Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Years ago when I read Jenny Joseph’s poem about wearing purple when one is an old woman, I found it comical and unlikely I could be as outrageous as she depicted. And as time has passed, it is true I care so much less now about what other people think. I’m looking forward to caring less as more time goes by. This is a freedom I welcome.
Our society breeds conformity when individuality sets us free. I worked so hard as a younger me to be invisible, blend in, under the radar. I repressed anger that turned into depression, self-loathing and fear. As I age, my body may be weathering but my mind and my heart are no longer tolerating injustices to my person or to others. I learned years ago while parenting my chronically-ill daughter, that my anger is fuel to ignite my action to make changes. One rule is no hurting myself or others. Awareness of our inner anger takes self-responsibility.
At first, my anger was messy. I wore it smeared in my sneers. Over the years, I found comfort with my anger knowing it is a fuel bubbling up from within available for me to take action for what is bothering me. No longer silent I take a stand.
A dear friend of ours told us last night she went into a local store with her spouse. They wandered together around the store until she stepped away to look somewhere else. The store owner approached her at that point and stated he needed to check her purse as he was suspecting she shoplifted. Of course, she is black and her spouse is white.
Listening to our friend, I was horrified watching and listening to her recounting this experience. But she had enough. She left the store angry and fed up. She paused, turned around and went back in with her phone on video to ask what was it about her that gave him the impression she was shoplifting. She found her voice. Her anger fueled her into action and she posted the event on Facebook.
If you choose to share today, please don’t share your anger. Share your mindful action. Recognize angry words hold energy that feeds angry energy in you and around you. Anger can be contagious and explosive, and as with any combustible, mindfulness is called for.
We are cultivating peace in our bodies, peace in our minds and hearts, peace in our words and actions. Breathe in peace and breathe out peace. When anger arises, it is to be honored. Use it for fuel to find your voice and speak your truth. Hold the reins on impulses to lash out and remember to breathe. As we sit in meditation, we sit in our truth of who we are.
I cannot really change how tall I am, but I can change how tall I stand. I cannot really change how old I am, but I can change how young I feel. I cannot really change how well I see but I can change how well I learn. I cannot really change the color of my skin or the sound of my voice, but I can change the colors of my expressions. I cannot really change my bone structure, but I can change the structure of my thoughts. I cannot really change the coldness I received, but I can change the warmth with which I give. I cannot really change my sensitive nature, and God knows I’ve tried, but I can change the nature of my environment: No longer room for stones, but soil fertile and soft, Where flowers like me can grow. Where we can cherish it all. Where all our gifts can glow. Where we all can become the heroes that we were meant to be.
I was moved by the readings. That list of five or six things in the poem that show the power of choice, that it rests within us. Even if you feel frail or weak, you can choose the growth. I realized how much that second reading relates back to the first reading. I’ve done racial justice work in our community. There’s a little window where people really choose to learn and step into the unknown. This little window is like a whisper that happens as I enter a meditation every morning. It’s like how the sun rises over the horizon, and you see this little peek of the streams of rays of the sun coming up. That’s exactly how we come to a new understanding. And it’s so related to the awareness of the silence as we enter that space every day. And I believe that nothing is beyond transformation from that space, be it racial justice or me being with all of you and discovering this group. A portal, a dawning. And the awareness and the choice.
I love the serendipity of things. I’m learning a new meditation technique, called focusing. I did a practice yesterday, where I went in and what I found in my body was anger. What you wrote about anger helps me reframe it, because what I found was how afraid of anger I am. Like your friend who was able to walk away, breathe through it, and then come back. That’s a technique I’m just learning. I feel righteous rage, and it’s not helpful. The reframing of using anger as a fuel is helpful to me because it frames it in a positive way and I don’t have to be afraid of it.
I was thinking about anger, and my experience of it is that anger is in us. It’s about us. Yes, there are things that set us off outside, but we can let it go. We can say, in some cases, I don’t want to be angry about this anymore. It doesn’t serve me. It gets between me and the person I care about. It’s wonderful to have that sense of stepping beyond that, of saying I was angry, I’m not going to do that anymore. It’s like dropping those rocks beneath our arms, just letting them go. And it’s amazing. I can’t do it in every case. I think it also comes from our expectations of how that person should treat us, rather than expectancy of what does this person need, not just what do I need.
All the voices this morning are bringing me to tears because I got so angry yesterday at something someone said regarding black lives matter and how people just align themselves without thinking. It’s amazing we are talking about anger. I appreciate the words and reading. I love this person dearly. I’m going through a tough time trying to love her and forgive her. Remembering to be gentle with myself through the process is important.
In my meditation, I thought about what a friend said 35 years ago. When I was exhibiting my anger about the unfairness of life, she said, “I see you have your angry pants on today.” It changed my perspective. I don’t have angry pants on all the time, but I put them on and they have suspenders and they fit snugly. It helps me reframe the feeling, and own my anger. It wasn’t defining me. It’s something I had to feel. In the meditation, I pictured her and thanked her.
It’s always amazing the readings and how they fit into my world. Last week, I had an encounter with a police officer. They were doing roadwork and he was on the detail to move the traffic. I was trying to drive out of my driveway and he was ignoring me and I gestured ‘what’s going on?’ He came running across the street. I had my car window down, no mask on. He puts his hands on the window, no mask on, and said, “what would you do if I wasn't here?” And all I could think of was that he was yelling in my face with no mask. I grabbed my mask and gestured at him and said, “get away from me, you don’t have a mask on.” He ran out and stopped traffic and almost got hit. I’ve been trying to figure out what that was about. It came to me this morning. There was a Black Lives Matter sign right there, and he was feeling threatened, that he’s going to lose his job. That’s my take. I did nothing. It reminded me we are living in a world with a lot of anger and a lot of tension, coming from a lot of different directions. I found it helpful to see the broader picture.
In my 20s, I could not be angry. My father’s anger was so huge and ugly. I never wanted to be like him and how he treated me with his anger. So I couldn’t feel my anger. A therapist gave me a tape recorder to yell into in my privacy, and I still couldn’t do it. It was years later when I got angry at another therapist that I was able to express my anger. Even though I knew it was irrational, she helped give me permission to express my anger and I did because I felt safe. It is a feeling of power. Controlled anger is a way to stand up for myself and state my truth.
As a teacher of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, I see again and again fear is always behind anger. When anger is out of control, fear is hidden unrecognized and feeding the anger. It’s so important to look under anger to find the hidden fears needing to be heard.