Archives for posts with tag: old hurts and old anger

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. 🙂

…Or, well, don’t. I can’t really help much on the topic of forgiveness. I’m not an expert on it – hell, I barely understand the concept, and I am pretty sure I suck at ‘forgiveness’. (I hear the recollection of 20-something me, in the distance past, snarling at an associate “there are things even your god does not forgive!” in a moment of unreserved hurt and rage.) I am having to come to terms with some things about the idea of forgiveness, though. Firstly, that ‘forgiveness’ is not a religious tenet; it’s a concept available to anyone for their own benefit, at any time. Secondly, forgiveness says nothing at all about the person being forgiven – and says a lot about the person forgiving. The last thing I am coming to terms with is that to grow beyond ancient pain, and ancient rage, sooner or later forgiveness comes up as a topic; I can’t move on, or let go, without the power of ‘forgiveness’… Which means sooner or later, understanding the concept would be useful.

I resent the hell out of being faced with any expectation or demand that I forgive some heinous transgression. I’m very human. When I hurt I want it ‘made right’ with me by the person who hurt me, and no substitute will do. There is no room for ‘apology by proxy’ in my heart. These feelings give the anger a foothold to become bitterness over time, and the hurt to become a festering wound that changes who I am. That’s powerful – and not in a positive way. When I find myself unable to let go of a hurt over time, it has the power to slowly see me evolve to become that thing that hurt me so, or something worse. Hell of a puzzle there; failing to forgive someone who hurt me gives them the power to continue to influence my heart and mind!

"Broken"  16" x 20" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic & glow 2012 Once the damage is done...then what?

“Broken” 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic & glow 2012
Once the damage is done…then what?

Not knowing how to forgive, and not being permitted vengeance or retribution, I have sometimes found myself trapped, holding on to pain, frustration, impotent rage – slowly poisoning myself from within. This is not a condition in life I would wish on myself, and recognizing that one key to the puzzle of ancient pain may be this ‘forgiveness’ thing I hear so much about, perhaps it is time to consider it further?

I have some experience with forgiveness. Childhood experiences mostly, in some cases rather scripted – the parental ‘say you’re sorry to your sister’ example comes to mind, where following the steps end with just letting it go, and returning to play. Compassion may be a natural quality of human beings, but I am pretty sure ‘forgiving’ has to be taught to us. Forgiveness was not emphasized in my upbringing. Is it a process, more than an emotion? I’m pretty handy when I have the steps of a process written down in front of me for practice…maybe that’s what I need to do here? Figure out the steps to forgiveness, write them down, and…oh yeah, you know what comes next right? Practice.

Why am I on about this, this morning? I read a quote on the internet recently that got my attention, and resonated with me in the moment, and lingered:

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behavior. It doesn’t mean forgetting how they hurt you or giving that person room to hurt you again. Forgiving someone means making peace with what happened. It means acknowledging your wound, giving yourself permission to feel the pain, and recognizing why that pain no longer serves you. It means letting go of the hurt and resentment so that you can heal and move on. ~Daniell Koepke

It is from a larger article, that I didn’t have time to read and bookmarked for later. The quote has stuck with me for days. I’d never understood forgiveness in those terms. This matters, at least to me; I have long struggled with the idea that forgiveness gave that other ‘a pass’ – they ‘get away with it’ – they ‘win’ – and at my expense! It seems so incredibly unfair. When I read this quote it opened my heart to understand that forgiveness isn’t ever about that person who hurt us, and it isn’t something we do for them – is it the ‘missing puzzle piece’ that allows me to move on, to heal, to ‘let it go’ on my own terms, and in my own time? That’s a pretty big deal. Definitely worth further consideration.

Life finds its own path, sometimes the 'obvious' choices are not the only choices.

Life finds its own path, sometimes the ‘obvious’ choices are not the only choices. (A rose seedling growing in the crook of a tree.)

Life’s curriculum continues to put the most challenging coursework I can manage in front of me for my continuing education. 🙂 I’ve come a long way to be ready to study forgiveness; it seems like ‘advanced studies’ to me. It dovetails with a recent discussion with my therapist about anger, and another that followed on that topic with my traveling partner. Anger is another very big deal, and difficult for me to discuss without rousing the beast within; is forgiveness also a path to cooling the heat and ferocity of ancient rage so that I can at last actually just talk about it? I feel a bit as if I opened a chapter in the text-book that opens with a promising paragraph that ‘connects the dots’ in a much bigger puzzle, but does so using new vocabulary that I don’t really understand. I am eager to continue.

Taking the obstacles one at a time, and taking the journey slowly; there's a lot to learn along the way.

Taking the obstacles one at a time, and taking the journey slowly; there’s a lot to learn along the way.

Today is a good day to study, and a good day to embrace new knowledge. Today is a good day to grow, and to become more that woman I most want to be. Today is a good day to take a different look at the world I live within; it is of my own creation, and perhaps it is time to change the emotional landscape?