Visiting Old Friends
24 June 2020
When you have a smart mouth like mine, you really have to get good at one of three things: fighting, apologizing, or quick thinking. I never mastered the first two. The third has saved me numerous times.
I was arrested for fighting in the street when I was 17. I used to stink at apologies. I was much worse at fighting. Anger management classes were a condition of my return to school, where I was an honor roll student and an active member of the student government. Fuming, I’d sit on musty couches in a stale room with seven other teenagers listening to windchimes playing on a tucked away CD player. We were coached for hours through breathing techniques, reflections, triggers, and redirections. I learned to sit with my anger. To become friends with it, sharing intimate secrets and hopes for the future. By the end of the month, the red haze had receded. An enferno no longer burned the tightly wound curls from my head. The anger had been managed.
“My response to racism is anger. I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life… My fear of anger taught me nothing.” (Lorde, 1981, p.7).
How am I? Angry.
I struggle to list all the reasons I am angry. I know I spent my early days in the pandemic staring blankly at apartment walls as COVID-19 disproportionately killed our elders and BBIPOC populations. I know I helplessly watched as systemic racism in healthcare and education kept families and children from testing, resources, and knowledge. I know I read too many news articles about people who looked like me being murdered in the streets, in their homes, in trees left to rot in the summer heat, overripened strange fruit. I know I cried and yelled, worried I might not make it home from my next masked trip to the grocery store. Concerned for a future that might never come. My anger-managed world was muted -- eerily silent, void of the chaos outside, a place where windchimes reigned. It wouldn’t last. I could feel the anger peeping into my windows, creeping in my DMs, pounding at my door. Asking to be let back into my life.
Last week, I relented. I screamed about racial injustice, white supremacy, institutional pandering, corporate statements, anti-LGBTQ2+ views, celebrity photo ops, fetal death rates, technology access, pancake mix, and my favorite peanut butter being out of stock for almost four months. The red haze had returned to the world and I was happy.
I have been taking time learning to live with my anger as a constant companion. We have rekindled our relationship, shedding our layers - becoming more confident and honest. A friend for my walks in the park, burned cookies, summer emails and romance novels. I’m no longer fearful. This is 20 years in the making. I feel young again. My own fountain of youth.
Lorde, Audre. (1981). The uses of anger. Women's Studies Quarterly, 9(3), 7.