Angry Punish

I have an anger management problem.

Denial isn’t working anymore, nor is denial just a river in Egypt. Anger’s one of those dogs or babadook’s I mentioned in my previous post. Or a whole breed of them.

I think anger destroys me.

But…

…not in the way you think.

If you were to track down the people who’ve known me the longest in life, the people who know me best and care about me most, they’d probably be hard pressed to come up with enough memories of me “getting angry” to fill the fingers of a hand. Sure, the middle finger would be covered, but beyond that….

My problem is suppressed anger. Which is a major fucking anger management problem too.

Jack Anger Management.jpg

Jack Nicholson. From the movie “Anger Management.”

In it, Adam Sandler’s character has the same problem. Not unlike his anger management problems in the great “romantic comedy” by P.T. Anderson called “Punch Drunk Love.” Suppressed by the trove of overbearing sisters he grew up with and still deals with, and lacking a brother.

Sandler Punch

I say again.

The people who know me would likely be baffled by me confessing this. Most of them. Not Mac of course.

“Amos Parker is the least angry person I know!”

But, ever since the breakup, almost half a year ago, I’ve felt the effects of the cracks in my anger wall that “protects” me an others, felt them in the form of days like I had today. Days where things begin with a hopeless, overwhelmed deadness, where not even writing seems to matter and “important” things seem as impossible to me as a man with Down Syndrome, no money, and two missing limbs fighting to protect the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Climate change is a threat many orders of magnitude more dangerous to life on Earth than the Nazis, though no single evil leader organizes it with the intent to destroy life. And I believe I need to be in that fight, but feel crippled.

Today, after sleeping in until almost noon because reality terrified me once more with its requirement to find meaning and because sleep “promised” escape, I finally got up.

Out of bed. Reality is never a monster under the bed.

And tried to research new jobs online. “Careers” in environmentalism, sustainability and the fight against climate change. And like the selfish and no doubt common people in Nazi Germany who wanted to “live life as they wanted and be happy,” the search terrified me because it promised unpleasantness and difficulty. I would not LIKE these jobs. There would be painful grunt work depending on the passion of faith in the cause, faith I wasn’t sure I could sustain. Yeah they’d have MEANING in ways that delivering pizzas, and making good money that I care about less and less because at long last I’m ahead of my debt, didn’t… but I wouldn’t LIKE them. I’d be unhappy and unhealthy. But if I were going to do a job I disliked? No way it’d be managing at Pizza Hut: the only possibility would be one with incredible meaning, life-saving, and health value.

I’d be… sacrificing for the greater good. And not just living for my own.

Nazi Bird

But the danger of climate change flies so far above my head…. How could I ever catch it? I’m just a man!

And so…

…as it often happens…

…I get home from delivering pizzas and I feel so angry and lost and trapped between a rock and a hard place that I…

…drink.

Immediately. Several beers or shots as fast as I can. I can’t WAIT to get home to it.

{Editor’s note: at least he’s fine not drinking on happy days, suggesting he’s not yet an alcoholic.}

But on the bad days it dulls the pain.

The anger. The often directionless rage aimed at all kinds of things almost indiscriminately:  at me, the World, at people who’ve abandoned me, at failings, at Death, at my job, at other jobs, at how Bikram yoga is at 7am and denies me and the Muse late night chances to mate, at my unwillingness to submit to a greater cause, at how the inability of Pizza Hut to find reliable employees causes “It” in the form of trapped managers to take advantage of me by murdering my weekends and nights.

Sometimes the anger takes the form of wanting to smash things. To go into the cabinet in this house I’m renting, pull out the nice glasses and dishes, and hurl them against the wall so I can stomp over the thousands of shards. Or to wait until the other two house residents are away… and then firebomb the place, because I had to move back here, and it’s come to symbolize life regression, not progression.

I’m three beers in right now, as I write this.

Harpoon 12 Pack.jpg

I have three more to go. They’re open. Waiting on the beige file cabinet to my right. Like reconstituted, liquified security blankets woven from barley fibers.

Already the anger ebbs.

But I know the ebbing’s a lie. It’s not a solution.

It’s a dodge. And I’ll wake up tomorrow and, even if I do go to yoga, I’ll get home and have to face the 8 hours between that moment and the 5pm start of my last work day this week, and unless I have my potent cocoa drink which it’s increasingly clear is being rejected by my body (my gums and tongue specifically) I’ll just have to endure the horrible void of vacant-stare meaninglessness because my acknowledgment of the vital nature of a “career” in environmentalism has killed my ability to be satisfied by writing. Which leaves me stuck between that proverbial rock and a hard place.

Because I have yet to submit. To be willing to do “hard” work.

Hard Work

Writing is easy. This post will be a brain-dump first draft. Coasting on talent. You might think I’m working hard, but really it’s a kind of flashy laziness.

But the real and important work? Writing that I “get out there” and publish? Saving the World?

Arrows and inroads to anger.

{Amos pours his fourth beer}

Recently I’ve started to think more about how suppression of anger is dangerous. My uncle Mac, soon to be out of prison…

Mac Court

…he knows.

Look him up. Google search. He’s wise about emotional honesty, but if you’re not from Vermont, you wouldn’t likely know about the fiasco of his film “The Birth of Innocence.”

About twenty years ago he… went down the path of… emotional honesty?

Healing, he said.

He demanded the right to rage at loved ones. Unparalleled hurricanes of anger. Few handled it. “Mad Mac” he called it, a reference to “Mad Max.”

Mad Max Dog.jpg

Remember my post about “The Leftovers”? About dogs? About suppressed emotions? See the dog there?

For almost twenty years I never saw “Mad Mac” firsthand. Or “experienced” him. But then, while he was in prison a few months ago and I was distraught and maybe over-demanding after the breakup, sending him all kinds of stuff to read and not fully acknowledging that he has to pay for all computer time… I said I could send him money. He asked when, started depending on it, and then got angry when his brother and my uncle, who I said I’d ask for advice on how best to send the money, didn’t reply right away. And then Mac blew up at me… and in the beaten puppy way that I usually handle anger, I gloriously martyred myself and vanished on him.

You know. Instead of taking it like a man, accepting it, getting angry back if needed, learning from it, and more. And then I vanished on him. “To protect him from me,” it felt. Anger feels like hate, and if I’m going to hurt people I have to stay away from them. Even if everyone makes mistakes and no one can avoid hurting others forever.

In a sense, I added insult to injury. I compounded the mistake that financially troubled him, in that crucible of prison.

Yes.

Mac would understand the danger of suppressing emotion, though it’s been hard to communicate with him, in prison. He’s had to pay for computer time, from funds earned with prison work, or donations from outside.

Anger….

Almost from my first memories anger has been an awful thing. Felt like hate. In part because of my father’s relationship with it. Unpredictable. Hurtful.

Dad

“Like his father before him.”

Or so I’ve been told.

My Dad became a pastor about a decade ago. After being atheist for a long time, in a sense rebelling against his pastor father who died when my father was in 8th grade.

And then my father died just over a year ago. His relationship with anger changed, as a pastor, but I still remember the nervousness about his anger. When would it come? Would he hide issues with me until anger made it easy and messy to air them? I remember him asking me once if I ever walked in the woods and… just screamed, to vent it. I did that, for the first time, in July. Trying to “break out” and create a new life. To motivate myself for “important” work. Wandering the UNH College Woods, screaming and demanding that my fears show themselves. In the pitch dark. And, in hindsight, destroying my faith in “just writing” but without fully building my faith in “important work. Hence the rock and the hard place.

So far all I’ve done is flail. Become more and more vulnerable to fence-straddling dangers. In agony as I stare at the tree described in “The Bell Jar.”

Bell Jar 2

I almost never “do” anything with the anger. I rage and rage and rage inside my head… a practice that dulls the anger with partial use, enough to keep me from wanting to really express it at the real people. Especially if I love or respect them. Even email would be inadequate: I have to learn to fully go there, face to face, I think.

Otherwise I feel like… the evil wizard in “Harry Potter,” mouth taped up, casting a weak and ineffectual spell by just thundering the incantation in my mind.

Cowell Mouth Taped

This is key:

I often think about anger in terms of romantic relationships.

You know the feeling, early on in a relationship, when the other person can do no wrong? When they’re golden? When there are no challenges? Nothing they do could possibly make you angry or sad?

Ah….

But then, you know the feeling when that changes? When normalcy returns? When… they start to bug you? Make you angry? Sad?

When you both, once more… become human and lose your angel halos?

If you can express sadness, hurt anger, that’s OK maybe.

But not for me.

That’s the beginning of the damming and tragic stagnating of the beautiful river…

Stagnant Dam

…which, when flowing, makes me look like one of the World’s most amazing creatures.

What river?

The river of the free flow of emotion. No damning. Damming. And, hence, no stagnation.

You know that film/TV cliche? Where a couple has this huge, ugly, almost hateful fight? They DESPISE each other. So many things to be angry about. It all bursts out, almost out of the blue, after ages of hiding. Maybe they throw things. Break things.

Then… there’s this pause.

The man and woman stare at each other. Confused. Changing.

And then… they throw themselves at each other. Passionate kissing. Love making. The return in full force of what seemed forever and horribly lost.

Make-up sex and real intimacy.

Today, not needing the reminder AT ALL, I watched an episode of BoJack Horseman where that exact thing happened. Much more character driven than usual that show is, of course. Mr. Peanutbutter, running for Trump-parody governor and his honest, moral, and increasingly estranged writer wife Diane.

PB Diane

He breaks her computer. She shatters his beloved mug. He grabs her. She rips his shirt.

The pause.

And then it happens.

And yes, the image of a half man, half golden retriever screwing an Asian immigrant on his office desk WAS disturbing. I’m only full human, after all.

 

More and more I think about that as a broad summary of the damned river. Because it works in all relationships, not just the “most intense” ones, those being the romantic ones. If you bottle up those fucking ugly emotions, they build a horrible, unnatural dam that just fucking kills the free flow of emotions.

Friendship even. Often I think “couples therapy” could, and should, be expanded to “friendship therapy.” Or “teammate therapy.” Romances aren’t the only vital relationships that need outside wisdom.

You know how you can come to feel dead, even hateful, toward someone you used to love? A friend? A sibling? A parent? Do you know that horror?

In the intimate past it would’ve been as inconceivable as losing a limb.

More and more I’m starting to think that that’s caused by dams and stagnation in the vital river of emotion. And lack of practice handling the rapids.

Denial of life.

My God, it’s SO hard for me to express anger toward a person. Especially someone I care about. Anger feels so… motherfucking… vile.

Vile.jpg

Childish.

Chilish Anger

Arrogant.

Arrogant.jpg

Lazy.

Lazy

Hurtful.

Hurtful.jpg

Dangerous.

Biohazard

All those bad things.

And more.

But certainly not… helpful in the long climb toward the peaks of love.

Helpful

No.

All my training just SCREAMS otherwise.

I can’t place exactly where I learned that about anger being abhorrent, all the sources in our culture, but the… wall sealing in my anger (my father used to say that the clinical definition of depression is “anger turned inward,” and I have been vulnerable)… is so goddamned STRONG! And always in the moment it feels right that the wall be there.

Protecting me. Protecting others. Protecting the World…

Blue Planet.jpg

…from being… blue.

Har har har.

“Are you angry at me?” a girlfriend might say to me. “No,” I say, sick with certainty that it’s the right response.

And then builds, more and more, that dam and the dead stagnation. No flow. No fish. No oxygen.

Even adults, like children, need boundaries. And anger, as I said, can be childish. If you don’t give a loved one boundaries, and anger sets them… in a sense they can keep flailing about, desperate to find them, given too much freedom and not enough sense of their own capacity to do harm.

Relationship death, by degrees.

And more and more I feel like it’s a deadly, fucking deadly, threat to my life. Not just in romance, but in all relationships. There are surely times when the feeling that my relationships are threadbare brings thoughts of suicide.

And even in work. Career.

So often I have this… infuriating sense that people look at me and, objectively, see this… amazing person who they should love and want to be with. But they don’t feel love or desire. And then it makes them angry. At themselves, but also with me. They turn it on me because it’s easier. What’s wrong with me that embarrasses them so? That reveals to them their weaknesses? Why won’t I just STOP?

Raging River

Stop what?

Being… un-magnetic? Making them unhappy? Denying them their right to feel love?

I dunno.

It could be all in my head.

But more and more I feel like it’s the damned dam. That impeded emotion blocks up and stagnates the life-giving flow of emotion on both sides. Not just mine. I need to be able to say “Fucking stop it I feel angry about what you’re doing!” Paraphrased.

I need to feel like that’s PRODUCTIVE.

Or I’m killing more than just my own sprit. I’m killing closeness. Relationship. Of course we’re so poorly trained to RECEIVE anger. Gotta make everyone comfortable.

Discomfort is the great sin of normal life.

Jesus Sin Nothing

But on and on I placate, be nice, forgive, be kind, be generous, fail to call people on their hurts toward me (I could go into my housemate issues), and in some ways, I think, make myself into a doormat who’s sort of appreciated for that but who… also stagnates. Who’s taken for granted. A man who blocks of real love with a wall of numbed ease.

Of course… no one would actively BLAME me.

“It’s not you, it’s me! You’re great!”

No one WANTS to be slapped down for causing anger.

No one can put their fucking finger on what’s wrong with me. I seem amazing. They just don’t… FEEL anything.

Somebody get me some fucking dynamite.

Nature needs nurture.

More nurturing beer for my liver to denature.

Then bedtime.

And if you like this blog post, share it (and comment, to stimulate conversation)! Otherwise I swear to fucking God I’ll get angry at you for hurting my career.

Dogs Sharing Stick

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