I found myself in the middle of Target bristling with irritation. The subject of my irritation oddly enough was a tree-climbing Santa. The pre-ordered Santa had somehow been lost in the Christmas melee, and the overworked holiday staff member's indifference to my missing Santa was causing my jaw to clench, my body to stiffen, and my anger levels to spike.
I huffed out sans Santa and somewhere in the parking lot my irritation gave way to full-blown rage. It surprised me that I found myself pounding the steering wheel and screaming in my car out of frustration, despair, and exhaustion.
The Santa meltdown was the culmination of weeks of frustration, fear, and anger, but it was deeper.
For the past several months I had been stuffing my emotions deep and whitewashing my world in fake gratitude. I used gratitude as a panacea for all that ailed me.
I thought if I could cover the fear, the anger, the inadequacy that I felt with gratitude then the anger would disappear. The trouble was that gratitude wasn't authentic. It was surface and fragile. It was offered because I was scared of the fear and the anger that lay beneath.
Anger began to crease the thin veneer of gratitude that I had painted my world in. Anger was the signal to something deeper. I was profoundly sad, but there was no time for sadness. I'm a fixer and I had things and people to fix.
I began to suspect my incessant doing was not going to work when the anger kept spontaneously erupting. Mainly it was directed at those closest to me. It broke my heart when my children would look at me bewildered when getting dressed for school some days morphed into a scene from Full Metal Jacket.
I knew I had to face my rage, but I didn’t want to look at it because coupled with the rage was such disappointment. I made poor choices in my past and I was embarrassed and angry and paralyzed.
Anger became trapped in my body contracting my solar plexus, pinching my shoulders, inflating my gut.
The rage was stuffed deep and trapped in my cells. Every once in awhile it would send up a smoke signal. A flash of anger from nowhere provoked by nothing.
My body was suffering and my anger was talking to me, saying, “I’m in here. Would someone please face me, deal with me, and release me.”
I did my best to squash it back down. I couldn't face the depths of my anger. So I did my best to extinguish it with platitudes and vanquish it deeper because I felt it didn’t belong.
I thought there must be something wrong with me if I got mad.
So I tried to hide the anger from myself and others. I tried to be more.
My mantra was. I need to be more. I need to be more grateful. I need to be more giving, more kind and give more of myself.
I achieved none of those goals. The only thing I successfully became more of was irritated.
The doing kept me from looking.
The doing did not keep me from feeling.
Anger would roar from deep within sparked by innocuous things like missing Santa's and children who won't get dressed on command.
Mixed in with the rage was the feeling I did not have permission to be mad. I could not permit myself to sit in sadness and rage. I thought that was weak.
There was no time for weakness and sorrow.
I was supposed to be learning lessons, feeling gratitude, practicing forgiveness, becoming a better person.
Then why was I so angry?
Anger, like the unknown, makes us uncomfortable. We aren’t sure what to do with it, how to hold it, handle it, or create space for it.
My anger stemmed from 41 years of stuffing, peacekeeping, hiding, doing, and avoiding.
Anger is a warning sign that it's time to look under the hood. It's also as Martin Luther King says "a transforming force." How we heal our anger determines how we transform.
I started boxing to get back in shape, but recently it has become my moving meditation. I had no idea how deep within me anger was housed until I felt it move in my body. As it began to come up I worried it might engulf me. With every blow to the bag I was forced to feel my anger as it coursed through my body. Feeling the physical manifestation of all that rage helped me to face it.
In the movement is where the transformation slowly started to take place.
Moving my body helped me displace the stagnant rage.
I began to stare it in the face and say, "You don’t serve me stuffed deep down within. It is time to move out. "
I created a new mantra.
Give me the strength to change and the grace to forgive myself and to ask for forgiveness of others.
Help me replace the angry drill sergeant who dominated my children's mornings with the loving momma they deserve.
As anger slowly began to burn off and space began to clear the transformative lesson further revealed itself.
We are allowed to have the full spectrum of human emotions and not feel less than because we do.
Anger is normal.
You can be angry with someone and still love them. The emotions are not mutually exclusive. You can be angry with yourself and still grant yourself grace and love.
The way forward to an authentic experience is through forgiveness.
We can’t be authentic, or grateful if we are stuffing, hiding, and denying our feelings.
We need to sit with our anger and allow it to manifest and move on if we want true forgiveness and authentic gratitude.
I'm learning to release the anger and watch it shift and burn and ignite my authentic self.
We are all constantly evolving, becoming, and clearing space for the best version of ourselves.
Sometimes to do that we need to do less, fix less, pay attention to what lies beneath, and revel in the human capacity for forgiveness. We need to marvel in the concept of forgiveness and extend it daily to ourselves. Sometimes it takes a Santa moment to wake us up.