The Dance of Anger


In all the 25 years I’ve known Drew, he still surprises me sometimes. When he was instructing me to do writing exercises about my dad, he noted how long he thought I been angry.

I’m not sure that I felt anger as much as confusion, fear, and ultimately frustration. I remember when I saw my first therapist during college—an intern I didn’t have to pay—I remember telling him that I couldn’t remember ever feeling angry, really, truly angry.

I never let myself. It wasn’t “productive.”

Years later, when I saw another therapist, she tried to make me feel okay being angry; she encouraged me to feel the feelings.

I’ve learned that no one can give you permission for that; it has to rise up within you.

It was years even after that that I started to feel angry. My anger is so tinged with sadness—for myself and for the unformed role models who couldn’t take care of themselves, much less me.

And when it came down to it, when my father was dying last year, any anger I had was replaced by intense compassion.

Seeing another human suffering, mentally and physically, as he was erased any inkling of being angry. It was not the time to yell, point fingers, make him understand all the things he did and didn’t do, not the place for scorekeeping or retribution.

My job in those last hours we spent together was simply to be present. There was no room for anger. There was no space for anger. There was no time for anger.

I was overcome with sadness for his state. The frustration with which he grunted and recoiled from the too-salty puréed food and the lack of cooperation from his hands in spooning it were palpable. Unable to endure more, I excused myself from the table. I walked purposefully down the hallways, around three corners to a pair of chairs set in a nook. I watched myself as I had since entering this building, purportedly to help my aunt with my dad’s paperwork.

I’d immediately dashed beyond the door to my father’s room to the common area where Bryan and I organized his paperwork and I covertly read the will I’d been written out of. Then I knew that any interaction that we’d have was pure; it wasn’t because I’d get anything out of it or owe him anything.

I pushed myself to walk by his room again, and I caught a glimpse of white: white hair, pale skin, white blanket, white sheets, beige hospital bed.

The tension in my body was great, but the fear was subsiding. I was in control. I could leave at any moment, whenever it became too much. The parts of myself pushing and gauging my tolerance were keeping me safe.

I told my aunt that I thought I could walk in, could see him, could maybe have a conversation. My uncle announced us when we came in.

Over the hours we spent in the ensuing days, we were physically closer than I could ever remember.

I sat at the foot of his bed. He’d lost so much weight that he didn’t fill it. We didn’t talk a lot. I showed him a video of our dog. He liked the idea that we had a dog. I told him a little about my job. But we didn’t talk about anything important, anything that mattered.

That’s for the best.

My anger is mine to deal with just as the sadness that his anger dissolved into was his.

As I approached the pair of chairs in the hallway, I released the tears that had been building for so long: for myself as a child, for the father I had, and for the one that I didn’t.

—Lori

++++++++++

The Dance of Anger

A dance is a poem in space
Instead of words—bodies
Instead of rhyme—gesture
Instead of meter—flow

When many bodies join
The Dance of Anger
Their movements become
A "movement"
A movement that can
Bless or curse the world.

Bodies Gestures Flow
Expressions
To call upon The Lord of the Dance
Or to spin mindlessly out of control

The Dance of Anger
Narration with bodies
Tells a story
Too powerful for words.
A vessel for the Spirit
Creation or chaos?

—Janelle Curlin-Taylor

++++++++++

The Danger of Anger

The dance of anger is
awesome to behold.
If you ask the dancers,
"What are you seeking?"
They will reply, "Justice", but justice
has two faces:
restoration or retribution.
Which you choose leads
to what leads,
you or the anger.

Choose one and you lead,
anger provides the energy.
Lead well and you can
transform an injury
into a partnership,
a force for peace.

Choose the other and anger drives
you deeper where there was already
pain. The Chinese say,
"Before you embark
on a journey of revenge,
dig two graves."

Choose well.

—Jeff Taylor