So today is Election Day in case you haven’t noticed from Facebook posts and Twitter. I find it no coincidence it falls on Tuesday, the day of the week ruled by the planet Mars. As is the case most times when politics are involved, I’m doing my best not to let to my anger get the best of me. But actually, anger is really important and currently my favorite emotion (everyone should have one).
Last week I got into a verbal argument on the bus with a stranger and truth be told I kind of scared myself with my anger. A man on the bus was making fun of an overweight woman on the crowded bus and blaming her for not having any space. After five minutes of him saying terribly mean things to her, I lost it. I yelled at him for being cruel and inappropriate and cursed at his behavior. He responded by of course calling me “bitch” (the go –to word for any angry woman) and telling me to shut up. I stopped myself from continuing, put on my headphones and prayed for him to get off the bus before I did.
It appears in my older age I’m becoming quite a spit fire who cannot keep her mouth shut. I wish I could say this rarely happens, but lately it has been occurring more frequently than I would like to admit. In my defense I say things usually only to speak up for a woman or child, but my anger always surprises me. I judge myself for not being able to “contain myself” and feeling guilty about my language. And then I realize that there are moments when I reach my threshold on a bus full of people no one else is willing to say anything, then I will and my anger becomes like a superhero power.
Yes, as suspected, it seems anger serves a purpose. I find it is usually pulled in two directions…sometimes as a cover up for sadness and other times as a way of revealing the importance of a setting a boundary. Examples of the difference: A friend of mine has been out of touch for quite some time and my first reaction was anger. How dare he be so selfish and incommunicative? After a few more moments my anger quickly faded into sadness and I realized how much I missed seeing him. And now for another boundary setting anger example…on Halloween I was on the bus and a man sat next to me smelling of alcohol and immediately started saying inappropriate things to me. I became a little girl at first and then I was just angry. I told him I didn’t want to talk to him and said if he didn’t move then I would. He moved and then spent the rest of the bus ride calling me names (yes, of course “bitch” was one of them).
It seems society fears angry women or women who set boundaries…and that too makes me angry. My anger has no place to express itself so I usually try to workout so hard that it doesn’t have space anymore (I went on four runs in one day last week) or convince myself it doesn’t exist and then get hives (true story). Few things are more beautiful to me than feisty women or little girls (my sister was the best expression of that I have ever met). It shows the vastness our human experience to be both caring and loving and also angry. When I’m angry I become aware of what a complex human being I truly am.
Female singers such as Alanis Morrisette and Ani DeFranco were staples for me during certain times of my life. In a world where I had to be “nice” they showed me the sheer power of anger in creativity. In college my closest girlfriends had an “I Hate Boys” mix for breakups and then a few years later post-college an “I Hate Boys Vol. 2” was released. A few years ago I got rid of it because I thought it made me seem too “angry.” Only now do I appreciate the importance of what those CDs really did. When some guy I went out with a few times stopped calling I had a whole album of songs to allow me to harness my anger instead of listening to a sad love song. I got to be angry and that anger moved me forward and provided energy. Now, I somehow have taught myself my anger isn’t valid or appropriate.
While I see that it can be expressed inappropriately (like yelling at some guy on the sidewalk for not picking up his dog’s poop) or to stand up for something I believe in (like on the bus). Like every emotion, anger is a tool for learning more about ourselves. If I look at the things that anger me most I notice the projections held within each trigger. I get angry that I have to set boundaries and yet they are an important part of growing up. It has taken me 30 years to give myself to permission to yell at a man if he grabs my butt on a crowded bus or anytime something makes me uncomfortable. It has taken me 30 years to practice knowing when sadness is lurking behind my angry tears or when anger is fueled by something I consider unjust.
I’m suspicious of people who say they don’t get angry because we have to as a part of defining ourselves we set boundaries. No one can set our boundaries for us except us, maybe yours don’t include yelling at a man on a bus, but mine do. Maybe other people don’t get angry when someone tells them what to do, I do. Some women don’t get angry when politicians talk about creating laws about their bodies…I do. Contrary to popular belief, anger is a force to be reckoned with, explored, and revered. We just have to find our own way of releasing and owning it and I’m hoping next time it doesn’t involve me picking a fight with someone who could easily kick my butt.
[Photo: Miles Mathis]