I’ll just have a slice of cheesecake to go, thanks.

I woke up angry today.

Anger is new to me, and it’s the scariest thing. Everything else I feel is just that–like running my fingers over a rough surface–but anger feels like a monster inside of me. It’s a separate being inside of me, and I know neither how to release it nor to tame it. I only feel the heat of it, the intensity in my chest. Does everyone feel this way Because if so, the world suddenly makes enormously more sense.

I didn’t fly into a rage. I didn’t even wish ill on the other commuters on the freeway. But, sitting in the quiet morning light, I kept replaying in my head the same scene: walking over to my husband–who was in bed sleeping–and yelling at him for making me so angry! What did he do?

I haven’t a clue!

He was a little ornery yesterday, a little antagonistic. Completely normal behavior for him, by the way. It just happened to fall on upon which fell several other things–poor diet, headache, stress, feeling out of control of my life and lost about my future–and there I was, ready to pummel him with my pillow.

I didn’t, though. I held back. I reasoned with myself that that was a terribly unfair thing to do to him, and also a scary one. You shouldn’t have to worry about your wife yelling you into consciousness unless someone has been shot, and it’s you.

Don’t get me wrong: this was definitely the right decision. I would go back and choose the same thing.

And yet.

And yet.

I could have done something with that anger. Anger can be channeled into creativity. I know it can, and I don’t know how.

Last spring, my husband and I got in a big fight–or maybe it was a small fight–and I was so mad at him I couldn’t bear to be in the same room. But I also couldn’t bear to tell him how angry I was, so I let him fall asleep and then I crept downstairs to the couch. A mix of anger and the light from the downstairs windows made it difficulty to fall asleep, so I decided to watch Lemonade. I turned to it for her soothing voice, for the poetry, the visuals. I wanted to take my mind off the anger, to be distracted enough to fall asleep, but instead I watched the whole thing. It had never struck me how angry she became, how angry she let herself become.

I had always resonated with one piece early in the album. She’s suspended in water, submerged, just beginning to wake up, to rise up, and she tells a story familiar to most women, about self-contortion, passivity, containment, and trying to make yourself something else, ignoring your own voice for another’s.

This time, I saw that the basis for the entire film was uncoiling that need. And to do it, you must feel love, desperation, apathy, hurt, introspection, and yes, rage. Oh, the rage! I never imagined how cathartic it could be. What a relief it was to see her yell and swear and seethe on camera, to flip it off, and to never apologize not even once. She never blames herself or wonders what she did wrong, or questions what the other woman has that she doesn’t. She is so mad she’s practically on fire with anger, but she stays so cool. She doesn’t become passive, and she doesn’t shrink. In fact, she doesn’t do much at all. The song isn’t really about her.

Her job is to stand there and rage.

It’s only later, much later, that she returns, forgives, goes back upstairs to bed.

First, rage.

I don’t know how to feel that kind of rage, and I certainly don’t know how to channel it. It’s so much easier to eat the cheesecake.

 

I’ve long feared anger for its destructive potential, but maybe I need to mine it for its creative power. Maybe next time, instead of imagining yelling at him, I write the scene.

What else has anger created?

I tried to change.
Closed my mouth more.
Tried to be softer, prettier, less awake.
Fasted for 60 days. Wore white.
Abstained from mirrors.
Abstained from sex.
Slowly did not speak another word.
In that time my hair I grew past my ankles.
I slept on a mat on the floor.
I swallowed a sword.
I levitated into the basement.
Confessed my sins and was baptized in river.
Got on my knees and said amen, and said I mean.
I whipped my own back and asked for dominion at Your feet.
I threw myself into a volcano.
I drank the blood and drank the whineI sat alone and bent and begged at the waist for God. I crossed myself in thought.I saw the devil.I grew thickened skin on my feet.I bathed in bleach and plugged my menses with pages from the holy book–
But still inside me, coiled deep, was the need to know.

It’s modified because I’ve never needed to know if someone was cheating on me. I just needed to know.

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