I’m going to be brutally honest with all of you right now. I have been actively avoiding the task of writing about my anger.
It’s not for lack of feeling it. This mindfuck of a year has produced an overwhelming amount of evidence proving that my ongoing irritation is justified and inevitable. I’m just so over the sheer number of reasons that set my infuriation on warp speed that I’ve been shoving them all into a random back corner for a while. In fact, I’ve been doing this with just about every complex emotion — and reason for it — that I keep experiencing.
I could easily blame my inner rebellion to not appropriately feel all my feels on the relentless juggle of pandemic parenting while struggling to remain a work-from-home mom, eternal housekeeper, trimmer of all the tiny fingernails, and resident family inventory stocker. I could also fault this nasty pandemic, our reckless president, QAnon, mask-less assholes, businesses and schools being shut down, Tucker Carlson’s everything, feeling isolated AF, and the racism and police brutality running rampant in our country. I could go on and on, and I’d love to — but there is a much deeper, more insidious layer to this anecdotal onion.
Not only has the usually reliable three-pound organ residing inside of my head all but given up on processing the catastrophes of this year, but it’s also aggressively rejecting the desire to problem-solve, be responsible, make basic decisions, engage in self-care, or sift through my feelings. So the thought of trying to do the necessary work of understanding and making peace with my anger is — surprise, surprise — only making me angrier. I’m checked out and more cooked than a Thanksgiving turkey, that’s for damn sure. But somehow amidst the foggy internal chaos, I get why I don’t have the bandwidth to show up for important things anymore. Because it’s damn near impossible to show up for anything when you’re more emotionally, mentally, and physically depleted than you’ve ever been in your entire life.
Basically, I’m running on angry pandemic mommy fumes. And we all know what a dangerous thing that is.
Thankfully, my worn-down mom brain doesn’t have to look too far today for reasons to stop avoiding the reality of 2020 rage and just face it head on. This past week, my sweet, big-hearted husband completely wiped out on the stairs in a fit of screams, cursed out our cats like he was awkwardly throwing down at a rap battle, and propelled an empty paper towel roll across the room with a ridiculous vengeance. As you can expect, he isn’t the only one who’s been cracking under the pressure. I too have succumbed to the pangs of anger by purposely drop-kicking my phone on our living room carpet, speed-eating donuts, and taking my frustration out on a plastic utensil when it slipped out of my hands during dinner clean-up. Let’s just say, the fork lost.
I know many of you are probably wincing a little and thinking “samesies” right now. You are most likely as tired and angry — and tired of being angry — as I am. So how do we reckon with our internal frustrations as we face a dark ass winter of restrictions, scary unknowns, and our basic security and comfort being compromised on the daily? And more so, how do we learn to work with our anger so we don’t become hostile or violent to those around us?
The answer isn’t an easy one. But it’s damn well worth aiming for.
First and foremost, validation is the key to unlocking your inner peace. You’ve got to start right where you are with the anger that presents itself at any given moment. It’s okay to experience this powerful emotion, and it will pass — if you can muster up the courage to give it the space to exist and try to listen to why it’s making all the noise. Sometimes, you might feel powerless to your circumstances, and getting pissed off gives you some semblance of control. Maybe you’re annoyed with the daily humdrum of redundant stay-at-home life and your cabin fever game is frustratingly strong. A boundary you hold dear may have been crossed, or there may be a need going unmet for you. Or perhaps you’re actually experiencing a different emotion altogether, like anxiety or fear, and it’s pulling the strings of anger.
Whatever it is, allowing the exasperation to be there without judgment will help you navigate how to relate to it.
After validation comes something sophisticated called “giving yourself a fucking break.” We have got to realize that experiencing anger is one thing, but embracing it and learning how to work with it is a whole different ballgame. Since many of us simply weren’t taught how to regulate our emotions as children, why the hell do we place so much pressure on ourselves to somehow magically know the secret of doing it as an adult? There is so much benefit to no longer operating with unchecked or repressed rage, especially for the tiny humans in our home. Taking the time to model for your kids how to accept and move through anger — without unleashing it on them — will teach them exactly what to do when they feel it too. Even more critically, it will show them how not to inflict a fiery wrath undeservingly on others when they feel frustrations rise up to the surface. For our children to grow up knowing that all of their feelings are safe to express, we need to start being open, willing, empathetic enough to learn how to offer that same safety to our own emotions.
Now that you’ve given your anger some tender loving compassion, find a safe space for it to run its course. Think of it this way: If a house catches on fire, does it make sense for you to stay inside? Or to put the fire out with more fire? Of course not. We’re socially distancing this year, so you might as well utilize this practice when you’re heading into fury town and unconsciously bringing your family there with you. Literally go outside of whatever space you’re in, find a quiet and empty spot, and wait it out. Cry in a closet like no one’s watching. Scream into your bedroom pillow until you’re bored of yelling. Breathe in as deeply as you would if there was a plate of freshly baked cookies right under your nose. Stick your kiddos in front of the TV for a little while and sweat it out to Heart’s “Barracuda” in the next room.
You could also write down all of your in-the-moment frustrations, no matter how ridiculous or minor they may seem to you later, so that you can either laugh at all of the hoopla once it’s over or simply hold continued empathy for whatever mattered so much to you in that instance. Or you could do what my friends and I like to call a “feelings frenzy” — it’s where you voice message someone you trust and dump out whatever messy thoughts are connected to your rage fest in the comfort of a BFF judgment-free zone, and you extend the same offer to that amazing person whenever they’re struggling.
It is beyond obvious that the times we are living in are categorically distressing. While this reality can feel so fucking heavy to acknowledge, it can also be a powerful catalyst to begin letting go of anything that is keeping you steeped in anger. When all you can seem to feel is constant irritation at the small shit, that is a big wake up call to decide for yourself if you even need to care about some of that shit the first place. Let go of every single thing you cannot control right now, so you can focus on what is within your reach to manage and care about. Since perpetual anger can stem from past or currently unmet needs, getting back to the basics of life and saying “peace out” to anything extraneous could be what’s needed to soften the blow of pandemic-related aggravations.
Letting go may mean shifting around your temporary priorities and loosening your grip on the goals you had prior to corona times. It might look like lowering specific household standards and expectations for your partner, your kids, and most importantly, yourself. You could cut back your lengthly to-do list and instead celebrate every single time you remember to do things like take a shower. You can lean on a crisis hotline when you can’t bear the weight of everything on your own, or open yourself up to therapy and medication like I did last year. Or — my personal fave — you may find that you want to create heftier boundaries for what behavior you will and won’t tolerate from extended family and friends who are either A) racist, B) not taking this pandemic seriously, or C) both.
And let’s not forget the absolutely wonderful option of letting go of your anxiety-ridden social media and news scrolling for a day or more.
A final tip: if your anger is specific to the baseless and persistent “voter fraud” shenanigans of Donald Trump or the horrific systemic racism that pervades our society, you can take some simple steps to do something about it. Contribute to a fundraising page of a Black individual or family. Support Black-owned, POC-owned, and Indigenous-owned businesses. Sign petitions. Listen to or read a book written by a Black author. Make quick calls to legislators and leaders. Taking these small but powerful actions over time is the ripple effect we need for change to happen in this country. And, speaking from personal experience, it feels fucking awesome.
Bottom line, the anger we’re experiencing right now is as universal as it is unique to us individually. We are not alone in it. We can ask for help in whatever way is available and not hole up thinking we have to deal with it alone. You also don’t need to completely silence your fire, nor do you need to splatter it all over those around you at peak volume. Just find that middle ground and really listen to what’s up inside. If you were never taught how to listen in the first place — which is totally okay — there are amazing resources out there that can help you learn. Call somebody you love or make an appointment with a counselor. Or you can always dial up a free mental health hotline and check out the extensive (and free!) mental health information on NAMI.
Acknowledging that we are all grappling with a potential overabundance of anger and teaching ourselves new ways to deal with it may seem like a humongous pain in the ass, but it’s the only way we’re going to survive this shit. Besides wearing masks, washing our hands, socially distancing, and listening to the scientists, of course.