What the hell are we even supposed to do with anger? Evolutionarily, currently, in reality– what? Are we supposed to pump out its venom until we successfully destroy everything and everyone in our vicinity? Distractions rarely put it out.
Sadness, I can sit in it. It hurts, it can hurt a lot and very deeply, but half the time it almost slows down time to let you figure out what got you there.
But anger. What is the fucking point. It’s seemingly incomprehensible most times. Flares up as quick as the fire imagery its equated to. Completely smoothers and squashes down everything else in its path like a flash flood or tornado ripping through your brain.
And all for what? Evolutionarily, is it supposed to be the kindling that sparks the fight response rather than flight?
But personally, and currently in reality, I want to know to what end I’m supposed to carry this flame torch.
Disclaimer: Don’t worry, I’m not a complete lunatic you need to be wary of working with or friending. December 2016, I tried meditation for the first time and my very next visit to my parents was life-changing. The way my brain and body reacted to my mother’s incessant outdated generational sexist ramblings fully confirmed to me the value of mindfulness and meditation.
But hold on, before I show you the After picture, let me share the Before.
In fifth grade our whole grade took a field trip to Medieval Times. Who knows why, but I’m glad the teachers got to enjoy a show and delicious meal rather than have to supervise kids losing their minds– rowdy levels matching the level of exuberance brought forth by jousting knights was left to the discretion of MT staff to decide upon. My class was placed under the Blue Knight’s care. We got blue flags and blue paper crowns, which afterwards the Blue Knight himself signed for me. I hope that actor felt like the castle’s King that day, surrounded by screaming 10-year olds.
The paper crown being autographed, I kept it in care. Sat it on the top shelf of my bedroom closet. Didn’t fold it. There it sat fully curved with its peaks sharp.
You know what’s coming. I got angry one afternoon at my family. I don’t know specifically who, I don’t know over what. I just know my anger was rage in the fullest sense of the word. Whether I was sent to my room or ran away in the middle of my screaming match in the living room in order to gain a power position (he who speaks last…), I have a vivid image in my head of running into my bedroom, slamming the door, pacing furiously, completely worked up, absolutely no clue as to how to, what to, where, what, why to do with this anger erupting out of me. I flung open my closet doors, started yanking and throwing clothes out in all my fury, and up I looked.
Oh, how it sat. A blue, a lovely medium blue, a hint of cobalt, a hint of navy. “Medieval Times” in ye olde font. Not a bend or fold to be seen. And that hurried scrawl in black Sharpie.
How dare it remind me of a good moment in time.
Didn’t even hesitate between grabbing it and that first satisfying rip. A very thin bristle board with a shiny coating, it was very giving under each rip, rip, rip. I shredded the Blue Knight’s honour as if it were my father going to town on a bank document with his full name and mailing address going into the recycling bin. Man v. Identity Thief. No, an electric shredder certainly could not accomplish the task as thoroughly as my father could with his hands– and that is exactly what I did to that crown.
Rip, rip, rip. How dare you exist in happiness while I am completely turned inside-out.
It wasn’t enough though. I remember hundo-p not giving a flying fuck as to how I’d destroyed a sweet memory of a nice day, and continued onwards into a full-body tantrum on my bed. Because I was eleven years old and had no idea how to figure out and fix what I was mad about.
That’s one incident I can remember very clearly. And throughout my childhood and teenage years and into my twenties, my parents had no qualms about reminding me of my “anger problem.” Which is such a stupid laugh in the face when you think of a child having anger problems– not including drastic physiological factors and disorders requiring medical intervention– can we please look at the people they are modelling within the home. Hot tempers are always very much accepted from those in the power position, but not the one expected to be subservient.
It was always confusing to me as to how I was the one labelled with an anger problem. Outside of the home I was pretty shy, funny, a rule-follower, and later, quite charming and genuine in affection. But with my parents, I was a monster apparently.
Plain words– where the heck was I supposed to learn anger management ’cause it sure as heck wasn’t happening under the very people who taught me the power of a bad mood.
So, December 2016, I was wrapping up my first year of acting classes. I’d been going heavy and throwing myself into the deep end of this career transition looming on the horizon. By night, I was attending acting classes or memorizing lines. By day, I was at my corporate office job, fully immersed in one acting book after another (at lunch only, I swear), one acting podcast after another (throughout my entire day at my desk, working). I filled my brain with what to expect, how to manage my career, how to find non-union gigs to start off my resume, how to not ruin first impressions with the very few casting directors in Toronto, how to build my community of actors, how to juggle side-jobs, how to receive acting notes, how to take direction from a director, how to train, how to be on set, how to… imagine the ludicrous career I’d first declared to myself almost twenty years prior.
So I was in it. A sponge fully dunked not just in the kitchen sink, but the Pacific Ocean.
And one podcast featured a guest. An actor turned meditation coach. She spoke of how she once sat in awe of her co-star backstage, an actor who was juggling multiple understudy roles without breaking a sweat, without freaking out. She herself was losing her mind. She asked how. And her coworker let her in on her secret: meditation.
To me, the person who so craved the limelight, but barely handled the nerves, this definitely caught my attention. When I’d get on stage for a stand-up set, I’d leave the mic on the stand for at least the first minute, just to let my hands calm down and stop shaking. So why not give it a go? Got this quick 5-minute meditation from this coach right here on this podcast…
Three days later, my friends and cousins were in attendance at my term-end performance. Mine the first in the showcase, a scene from Storm Warning. After a quick few minutes of alternate-nostril breathing backstage, I made my luscious entrance. Performance? Great, I enjoyed it thoroughly (my mom, begrudgingly viewing the tape later, “overacting”). But what I remember sharing the most was my shock in how my nerves were reduced by “at least 70%, I swear.” I didn’t need much else to continue onwards with meditation and mindfulness, in order to assist me on this new career path I was on. You keep on a great employee, you know what I’m saying?
Few days later, I was at my parents. We’re in the kitchen. Mom’s spouting off something or other about how I’m not living up to my potential by being unwed… and I felt fine. I mean, I could hear her words. I definitely heard them. But they weren’t landing on my nerves. They had no power. The phrase “water rolling off a duck’s back”? Me. I was the duck. I’m never the duck! (Not in hockey, either, sadly.)
The moment when your world shifts into perfect axis, boots up to the optimal speed, and lets you float.
It took my parents a long time to stop faulting me for my “anger problem” as it is difficult for people to unconsciously fall out of habits, you know, especially when they’re not consciously trying to stop said bad habit. But they’ve had to, because I really don’t give them much ammo anymore.
But when I fall out of my meditation practice for a few months too long? You better believe I’m quickly alerted to an overreaction.
And right now, I’m in a really fragile moment, speaking of the emotional aspect of my journey on this earth. I’m grieving, I’m mostly isolated like so many others (52% of my urban provincial riding, apparently, according to my Member of Provincial Parliament’s enewsletter early on in the pandemic), and I’m doing my best to give myself designated moments of relaxation and laughter and joy, to keep myself patient and calm.
Because in this frenzied time of anxiety and grief, when I feel triggered, when I get riled up, it’s not always sadness, or despair, or grief, or panic, or boredom. It’s anger. It sits there like a burning under my skin and heavy on my tongue, ready to lash out at those who are supporting me and treating me with kindness. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this anger beyond exercise and/or barf up my poison through talking or writing.
So. What’s the purpose of anger? What am I supposed to do when I get angry at the world for carrying on while I feel stuck in tar? I’m at the end of this post and I can still feel it simmering, little zaps. This achieved nothing. I clarified nothing. Guess I’ll just wait.