I start feeling complacent, every now and then, after things seem easy for a while, after very little drama over a longer time, after a few days or weeks or even – no kidding – months without a significant reminder of the chaos and damage. Things “in here” are generally fairly tidied up these days, in the sense that I am more resilient, more balanced, less prone to storms and outbursts, less easily rocked from a place of calm. Day-to-day, things are… just days. Moments. Experiences of a life well-lived.

Not what I expected to see.

Tuesday night I came home while daylight lingered. Needing a moment of emotional rest and calm after a somewhat difficult day in the office, I went to the patio door. My cushion was waiting for me, left right there from the morning. I opened the blinds expecting my tidy patio and potted garden, and beyond that, lawn, meadow, marsh… and between the patio and the view, my bird feeders on their pole. Which is mostly sort of what I saw, only… the pole was bent low, laid flat to the ground, which… is not at all the expected functioning position of poles, generally, nor this one specifically, ever, at all. It’s not a bit peculiar that I was taken by surprise, or angry – but I was unprepared for the shit storm of emotions that hit me almost instantly. Rage. Real fury. Resentment. As the anger built to an unmanageable level, the frustration, the learned helplessness, the disappointment, all capitalized on the suddenly volatile moment to pile on. Breaking shit is not an option. Lashing out physically is not an option. I took a photograph of the wrecked pole, mostly because I didn’t really know what else to do. Then I cried. I cried and cried like a child who realizes they’ve misplaced their very most favorite toy. I cried like a grieving lover. It was all quite excessive and somehow inappropriate to the moment. I didn’t care about that, and wouldn’t recognize it for some time, much later in the evening.

All of the tears that I haven’t cried over all of the shitty things going on in the world lately finally found their way out of my eye holes. I wept. I let myself have the moment. I indulged the momentary falsehood that it was truly only about a pole. Tears I can handle. I’ve cried a river of them. I’ve wiped them dry with a million miles of tissues. Tears fall. Tears dry. Moments pass.

The rage was harder to handle. Anger terrifies me, even my own.  Even to allow it for a moment, felt like it teetered on the edge of criminal to feel it at all. Anger is such a human emotion. We teach ourselves so little about it. Isn’t that strange? I was unprepared, in spite of putting in so much practice and work, generally, on emotion, and emotional intelligence. Experiencing rage still feels terrifying, and part of what is frightening about it (for me), is how powerful it feels. In that moment, I really wanted to lash out, I really wanted to take action – action has power. I wanted to destroy everything within reach, to “make a mark” on the world, to punish whoever had wronged me, to assign blame, and force “rightness” on my circumstances. I live a life in which I have surrounded myself with precious things, delicate breakables, art, porcelain, glass – and because these things are precious to me, I have learned to stop when I am raging. Just stop. No action. Self-inflicted, self-enforced inaction. Inaction that gives me a moment to recognize that beneath the rage is… the hurt. The sadness. The disappointment. The loss. The tears. I can cope fairly easily with tears. I have so little sense of having tools to deal with rage… but I know this about me; I will not break my beautiful precious trinkets of material life. They hold my memories. The preciousness of breakable things stalls my rage. It has been tool, system, and practice enough to be adequate for a long time…

It’s time to learn and grow. Is life’s next lesson about anger? Is it time? I admit to having avoided it so far, by creating circumstances in which it can rarely surface – some seriously masterful avoidance. I live in my own place, alone, so my relationships rarely cause me anger; there is no opportunity. I live fairly simply in a space carefully managed to limit “incidental anger” from stubbed toes, or wacked shins. I limit my exposure to sensationalized media reporting. I end social relationships with people who seem inclined to provoke me deliberately. I avoid being out in the world if my PTSD is flaring up. I refrain from becoming emotionally invested in the workplace to the point that passion could erupt over points of disagreement. When anger, or issues to do with it, come up in therapy, I carefully back away and don’t bring it up next time. Avoidance, however, is a short-term coping skill, not a long-term growth strategy.

I’ve set this one aside twice now, when I got to the chapter on anger. I haven’t been ready.

I guess it’s time to take another step down an unlit path. It’s been an extraordinary journey, these last 4 years or so. There’s more to learn. More opportunity to grow. More work to be done to become the woman I most want to be. I dislike the experience of being surrounded by precious irreplaceable breakable objects, trembling with barely restrained rage, until fury finally finds its release as tears because no action is “safe”. There’s probably a better way. 🙂 It’s time to face the woman in the mirror, anger and all, and give her a hand with this one.

The commute is usually standing room only. Plenty of seats on the morning of a Day Without Women.

Apropos of anger, yesterday was “Day Without a Woman” on International Woman’s Day. A lot of women stepped away from their roles in the workplace, at home, just generally. Allies and supporters and feminists of all sorts, too. It was a powerful demonstration, probably more meaningful to those of us demonstrating, than those who obstruct us, or who fail to recognize the fundamental humanity of women. Still powerful. That’s an anger thing, I guess, that feeling of power. How can I best harness the power of my anger – without truly understanding it? I don’t think I can. So. It is, perhaps, long overdue to deal with the rage.

At this point, the anger is academic, it is a quiet calm morning and it’s time to consider the here, the now, and the day ahead of me. It’s time to begin again. 🙂