How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.
– Marcus Aurelius
Anger is hard for me to write about. It is probably hard for most people to write or talk about. I most certainly would rather write about children, art, or cupcakes. However, the whole point of beginning again in writing this blog is to take risks. I have always encouraged the people in my life to take risks: my husband, my friends, and my students. I have been very brave having others put themselves out in front, diving into the deep water, taking a chance. All the while, I remain in the shadows not talking about anger. And so… I begin.
Talking about anger means talking about my family. I grew up in a very angry household. Not everyone was angry. Just one. It only takes one. One can cloud everything. That one for me was my father. My father could be a very generous and amicable man, and then for no apparent reason, he would become intensely angry. I was a witness to his anger countless times, and it made me into a reticent child. It has taken my whole adult life to come to terms with this and to heal. I am still healing. And my father, at the age of 94, is still changing and growing. Now, when he gets angry, he catches himself and gains self-control.
My father is a World War II veteran. He was 18 years old when he enlisted into the Marines, served in Guam, and took part in the bloodiest of fighting – the Battle of Sugar Loaf Hill. My father survived the war, but most certainly had PTSD that went untreated for decades. His trauma was carried from the battlefield and into our little, suburban Cape Cod. From the outside, our home was distinctly neat and quiet. Inside, there was always a storm brewing.
I became very adept at detecting storms, as did my sister and mother. They would run for cover. I, on the other hand, would run straight for the storm, trying to tame it. Not a good idea when you are four and six and ten and fifteen. Not a good idea at any age. I was tenacious and resilient, but I was left in a wake of anger that it took me years to understand and overcome. When my father was in his eighties, he self-published a book about his war experiences called The Timid Marine. It was while reading his book that I began to fully understand where his anger had originated.
As I grew, though shy and reticent, I also had a great deal of hidden anger. I kept it locked tightly in a box. I was determined NOT to be my father. And I wasn’t, but that didn’t mean I had a handle on my anger. It was only when I started to write a novel-in- verse a number of years ago that I began to delve into my relationship to anger and how deeply my father’s behavior affected me.
In the morning before setting out
We go to Falls Park,
Watching the water cascade
I think about my father and me.
We are two rocks,
Rock against rock,
Striking and striking back,
Sparks fly – air ignites –
Chips of stone – pieces of each of us
Lay broken on the ground.
Aunt Connie tells me –
Water is stronger than stone.
I need to learn to be the water:
Blue, cold, crystal clear,
Flowing past the stone,
Carving an open space,
Leaving the stone smooth
Rounded – ready to listen –
Washing up the pieces
And carrying them away with me
Out to the ocean’s edge.
Recently, I heard Dr. Marc Brackett talk about his new book, Permission to Feel at the Bright & Quirky Summit. Dr. Brackett is the Founding Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. He developed a system called RULER, which helps children and. young adults manage and regulate their moods and emotions. This type of work has always intrigued me, because I feel that in order to create a productive and happy life, one needs to develop social/emotional skills, but that has not always been a well-understood science. As Dr. Brackett writes, “First, emotion skills must be acquired. Nobody is born with them all in place and ready to work. Emotion skills amplify our strengths and help us through challenges.” Last week, a former colleague of mine, Deborah Kris, wrote about Dr. Brackett’s work in her article, “When a Child’s Emotions Spike, How Can a Parent Find Their Best Self?” These studies on Emotional Intelligence are so important and give me hope that families may be able to better understand, manage, and build relationships, even if it takes decades.
11 thoughts on “Anger”
Your story has similarities to my own. We weren’t stone to stone, but I certainly wasn’t water. I wish I could have been, but it is too late now. Thank you for sharing this story and the resources.
This is a beautiful, heart felt piece of writing. It resonates with me. My father had some anger issues as well. He was drafted into the Marines from his High School reserves at 17. It was the Korean War and he was wounded in action. During his life I didn’t really understand this trauma. Near the end of his life I asked him if he ever thought about the was and he said everyday. Wow. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story.
Your poetry steals my heart. I’m grateful you told the backstory. It takes a lot of courage to write raw and real. I’m so grateful you did.
PS — I think I’m getting stuck in your comment queue…I left a comment last week, but it says it is “awaiting moderation.”
Wow! Just wow.
Such a beautiful, thoughtful, vulnerable, hopeful, and helpful piece of writing. So much about this, I love.
Thanks so much for sharing. You, and all of us who have the opportunity to read this, will be blessed for sure!
Hi Molly! I’m hoping you’ll join our little community at Sharing our Stories: Magic in a Blog: http://www.sharingourstoriesmagic.com.
Hi Ruth! Thanks so much for your invitation. I follow your blog and love your writing. I happily, humbly, and gratefully accept your invitation!
I just went to the page, and read just a bit. For some reason, it all made me weep. But, with tears streaming down my face, I accept! I will look at your link again in a bit. Perhaps with a glass of wine, lol.
I think, perhaps the origin of my tears is the invitation — to begin again, to be ok with all of what I am experiencing, feeling, thinking, and to embrace, amidst all the craziness of these days, everything — the joy, the grief, the blessedness, the angst, the known, the unknown, and perhaps the wonderful beauty of life, and self … even as we live these days of strangeness.
Thank you again, Ruth. This in itself is a beautiful beginning. Blessings to you!!!
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You captured so much around emotions and shared your own journey – thank you. I recently heard about this book and now I need to check it out.
I love the name of your blog, Word Dancer. The image it conjures makes me smile and look forward to the next time we meet on the blog. What a powerful post on anger and how it has been part of your life. You are so smart to learn about anger and understand it. I hope writing this gave you some resolution and peace.
Thank you, Elsie. I’ve been writing poetry since I was a child, so I have always thought of myself as dancing with words. It has taken me a long time to deal with anger. It is a tricky thing and yes, I’m moving towards resolution.
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Your poem is so striking. It reminded me of Kekla Magoon’s book titled The Rock and the River, which is about father/son/brother relationships. Although your words shed new light on the metaphor. So powerful.
Hello! So nice to meet you through #sosmagic. The imagery in your poem–the stones and the water–beauty and harshness. Anger and clarity. Wow. It just makes me want to ponder.
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