Acts of Bravery Week 8: Anger. How Wallowing in the Mud is Healthy

Welcome to my weekly highlights of bravery! If you’ve landed here by mistake, maybe it’s for a reason. Maybe you should read on and start your very own act of bravery. If you’re not quite ready yet, still read on and be inspired by my own attempts at bravery (or at least laugh, cry, or cringe along with me). Hopefully, one day, these tiny steps will lead us both closer to living smack in the middle of our dreams.

img_5680I’m about to get vulnerable. Flay myself open on the page kind of vulnerable. I tried journaling—alone, safe, hidden—but the words wouldn’t come. I needed the keys beneath my fingers. I knew whatever came out, I need to share with the world. So here goes . . .

I woke up Monday morning bone-crushing weary. The kind of weary that stacks the weight of the world on your chest. The kind of weary that makes you wonder over the point of having dreams and goals and being brave. The kind of weary that drop kicks you, stomps on you when you’re down, then reveals all your worst insecurities to the gawking crowd. The kind of weary that wakes with you, accompanies you through the day. The kind you can’t hide. That makes you miss meals. That forces you to crawl into bed at 7pm. That makes you believe cancer has hijacked your body, because why else would you be this exhausted?

Tuesday was worse. After I recorded a podcast with a good friend and went to an office lunch, I stopped by Starbucks for my fourth cup of coffee (like it would help), cemented my butt to the couch and binge read long into the night. I finished two books, one I had barely started and another I only had 100 pages left to read, a total of 400-ish pages. This mindless numbing helped a smidge.

Wednesday I woke up feeling like I could make it through the day.

I did.

I worked. I read. I took my daughter to see her cousin, which included my sister, whom my daughter hasn’t been in contact with for two and a half years.

We live in the same town.

A huge, vile reason lurks behind the absence. One not for blogging.

But we did it. My daughter had a great time.

I read that night until my eyes felt like they would peel off and my body yelled at me to go to bed.

As I lay in bed, so, so weary, I asked a few important questions. Starting with “what’s the point?”

What’s the point of blogging? What’s the point of podcasting? What’s the point of being heard? What’s the point of writing novels? What’s the point of having relationships?

This wasn’t a dark spot. I wasn’t depressed or hopeless. I just felt apathetic and evaluative.

I fell asleep with no answers.

Thursday, dawned, bright and beautiful, begging me to enjoy its offering. All I wanted to do was sleep. No. Not sleep. I wanted to crawl out of my skin and be someone else for a while. But I refused to spend the whole day wallowing. I started reflecting. Guess what I found? At the root of all this?

Anger.

I’ve literally stared at that word for twenty minutes, wondering where to go from here.

img_5679
In case you wanted full-view baby anger. Too bad mine doesn’t look as cute.  cariejeanphotography.com

I’m angry. Not the seething, about to erupt, volcanic type of anger.

I don’t know how to describe it, but as a constant. Always in the background, like an underground river. I’m used to the roar of it, but it’s still there, buried beneath twenty feet of hardpan.

And I think, why wouldn’t I be angry?

I’m angry at the injustice that might never be right.

I’m angry that I  was robbed of my family of origin.

I’m angry at the crimes perpetrated against my family.

I’m angry that I was forced into being a victim.

I’m angry that one senseless, selfish act followed by the cowardice of not owning up to a crime could demolish a lifetime of relationships.

I’m angry that I’m powerless to fix it.

I’m angry that I still have to deal with it after all this time.

Heavy. Heavy. Heavy.

My heart is breaking. Still.

No wonder I’m bone-crushing weary.

Now that I know anger wears weary as a disguise, I mentally flipped backwards through the week and landed on the trigger—a conversation I had Sunday night. Couple that with reuniting my daughter and sister. It all adds up to a minimally functional me.

Initially, I wanted to catalog this for later. Like it was a book I could take off the shelf of my emotional library. So months down the road, when I fell like this again, all I have to do is scan through the catalog cards, pull the book off the shelf, and read how I remedied the weary/angry situation before.

The problem?

Emotions don’t work that way.

Life doesn’t work that way either.

And just so we’re clear, I do not have the remedy for anger. Remember my underground river?

I learned long ago with trauma, sometimes events fall into place creating the perfect storm. Like this week. And other times? Those same events are no big deal. There’s no path to navigate that will avoid all the pain. The only choice is to face it or to stuff it.

We all know what stuffing emotion does. It turns that river into a volcano that will destroy everything around us.

I decided long ago I would not let the trauma from the crime destroy me and my family. Unfortunately, as my very wise therapist said, the only way to get and stay healthy was to sit in the mud.

As much as I want to, I can’t take a hot air balloon ride over the pain and the process, happily waving at everyone stuck in the mud bellow me.

I have to roll up my jeans, stuff my feet into thigh-high rubber boots, and step into the quagmire, into the thick of the swamp. I have to scream and cry and rage at the mud squishing between my toes. At the filth and sweat coating me. I have to live in the fact that I am more uncomfortable than I’ve ever been. That my muscles are sore and my bones feel like they’re about to break. That I’m stretched beyond what I know I can handle. That I just smashed the twelve-thousandth blood-sucking mosquitos on my neck. And when I finally own up to being too tired to go on, I have to stop. I have to flop down in the middle of the crocodile-infested mud and cry. And cry. And cry. And cry until I find my center.

Only then can I stand up and trudge on.

That, my friend, is bravery. That’s choosing life. That’s overcoming.

You and I know wallowing in the mud sobbing doesn’t feel like bravery or choosing life or overcoming. It certainly doesn’t look like it. It looks hard. It looks impossible. It looks like the least glamourous lifestyle choice ever.

However, we run the huge risk, if we hot air balloon ride it through life, of looking good on the outside, but living in the mud on the inside. And living in the mud on the inside leads to unpleasant things like depression, anxiety, metal illness, addiction, (fill in the blank).

The saving grace?

Life isn’t like this all the time. Sure four whole days in the mud feels like an eternity. Your situation probably feels like an eternity too. But life is full of joy and fun and adventure. We have the promise of all the bright stuff.

I know in the very thick of my trauma, I laughed. I felt joy. I had fun. I made the choice not to let darkness take everything from me. Sometimes bravery is searching for those tendrils of light, of joy, of peace, of laughter and letting them absorb into your marrow and feed your soul.

The choice to live, despite the mud, shouts defiance into the face of pain and injustice.

It’s empowering.

It’s life-giving.

It’s real and vulnerable and authentic.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take those treks through the pain and wallow in the mud when needed than to lose my whole life because I hot air ballooned it through instead.

How about you? What do you choose?


5 thoughts on “Acts of Bravery Week 8: Anger. How Wallowing in the Mud is Healthy

  1. The hot air balloon thing sounds great. Trouble is, I just can’t pull that off. Sitting in the mud and letting go of every emotion imaginable doesn’t sound anywhere as wonderful as sailing through life in the hot air balloon. But the muddy experience has its benefits. After awhile I need get out of it, shower off and put on some clean clothes, and try to live something similar to normal. You coined it months ago, the “new normal.” I really don’t like the new normal very well. I much preferred the old normal, the original normal. But that normal is long gone. So life now becomes a journey between sitting in the mud, dreaming about the hot air balloon ride and spending more and more time navigating life in the new normal. But isn’t that the way life is? Managing the things that come your way in life? Reminds me of a saying I first heard from an old friend while on a trip in Kenya; “those who remain flexible won’t get bent out of shape.”

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