Anger, Confusion, Doing the Right Thing

My father was born and raised in Paris.  He was actually Swiss, hence my last name, but he grew up in France and only came to the States in his twenties.  As a child I remember feeling ever so slightly embarrassed by my obvious “American-ness” something my father was often critical of in not so subtle ways.  One of his complaints was regarding what he felt was an American preoccupation with “happiness”.  One of his favorite phrases, repeated to my annoyance when I was a teenager, was “no one ever promised you a rose garden.”  (It was an interesting statement coming from someone who lovingly tended to his rose bushes that accented an enormous cactus/rock garden in front of our ranch-style house.)  I hated when he said that.  I can remember driving in the car staring out the window, talking about the injustices of the world and our society and feeling it was all too much to bear and he would come out with the thing about the rose garden or another of his favorites, “it’s a wicked world”  and I would silently scream in my head, while saying nothing.

It’s snowing right now.  My studio windows look north onto a bridge where hundreds of commuters barrel along to and from Manhattan.  On sunny days to my left the Manhattan skyline beckons in all its grandeur, to my right massive factory buildings rise up, grey concrete and windows where I can see heavy machinery, artist’s studios and manufacturing.  Often, on the street my studio building occupies, film crews shoot TV shows I’ve never watched, parking is suspended, barricades are set up and large tables laden with food, none of the actors will eat, take up space on the sidewalk.  But this morning it’s snowing.  Manhattan is completely obscured by heavy, grey clouds.  Different sized flakes whirl about as though unaware that gravity will eventually win out.

I spent most of my teens in a state of confused, directionless, rage.   Eventually all that anger found its target…  me.  For the next few decades I took my upset and sense of injustice and dumped it on my self over and over until I had all but forgotten there was anything else to be outraged about.  Slowly over time that changed.  I learned to have some acceptance, I learned that my anger was not the single worst thing about me, to be buried and beaten down and hidden.  I learned that other people’s anger, while uncomfortable, would not kill me.  I learned about myself and I began to see that my resentments led me to behave in ways that would eventually crush me.  My addictions (click for more on that) were all about rage, debilitating resentments turned inward.   I learned the only way I could crawl out from under my addictions was through honesty, acceptance, compassion and love.  I learned I could feel rage, but that I had to learn how to respect and care for it.  I am still learning.  I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet.  I still falter and make missteps, but I know the key points so that I don’t completely fall off into self-destruction.

Anger.  What is it telling me?  I have to keep my actions honest.  I have to keep conflicts centered on separating feelings from facts.  I have to try to recognize when I am responding with judgment, prejudice, privilege, superiority or defensiveness (this is no small feat!)  I have to step away and ask myself – am I being honest?  Am I being willfully hurtful?  Am I intentionally or unintentionally being manipulative?  Am I afraid?  If so, what of?  Am I speaking from truth or because I want others to think well of me?  Am I placing principles above personalities?  Am I practicing these principles in all my affairs?  Am I gossiping?  Am I feeling superior or conversely inferior?  Am I demonstrating any of these things in my behavior?  What can I do to support those I care about and love?  What can I do to be of service?  What is the next “right” action in the face of conflict?  Sometimes the answer to this last question is to be present and enjoy the snow falling outside my window and to see the beauty in its gathering on the rooftops and farther below on the ground.  Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, taking care of myself so that I can take action at a later point means doing absolutely nothing in this moment.

January 2013 – The Chrysler Building at night

Chryslar Building

13 responses to “Anger, Confusion, Doing the Right Thing

  1. I think well of you because of your honesty, not in spite of it.

  2. i enjoyed this post on many levels ariane – in the end though, it reminded me of an email my mother sent me this morning (you know… one of those chain mails that make you groan when you receive them – but, it’s your mother… what can you do?).

    from the email, one line jumped out at me: “As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself.” it went on and on to say wonderful things this person had done, but i kept coming back to that phrase. …had i truly reached a point in my life where i am finally kinder to myself? less critical? it saddened me to realize i had not.

    reaction. They say every action has an equal and opposite reaction… what does one have to do with the other? perhaps, nothing at all. or, a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself… allow yourself the same abundance of love and patience you share with emma. enjoy the wintry skyline… the snow, as it turns the city into a magical place.

    • The snow has turned to rain, but it is still beautiful in its own wet rainy way… Thanks for commenting. Kinder and gentler is certainly the way to go. My own experience is that it takes a long, long time to change however, but still over the years and decades certainly change is there and progress has been made!

  3. I love you Ariane. You are just perfect the way you are, with all your imperfections. The fact that you can look at yourself like this and know where you are short and what you need to do is a big blessing. So my dear perfect friend and Richard’s “Full time Goddess”, enjoy the snow flakes, create your ever so beautiful jewelry and go home to your beautiful 7 perfect family you’ve created. At the end of it all it is all about having those wonderful children and the joy you feel when you hold them in your arms.

  4. SenNur–you’ve said it all. Nothing I, the mother/grandmother, can say would add to it. (But here I go anyway!)
    Love is so hard to express fully. It’s like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and trying to tell someone later about how you felt.
    It is snowing here right now. The mountains are invisible. But the magic abounds. Try to capture a snowflake and hold it in your hand. Of course you can’t. That’s like feelings of awe, wonder, love.

    Granma

  5. I wish that everyone (myself included) would ask ourselves these questions…every single day. The world is a better place cause you’re in it, Ariane….just sayin. 🙂

    Seriously thinking of printing this out and carrying it around with me wherever I go! ((((Hugs))))

  6. “I learned I could feel rage, but that I had to learn how to respect and care for it.”

    I’ve been thinking about this all day. It’s a new concept to me and something I’m not sure I fully understand, but I’m thinking hard on it.

    Enjoy the snow. 🙂

    • So much of my addiction was about suppressing the rage I felt. When I stopped using I had to sit with those feelings and I thought they would kill me. Literally I thought my body would implode. So I had to learn to sit still and feel, really feel the feelings that came up around my rage and often those feelings were even worse than the anger. I found myself crying all the time, overwhelmed in grief and fear… so much fear. I hadn’t realized how fearful I was/am. Over time I came to really respect the rage, because it was there speaking to me, but I’d been so busy burying it, rejecting it, ignoring it, I couldn’t hear what it was telling me. Almost always my rage had good information for me once I stopped and asked, “what is this rage?”
      Up until that point the rage was like a fire drill, a signal for me to run as far from it as I physically could. To sit and listen to it without any reaction but curiosity… well, that was incredible.
      By the way, I have to remind myself to do this, it is by no means learned. My knee jerk response is still to run from it!

      • Thank you for expanding on this. I’ve been thinking about it a lot the past few days. I think I need to do this with my fear, because it’s the thing I most consistently run from. I need to find a way to be with the fear and listen to, rather than constantly avoiding it. Because avoiding is exhausting.

        Also, I wanted to say somewhere and here seems like as good a place as any, it sounds (from your recent posts) like you’re increasingly letting Emma lead and that’s bringing some amazing moments for the two of you. 🙂

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