Staging Grief: On Anger (again and again and again).

We are already picking apart our little camper, already finding the ways in which it has been insufficient.  We are already pointing our fingers at the lack of extra battery we’ve done fine with, and the low water pressure shower head that’s done us well, and the lack of space to walk around in which we’ve figured out a nearly flawless system of sitting down and standing up to avoid stepping on dog ears.  We are working on our anger so that we can let it go.  We are trying to get angry at our imperfectly perfect home because we just learned about a four season camper that will be even better.  And the only way one can truly believe it will be better is to gather a little amnesia and a lot of hostility toward the thing that is sitting right in front of us.  Or rather, the thing we are sitting inside of.

And anger always does the trick.

“You know,” I said to my Someone, “when I am dead, you are going to be so mad at me.  You’re going to be so mad, you are going to forget that I was actually great.”

“I know,” my Someone said. “But who says you are dying first?  How do you know I won’t die and you’ll be mad at me?”

“Because you wouldn’t dare.  My anger would be so fierce it would raise you from the dead just so I could kill you again, I’d be so mad at you.”

He laughed.  I laughed.  Likely because we didn’t think it was true.  We couldn’t imagine being angry with each other when the other was gone, because being angry would mean we were trying to move on.  And I am not so certain I ever would.

I used to believe that anger was something that came from a distinct moment in my childhood.  Something suppressed, something wild that hadn’t had the chance to be fully expressed.  In my early twenties, I kept digging back and back to find the one thing.  For the last decade, I was able to be justifiably angry at my parents and my old friends, my high school and my ex boyfriends, my dead dogs and my dead grandparents.  But I am coming to realize that with every little thing we lose, there is anger.  And we are always losing.  It now looks like a miracle that for all that we lose every day, every moment, that we are not perpetually in a state of anger.

Or maybe we all are.

There is a songwriter who lives in North Carolina who is one of the last overtly Christian artists I can stand to listen to.  And when she sings songs about coming to the table and being baptized, my insides moan and wail with the nostalgia.  By the end of the record, I am simultaneously soothed… and then angry.

“It seems so unfair,” I told my Someone.  We were parked in a lot in Minnesota, and finished listening to her record again before dinner.  “It seems so unfair that she still gets to go home.”

And that was when I saw it there, laying in the bottom of my emotional cup.  The last wriggle of anger drying up.  The last pitiful eye roll.  My years of being angry at God (and the years that may still be coming) weren’t wasted.  They were a coping mechanism.  I wasn’t angry that there was a God, or if there was a God.  I wasn’t angry that he did or didn’t love me.  I wasn’t even angry if he did or didn’t step in to save or ruin my life.  I was angry that for all my own praying, for all my songwriting, for all my seeking, I found that the robe didn’t fit.  It was too small.

I started to cry.

And my Someone cried, too.  And then I cried for my childhood bedroom– the one that’s been painted over. The one I was angry with when I would return home from college.  The one that I was only angry with because I knew that I couldn’t ever really go back to it– not just because my parents told me I couldn’t, but because I just. couldn’t.  I had moved on.  I was a grown up.  And the 101 Dalmatians theme didn’t fit me, anymore.

This didn’t mean I would never have a room again.  It just meant I couldn’t have that room.  It was time for someone else to occupy it.  And the anger propelled me healthily into adulthood.

It doesn’t mean that I’ll never have a God again.  I just can’t have that one.  And my anger has propelled me healthily along.  I wouldn’t be happy squeezing into that robe.  White just isn’t my color.  Even with a few altered dalmatian spots.  And now, I can be happy for the person occupying what I just can’t, anymore.

In the last couple of months, we have been angry with our ex Best Friend.  We have chosen to remember the irks and the aches that he caused, instead of the things that kept him our friend for ten years.  In this way, we have been learning to move on.  In this way, the anger has moved us on.  What is difficult to see in this scenario is whether the anger is showing us who he truly is, or if it is only muting who we know he truly is.  Either way, I am a bit grateful to the anger for its rapid healing process– its steady trajectory toward new friends, new late night phone calls, and even a new home for our hearts.  The startling openness that anger creates in its wildfire blazes, not another path, but every path.  And we have looked out on the charred field with steady heads and heavy hearts.

When it all grows back, it’ll be a different place.  Some of it may be the same, but most of it all new.  And that is when the amnesia begins.  The wonderful, welcome forgetting of what it was like to be burned.  All this, all this could not be possible without the cleansing– without the clearing of the landscape.  Baptism by fire.


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