Archive | December, 2009

Transforming Anger to Compassionate Agitation

30 Dec

I have been thinking a lot about anger lately, mostly because it has seemed to become a more popular emotion for me, which is new, and slightly disturbing.  I used to stay up at night dreaming up curriculum for my classes, and I noticed a shift to dreaming about telling people off.  I think anger has something to do with being right, or thinking that I am right.  And that seems to have something to do with self-importance, and taking myself all too seriously.

I am currently in my third year of teaching, and I worry about it as a career.  I used to love to be a student, I loved to learn, and although I got good grades, I never worried about being right.  I wonder, now that I am a teacher, I spend more time proclaiming and less time listening.  Could that be affecting my anger, my sense of self- righteousness? Do teachers feel the need to be right?

Now, I am not a relativist.  I do not think that all opinions are equally valid.  I am with Socrates.  I believe that humans have the tendency to be like sheep, and it is good to question, to form my own opinions, to become intelligently non-conformist.  And I do think that there are some times when I am right, and that rightness needs to be proclaimed in the face of wrongness.

And I do see some people taking the path of least resistance in order to avoid anger.  Anger turns people off, it is offensive and hurtful, but then again, so is apathy, right?

And some women tend to avoid anger because it is not an emotion that is valued in women like it is in men.  Angry men are strong.  Angry women are overly emotional bitches in the middle of their period who should be dismissed as irrational.

I just want to sleep at night.  And that is a choice.  To be asleep or be awake.  And people who are awake get angry more often, and loose more sleep.  There is a point where anger is paralyzing instead of creative, and that is the line I am trying to draw.  I know too much anger is unhealthy, but is a little bit a sign of paying attention to injustice?

My spouse and I were listening to sermon podcast about the man who got trampled to death on Black Friday at Wal-Mart.  It was a horrible story.  And I went into Best Buy right after that and freaked out.  I started to cry.  I felt righteous and angry.  I felt awake, as I watched everyone there buy things that would help them stay asleep.  I think our country is obsessed with consuming, focusing too much on what we have and not who and how we love.  We have too much while others have too little.  In this matter, which is severely brought to light during the holidays at Best Buy, I think I am right, and I think it it worth of a little anger.  If that anger moves me do something to change our systems.

This is not, however, the type of anger keeping me up at night.  There was a misunderstanding at my work place that kept me up at night for a week.  I was replaying conversations and inserting more effectively stinging lines where I wish I would have said them.  This is not creative anger.  This is paralyzing.  A good friend shared a quote with me that instantly gave me the language I was looking for. “The first moment I feel anger I have stopped moving toward truth and started moving toward myself.”  (Buddha)  And that was it.  I was so ready to hear that.  The paralyzing anger is self-centered, while the creative anger is seeking truth.  One is static, one is dynamic.  I have been actively working on taking myself less seriously in matters of the former.  I have been taking myself more seriously in the latter.  Anger is starting to be replaced by truth.

Anger is a sign that there is hurt to be tended to.  Anger is an emotion that may be felt in the quest for truth.  In these ways, not all anger is to be avoided if it can be used as creative energy to bring change.  There are some things worth losing a little sleep over, but my ego is not one of them.  I began to think about compassionate agitation over anger, and it has made all the difference.

well, here we go!

25 Dec

I find myself a bit fearful as I enter the blog community.  To me, blogging has always implied a sort of self importance, assuming that all of my thoughts are worth publishing.  That my words are at the cutting edge and desperately need to be liberated.  That the whole world will benefit from the light I have to shed.  And I deeply do not believe any of that to be true.

I am still cautiously trying on for size the partial identity of writer.  My vocation is more messy and broad than that.  I am a teacher, coach, spouse.  But one of things I love doing is writing.  I have published a book and a few essays, but I do not yet describe myself as writer.  The world has not fully embraced me as writer.  My secret hope is that no one will read my blog, that it can continue to be what it has been for me in the past- a tool of self processing and discovery.

From junior high through graduate school, I was the student who did not raise a hand in class, but preferred processing in writing after days of grappling with words and ideas in my subconscious.  My book came out of incessant journaling while living in South America.  Writing feels like yoga for my mind.  I enjoy sweating out thoughts until I feel as though I have successfully offered something to the conversation.  Although a small part of my vocation, writing is not my occupation.  So what is my forum?

My spouse suggested a blog.  I cringed.  He blogs, but his blog is academic.  It has a clear purpose, subject area and audience.  I ended up at my initial fears of blogging.  I write for selfish reasons of self processing, using the brain I’ve got.  What if a reader misreads my blog as self importance?  But what if a reader is moved?  But who, really, is that reader?  Who is my audience?  Whatever is the point of this?  Does there need to be a point?  Is the art the process or the product, or is it trash?  But isn’t one person’s trash another person’s treasure?  But what right do I have to take up space on the net?

I like to write about being a woman.  It is helpful to vent about the gender stereotypes that I see limiting all humans.  I like to write about justice and how it is our job to usher peace and equality into the here and now.  I like to write about my theology students and how in all honesty, they are teaching me.  I like writing about becoming married, the process my spouse and I daily engage in as we name our heterosexual privilege and actively reject society’s status quo of gender roles and passionless partnerships.  And I do believe that others like to think and talk about these things, too.  Thus, the title.  I am just a woman, adding my musings, my thoughts, to the conversation.

But I am still scared.  Clicking the publish button is like pressing that seventh number when calling the boy you have a crush on.  Or maybe passing that note in junior high that reads: “Do you like me?  Check yes or no.”  Hitting publish on a blog entry is like sending a tiny yet precious piece of myself out into the world, having no idea what the response or reaction will be.  But unlike the pre-prom or prepubescent example, one person is not my target.  This could reach no one, or everyone.  I am not sure which is worse.  And, no is not the reaction I am afraid of.  I would love to insight anger or inspire action or be answered with the resonance of truth.  Apathy and indifference is to be avoided, yet it is a very reasonable response to my blog.  Being a waste of cyber space is my fear.  How can I earn my bandwidth?

In my blogaphobia, I cling to the lyrics of Ani, “I just write about what I should have done/ I just sing what I wish I could say/ and hope somewhere some woman hears my music/ and it helps her through her day” (I’m No Heroine).  After all, isn’t that why we are here?  We have the ability to feel connected, and that connection can do more than help us through the day, it can help us thrive.  And maybe the woman I am helping get through her day is me.  That is enough, right?  I still do not think I like the idea.  But, I shrug with a half wince, “Well, here we go!”

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