Healthy Anger

I could feel the anger surging through my body as I read aloud my own handwriting on the back of a cute little plate, “Mom’s health insurance punishment.” I took aim, holding the china vertically, the stance of a competitor in a darts battle. And I heaved. With all my might. At the cinder block wall before me. The smash and splatter released the anger from my body instantaneously, like an overfilled water balloon. The sound was a friendly tinkling that suggested to me that I was on the right track.

And so it went for the next 5 minutes. Plate after plate. In the end, I laid down in them. Satisfied. At peace. Alive.

The morning after and I’m realizing that this isn’t about anger, at least not the way I thought it was. I had described the plates as each representing “some shit I’m not over.” And the exercise started as a way to release pent up anger.

Anger was off limits when I was growing up. It was unacceptable for me to show anger around any of the adults in my life. And I was paralyzed by my fear of abandonment, so when I got the message that anger would get me less love, I learned to try to avoid anger. And my folks were all quite adamant that I technically could control whether I had an emotion (so wrong!), so if I would just be more mature, then I could live up to these standards. Because only immature teenagers are ever angry, and their anger is self-indulgent – never actually warranted. So, maturity I sought. Desperately. It seemed to be the only thing that was welcome.

That’s not to say I wasn’t a thoroughly pissed off teenager. I was. But that anger was just pouring out of me, running me over and leaving destruction in its wake. And I didn’t have a model of how to be in a healthy relationship with anger, so I learned some really fucked up stuff, left to my own devices.

Essentially, I believed that anger is the last ditch effort you make before ending the relationship. Therefore, I believed that, if someone expressed anger at me, they were giving me my last chance before they left me forever. As one might imagine, anger scared the shit out of me. I fell apart when someone expressed anger toward me and scrambled in desperation to repair whatever could possibly be repaired – taking responsibility where it wasn’t mine, changing the narrative so that the anger could be resolved, often diminishing myself in the process. I loved turning things into my fault, because they I was in control of them and could vow that it would never happen again. People being angry at me for things that weren’t my fault was the worst – I wasn’t in control, so I was helpless. Anger = helplessness, which is the absolute worst. So, I have a long history of taking fault, particularly of assuming fault on behalf of my aggressor.

At the plate throwing ceremony, I thought I was finally honoring my anger about a number of things that “I’m not over yet.” And I did. But now that the anger has been honored, I can see what is underneath it.

I can see that I never admitted that I had been violated. Each of these plates in this stack represents a violation.

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They taught me as a kid that I had control over how I interpreted anything, and I took from that that there is no such thing as someone violating me. I believed that people got to do whatever they wanted and, if I chose to take it personally, especially since I was “too sensitive,” then that was on me. And the only way to get over taking something personally, was to change your thinking about the issue, to see it from the other person’s perspective, and to take their side.

I’ve been against myself, aligning with people who hurt me, all my life.

So, just admitting that I HAVE BEEN FUCKING VIOLATED AND NO ONE’S OPINION, NOT EVEN MINE, CHANGES THAT, is revolutionary.

How was I expecting to heal if I couldn’t admit there was damage??

For so long, I’ve been trying to get “stronger,” or to stop resisting reality, and start take things less personally. But all that strategy has done is perpetuate a state of fear. It has made me think that I’m the one who is out of line.

Good morning, paradigm shift.

What I could have used is this: You teach people how to treat you by what you tolerate.

And I have actually made some real headway in boundary-setting, which prevents a lot of unnecessary bullshit for me to get angry over. But I am still intimidated by the doling out of consequences when someone crosses my boundaries. I worry that if I let my anger out, it might become a cyclone and whip all of us up into it and hurt everyone.

What I learned yesterday: anger is just anger. I didn’t die from getting angry and neither did anyone else. It didn’t set up camp and take over my life. It surged and it dissipated. Like a wave. Like all of my other emotions. It is temporary! And it doesn’t equal the redefinition of an entire relationship, in which  I will get even more hurt. Rather, it indicates a need for course correction.

And here I am, reveling in the aftermath. Grounded, at peace. Smug with satisfaction in my disobedience. I didn’t just break plates yesterday. I broke open my terror of anger.

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Bring it.

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Grief?

My best friend is dying. Rufus is my orange tabby. My rock.

To remind me it’s all going to be okay, today he gifted me a heart. Made of pee. And clumping cat litter.

We have had a pretty longstanding agreement that, as soon as he is ready to stop occupying a deteriorating cat body, he is free to go. 17.5 years and he is ready. My vet predicts between 1-6 months, if I can get him to take the godforsaken prednisone. That’s a big if.

God love Cat vs. Human comics. Not a far stretch. Example, I had to get a tetanus booster shot today because I let him bite me the other morning while we were playing. My response to sighting my own blood; “Good show, old chap! Of course this strapping champion is going to outwit and best me from time to time.” I was totally impressed he’d slipped by me. (Let the record show that I had just woken up, and it was still dark in the room, so even with one eye, he technically had the advantage.)

I was 18 when he came home with me. Right when my relationship with my mom came crashing down and landed right next to my relationship with my dad. I was still trying to build my life around meeting their expectations; a child still looking desperately for the love that had been missing all those years. Cue Rufus. Cue the love. This cat raised me from a child to an adult. Who builds my life around my own expectations.

I had a super unstable bunch of years right after he moved in. Half my life ago. It’s taken him the same amount of time, showering me with love and loyalty, to undo the damage that was done before he arrived.

Only in the last year have I finally started to feel like an adult. Oddly, it started around the time when I started befriending my angry inner teenager. Point being: I feel like his work is done. I’m safe, I’m stable, I believe I will survive the grief of losing him, even though it will be immense.

I’m raised. And I finally understand unconditional love.

Shameless nostalgia:

When he was less than a year old, I was told to give him liquid Pepto Bismal with a dropper for some stomach trouble he had. The result resembled Jackson Pollock, going through a pink phase, using every surface of my bedroom as a canvas. If only the cat could have absorbed the medicine through his fur, because he ended up with as many pink streaks as he has orange stripes. In retrospect, I will say that I looked pretty rockin’ with the pink streaks that ended up in my hair. How I wish I was an artist, so I could do justice to the image that lingers from that event.

 

Lust-ful life

I’ve gotten 2 “get out of jail free” cards in my life.

  1. After 10 years of smoking, I woke up one morning and didn’t need a cigarette. That was 9 years ago. Haven’t had one since.
  2. Sometime last year, I woke up one morning and I was suddenly excited  about sex again. All my emotional baggage around sex had sloughed off overnight. Freedom.

Yes, these both qualify as miracles to me.

Over the last few years, my interest in sex had decreased to almost nothing. Oh, the shame that followed.

What I used sex for, according to my age:

11*-27 To try to get people to love me – Sometimes hot, often awful

27-31 To connect and bond with my amazing boyfriend/husband – Super hot

32-35 To resist embodying the reviled wife in a family sitcom – Sometimes hot, often eh, sometimes frustrating and embarrassing as fuck

35/36 For fun and pleasure – Hotter than a 1,000 fucking suns

*FYI – I wasn’t having sex at 11, but my breasts grew in early and that was how old I was the first time someone treated me differently because of it.

Is that a good enough reason to start a blog?

With this miraculous appearance of an enthusiastic interest in sex (unladen with societal expectations I’ve been absorbing for 35 years) has come courage. I was mired in shame about my disinterest and what it might mean about my worth, and I was so confused because my husband is fantastic – plus I’m a feminist, so I was further convinced that I wasn’t “supposed” to feel shame about what I wanted or didn’t want.

Only now have I had the courage to go back and investigate what the hell was going on when my interest was non-existent. So, I have immersed myself in all the material I can get my hands on.

Guess what I learned?

I was and continue to be 

perfectly fucking normal.

Ya heard?

I’m writing today because I wish I’d known how normal I was at the moment when I had the most doubt about myself.

Joseph Campbell has this great quote,

“Where you stumble and fall, there you fill find gold.” 

Metaphors about wings and flying speak more to me than treasure, so I’ve modified it to suit me better. Whenever I stumble, I’m tripping over a mound of soil hiding a pair of wings buried just beneath. Instead of running away, feeling defeated and shitty, I can pause long enough to wipe away the dirt and collect my wings. Plus, bonus time, with my wings on, I won’t have to stumble there anymore.

Hafiz tells us

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.

Well, I was a rowdy prisoner. Today, I’m a disobedient…I don’t know, fugitive? I do know this: now that I’m free of some shit, just the thought of anyone else being as wrong as I used to be, and hating and fearing themselves despite being so, so whole, I can’t abide it.

This is a feminist blog about shame, anxiety, courage, finding liberation in the very things that scare us, and learning to simply fucking be. You will find shit about bodies, fat, sex, the patriarchy, shit I have successfully gotten over, and some shit I’m just not over yet. Oh, and as much swearing as I can possibly fit.

I believe in your wholeness and my wholeness. That we don’t feel whole every single moment of every day is nuts. I want to stop forgetting that I’m good and shit is okay. I want that for you, too.

Finally, yes, yes, yes, to this:

Relax, nothing is under control.” Adi Da Samraj