A wise person told me: The depth to which we feel our sorrow is the capacity for which we can experience joy.
This was in the middle of a season where the realities of my life story and my personality and my questions about the world were so present I could no longer pretend everything was fine.
This is also when anger became present in my life – when I saw my limits, when I saw my sorrow, when I saw my rawness, when I saw my own humanity. The more I experienced life, the deeper I learned to experience myself. The more I fully experienced my story, the deeper and stronger I felt … everything.
Things welled inside me to a sometimes uncontrollable overflowing barrage. Anger feels like all of my emotions at the same time. I want to scream at the unfairness of the world. I want someone or something to be responsible. I want to cry because of the pain tearing me apart from the inside out. I want someone to care that all this is happening inside me, even if I have to force my feelings on them.
Those moments are some of my least enjoyable moments; they are often some of my least proud.
Anger is infused with meaning. It doesn’t simply happen to us. It’s not meant to be quietly endured until it’s over. Anger is a deeply engrained piece of our humanity.
After the eruption ends, my heart and body are exhausted from the toil, but if I listen closely, it reveals a deeper story.
I became angry with a friend awhile back. This is one of those friends I talk to everyday, even if it’s just a couple texts to check in. She had been in a season with a lot going on and I had been on auto-pilot. She’d been the one sharing, and I’d been the one listening and asking. Except it started changing for me.
We’d gone for a walk in one of our favorite state parks and in the car on the way back, I told her about something big going on in my life. Right at that moment a song she loved came on the radio. She turned it up and started singing along; I sulked out the window. Eventually she said, “I guess you don’t like this song.”
In a more direct tone than I generally take with friends I said, “I just told you something important and you didn’t respond! When you don’t ask about my life it makes me feel like you don’t care about me!”
When I made it to my bed that evening, tears arrived. It wasn’t just the moment in the car where a favorite song was a distraction. I hurt from a deeper place. I was afraid. I was afraid a friendship I valued a great deal was falling apart. I was afraid I was unworthy of her attention. My grandiose emotions were about feeling vulnerable.
My anger was a moment of self-validation. I am worth caring about. My needs are valid and important. I am taking care of me when I speak up to someone and let them know I am feeling unsafe in our relationship. To experience deep connection with other people requires feeling, understanding and expressing what I need. It was anger that ultimately pointed me toward self-compassion.
I became angry when I looked back on my childhood and knew there were parts I’d been robbed of experiencing. I spent decades keeping a steady face and holding it all together, but at a certain point I couldn’t any longer and the truth came spilling out. I was angry at the person who introduced me to things that are not for children to experience. I was angry at my parents for not protecting me. I was angry I felt so much shame over my past I had to carry my story in secret. I was angry about years lost.
As an adult looking back I was most angry I was being forced to reconcile parts of my story. I was angry my attempts to ignore my story into oblivion were unsuccessful. That anger took months to process and still wells up at times.
My anger showed me how deeply I felt unseen and uncared for. The 4-year-old within was still angry for enduring things unspeakable. The 4-year-old within was angry that all she had endured had been ignored.
To experience deep healing and redemption required feeling sorrow, loss, fear and grief. It was anger that forced me to reconcile with my own story.
The first time I looked into the eyes of a child whose parents were deemed unfit to provide for their care, I became angry. I spend a week every summer working at a camp for kids in the local foster care system. These are beautiful, broken, amazing kids who desperately need a week away from the weight of their lives to experience their own childhood. When I walk away from camp and I carry the faces and laughter and stories of these children with me in my heart, and I become angry.
It makes me angry that we live in a world where people’s stories are so broken and they hurt so deeply, they are unable to care for each other. It is one place in the world I desperately want to fix. It is anger that gave me a passion for those unseen and often forgotten.
The more years I live and the more stories I write in my own life and encounter in others, the more I find anger. Anger shows me when something is not right in a relationship, and something needs to be addressed to find deep connection.
Anger showed me the ways I was being untrue to my own story and how continuing to do so would further damage me. Anger showed me something: I am passionate about changing in the world.
Anger will probably never be a welcome friend, but I have come to see it as a beacon. It’s a guide taking unexpected detours through the hard and dark and scary and uncontrollable. When I resign myself to the journey, I seem to eventually find my way to peace and joy.
This is Jackie Alvarez’s last issue as Editor-in-Chief at MOPS International. For 13 years, she has been inspired by the stories of the courageous women raising the next generation of the world. As a new chapter is beginning, she leaves you with this hope – May you find peace, deep peace. May you know you are loved beyond any love you can imagine. May joy well over.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.