I wish I had a way to write pretty about the ugly things that happen in life. I’m getting really tired of not really having a good way to find peace with some of those things. Call it a cross to bear, call it a fact of life, I don’t care… it shouldn’t be so hard. Some people can sit down and write a beautiful post that somehow leads them out of the dark place that makes them want to stab someone in the eyes. Random or specific target. Whichever. My point is, I can’t do that.
Pisses me off.
Actually, being angry does help me get past the hardest parts of the ugly things that happen. The problem is, for all my snark and sarcasm and all my wit and pith, I don’t really get angry very often at all. Sometimes I wish I did. Sometimes I wish I could just throw things or get all up in someone’s grill about their shoddy understanding of how to relate to another, allegedly important human being in their life. But I can’t do that.
Why is that, do you think? Because I’ve long thought it was my attempt at Christianity, my effort to treat people the way I’d like to be treated. (I fail at this a lot. Usually with people I work with and/or drive on highways with.) I’ve long thought that my tendency not to get angry was because I wanted to understand why someone would behave the way they did so that I would know if I should change something in myself. I thought it was owing to the wisdom of a friend my freshman year of high school who said, “There is no such thing as anger. It is only a bypass feeling for hurt.”
She was right. Holy crap, she was 14 and really messed up, but she was right. I can’t think of a single time in my nearly 35 years when I got angry and wasn’t actually hurt, or embarrassed, or scared, or insulted. My old friend’s teenaged moment of sagacity has stuck with me, and I’ve taken it to heart. I have examined every time when I thought I was angry and realized that I was actually one of those other things. It’s a valuable thing to know about myself. It’s very zen.
It’s also really inconvenient.
Anger helps us get over things that hurt. So I’m trying to let myself be angry right now. The zen stuff is totally not working. I don’t know if it wore off, like the smell of an air freshener when it’s been used for too long, or what, but it’s got zero effectiveness at this point. So I’m really trying to just be enraged. I keep reminding myself of why I’m pissed off. And I deserve to be. I really do. I’ve earned that. Over years and years, I’ve earned it. I’ve always pushed it away, explained it away, hurt it away, understood it away, examined it away… thinking I was taking the higher road, being my higher self, being a better person. But now, if I can embrace it, if I can hold onto it, then I can finally hurt less and cry less and maybe even think less. And want to stab someone (specific) in the eyes more.
But then I worry. I worry that letting myself get angry now will lead to a lifetime of letting myself get angry and wanting to stab (specific) people in the eyes too often. Which is not good for anybody. Nobody likes angry people. And nobody likes getting stabbed in the eyes. Stabbing someone in the eyes is not a good way to say “I love you.”
Even though that’s totally what drives you to want to stab them in the eyes. Even though they see it coming. Literally and figuratively. Or at least they should. They don’t get that. All they know is, “Oh! My eyes! My eeeyyyyyes! Why did you do that?” And you can’t say, “Because I love you.” That’s the kind of conversation that gets you on the news.
So I wonder: when is it finally okay to get angry? When is it finally okay to haul off and stab someone in the eyes?
Well, probably never for that second question. Here’s where I am with the first one so far:
There are a lot of angles to “okay.” There’s when it’s okay as in understandable, like, “Yeah, you totally have a right to be mad.” That’s generally third in line, after “Um, you’re kind of psycho right now” and “Eh, I mean, I could see it, but…” Because being kind of psycho generally means you’re being irrational about what’s making you angry. And the second thing means you might be overreacting. But after that, a lot of times you have a perfectly valid reason for your feelings. So then it’s okay to be angry.
The second angle to “okay” is when it’s okay as in acceptable. Understandable and acceptable are not the same. Just because you’re allowed doesn’t mean it’s going to be met with understanding. “You know, I totally see why you just sank that steak knife into my retina. I had that coming.” That’s what you’re going for with the second angle of “okay.”
The third angle of “okay” is when it’s okay as in not damaging to the situation. Sometimes getting angry doesn’t do you any good. It gets in the way. It interferes with what really needs to be done. You can’t get angry until it’s actually imperative that you stab someone (specific) in the eyes.
The fourth angle of “okay” is when it’s okay as in psychologically hygienic. If getting angry and stabbing someone (specific) in the eyes will turn you into some sort of crazy person who is racked with guilt and you spend the rest of your life wondering if things could have been resolved without you stabbing them in the eyes… it’s not okay yet. If you can do it and not regret it at all, and in fact you are better afterward, then it’s okay.
That is a really disturbing rationalization that makes me wonder if I’m actually a little bit psychotic.
Moving on anyway…
The fifth angle of “okay” is when it’s okay as in the final option. You’ve tried everything else. You’ve tried helping someone understand. You’ve tried understanding where they’re coming from. You’ve tried being your higher self. You’ve tried just letting go. You’ve tried choosing your battles. You’ve tried showing love in all the ways you have ever been able to imagine, without ever saying, “This is all unconditional, but I’m also kind of trying to make a point.”
I think you have to check off all five angles before you can justifiably stab someone (specific) in the eyes. And probably more that I just don’t really have a grip on yet.
Right now I’m on Angle Three.
Can I skip any? Because here’s the trick: the next one? Four? It’s a double-edged sword. Lots of times, it’s not psychologically hygienic either way. I don’t know if I can get past Angle Four. I would definitely eventually regret the stabbing. And I would definitely wonder if somehow it was not the final option, after all. But if I don’t do it, I’m almost definitely still going to need therapy.
Life is full of difficult choices.