The anger persists and the taste of past pains still lingers. This wouldn’t surprise or concern me if it was headed in a healing direction. However, it appears to be growing like black mold in a leaky basement. Where is this coming from? What propels this momentum of dysfunction? Most people have lifetime of struggles and they can seemingly brush them off and start over. Most people can let go and will not tolerate festering cynicism. I want to be this kind of soldier. I toil to become one of these individuals who can find self contentment and peace amongst the greatest difficulties. Everyone knows how unhealthy anger can be – both psychologically and physically. Do I genuinely want to drop dead from a failed heart and leave this world at an age too soon? Certainly not. I have more business to tend to, more happiness to find, more experiences to make the dips in life worth it all. So, how does one go about evolving from the pain and making it a treasured lesson instead of a perpetually open wound?
Perhaps I have to discover the origin of the achiness. I say ache because it is my belief that anger develops from pain. And as it sits unresolved in the belly of the experience, it becomes stronger, much like a cancer. Chemo and radiation will not aid in relieving these emotions. So what will?
In all reality, it likely started with my father. My dad left when I was about 7. He was in and out of my life until he died at the age of 46. But a lot of people lose their fathers due to divorce and/or death. Get over it, right? But maybe it started before I could even realize I was being hurt. In the years he was around, my brother and I were suppose to visit our dad every other weekend. This was something I would look forward to all week. When he would drop us off on Sunday night I would throw my skinny arms around his wide frame and bury my face into his belly as I cried until my gut was sore. I never knew if and when I would see him again. He would peel me off and promise to see me soon. The next visit, I would be waiting in the big front picture window in my thick Wisconsin winter ready coat and my overnight bag strapped across my shoulder. We would stand there waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Some times he would call to inform us he would be late. Other weekends he would simply show up hours after the scheduled time. And there were also a number of times he did not arrive at all.
He would disappear for years at a time. We had no inkling whether he was dead or alive. In my early teens he yoyo’d back into my life with stories of working as an informant for the government. He, one night, showed us a gun as well as a gunshot wound on his side abdomen. During subsequent months we would have to leave the house so information, letters or packages could be delivered. Apparently the one delivering these obvious imaginary instructions would not do so if we were home. One weekend we spent in the Wisconsin Dells while my dad was conducting some of this “business“. We didn’t think much about it. We were able to enjoy the water parks and I am fairly certain that is all we cared about at the moment. As I grew older, I realized more and more how his stories simply didn’t jive and we were being hosed.
By the time I was 16-17, I had given up. All the years of defending him, his behaviors and even his absences…they were gone and I felt like a fool. The anger and resentment started. His health was failing with heart disease and diabetes. He was medically non-compliant and seemed to always be in the hospital. After a while, we never took it seriously enough to worry. In his eyes, mind and words – he had been dying for decades. We thought many of his ailments were in his head or possibly even being made up for attention. He would call and I would avoid the rings any way I could. And once caller ID was introduced, the avoidance became easier. When I did get on the phone, he would commence with guilt trips which were far beyond my tolerance level. He would go on about how I never wanted to see him anymore, that he wasn’t going to be around much longer or go into detail about his latest medical fiasco. I simply couldn’t handle it.
A few years later it became quite clear that the real obstacle were drugs. He told us he was on Methadone for chronic pain. I learned later for what methadone was typically prescribed and things began to add up. He was throwing away his life – literally. The Dad I knew was hilarious, intelligent and fun. That man was long vanished. It was almost as though he was simply waiting and wishing to leave this earth. When I was 23, I sat alone with him in a hospital room and watched him fulfill his wish right before my eyes. He took a few short, shaky breaths and then he was gone. 46 years old. What a waste. And I never tried to save him. I could have called, intervened, confronted…but I never did.
He left without answering any questions. He left without any apologies. He left leaving me angry and completely filled with guilt. But he did say “I love you” shortly before his last breath, and so did I.
Other incidents in my life – many, really – added to this decaying fury. There are things I cannot to this day speak about openly. Many heartbreaks and betrayals. But if I had to guess, my relationship with my dad was the catalyst to my future filled with rage. For a long, long time it was buried. The anger was not something others could see, in fact, it did not even register with me. Sad, depressed, anxious, guilty…yes. But anger was not a visible problem. The resentment and bitter barf ball of fury did not release until many years later, in my early 30s, when I was falsely accused and charged with child abuse.
Without a doubt that in itself is a story off on a tangent too far to reach at this time, but I can say without hesitation that this is when the dam broke. My life changed, but more unfortunate – I changed. Much like my dad’s personality became tainted – from being that fun loving practical joker to a depressed drug addict with a death wish – I too altered into a personality I no longer recognized. And worse, I hated this new person. I allowed a family I didn’t know, a woman with psychological disorders, a court system which preyed upon my naivety and a very terrible situation change the individual I had become after 30 years of struggle, triumph and pride. I morphed into this jaded, pissed off chic with little sense of humor (which is for what I always prided myself).
I am now 36. I have a child, a step child, a husband and a life for whose owner should probably not complain. Sure, money is tight – very tight. The marriage has its issues. Depression is still a factor. But really, this is a life I could honestly be enjoying instead of hiding from. So, now is the time. I know all too well how short our existence can be. I refuse to spend the rest of mine living in fear, worry and persistent hostility. I will be that solider I wish to be. I will fight this bitterness like I would fight a life threatening disease, because that is exactly what it is. It is, at a snail’s pace, killing me and directly causing the quality of my life to plummet. This is no one’s fault but my own. And no one will or can restore it but me.
So, as I look for my emotional tool belt and I prepare for the battle ahead – I hold with me hope and confidence that I can and will destroy the power of my anger.