I Get So Fucking Angry Every Day

I don’t wake up mad. That’s something. That’s a blessing. 

But I start to get mad soon after I awake. I check the news, and I begin getting angry. It’s manageable, though. I mean, as manageable as anything is these days – my head hurts a lot and my neck has been killing me. That neck pain, that’s the thing that lets me know how mad I was the night before. 

As the day goes on I find that anger laps at me like waves on a beach. Sometimes the anger will reach up, right up to my head and my face will get flush and I’ll mutter something like, “This motherfucker” or “Jesus fucking Christ.” But usually that anger breaks, again like a wave, and I’ll laugh at myself. 

But the anger is there all the time, slowly building up like radiation in my cells. My girlfriend and I are quarantining in dual households – she spends some of the week here, some of the week at her apartment, and I’m one of only two people she comes into contact with because she’s immunodeficient – and when I was driving over to her place the other day this guy behind me honked when I didn’t move fast enough at a green light.

“Suck my cock you stupid piece of shit,” I growled to myself in my car and then I burst into laughter. I laughed at the outsized reaction to this little thing, this little honk, and I laughed because I knew that the anger that had been silently stockpiling in my muscles had made itself known. 

“I see you,” I laughed at it. “I see you there.”

But it’s funny because I lose sight of it so quickly. I’ll get caught up in something else, watching a movie, playing a game, worrying myself sick about what happens in May and how I pay rent, laughing at a meme, holding my girlfriend, laying with my dog, all the regular things that happen in all of these irregular days, and I forget just how angry I am. 

It builds up, though. It may spike once or twice during the day, but it’s at the end of the day, when it gets dark, that it erupts. A lot of the time it’s when Twitter fills with live tweets of the president’s dumbass hate conferences. Sometimes it’s when a famous person dies, or a new death toll comes in. Today it was when someone posted a meme on Facebook that said “Without mentioning Trump or Obama explain why you want to vote for Biden,” and I just wanted to reach through my screen and grab this guy and yell “Without mentioning the word cancer explain to me why you want chemotherapy.”

And when it builds up all the way I get so tight, so wound up, and I feel so sick. My neck has been so tight that the other day I thought my glands were swollen, because it felt like I was wearing a noose all the time. But it soon became clear it was just stress, the same stress that clenches my jaws, that wakes me up with teeth that hurt from grinding. 

When I get this mad I get wild ideas in my head. My brain turns to ways to hurt people – bad people, the people who are killing tens of thousands right now – but what’s the actual reality of that? I do wonder how many others out there are having little John Wilkes Booth moments, little flashes of madness on top of the anger. I suspect I’m not alone in thinking the darkest thoughts. Sic semper assholes, we say to ourselves. 

But I’m not going to hurt anyone or, let’s be honest, if I were to hurt someone it would be the wrong person. There’s no person I could hurt to end this; the situation is already in motion, and while there may be ways to dull the impact the point of no return is well passed. And the people I have access to are not the people who are responsible; the truth is that if I hurt someone it would be that guy who honked at me. 

See, that’s the thing about the rage, is that it has to get placed somewhere. And right now it’s getting placed in my neck and my jaw and in my stomach, which is upset a lot. What happens when it does boil over, when the shitter’s full and everything overflows, is that I end up placing it inwards. We’re doing a The Sopranos rewatch right now and in one episode Dr. Melfi tells Tony “Depression is rage turned inwards.” In 2003 I thought that was kind of bullshit, but in 2020 I see it every night. The anger peaks and I’m left with this exhausted sadness. 

Most nights I numb myself with games on my phone as I lay in bed in the dark (I just started playing Disney’s Sorcerer’s Arena, in which I used a van controlled by the brother from Onwards to kill Baloo from Jungle Book) and I fall asleep. I have these vivid dreams, more intense than I’ve had in a decade, and I wake up and do it all over again. I wake up feeling okay, if sore and still tired. I’m irritated that my dog needs to get walked, but also thankful because otherwise would I even get out of bed?

I’m grateful for the anger, as well. I don’t love how it makes me feel, but the way it makes me feel lets me understand why holding on to it is so bad for me. The aches and pains I feel in the morning come because I got beat up by my sparring partner. Today’s another day and I’ll have another chance, maybe I’ll have learned some of his moves. 

It’s all practice. It’s not about never getting mad at the guy who honks, it’s about having the practice that allows you to laugh at being mad and break the spell in that moment. It’s not about never feeling angry, it’s about having the practice to not let anger into the driver’s seat. I feel bad at night, sad and afraid, and for a while I was upset at myself for that. I’ve been working for three years in order to be capable in a moment like this! But part of being capable in a moment like this is knowing when it’s time to honor the sadness and fear, to feel them but not get tangled up in them. 

That’s not a heroic lesson. It doesn’t make for the good ending of a movie. It doesn’t have you standing up, wounded and bloody, and saying “I can do this all day.” But it’s a lesson I’ve been needing to internalize – it’s okay to feel bad, to be afraid, to feel overwhelmed. Those things are part of a human life too. 

So tonight I got really angry and I felt my face get flush, and I paced around my apartment and came up with and muttered out loud all sorts of retorts and comebacks I could make to the guy who posted the political meme I didn’t like. Then I thought about how mad I was because somebody had posted a political meme I didn’t like, and I laughed. The anger broke and I sat down to write this, because I know that the next thing after the anger breaks is that I’ll get sad, and perhaps sharing about how I feel will make me less sad. So today I learned a little lesson from my sparring partner, and maybe I avoided his haymaker. 

Tomorrow I’ll get up and I’ll do it again, and I’ll get mad again, and I’ll have all the emotions again, and some of them will tangle me up and some of them I’ll experience and move through, and some of them I’ll catch and laugh at. Then I’ll go to bed and get up and do it all again. I’ll keep practicing. 

And I’ll tell you what – I don’t love that I get angry, I don’t love how it makes me feel, I don’t love any part of it except that it reminds me I’m human, and I’m paying attention and I care. This anger is sane and rational, and maybe if I keep practicing with it I can pull away the hate and the helplessness that surrounds it and use the energy that remains.

Gandhi said, “It is not that I am incapable of anger, for instance; but I succeed almost on all occasions to keep my feelings under control.” He’s not talking about repression but rather about channeling that anger as the barrel of a gun directs a bullet. The thing about having anger as a sparring partner is reminding myself that my sparring partner works for me. I don’t work for him, and he doesn’t have to be working against me. 

I’ll practice again in the morning.

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