Kara Gordon

Returnings

A fortnightly letter to the people going at 100 miles an hour. We all have the things that keep us grounded: to-do lists, morning routines, communities, and rituals to keep us sane. But when things get tough, they often fall to the wayside. Here's a reminder to refuel.

A bottle of rage

Don’t be afraid of your ambition, your dreams, or even your anger.
—Hillary Clinton

I’ve always had a quick temper but an equally rapid rebound rate. Sustained anger is too exhausting. I associate it with guilt, shame, and inadequacy, as if whatever caused the anger (mine or someone else's) is my fault. I fall firmly into the camp of oversensitive and overemotional and, over the years, I have become good friends with my sadness and anxiety. I cannot say the same about anger.

To lose one’s temper is to literally lose control of oneself, and to be on the receiving end can be terrifying. I feel the need to apologize when I get angry, but I’m sorry is not aphrase I commonly heard growing up. To avoid having to apologize, I try to avoid getting angry. I try to ball up my fury and turn it into something tamer: sadness, disappointment, frustration.

This came up with my therapist a couple of weeks ago. What do you do with your anger? I really don’t know. I don’t know where it goes. Honestly, my anger often feels pointless and ineffective, so I have the tendency to not deal with it which is distinct from letting it go because I might let it go on the surface, but then the anger sinks into the bottom of my heart which is a scary place for anyone who’s given it any thought. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that anger is not a natural emotion, but an action and a choice—a view, oddly, that I have of love.

Unlike love, my emotions—anger and joy included—often come out in tears. It’s a physiological reaction that I have very little control over, and I often choose between a massive headache from holding the tears in or opening up the floodgates. Out of necessity, I have become comfortable with crying. But there are many people who are incredibly uncomfortable by the sight of tears, which brings on a certain amount of guilt.

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There is a laundry list of things women are not supposed to have, and anger is right up there at the top. Women are taught to convert their anger, to turn it into anything else except for what it is. We are told to swallow our anger, turn it into fuel for our dreams and ambitions (what dreams? what ambitions?), to be nice and polite because no one will give anything to an angry woman. An angry woman does not deserve anything, let alone respect, even if the angry woman has a point.

As I think about the anger that is bubbling up both for me personally and in the cities I’ve called home, I can’t help but push back at the idea that it is more productive to keep quiet, to grin and bear it. Anger, like joy and fear and sadness, is perhaps not meant to be carried but to be released and shared. At the same time, I have to acknowledge how my own anger has sabotaged my relationships, how many people’s collective anger resulted in the United States’ current administration. I do not know where to put anger. I do not know how to face it like I face my sadness, my loneliness, my emptiness. I do not know how to be angry well, all I know is that I must.

All my love,
Kara

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