I am not my anger...
The tears can be a comfort, and society allows you to shed them, particularly if you're female. But anger...well, that's a different matter altogether. Last weekend, after being rejected from a local festival, while finding out that five friends were accepted, I was beside myself. I felt personally insulted, felt betrayed, felt as if I would never have the pleasure of feeling excitement, pride, joy again. I felt this but didn't actually believe it. I knew that eventually the pain would diminish, the intense sadness would go away, and I would be able to move on. It comes as quickly as a tidal wave, leaves some distruction in its midst, and just as quickly is gone, with nary a trace. I still hope that I will be included in the festival (one play was rejected, and since I haven't received word on the other, I suspect it will be rejected, too), but if I'm not, I'll be okay. I've chosen not to attend it if that's the case--not to participate, as an observer or an actor--and that's a form of self-preservation. But I know that I will continue to write, and I guess I believe, somewhere inside, that my writing is worthy of being produced, because I'm not willing to chuck it all and take up the guitar, for example (though I'd love to learn how to play), or pursue directing or singing or painting or other artistic traits. I know that writing is in my blood, and I know that the deep feelings of anguish that beset me will return, but I will be able to handle them, as I did last week.
I will admit that in my deepest hours of dispair, it is nearly impossible for me to accomplish anything. I feel lost, and have no interest in activities of any kind. I have to force myself to exercise, and my energy level is very low. I do feel cut off from others, and suddenly every little task seems overwhelming and futile. But again, these feelings do not last that long, and as long as I can structure my time and keep myself occupied, I know that I will feel better before too long. Typically, my immune system will shut down, and I'll get sick, which is what happened again this time, and I'm left with a bad cold (fortunately, not the flu), which also forces me to take a rest from thinking and feeling too hard and makes me get more sleep and just be still. (Because tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I had today off, and I haven't gotten out of my sweats, and only left my apartment to get the newspaper in the downstairs hallway.) But the depression ceased, and while part of this must be attributed to my friend C. coming in from Buffalo and spending the weekend with me (including the trip from hell to IKEA), I still feel as if I would have recovered fairly rapidly, especially because I'd structured my weekend, and was still planning to see a movie with D. (warning: do not see "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" unless you enjoy throwing away your money and your time, as it's completely insipid), watching "Kinsey" on DVD (good, but not great, though the performances were strong; the documentary is better), and seeing A. (which didn't happen, but will this weekend).
C. and I had a nice time together, despite the difficulties encountered in picking her up from Logan Airport on Thursday night (the tunnels were all closed, and I finally had her take the subway to Park Street, since I couldn't find the airport to save my life), and even the massive crowds at IKEA (which meant we couldn't park in their lot, and had quite a time getting the furniture in boxes back to my car) didn't put a damper on the weekend (though my cold was frustrating; I hate colds). But I feel that even if she hadn't come, and I'm really glad she did, by Monday I would have felt much better (or I hope that would have been the case), and even with Thanksgiving looming (again, I detest holidays, especially the ones in the winter), I am not depressed, just tired from my cold and the darkness and chilly temperatures (now only 27 degrees in Boston, and plummeting, with snow showers expected tomorrow). BUT ANGER: now anger is something I simply don't know how to tolerate. I get angry so often. When a clerk at a CVS or Store 24 fails to acknowledge me, or makes a mistake; when a student blames me for ill-advisement regarding the curriculum; when I eat too much, because I feel lonely or bored; when my pants are tighter than they should, despite my constant exercise (except during colds, another reason I abhore them); when I am criticized by a family member, or a friend, or co-worker, or supervisor; when I realize how broke I am, and know that I am the one at blame (along with an insufficient salary for the Boston area, but I know others who get by on what I make or less); when the subway is late in coming, or the line at Dunkin Donuts is too long, or when I think about how I've never had a serious boyfriend and may never have one, or when, yes, my writing (or acting) is rejected, well, that is when the anger ensues, and rage, and infuriation, and a sense of futility and disadvantage and vulnerability rises up.
I feel like a big ball of fury that could explode at any minute, and I'm scared, and I lash out, and I don't see any way around it. I want to kick down doors and punch through walls and take the trigger and wrap my bloody hands around it and wring out every atom of energy until it drops limply to the ground and I have prevailed. And of course this is impossible, because the triggers are often not tangible, and are unavoidable or unexpected, and yet I am expected to react calmly and remain in control, and this seems impossibly difficult at the time. If I know an event is coming up that might irritate or frustrate me, I can decide how to deal with my feelings. But if I'm running late, through no fault of my own (or even if directly due to me), and I need the line to move more quickly, or the clerk to be more helpful, or the subway to arrive immediately, and it doesn't, then I want to explode. There is a sense of entitlement, I guess: If I need the T to come, why won't it? If my writing is good, why didn't the festival accept my play? If I'm a relatively attractive and kind and intelligent person, why don't any men want to be with me? And of course, there are answers to these questions, but not answers I necessarily want to hear (or can find out). Even if I do know the reasons, they aren't the outcome I need, or feel I need, and so my anger is triggered.
For the most part, I act responsibly; I've certainly never been in any fights, never been arrested, never responded in such a hostile way that there were any kind of negative consequences. But the anger is SO intense, so present, that I'm frightened, and yet somewhere inside me I don't think I want to let go of it, as if doing so admits to fraility, to an admission of unworthiness, though in fact it's simply an act of acceptance. I don't HAVE to like that the subway is late, or that I might be criticized by a supervisor in a meeting, or that I might not get the part I really like, and I don't have to believe that it's fair, but I do have to accept the situation and deal with it in a mature way. This is probably going to be my greatest challenge, and I believe it will take an enormous amount of work, and there will be setbacks along the way. So the first mantra to repeat is that "I am not my anger," and when something upsets me, I will wait to speak or to react and will try as hard as possible to remain calm, stoic, perhaps. I will need to practice this, will need to think about this every time my ire is raised (more times a day than I'd care to admit), but I will take control of my anger and frustration and disappoinment, because there is no acceptable alternative. But God, it's hard, especially when I'm moving at 80 miles an hour (unlike now, when I'm in slow motion, due to the cold), and it's going to take a helluva lot of effort. I'm committed to it, however. We are nothing if not growth, and I give thanks for my family and friends and for a therapist who seems to *get* it.