Staying Soft, Staying Angry

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Staying soft and staying angry, two realities I’m trying to marry in my every day. I stir the oatmeal that’s sitting on my kitchen table as I wonder how I’m supposed to navigate both. I’ve never been truly angry before, never really let myself go there. If you sift through my text messages and ask any of my people when the last time I was angry at them was they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you. Not because I don’t have moments of bringing stuff up, but because I tend to get over things quickly. I tend to get over them so quickly that sometimes I don’t even give myself the chance to bring them up out loud.

But what happens when you hit so many points of no return that all you’re sitting in the presence of is disappointment that’s borrowed a seat next to anger and they’re both just staring at you from across the table? They keep looking like you should know what to do next, but you don’t, you’ve never been here before.

That intersection, where anger, fear, and the need to still have a soft heart meet, it’s a fork in the road moment. I tend to walk to the left, where I leave anger behind, take my soft heart by the hand and let fear chase after us. I did it mostly because anger gets a bad rap. It's seen as such a negative experience, something that only brings animosity and tension, something that a good girl like me never wanted associated with her growing up. But, I'm twenty-five now, a woman, and I'm angry. So, now I ask, what if we've been looking at it all wrong? What if at the end of anger is a healing that only anger can get you to? I'm angry at the same person that I have immense love for. My experience here is a compilation of "ands" not of "either/ors" because maybe that's what we get wrong about love too. We're so afraid to experience harder emotions towards those we love that we make love an absolute — "I only love you if I always love you, always like you, always want to be around you." 

If you've been in a relationship that is anchored in reality, you know that you do not always like them, you definitely don't always want to be around them, and sometimes you even question how much you love them. 

Before now, I dismissed anger so readily that I sold myself short on all it could teach me and all it could bring to the table. Anger comes with accountability and with accountability comes healthy relationships.

It’s where I learned that love will get you far, but being accountable will get you laid for life by someone who knows exactly what you like.

Now I am on the road on the right and it’s dark and unpaved for me. Of all of the people in my life, I can think of one who I have an easier (read: still nauseating but I do it anyway) time getting angry at and that came with time, with the way I trusted him, and the way his arms felt around me. For every “you’re so easy to love,” I felt more comfortable saying “I didn’t like when you did this.”

But what happens when you hit so many points of no return that all you’re sitting in the presence of is disappointment and anger? Who are we in that feeling?

I am present, but tender. Too often we’re told that we need to be strong hearted during the scariest moments of our lives, to wear a brave face like it’s armor. I’ve had moments when I’ve had to do that, they usually included sliding down walls, asking myself questions like “am I going to have to bury someone?” or “am I going to have to give birth to someone?” all while minutes passed and my questions were answered by time.

Right now, I’m choosing to stay open and to stay soft. I’m choosing this because it’s opening me up to learning so much about myself. I have dimples in my back. Fingers fit perfectly there when I’m being kissed and swept off my feet. I learned that I’m good at taking shots of tequila when life burns me. Learned that I can swig red wine straight from the bottle when disappointment in others stripped the oxygen from the small room. I learned that water still goes down better for me. I learned that sometimes 49/51 is fine, sometimes it’s a coward’s cop out.

I’m also just too afraid to devote energy to anything other than staying open and soft because I don’t want to invest the energy I’m using to grow into something that won’t have the same high payoff. A brave face, creating a persona on Instagram that tells stories of all the happiness that only lives on Instagram, sounds depleting to me. Your heart would still wake you up at 3am whether you posted content or didn’t. You still look at ceilings and wonder, all while 4am rolls around. You still scroll through feeds and hope. It’s 4:30am now. The longing doesn’t disappear under new presets, after effects or content. There’s 5am.

I thought I had lived through moments of immense fear, but then I Whole 30’d my entire life and eliminated everything except fear. I'm on a journey of trying to figure out what belonging, and family, and love look like for me, but before the commitments comes the process. I had to decide what I needed my friendships to look like, before I let only a handful of friends back in. I am in the process of deciding what a healthy relationship needs to look like, before I let love back in. I navigated what my work life needed to be, before I decided on a lease or a cross country move.

I’m sitting in fear. It’s taking the air out of me, making me aware of everything that’s happening around me, challenging me to challenge myself.

I can navigate grief like the best of them. I’m a magician when it comes to turning feelings of nothingness into something beautiful and to be proud of. I know how to rebuild. I know how to fight through pain and find joy.

I don’t know how to sit on my hands and not pay retribution for other people’s sins. I don’t know how to take something that was negligently maligned and let someone else figure out how to restore it for me. But I stood beside glass doors for a reason. Let the fluorescent lights divide our sins rightfully. Mine were mine, and the rest just weren’t. 

I learned two big lessons in love this season — how to surrender and that me having twice the initiative still means only one of us has initiative.  

Learning to surrender came to me when my back was up against a wall because there was no headboard. The wall felt cold, my feet wanted to run. I had moments, when fear made me want to bow out, not because anything felt wrong but because it all felt too right. In the span of seconds I would go from sitting happily to wondering if my place was even here. The room would close in on me, the air would get thin, I would forget how to breathe and that my body was my own. Then I would see a sock on the floor, behind the laundry bag that it could have easily been placed in, and I would smile. Or I would see a picture under a lamp and I would feel at home.

I would have to walk myself back off the cliff that my own anxiety walked me onto. I had to wrestle with the emotion before I could let it die because if not, it would haunt me. It would sabotage us. 

So, I’m staring at anger and disappointment like it’s that moment of panic with my back against a wall. I’m surrendering to the fact that no one can hold other people in my life accountable for me. I need to do that myself.