Blonde, blue-eyed, 5′ 1” (on a good day), with a white, lop-sided, toothy smile: my appearance wouldn’t seem to strike fear in most or intimidate many. Small in nature, but tougher and bigger than I look, I think I’ve often surprised new people with my gusto or aptitude to speak my mind. My friend, Krissy, and I used to joke that meekness was not in our nature and everybody just needed to get used to that.
In the past few months, I’ve thought more on my attitude, personality, and kindness, wondering if I was lacking in some ways or a little rougher than I used to be. Considering myself of the emotionally healthy sort and always seeking to improve, I’ve been aware of the places in my heart that feel hard or angry, rather than tender or sad. Swearing has become more fun or truly satisfying than it used to be, and I’ve found my patience to be less than at work, with friends, or with my more difficult family ties. None of these really connected or seemed out of the ordinary. And maybe I’m not all that bad. My friend Ryan and I were laughingly discussing how we aren’t really the “nicest” people, and my roommate Annmarie said, “You guys are nice, just your own unique brand of nice.” I’m not sure if that’s a compliment, but I’ll take what I can get.
In all my life, I never thought of myself as an angry person. I think that I grew up wanting to keep peace and emotional balance. I was the sensitive sort, often crying rather than yelling or complaining. I tend to want to help people and be there for them, not really one to stir the pot or cause drama. But through the last few months, I’ve realized that there is some anger in me, something tough and painful inside. Rather than sticking my head in the sand, I’ve decided to search it out and understand it.
I can’t take full credit for this revelation. My counselor, Debbie, did the heavy load of pointing out here. We were discussing my family in a session, as we often do, and she suggested that I seemed angry and upset. We talked about how I tend to expect more than is realistic out of some members, and then get angry about not getting the result I want or feel I deserve. She thought this could be remaining pain from my childhood, feeling that I didn’t get what I deserved then. Debbie led me to see that the anger is ill-founded and really just a displacement of sadness over what life has dealt me and what can or cannot be. Anger is really a replacement emotion, a place-holder when we don’t want to feel the pain or sadness that is really going on. It’s the alarm clock going off that we continually hit snooze on, or the bookmark in a book that we don’t really intend to go back to. The gap in a conversation where you say nice pleasantries that you don’t really mean and don’t plan on actually following through with.
Anger doesn’t really get you anywhere. It may feel better for the moment, but it doesn’t help you move on and it doesn’t get you past the pain. Bitterness can be a deep root that does not come out easily once firmly planted and fertilized. My anger is not an isolated event staying in one area of my life, but it affects all parts, as things of the heart often do. The anger is a symptom of pain that I’m needing to deal with, to give to God, and to let my life be how it is. I don’t mean for this to sound hopeless, just an authentic look at some of the harder parts of life. Can I give myself grace or sympathy for the way things are when it’s hard and when it’s good? Can I let myself be sad because that’s actually how I feel, not need to move on to anger or bitterness because that feels more justified or easier to deal with?
The thing is: I am no island. I affect people. I influence them at my best and at my worst. In every sector too: my house, my office, my going-outs, and my coming-ins. The heart is a well-spring of life, or a fountain of grief, depending on how you take care of it and manage it. Clearly, I need to get it together if I want to be a helpful addition to my world, rather than a life-sucking dementor of sorts.
All I can say is I’m working on it. Managing my pain and letting myself BE. Not trying to constantly fix myself, but not letting myself numb out either. Being with friends who I can process with, or that I can just even have fun with, both being worthwhile activities. Puzzling (of course). Being the favorite tia I was born to be for my niece and nephew, who–by the way–are the cutest babies in the entire world. Writing has been a way for me to express what feels inexpressible and to manage all the things that are in me threatening to overtake me at any moment. I’ve literally had to write some times in order to go to sleep in peace, sometimes poetry or lyrical writing, or even just this post right here. It’s all a juggling act, finding the balance of life and health, but it’s one I know I can get down eventually.
Moral of the story: don’t let anger fool you. It’s just a symptom of something deeper that’s needs to be explored in order to be helped. If you don’t face it, you will continue to get harder until you are a shell of the human you could be: unable to be touched by good or bad. No one wants an armadillo sort of heart, so don’t let it get that way, ok? The end. Now I can rest in peace.