave feeling anxious, disappointed, and frustrated at myself for not speaking up. It’s a no win situation. I say the wrong thing or nothing at all.
This instance, I left more because I couldn’t handle the strength of what I was feeling. I could feel myself transforming and the thoughts begin to ping like I was my own pinball game where the metal ball was getting flung around faster and faster and with ever increasing strength. So, I got up and went to another room. There, I found the emotion changed with a flick of the hand to sadness. I wanted to cry. Like I had a laser eye beaming directly into myself, for the first time ever, I felt where it was coming from. I wasn’t mad at the other person. I was mad at myself. Mad for not speaking up when necessary. Mad for not honoring myself.
I thought I was trying to make the anger go away. It’ no wonder I’ve had zero luck moving from the first step of noticing. I only know this step from the many books I’ve read that state once you notice you can begin parsing out emotions and thoughts. But, I’ve been stuck here for years wandering around in the dark with no light searching for that second step. If you see the stairs leading out let me know. But within this unlit space of anger, anxiety, fear, and sadness, I tend to feel inept at every step. Apparently I’m not trying to make the anger go away as much as I’m trying to locate it and her sister fear and niece anxiety. I have to find them, but then I’m not sure what I do once they’re found.
This post isn’t about my journey to locating and processing through all this. This is just about the beginning. Here, I was going to originally write about the last winter. It’s not that I don’t think it’s connected. I just think it’s better to focus on the emotional energy. It’s all I have right now. No answers and definitely more questions. Won’t you join me neighbor?
What I do know is that I’m angry about not speaking my truth or being my truth which is maximized within a white male-dominated culture. I’m angry at being talked over, interrupted, ignored, or viewed as an object. I’m angry that I feel I have to prove something within patriarchy. I have to prove I’m all the characteristics that a capitalistic white male-dominated world cherishes but destroys us as humans. I’m angry for falling lock-step into it, even when it’s never suited the likes of me. I’m tired of feeling that I must always know what I’m doing, with the correct responses at the correct times and with the correct emotional appearance. A sense of anxiety-ridden perfectionism to be mistake free. As if mistakes and flaws are punishable by death. Then throw in a dash of urgency that every email, phone call, meeting needs to be responded to right now. Everything is right now and must be done now. There’s no time to waste! But then I stopped, and thought, wait why am I rushing around like a crazed squirrel looking for nuts?
I’m also frustrated by all the busyness. Running around forty plus hours a week for work, then the after work obligations of the board I’m on and the community garden I help to coordinate, cleaning, grocery shopping and all the other adulting things one must do. My life is full of needs to do, should do, have to do. Such a small fraction spent on something that I said beforehand this is something I want to do. This is an anger from a built up static of busyness leading to annoyance, frustration, and tiredness. When it gets really bad, I become indecisive or simply move into a state where I don’t do anything.
While I’m looking at all that stuff and its misdirections, I’m also focusing on what is nourishing me. I think it’s moving between these two that I’ve had moments of seeing my body, emotions, and their thoughts more clearly than I ever have before. It’s like stepping out into the sun for the first time where I’m all at once drenched in light yet blinded to my surroundings. I’m sensing and noticing my roots and knots of living within a patriarchal capitalistic system that does not work for me and the natural demands (whether positive or negative) from relationships, jobs, to being a responsible citizen. But I’m also finding deep love for myself and others. I’m decentering myself from this system and its whiteness. I’m creatively destroying myself. Pairing down to what provides meaning and nourishment. With each decision I make to not do something or to intentionally choose to do something, I’m becoming.
Text images from White Supremacy Culture Characteristics by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork, 2001 http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html