It’s time to start talking about anger. Healthy anger motivates, makes waves and instigates change. But there is some anger that just builds, layer on layer, until it fills us up and comes pouring out. In traffic. On line at whatever store we are unlucky enough to have to go to. Stuck behind the person who wants to haggle for 45 minutes to get their bag of 1000 scrunchies down from 5 dollars to 4.45 at the swap meet.
Why am I so angry? Nothing goes quickly at the swap meet. No-thing. Or in traffic. Or at any retail establishment anywhere ever. My food order is usually wrong. My jeans don’t fit my thick middle. Nothing about my daily frustrations are new. Same shit different day. So why am I still so angry about it?
Drama. I am making all this drama around everyday problems. I keep going to the same places that mess up my order. I don’t go out and buy new jeans. I don’t take an interest in public policy that seeks to untangle gridlock in my community. I keep answering the siren song of the swap meet. And I am an anger monster. My anger surrounds me, a miasma of bad vibes and shitty little comments that fail to make me feel better and just ruin someone else’s day.
And then one day it occurred to me to google, “Why am I so angry?”
And google said that chronic anger is a masking emotion.
Well shit. I have ZERO interest in finding out what is under my anger mask. Something like when Oogie Boogie is unraveled and the last we hear from him is, “My bugs! My bugs.” And then Santa squishes that last little squeaky one with his tiny, patent leather boot.
No. Fucking. Thank. You.
But…what if I no longer like myself? I’m mean. I yelled at a woman in Target for spending 10 minutes arguing with the checker over a one dollar discrepancy on a product. I yelled, “I will pay the dollar if you will leave!” And someone behind me cheered. I did an utterly shitty thing. And that poor woman. What a shitty thing to have happen. Like Target at 5PM on a weekday isn’t bad enough. Should she have spent 10 minutes arguing over a dollar? Who knows. But there was no reason for me to yell at her. All the other lines were miles long, everyone was in a shitty mood but I was the only one to yell. Not good.
Something has to change. So instead of asking google, I pick up a pencil and a sheet of yellow construction paper (it was the only paper I could find) and I write:
Why am I so angry?
My people are from the Dakotas and before that some of them were from Norway and Ireland and Scotland. I was raised to be deeply suspicious of anything that reeked of emotion. Emotions are untrustworthy. They lead you astray. The only people allowed to express emotions are small children, drunks and opera singers. Emotions do not belong anywhere but a sandbox, a bar or a theatre, where the dark hides your weakling tears.
I once had a therapist tell me, “When you are having a strong emotion, you should tell someone you trust.”
I told that to a friend of mine and she said, “Most humans already know that.”
I didn’t! Strong emotions belong at the bottom of your soul where they can’t do any damage to your surface self. Your surface is the self trying to earn money, feed children and not crash into other motorists.
So. Anger as a mask. Anger as a shield between me and the messy emotions the majority of humans have. Am I the only person wrestling with this? If I lift the lid (the metaphors are thick and fast and mixed!) to see what’s cooking, how bad will it be?
So of course I ask my friends because I don’t exist without this group of women. And what I hear is, “I’m angry, too.”
I knew women were mad about Trump and his White House overrun with nincompoops and swine, but it seems as if the anger goes deeper and farther than the dangerous daily shenanigans of our Cheeto in Chief.
So one of my friends and I came up with the idea of talking to our friends and writing about not just their anger but what lies beneath their anger. How much of our anger is healthy and how much is masking vulnerable emotions we don’t know how to deal with?
Fear. Guilt. Shame. Sorrow. Resentment. Uncertainty.
It’s time to speak up. It’s time to tell the truth. Before I am eaten alive from the inside.
If you want to join us, remember this:
You don’t have to tell me that you feel lucky to get to stay home and raise your kids. You don’t have to tell me that you love your husband. You don’t have to tell me that you love your job. I am not here to judge you. You can skip the part where you perform acceptable womanhood.
You’re angry. I get it. Let it rip. I’m here to listen.