Recently, I woke up full of rage and I had no idea what to do with it. I angry-cleaned the coffee grounds out of the sink. (Angry-cleaning. Verb. To make loud, banging noises and grumble bad words under your breath while scrubbing or vacuuming or generally tidying up.) I yelled at our son to get out of the bathroom so I could get in. Then I sulked around my husband because he didn’t understand a point I was trying to make. I felt lonely in the room with his rational mind and his sharp, straight sentences. I wanted him to immediately understand my non-linear thoughts and the emotional colors that fly out of me. I scolded our daughter for using my iPad. All of this before 9 am.
I poured myself a super strong cup of tea and, like a good girl, took my morning vitamins, and went down to the guest room to write. My throat burned. Since the surgeries, my throat often hurts because the tumor damaged the nerves around my vocal chords and along my tongue. But this feeling was different; I was afraid of what words might come out if I opened my mouth again. I had no idea what to do with these powerful emotions. So I hid downstairs and wrote in my journal. My hand shook, but I could not stop scribbling angry words on the page. This is what I wrote:
Sometimes there is a rage inside me that is not merely mine, but ours. Rage for the damage done to my throat and how hard I have to work to be heard. Rage for generations of voiceless and silenced people. Rage for living in fear of what my future holds. Rage for those who live in fear just for attending school. Rage for the privilege that I was born into. Rage for the poverty that too many are born into. Rage for the feeling of helplessness. Rage that I am not angrier, not doing more.
The fire behind my throat felt hotter and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I needed water. I stood up to get a glass, but my legs buckled under me. Then, next to the laundry, I threw up into our trash can. The vomit was green from all those multivitamins and tea. I had no other symptoms, no fever, no stomachache. After throwing up, I felt better. In fact, I never felt sick after that one, strange moment. There was nothing wrong with me, except that I took some strong pills on an empty stomach. But was it a coincidence that I threw up after feeling all that rage?
I don’t think so. I have spent my whole life being a good girl, doing what I needed to do to belong and to be successful. It’s no wonder that I have no idea what to do with the anger that consumes me sometimes. I stared into the trash can and thought with the clearest mind I’d had all day; if I don’t figure out what to do with all this rage, I will throw up all over the people closest to me.
In this case, it happened to be our ten year old daughter. I turned on her even after I had the epiphany that I was figuratively retching on the people I loved the most. When dinner was over, she skipped over to me, clutching her newly-created birthday list, dancing with excitement. I was immediately frustrated because she was holding my iPad. Apparently, she had been online, creating a long list of things she wanted for her birthday. I looked at the list. I knew that she had never heard of these toys before, but because they were big and shiny on the screen, she wanted them all. My reaction? I lectured her on consumerism and marketing. My words might have been green vomit, they were so gross. The impact of my throwing up all over her with my misplaced rage was that she crumbled. She lay on the couch crying that she was a bad person. She twisted and sobbed in an anxious, depressed state. I was now raging at myself for being a bad mom.
Finally, I walked into my room and sat down in the corner, on a pile of pillows. I lit a single white candle. I thought again: If I don’t figure out a way to process and express the rage I feel, I am going to burn others up and burn myself out instead of igniting a lasting flame. I pushed play on a guided meditation. I closed my eyes and listened to the recorded voice:
Center yourself. Let go of your day. Now, what is the vision of the future that you can imagine? What is the story that you want to live?
Instead of whipping around the house, spreading anxiety and anger with my lectures and tirades, I needed to ground myself. It helped to imagine a bright future that has us working together to create change. I don’t know what I’ll do with my powerful emotions, but I will figure it out. Whatever the answer is for me, it’s got to include quiet moments like this. They may feel passive, but taking care of myself and processing what I feel might be the most radical thing I can do.
When I opened my eyes, our daughter was sitting right next to me, inhaling and exhaling calmly.
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