Friday, May 21, 2010

Anger Management

That it will never come again
is what makes life so sweet.

~Emily Dickinson


It’s not as if I needed it, but yesterday I was reminded again just how fragile life is. The 20 year old son of a dear friend of mine passed away this past Sunday. I feel such deep sorrow for his mother, my friend, that I don’t even know how to express it properly. Words seem ridiculous in the face of such tragedy: I’m sorry. Please know I care. I’m here for you. They all sound absurd to me. Because what I really want to do is stand on the balcony and shout at my loudest, “This is fucking unjust! There is no goddamned excuse for this!” Then I’d like to take a baseball bat and break something (inanimate!) until it’s pulverized, until it’s mere dust. After that, I think I’d like a good strong shot of something, and a good long nap.


I am angry about this - fuming, furious, incensed, enraged. I know people die. Duh. Like I’ve ever been given a chance to ignore that one. People die every second of every minute of every day, but this one is simply too cruel to accept. I’m tired of knowing the people who die, and knowing how young they are, and knowing how much potential they still had. I’m weary with it, so weary that I, uncharacteristically, want to kick the shit out of something. I feel like the sobbing little girl, both knees scraped, hair stuck to her sweaty face, and fists clenched as she stomps her foot and screams, “It’s… notFAIR!!!” I want to throw a temper tantrum. Yet, that whole screaming, weary, need for aggression gig leaves me feeling completely impotent. There’s no point to it. It won’t change or solve a thing. But, oh, I want it.


At the same time, my life is wonderful. In fact, I’d just finished saying how much I love my life before I found out about this horrible thing. It doesn’t at all change how I feel about my life. I do love it - I’m doing the work I love doing; I’m in a relationship that leaves me in wonder at my good fortune; I have all the material things, and more, that I could ever need. The guilty thought did flit through my mind, “Here I was crowing about how great it all is, and my friend is in tatters.” I silenced it immediately. That kind of guilt is utterly pointless.


So, I caught myself before I destroyed anything or went completely out of my mind with irreconcilable wrath. I took some time, took a walk. I looked myself in the eyes of my mirror and said, “You cannot change what happened. You cannot take away her grief. Honor both of them by living, by loving, and in gratitude for what you’ve got. Don’t deny yourself this feeling, neither should you deny yourself feeling good, but use them wisely. Make it constructive rather than destructive.” This is such a difference from how I used to handle things, back when my self-descriptive idiom was “fly off the handle.”


I did use my feelings well. I did what I’ve been doing a lot of lately. I made art. However, this time, I made sure it was messy - I got my fingers in the paint; I flung and I spattered it; I used wide swipes with the brush; and I push-smeared it. Creating chaos gave me just the right outlet and captured what I was feeling. There is no other way to say it, except to say that I felt great when I was finished, and boy howdy, exhausted.


I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge,
that myth is more potent than history,
that dreams are more powerful than facts,
that hope always triumphs over experience,
that laughter is the only cure for grief,
and I believe that love is stronger than death.

~Robert Fulghum


I, too, believe all of that, Mr. Fulghum, but I would add:
I believe that art, in any of its forms, assuages anger.

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