I resent that my anger for so long has felt like something unusual. That I think myself a strange woman for having such ability to rage and for being able to sink into such deep despair as well as launch into straight-up hallelujah heights. I have felt like it made me a weirdo, some evolutionary anomaly, something Darwin’s processes should have taken care of years earlier when in fact my emotional range is only unusual in that it opposes the cultural prescription that women don’t get angry. Angry, sorrowful women get prescription medications, not high fives. I say no to this.
My anger is perfectly normal for a human. It’s abnormal for a woman and even more so for men who are allowed 2 emotions – amused and angry – and that makes me even angrier. It’s infuriating that my normal range of anger, fear, despair, tears, joy, ecstasy, isn’t seen as a strength but rather a deep defect that makes other people feel awkward. Like God bless their hearts to the women who had the misfortune to be nearby when I found out my dad had dropped dead at a Love’s truck stop in Avalon, AZ. I tried so hard to stop the horrific sounds coming out of my throat. I couldn’t. A lovely supervisor whisked me into an office for which I was grateful yet still unable to get a grip even as in my head I was shouting, “For fuck’s sake Michelle, get a gawddamn holda yerself!” Even in my head my accent gets thick under stress. I was burning and ashamed of my display, unable to stop even as I saw the level of discomfort in two beautiful, caring women who I know without a doubt love me and who were trying to be there for me even as they struggled with their faces, all three of us trapped in a swirling out of control pool of – SHIT! THIS IS BEYOND AWKWARD!
One of these poor women had already been subjected to an unexpected large burst of emotion from me quite a few months earlier. In driving to work one morning a roadside rabbit jumped from the grass into my tire. I saw the flash of it jumping and then the awful noise that happens when your car impacts an animal. I had never run over or into any living thing before.
I take that back. Once when my daughter was 4 years old on our way back from Denver to Ft. Collins, CO where we lived a pigeon suicided on the front of my car. Wait. This isn’t a pattern is it? No, no it was just these two times. Anyway, my daughter screamed and started crying and shouting I had hit the bird on purpose. I was so upset I started crying too which of course she assumed were guilt tears instead of, what the hell do I do with this 4-year-old girl who thinks these are I’m a bird murderer tears.
Ok, so the rabbit thing happened. I called a friend and burst into hysterical sobbing. I was a mess. I’m admittedly a complete animal fanatic and beat myself up with guilt over any real or imagined transgression against our furry companions. I’m not a vegan or anything significantly obnoxious like that but I love animals even snakes and sharks! Not mice though, mice are gross. Mice are included in this book in some other chapter.
I felt like a murderer. Or at least an involuntary bunnyslaughterer. I got myself together on the rest of my drive and went into work. I was walking past my friend’s desk when she like a crazy person asked me how I was doing. I started to say, “Oh I’m fine, pretty good actually this here fine morning.” Instead I said, “Oh good! Well, except I ran over a rabbbbbbbbbbb…sob, sob, sob, iitttttt this morning.” I tried to stop the flow and managed to choke 80% of that shameful public display of emotion off when I saw her already large blue eyes had grown as big as hotel salad plates. She said, “I’m sorry. I’m not really sure what to say right now.” I mumbled something about God knows what and kept going.
There’s no blame here because we’re trained out of our emotions in certain professions. As social workers trying to survive the horrors of working in child protective services, which is where we were, tears were not an option. The culture in that world is like most trauma based employment, the less emotion the better. But here’s the thing with emotions, big emotions aren’t wildly swinging strange forces. It’s not irrational to cry when a rabbit suicide jumps on your tire that is if you give a damn about little creatures anyway. It’s not abnormal to howl with shock and grief when your complicated father drops dead and leaves you holding the bag of the last year of arguments and disappointment that happened between the two of you. It’s not a failing as someone working with broken families to want to cry every minute of every damn day.
Emotions are simply what it means to be a human being. Big feels, small feels, courtesy laughs, donkey hee-haw laughs, a sniffle, and all the way to a snot bubbling sob fest, yep, all normal. Ugh! I have been perfectly normal all this time! It is this repressive Anglo-Saxon or whatever culture that is aberrant, oppressive, and strange. In other words, it’s not me, you and all the other emoters, it’s the ones still wearing their masks and the embedded story that we need to knock it off because all our emoting is making the masks slip damn it!
Who wants to be around when a bunch of social masks fall off? What kind of freak show will we witness then? Look out! Emotional anarchy! Feelings chaos! You know what I say? Pass the popcorn and the Kleenex because that kind of shit show is going to be well worth seeing.