Blood coursing through veins, heart pumping, pulse racing, fists clenched, teeth gritted together, head pulsing… the physical manifestation of anger, the outward allusion, but what does anger that no one ever sees do? What happens internally with the type of anger that no one, but the person experiencing it really sees, the type that is hidden away for so long that you do not even recognize it until something makes it rear its ugly head, whether it be someone cutting you off in traffic, someone doing something to you personally or a grave injustice in the world. How do you even realize you are harboring this anger?
Well I can tell you personally that until the past 6 or so months I was an angry person for years, although most likely no one who knew me would have described me that way. I was the happy, go lucky, easy going girl and that was true, but deep down inside of me there was an anger that I had never even attempted to deal with or awaken until forced to in trying to heal from the estrangement from my brother.
For almost two years I would be running, my quiet time, and a thought of how my brother treated me during that year in which we did not speak would creep into my thoughts and I would feel this raw emotion of love and hate, fear and loathing, sadness and rage that I could not let go of no matter how many times I re-hashed it, regardless of how hard I sought to believe that it wouldn’t happen again or that I would not ever allow it to happen again. I could not escape the feeling. It consumed me often for hours after the run, until one day I decided to let myself feel it, but also to figure out why I felt that way.
I started talking to my partner about it in a different sense, not sitting there rehashing what my brother did and did not do, but asking why I was so angry and why I couldn’t move on. It was a rabbit hole I never intended to go down, one I never would have imagined, but I can tell you I am elated that I did.
I realized that sure I was mad and rightfully so at my brother for his treatment of me, but I also realized I was just so incredibly angry in general. For me when I worked through it it started at barely 16 with my mom passing suddenly.
I was mad at her for dying, for not going to the doctors sooner, for failing to leave my brother and I a plan or a letter like the stories about parents passing in Chicken Noodle Soup for the Teenage Soul, for being depressed, for not leaving my father, for not fighting harder and longer, for leaving me with my dad (who was severely ill-equipped to care for 2 children), for not being there to shop with me or help me through the countless breakups or see me graduate high school and college, for not helping me find my dream college, for failing to be there for me when I needed her. So much anger that I had harbored for 15 years. It felt liberating to admit that and not care what anyone thought about it. I was angry and I was allowed to feel that way. I just let it all out, as it flowed out of me I started to realize so much of the anger I had harbored towards my brother over the years had little to do with him, but more to do with my parents. He was just the easier target. I mean you can’t exactly yell at a dead person and while anyone who knew me at all in high school and college knew my anger for my father was palpable I had never actually worked through any of it. The same feeling of rage that existed at 16 existed at 26 and 30.
I had to just let it out, let it flow from me like water receding from the shore. I was angry that my dad made me call and tell people my mother had passed away, that I had to plan her funeral at 16, that he got a girlfriend and a sports car and I got an 11 year old child, that he made me feel like I would never be good enough and didn’t care, that he would look at me and find flaw after flaw, that whatever I chose to do it would never be worthy of him and his love, for not being there for me as a parent, for making me raise myself and my brother, for making me so independent that I never felt that I could ask anyone for anything without being this giant burden upon them. For nearly 30 years I had been angry at my brother for being the favorite, for getting to be a child, for having someone adore his every move, for getting everything he wanted, for not having to take care of anyone but himself, for having a real relationship with my father, for being everything I wasn’t and then I realized not one part of that was his fault. He was my punching bag, the one it was ok to be angry at because I could never tell anyone how I really felt or even begin to deal with my internal anger.
When I came to all of these realizations I had two choices to breathe, feel all of the emotions I was feeling, let it go and accept that people can only meet you where they are at or continue to be angry and re-live every moment of unhappiness or perceived unfairness in my life and be perpetually angry and stuck, a ticking time bomb as some might say or in reality, my mother, quick to blow up at the drop of the dime because she was too afraid to tell anyone how she felt or do anything for herself.
I chose to let it go, to accept that I of course had been angry at my brother at times, but fundamentally I was not angry at him in fact in many ways he had been on my side, on my team, routing for me. I was just too bogged down by my own anger to see it. I had to admit to myself that I had been angry at my mom for a long time and largely fought to make sure I did not end up like her, angry, sad, alone, afraid, but also to see that there were amazing qualities in her too, compassion, love, care. I hold hope that perhaps if she was still alive she would have found the new age world of wellness and found peace and happiness in many of the same ways that I have. I learned to accept that my dad is who is and I am not going to change him. I found peace with it, to know that I may not be the person he hoped I would be, living the life he hoped I’d live with the person he thought I’d live it with, but I am living my authentic life and am going to continue to do so. I realized that by doing that so much of that anger dissipates. It simply is no longer about anyone else, it is about me and my happiness.
Right after my battle with my internal anger I saw a quote that went something like until you have chosen to accept and let go of a situation every time it is brought up you will go back and relive all those feelings of anger and pain. I am a living testament to that. I spent years of my life reliving every awful moment over and over again unable to let it go, but when I was ready to delve deeper I saw just how beautiful of a life it could be without years of anger weighing on me and I can tell you letting that anger go was the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done.