Some friends of mine created a short theater piece last semester called “Women and Anger”. While putting the work together, they invited groups of female students to meet for short workshops where we explored what it felt like to be an angry woman. They put sheets of paper up on the walls that read “I’M NOT ANGRY I’M ______.” We filled in the blank with all the excuses we’d given in the past to justify our “bursts of emotion”. I’m not angry, I’m just tired. I’m not angry, I’m just PMSing. I’m not angry, I’m just frustrated. I’m not angry, I’m just sad.
I was thinking about that exercise this week in light of everything that’s been happening in the world of politics. I know I’ve been angry. You’ve probably been angry. Your parents, neighbors, friends, are probably all angry about something. Either you’re angry about who got elected or you’re angry about the people who protest it. You’re angry about the choices you were given or the choices other made. Call it frustrating, heartbreaking, painful, or sad, but chances are you, like me, are a little bit angry about something.
Anger is healthy, sometimes. But it’s also sickening. It hurts our souls and bodies. It’s okay to be angry for a moment and to protest the injustice you see in the world. But it’s also not okay to dwell on it.
Because I found myself dwelling on anger this week, I started trying to find ways to combat it. One thing I found helpful was to contemplate what I and the people I love do well. How can we love each other out of anger? I’m not saying we ignore each other’s faults or turn a blind eye to the hurting in the world. I’m just saying we start by recognizing that we are strong, and then build something beautiful out of that strength.
I started a running list and my hope would be that every time I recognize something beautiful in myself or a friend/family member, I can write it down and remember it as a strength. I also hope that other people might start a project like this too, or write the strengths of you and those you love below. It’s kind of like a quilt. With only a few squares, it seems thin. But with patience, over time, it grows and stretches and covers the ones who need it. That’s what I’m hoping this project will help me do with those around me.
We Do This Well
A girl beside me in class said that I do a good job of listening to the scattered thought of the group and putting them into cohesive sentences. I believe her. I think I’m good at hearing and reiterating what people have to say. | My mother always hated saying no whenever someone asked her to do something. No matter how busy she was, no matter how many things she had to do, she almost always found a way to say yes. She does friendship well. I can’t imagine being as selfless as that. | I have an older male professor who cried in front of me once when talking about how much he cared about the rights and futures of the young women in his classes–how much he wanted them to believe that there were people in this space who would support and root for them, no matter what. He is a picture of steadfast activism. | It took me a long time to believe that clothing matters. That the things you put on your body could mean something and tell some story. I don’t know if I dress well, but I know that I dress happy. It makes me smile and it makes others smile. I think there’s something beautiful in that. | I was sitting on the floor one day and my acting professor walked over to me and put his hands on my shoulders, looking down at me from above. “Tiny Rachel Coker”, he said, and my name meant something good. | My sister Hannah just had surgery on her back after a year of living with an open wound. She called me one day, locked inside her bedroom, and cried. Then she sniffled and her breathing slowed down. I think about what it means to suffer and I picture swimming forever with a trunk strapped to your back. My sister can carry weight. | The Cubs won the World Series, and Grace bought a new hat. She skipped class on Friday and went to the parade with her dad and five million other people. It’s all she talks about. I hug her every time I see her that week. She is a celebrator, I think, and also a crier. There’s a beauty in this ability to feel both things. | I met a girl named Phoebe who is very tall and parts her hair to the left. Her hands are eager to help. She lifts things, arranges things, puts things back. Completes the tasks that need completing. Hugs spontaneously and quite often. The second time I met her, she left with, “Bye! Love you!” and I didn’t want to say it back. I didn’t know her. Didn’t feel ready. The third time, I responded “Love you too”, because I did. | I can type over eighty words per minute. I throw that out when I want to impress people, and it usually works. | One Sunday after church, I watched Timothy hug exactly six people. I was hungry and wanted to go to lunch. He was excited and wanted to say hi. He finds joy in finding and greeting anyone he’s ever met before. It’s an eagerness for community that I have never experienced. | “What do you do well?” someone asked me. I wasn’t used to seeking my own answer. I guess she asked good questions.
What do you do well?