It’s nothing special to wake up with aches and pains. Everyone walks around with a crick in their neck or a knot in their shoulder. It’s all boils down to improper sleeping position or a pillow that’s too soft and can usually be remedied by a trip to the chiropractor or a couple Advils. Unfortunately, I don’t start most days with a few slightly misaligned vertebrae.
Some days I wake and before I can even open my eyes, I can feel the tight, sinewy muscles in my jaw working overtime. Massaging the sore sides of my face, I come to terms with the fact that I spent my precious REM sleep with my jaw clenched shut harder than a coked up Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s the mark of an angry person, or rather, a member of the Big Mad club.
They’re all around you — on the other end of a conference line, looking for a place to merge on the 10, grabbing a container of hummus next to you in Whole Foods. While the stereotypes have them marked as ruddy, sweating beasts with bulging eyes and thick Long Island accents, the angry take on many forms and can wait quietly in long lines and deal with incompetent baristas or pushy real estate agents appropriately. At this point, you may be asking if I actually am just talking about adults in general instead of angry people but I do want to clarify that I am referring to people like me. The kind who have a deep well of hate in their heart, not violent offenders.
Because violence is so often conflated with anger, I feel as though it’s become unacceptable to talk about my own anger. I fear it would mark me as someone who’s looking to purchase semi automatic weapons or start wearing trench coats out of season. Anger and violence, as concepts, are completely different. If you’re not on board with my reasoning, I’d say now is a good time for a Google of “causation does not equal correlation.” While violence, especially towards others or animals, is unacceptable and avoidable… anger is not.
It’s a strange experience to live with anger. I sometimes think of banging my head or fists against a wall until I can break through but I know it wouldn’t do any good. I could tear apart a million walls, take a baseball bat to every single vehicle in Los Angeles county or scream at the top of my lungs from a Laurel Canyon vista for years but I still don’t think it would be enough to quell the queasy, frustrated and engorged tangle of emotion that sits in my chest. I am my anger and while I am complicated and strange and difficult to tolerate for long periods of time, I am not a bad person.
So what do you do. You work on yourself. Learn how to apologize and enlist the help of a higher power when a little extra grace is needed. It’s a lonely process, but you learn to look around and spot the familiar clenching jaws or ambient scowls that have taken up residence of your fellow sapiens. You find other disgruntled folk that slowly let you in on the secret… the secret that they’re angry too. And the reason you’re all angry becomes irrelevant, because you’re actually having a good time while you make mean comments about third parties, snark away on social media and share recommendations of favorite Death Grips or Nine Inch Nails tunes. Music to rage to.
The reason we’re all angry? Yes, it’s important but there’s no solution so you’ll just need to be angry about something else for a second… or, rather, a paragraph. Maybe you’re angry you’re not rich enough or powerful enough. Sadly, wealth won’t do anything except afford you larger Tom Ford sunglasses to hide your furrowed brow. Power will only frustrate you because even if you’re standing in the Oval Office, you still don’t have the security clearance to enter the war room of your own psyche or the information needed to understand it.
Hell, maybe you don’t know God and that’s why you froth with hate. Unfortunately, getting into religion will do little else but lead you to some version of the Old Testament where the actions and words of God might just inspire you to further explore ways of putting your wrath into motion. Like cain you not? I know I’m abel. When I try to think of my own reasons for being angry, I’m often confronted with my own Midwestern sense of realism that convinces me that all my emotions are an illusion and that life is actually going too well for me to be legitimately angry or have any strong, negative emotions.
So you sit and stew. Sometimes I hope there will be an opportunity to fully channel my rage; some way in which I can fully utilize and display just how much power and majesty anger can have. It’s been a useful tool in my life and experience. If I look at my achievements, most of them have only really materialized because I’ve wanted to succeed out of spite. Someone implies I’m dumb? Time to pass an AP Chemistry test. You’re thinking I won’t go far in life? Let’s make a city that literally has the social climate of the earth’s core home.
This blind rage has been the lighthouse that continually brings me into the safe harbor of material success. Instead of putting holes in walls, I like to think anger has helped me knock some down. However, has achievement helped with the root cause? Not a chance… but it is a happy symptom. My chosen philosophies will never treat the problem, but is it really a problem if you’re not going to let it serve as the sole proprietor of your spirit?
Then comes another question — if I were to act on my anger, would it finally make it better? Probably not. If I did get to run my car through the bay window of my enemies’ living rooms, I would only temporarily trade my anger for embarrassment. It would then be followed by shame until we ultimately loop back around to anger. Anger that I’m not a better person. Anger that I can’t feel differently when I want to. Anger that I’m not enlightened enough or calm enough or centered enough to be the wonderfully “type-B” person who can take things in stride instead of running scared from their emotions. Running and running and running until you’re tired enough to go to sleep… and hopefully wake up a little less angry.
With a slack jaw, like all those happy idiots we won’t see at the next meeting of the Big Mad club.