There are two ways to clean a room or a house: surface and deep.
You can straighten up piles of stuff, get rid of obvious dirt, vacuum, dust and do dishes, but when you open your closets or kitchen drawers, they’re stuffed with junk, clutter and crap. Lift up the carpet and you’ll find years of dust and crud.
Or if you have time and like a truly clean environment, you can start at the bottom of things, organize all the drawers and closets, throw away or find a home for what’s not utilitarian to you and end up with a home that when you look at, know is clean through and through.
To do that (deep clean), we often need to first make a bigger mess than the one we had before while we sift through stuff, organize, make decisions and then create order out of the chaos. When we finish, it’s much easier to maintain a clean home because the old adage reigns: there’s a place for everything and everything is where it belongs.
Many people, including me, use house-cleaning as a metaphor for personal inventories and staying current with our emotions, relationships and belief systems. If you’re reading this blog, likely you’re someone who wants a clean, well-organized home – both the physical structure we live in and the body – emotions, mind and soul – that house us throughout our lifetime.
As we spend more time growing, we have more events to organize and deal with the impact from in our lives – divorces, breakups, loss, betrayals and other nasty goings-on that we’ve come to call “learning experiences.” We find and share with others ways to reorganize our lives, deal with our emotions and then reframe our pasts in such a way that we’re no longer victims – of Life, other people, and especially ourselves.
The longer we’ve been consciously seeking to live decent and moral lives, lives that don’t hurt others or ourselves, the more we have a filing system for events that take place and the emotions that result from them. We develop systems for dealing with the pain, sadness, grief and fear that come attached to life events. We feel and release our emotions because we want to stay clear and in balance. Doing this, we believe, allows us to make the best decisions possible now and in our future.
It sounds good on paper. But the one emotion that I’ve yet to find an adequate filing cabinet, a means of organization for or even a place to put it is the pernicious, vengeful and sometimes downright evil events that transpire and the anger I feel as a result of them.
“What have you been so edgy about,” my roommate asked recently.
“I’ve got all this anger and I have no place to go with it,” I said. “The people I’m angry at are waltzing around far enough away from me that likely I won’t encounter them again. I don’t have an opportunity to tell them how furious I am, how their behavior impacted me and I don’t have the ability or power to insist that they make these situations right.”
My voice quavered slightly and I could tell I had slid into that place where we’re so damn angry we cry. We’re livid, outraged and incensed and have to place to go with it.
I don’t want these emotions inside me. I don’t want to take them out on innocent bystanders. I also don’t want to turn the emotions inward and take them out on myself.
Now this is rhetorical, which means all of you loving and caring people don’t need to rescue me or solve this problem for me. I know about getting an air bat or using our hands and beating a pillow. I know about primal scream therapy. I know that exercise helps. But the pillow didn’t do anything wrong and I don’t want to hit it.
I don’t want to break dishes.
I don’t want to punish people who didn’t do anything to me.
I do understand why some people have the experience we label “going postal.” The person who receives the result of all this unresolved anger had nothing to do with it; he or she was just the person who happened to be there when all the anger we’ve stuffed into utility drawers, hid under the carpet and crammed into our closets finally emerged.
Exploded may be more like it.
We live in a society that’s now legislated anger. If we honk our horn while driving, likely we’ll end up in anger management class, which only ticks us off more. If we dump on the person who we know violated us, the predator – not the victim – will often be the person protected by the law.
We can journal, see a therapist, tell a friend how we’re feeling but often these attempts to find release and redemption do not equal the level of fury we feel.
“Seek and ye shall find.”
I know each of us will find an answer to the anger dilemma — a safe and legal way to deal with and organize the anger we feel. Not the surface irritation, but the deep rage bubbling inside us that we feel on our way to forgiveness, acceptance and peace.
To forgive too soon causes cancer.
Often, the subtle awareness and consciousness of such a dilemma as this means we’re closer than we realize to finding a solution – one that works for us and doesn’t hurt other people, even the ones we may fantasize about hurting.
Those who have read my writing for any length of time know I don’t have many rules, but the ones I adhere to are: don’t hurt yourself or others, and don’t let people harm you. I do not advocate violence and I oppose the death penalty. Dying isn’t punishment.
I’m deliberately leaving this blog open-ended. Remember its title? Living in the Mystery.
This subject fits into that category.
It’s not wrong to feel anger but harboring it can have consequences we may not prefer. I want the peace we find to be the kind that results from deep, not surface, cleaning.
If over the course of the next three days or nights you hear a strange, pulsating scream, one that shakes your home similar to the way a 3.2 earthquake would but you check online and no earthquake occurred, don’t worry. You’ll know I found my answer.
I got my anger out.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
October 2, 2012