Monday, 7 January 2013

In which I confess my sins. Number one: the deadly sin of wrath.

When I started this blog, there was absolutely no intention for it to be a confessional. I am naturally suspicious of the confessional form. It was going to be about interesting things in the world. There would be politics, and recipes, and serious lady things. (I adore serious lady things.) The Pankhursts would be proud, and since making them proud is one of my central life drivers, all manner of things would be well.

Slowly, insensibly, creep by insinuating creep, it became about me. The inner narcissist stretched itself and hatched its cunning plan.

Perhaps this is not such a bad thing. It could count for Mass Observation, at least. There is the possible balm of shared experience. One of the nice elements of the internet as a whole is the possibility of discovering one is not alone. If I am not the only person with flaky obsessions or critical inner voices or the inability to organise my office, then it is not so bad. That is my hope for this place now, even though the strict rationalist in me says: are you sure that people want to know all these absurd things?

All of which is a throat-clearing way of saying: today is very confessional indeed.

Just now, I am caught in a spiralling vortex of inexpressible rage. It’s been going on for a while, and I’ve been shoving it back in its box and pretending it is not there. It is an impotent, inutile rage. No good can come of it.

It is one of those situations where there isn’t really a right or a wrong. A bad thing happened, and it was out of my control. The person concerned deserves sympathy, not blame. This makes the rage even harder. I cannot direct it at the poor human, who is in dire straits. So out it goes, unformed, inchoate, searching for a target, unable to find one.

The bad thing involves waste, one of my most hated things. I loathe and abhor waste, of food, of time, of thought, of effort. This particular waste is huge, almost beyond counting. The fury at it, which I thought I had dealt with, grows and twists in me, like a vicious, trapped snake. It hisses and slithers and strikes at vacancy.

Fury is, according to the shrinks, one of the most difficult things for women to deal with. It’s a cultural thing: the teaching of sugar and spice and all things nice dies hard. We females are not supposed to be cross and vitriolic; we are cast as the kind and the tolerant, as if the mere fact of having ovaries makes us gentle and understanding.

Also, in my family, rage was not really on the menu. Nicer to be nice, was the watchword. So I have no muscle memory of how to deal with howling furies.

I have done it before, not that long ago. I got through that one, although I can’t quite recall how. I wish I could remember. I think: I should have written it down, so now I could have a manual to which I could refer.

It feels as if I am in the grip of an overwhelming, pointless anger, all dressed up with nowhere to go, and I don’t know what to do with it. I feel it in my shoulders, tightening round my head in a vice, crawling up my back with a visceral ache.

I’ll talk myself down. Every day, I suppose, one has to do a little anger management. I’ll remind myself that it’s just a thing, that I have all my arms and legs, that there are the miracles of my opposable thumbs, that I am not living under bombardment in Syria. I’ll take those big ragged breaths and let it go.

Tiny bit by tiny bit, I shall regain my equilibrium, if I concentrate very, very hard. It’s big work, keeping one’s brain sane. It’s like working with a horse. Just as you cannot expect an animal to behave well and know how to do things if you do not school it and teach it and remind it, you cannot expect your rational self to go on chugging along without some serious care and attention.

This annoys me, because I’ve got work to do, and errands to run, and family to attend to. I’d like to click my fingers and make everything better. But I can’t bloody do that, so I have to sit down and sharpen up and work out a proper plan, to put these flinging furies back into their box, where they will no longer assail and exhaust me.


No time for pictures now; I am going to fetch my dear old mum from the hospital. So here is a quick shot of my Number One Sanity Device, with her sweet furry neck and her wibbly lower lip and and her absolute, profound, healing loveliness:

7 Jan 1

It is very hard to be cross when I am gazing on that dear face.


  1. This is why I love your blog so much - for posts like this. I am so sorry you are cross (can't imagine what it was that made you feel this way) but it makes your writing superb. I would use italics there if commenting allowed. Seriously, for you it seems that being cross = words spilling like ambrosia. Lou x
    P.S. I hope it doesn't make you more cross to read that!

  2. P.P.S. And what is a blog if not confessional? If it were all commentary and not real life we would instead read the paper. The blog is personal and above all else that is what it should be. x

  3. Redirecting can help. A good friend volunteered to work in another friend's garden, especially when she felt livid. The physical labor took a lot out of the anger and she could appreciate the positive result: the garden looked fantastic.
    I've painted (on canvas, not walls) when furious and, at a certain point, the rage flips and it becomes almost meditative.

    In any case, in my experience it has been better to go through the anger rather than try to suppress it. (For me, suppression only makes it bigger & nastier the NEXT time it comes out.)


  4. I simply LOVE your idea of living life to make the Pankhursts proud. It certainly beats the "what would Jesus do" brigade. I am going to adopt this and stick with Sylvia, who is my particular Pankhurst hero, and more reliable overall on the "what would she do" than her mother and sister, I think. I am even toying with the notion of tattooing my fingers with WWSD, which since I'm running a raging temperature today is I hope excusable.

  5. completely agree with Pat, doing something both strenuous and creative unknots the soul (although i have found that it also helps to kick the bejaysus out of a big cardboard box, should the need arise).

    in my most incoherent moments of either grief or anger, i have found that exercising to the point where all i can do is concentrate on sucking the next breath into my lungs is really good therapy, it dissipates all that adrenaline and leaves you feeling calmer and in a stange way, allows for a different perspective to quietly form. and i am not a gym bunny, nor is my body a temple, sadly.

    best of everything in de-cankering your heart & mind.

  6. Are you sure that this anger is not part of the grieving process that you are going through?

  7. Anger that you can't virtuously direct at The Enemy is the pits.

    I used to find chopping wood (with appropriate visualisations once I had calmed down enough) was most cathartic. Sadly, I no longer live in a house with slow combustion stoves.

  8. Someone once told me to direct my rage into trying to tear a phone book in half. Not a success but hopefully, as Lou says, this wonderful confessional type of place you have here might help. Even writing down "and breeeeathe" could do the trick...

    PS. My daughter is reading Backwards in High Heels and I can hear some knowing chuckles coming from her room!

  9. Your post put me in mind of the opening stanza of one of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, so I checked online for the whole text and laughed at the ending - I hope your foe isn't measuring his/her length in an orchard somewhere!

    I was angry with my friend:
    I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
    I was angry with my foe;
    I told it not, my wrath did grow.

    And I water'd it in fears,
    Night & morning with my tears;
    And I sunned it with my smiles
    And with soft deceitful wiles.

    And it grew both day and night,
    Till it bore an apple bright;
    And my foe beheld it shine,
    And he knew that it was mine,

    And into my garden stole
    When the night had veil'd the pole:
    In the morning glad I see
    My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree

  10. Rage does pass, like everything else. But like those really strong emotions - grief for example - it has its own time scale. It might help to talk it through with someone objective (ie not a dear friend or family member who, however well-meaning, don't always help us to see these things as clearly as we might because they tend to feel so angry on our behalf. You sound as if your rage relates to a loss - of time, of investment of expertise or emotion, or of all those things and more. Those losses are enormously difficult to accept, especially if you feel they have been taken away through no fault of your own. Be kind to yourself while you work through your anger, what you feel is natural and healthy and it will pass, all best, Rachel

  11. Whenever I get really angry, and finally cool down enough to examine the feeling, I usually find out that it was really myself I was angry at.


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