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ANGER

I once gave myself a bloody nose during a screaming match with one of my sisters. I don’t even remember what the hell we were fighting about, but it’s one of my earliest memories of feeling enraged.

Maybe she was brave enough to use my curling iron or my hairspray without asking – who knows, after all, we were seven pre-teen and teenage girls living under one roof at the time. While I doubt it was something that trivial, whatever it was, lightning stuck the white-hot core of me that day, and like a long-dormant volcano, I erupted.

A flood of warm sticky lava gushed out of my nose and down my face forcing me to surrender. The fight was called, and we begrudgingly went back to our respective corners.

Occasionally I would summon the courage to re-enter the ring if I found another worthy opponent, but more often than not I would swallow my anger instead, pushing it so far down and out of the way that it changed who I was becoming.

I heard on a daily basis that I should quit acting like a smart ass and start acting like a proper young lady, but my budding breasts were no match for my blossoming rage.

And it wasn’t just my parent’s telling me this, the nuns at school had a hand in this, too.

More times than I could remember I was told, “You are a bold, bold child!” from a hateful nun with a surprisingly thick mustache who enjoyed pointing her fat middle finger in my face for emphasis. Sadly, I believe her tactics worked. Day after day I was berated and punished until eventually I became subordinate and resisted confrontation by making myself small so as not to be seen.

I recall an even more vivid memory of my anger now. I have crawled out my bedroom window with as many lightbulbs as I can carry. No one else is home; I am alone.

I carefully lower myself down onto another roof below and begin arranging my fragile arsenal.

I wish I could remember what I was so angry about, but the only thing I remember is the adrenaline rush I felt as I began hurling expletives along with 100-watt glass bombs with all my might onto the asphalt patio below.

And I remember how it made me feel.

My animal rage was violent, and it scared me more than the idea of being caught.

Watching and listening to them shatter, made me feel powerful. It was a foreign feeling, a rush of blood to the head, and I immediately wanted more.

Somehow this breaking of things was making me whole again.

Despite being unable to remember what had set me off, I take comfort knowing that I found a satisfying release for my anger that day. Still, I wish I could remember what had prompted it.

I can smell the smoke, but I struggle to find the fire.

It’s like one of those underground ones with a neverending source of fuel that can burn for decades until occasionally and violently it breaks through the surface when the right conditions present themselves, which still happens more often then I care to admit.

I find the first hollowed out blackened cave still smoldering after all these years. The charcoal hieroglyphs depict many different stories, but all share a unifying theme.

Injustice of any kind flipped my switch and turned my anger into rage, forcing me to bury it so I wouldn’t get burned.

When the cave was no longer big enough to hold my anger, it spread deeper still. It was insidious and silent and far-reaching.

I was fragile, so I was bounced on men’s knees.

I was painfully shy, so I was pinned to the wall and forcibly kissed.

I was overly sensitive, so I was tortured. One particular uncle was so fond of tickling me that he refused to release me from his strong grip until I relented by peeing my pants. Game over. He won. He always won.

I learned from an early age that men would never give up dominance easily, not even when they are dominating a little girl.

The older I got, the more of an expert I became.

Men controlled everything.

The more powerless I was made to feel by having a vagina the stronger my anger became, and every time I swallowed that anger indifference rose in its place.

My father, a kind, loving man whom I love dearly, had taught me to fish but made it a boys only club after my brothers were born. I was no longer able to join them on fishing trips now that I lacked the correct equipment. Yes, I had a pole, just not the right kind of pole.

While the girls were stuck doing all the chores, the boys reaped all the rewards. The girls felt the sting of his belt, the boys a pat on the back. My father’s business ended with & sons not daughters.

When I accepted the position into the FAA after beating out almost three thousand other people, most of whom were men, my father was not congratulatory or proud. He was upset. Upset that I would even think about leaving my new husband to go halfway across the country for a job when the only job that mattered was to stay home and take care of him. When I returned home after only two weeks, he assumed I had failed, and I never bothered to correct him.

I was thin and pretty, so I was hit on constantly and predictably by grown men who were strangers to me. But since it had been ingrained in me since birth that it’s not okay for a women to be angry, if I had the nerve to shout something back I was called stuck-up or a slut or a bitch in order to silence me while at the same time being made to feel guilty for shunning the affection I was told I should be grateful for.

Enter guilt, stage right.

I cultivated my guilt like a garden. Every well-attended bud remaining tiny and tight, never knowing what it felt like to bloom. How dare I question a man? Not my father my brother my uncle my cousin my teacher or my boss. Especially that one teacher who was fond of addressing the classroom from a seated position on a small desk directly in front of my face, with his legs spread wide every day for my viewing pleasure. Or that one boss who constantly felt the need to press his body up against mine citing a lack of space in an aisle plenty wide enough for him to get by.

I learned that if I knew what was good for me I’d stay small and quiet and stunted, but by all means stay thin and pretty, and be grateful for the attention I was getting.

So I remained silent, swallowed my anger and spent the rest of my time trying to look pretty.

Occasionally, the bottled up pressure proved to be too much, and I would erupt then inevitably feel guilty for my lack of self-control.

Intolerant organized religions, sexism, misogyny, racism, discrimination, and plain old willful ignorance all had the potential to light my fuse, but none so much as a woman still not being considered equal to a man in the eyes of the law and worse the thought of a woman’s right to control her own body being forcibly taken away.

Forcing a child to be sexual or forcing yourself inside of a person against their will is an act of violence, just as forcing a woman to carry a baby that is unwanted or could be a danger to her life is every bit as much of an act of violence.

I was not put on this earth solely to satisfy the needs of a man or be someone’s mother. I may choose to do both, but it is up to me to decide, just as it is up to me to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.

We are the only species with the ability to chose to be pregnant or not, and we have been making that unimaginably difficult choice for thousands of years in every society that’s ever been studied. We have a long track record; we can be trusted to know what is best for us and by extension our families.

In my case, my body made the choice for me. I had two spontaneous abortions in the span of two years. Does that make me a monster in the eyes of the religious who claim abortion is murder and thou shalt not kill?

What about all the real murders that take place every day? Where is their outrage? Why aren’t these same people protesting in the streets for gun control? They like to call themselves pro-life, but they are not pro-life, they are pro-control. They read their bibles and deem themselves soldiers in God’s army, meanwhile innocent people, men, women, and children, continue to be killed every day, and we’ve become so numb to it, that we largely turn a blind eye.

No person in a position of power will ever relinquish control willingly, yet we continue to hope that things will change. That things are bound to get better when the reality is they’re only getting worse.

I have learned that hoping for something essentially makes you powerless. We need to get rid of hope in order to turn away from the fear that holds us back. Only then can our collective anger contribute to meaningful change.

Maybe that’s what I was so angry about when firing all those glass missiles at the ground that day. Maybe I was pissed off at how powerless I’d become.

“What we have named anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or voice, or way of life to hold it.” – David Whyte Consolations
 
Being born female and not the male they had longed for, stripped me of my power at birth.

Growing up a girl whatever power I had left with was chipped away at until I was made empty, powerless as a sieve that can never be filled, though it hasn’t stopped me from trying with all sorts of things that never work.

“But anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here; it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it.”  -David Whyte Consolations

I believe there is an untapped deep well of anger that burns in the heart of women all over the planet, and that we must allow it to come through the surface and unleash its fury if we will ever ignite real change.

“Anger is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable, and all, possibly about to be hurt.” – David Whyte Consolations

All that time, all those painful stories, all that long-buried anger finally being felt, have taught me that I had what I needed all along, I just didn’t know it.

I know it’s not possible to change anyone but myself – and that’s a hard enough – but at least now I know where to start.

I know that for our stories to change we must change. And we can begin by using our anger in service of that change.

 

NEXT WEEK: BEAUTY

About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

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