“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was two and a half years old when my brother was born. He arrived on New Year’s Day in the midst of Britain’s snowiest winter. The midwife did not make the home delivery because her car was stuck in the snow. His birth story made the local papers. My great grandmother had been summoned to look after me and my mother had tried to prepare me as best as she knew how for the birth by telling me that whatever happened she would not leave me. Whilst my mum was in labour my distant and matronly Victorian childminder would not allow me into the bedroom. This is my first memory of anger. Clashing cymbals reverberated in my head alongside the sound of screeching Sopranos. The pit of my gut ached. My skin was prickly; I perspired and chilled. I sat on the third creaky stair up and bawled in anger and rage................. and yes fear.
When I was three I was “put” in a fancy dress contest against my will. I dressed as a jockey and family legend has it that I ran around the ring hitting people with my stick. This anger was fuelled by indignation, being made to do what I did not want to but also by the fact that I did not want to get it wrong; I didn’t know what was expected of me .................................. and yes fear.
Two days ago I was angry. This emotion from my childhood has not left me although it comes out in different ways now. I had lovingly put together a well-thought out package of presents for a child’s birthday. Nothing themed; nothing gaudy; some useful clothes; a beautiful book; a home-made CD comprising photographs from his first year set along with the beautiful song “Hush-a-bye Mountain”, which I sing to him when I rock him to sleep; a record of money which I am putting by for when he is older. You get my drift. I had tried to make it perfect.
I sent a text in the morning to the parents saying “Happy Birthday” and waited for a response all day. Inwardly I was restless and fretful. My gut felt empty and churned. I thought back over the other times I had been disappointed by these people. Couldn’t they appreciate how important this was to me? I sat in pain. How many “minutes of happiness” did I lose? Eventually I got a wonderful text back late evening and all was well.
Why was I angry? My self-esteem was hit. I was impatient and controlling. I worried they did not like me or the presents; that I had done something wrong...............................................and yes fear.
This infuriation was also layered over an old list of wrongs replaying like a slow drip from an unfixed tap surreptitiously adding layer upon layer of limescale over my soul – shutting me off from the clear light which brings me happiness.
How many thousands of times have I felt the emotion of anger in the 56 years in between these incidents? Sometimes as a ferocious explosion of molten lava wrenched from the guts of our Mother Earth. Sometimes as a noxious pungent heavy cloth reeking of decay and yet burning away the top layers of my skin. Often as little nicks and snips, sharpening the edges of my being. And do you know what, deep down when I examine myself, yes, it has all been about fear.
My self is afraid of whether people like me or not; it is afraid of failure ; of looking a fool; of running out of money; sometimes (not often, nowadays) of “dangerous” situations. And, the big one for me - a fear of being abandoned and unloved. My anger all comes from these fears.
What I am coming to learn is that anger, is of course, natural. Sometimes I have expectations of people which are way too high. Sometimes I forget what is going on in other people’s lives. I can be extremely selfish, thinking about myself so much. Yes, I usually have a part to play in this pain.
But anger is natural. It has uses – it can galvanise people into action; it can help us set boundaries. I remember I do have a soul – a very fragile soul at times. It gets hurt; bits splinter off but I now realise that is normal and actually it is OK. When I am hurt I can forgive or if I cannot forgive then I can work on forgiving. I can remember the old biblical lesson of not letting the sun go down on my anger.
I can be much more accepting of these feeling nowadays. I can pause and examine them. I can look at what hurts and take time to heal the edges on those jagged slivers of glass. Let them be washed over and round their edges into beautiful sea glass. I can sit with the emotions and let them ride. The more trust I have in the benevolent light of this Universe it is all actually OK. To know it is all OK and I am accepted and loved whatever cleans that fear away. Pausing, feeling, accepting and trusting allow me to deal with these emotions. I am alive – and anger and fear is all just part of that wonderful kaleidoscope which is my life.