Joy To Offset The Anger | 1.9.22
The Sunday Edition
It is a new year, this only the second essay to the 22 of this 20, and I wanted to establish immediately, that this place, this Signal Fire community we’re building, is a safe place in which honesty is vaulted above almost all other attributes. I want to show you, without hesitation or reservation, that vulnerability is fundamental to this, and more, that if I expect it from You all each week, the very least I can do is offer it back in kind. In surplus, if I’ve the room for it. Thing about me is, I’ve got the room for it, and I’ll always have the room for it. Way I see it is, I owe it to you all to show up here, each week, and to be vulnerable, be honest, be transparent in a way that I won’t be anywhere else, because nowhere else feels like this place does. Social media is all nonsense and posturing, the highlight reel of a life curated down to perfect little squares. Facebook is, good grief we’re not even going to get into it, but it just ain’t right. This place, this little Signal Fire warming all you souls all across this planet, is a safe place, it’s a haven, a harbor in the tempest and I want to continue to build it, to wrap you all up in the understanding that you can be open about the good, the bad, the ugly, the worrying, and you’ll be held with open arms and grace. I believe you’ll do the same for me, should I do the same, and so I keep doing the same. Today, I’m going to do it again.
Lately, I’ve been thinking so much about what these tumultuous last two years have done to us all, the collective We striving for survival and peace. My wife will be listening to this upstairs in her headphones while she gets ready, and so I will start with saying this, to her directly: This essay, sweets, is for you, as a promise and as a plea for gentle help too.
Personally, over the last two years, I’ve felt myself grow angrier. I’ve always been a bit of a stereotypical “old Scottish man” as Sarah (I hope lovingly) calls me, but over the last two years I’ve just felt more upset with more things, more irritable with people that fill the world, the actions they either do, or refuse to take, the selfishness, the short-sightedness, the rudeness. I’ve found myself feeling angry whilst driving, whilst reading the news, found myself mentally focusing on the negative more than the positive, and while I have written at length about toxic positivity on this newsletter, this is something more, this is more habitual and less cleansing, this is anger and it grows and blossoms inside too often.
This morning, I read a brilliant article about the difference between anger and rage, and how rage was an emotion that has no positive place in our lives, anger can actually be healthy. The article felt redeeming, but the more I read, the more I realized that while some anger is good — anger is just a valid and vital emotion as joy, sadness, love, and surprise — too much of it can boil into rage too easily, and rage hurts. Rage cuts. Now, a disclaimer: I am absolutely not a rage-ful person. I do not lash out, I do not hurt, I do not aim for the jugular. I never have been, I never will be. The only times I’ve been in a physical fight in my life, were all reactionary, self-defensive, and actually, surprisingly, had little to no anger involved. Nevertheless, lately I just feel angry, too often, and I realized the pollution into the waters of those I love it causes. I don’t like upsetting Sarah, I don’t like feeling braced for something new to irritate or push a button, I don’t like the heaviness of carrying it, and so I want to set it down, as it is a weight I’m not accustomed to holding, after all. I want the freedom that came with feeling lighter, feeling more joyful and less resentful, more peaceful than defensive, at the world, at myself, at anything that may wrinkle that.
I’ve been Buddhist since I was 12, and part of that for me is the idea that I’m always a work in progress, and I know that the human nature part of myself, will always bring a fallibility that I can try to practice and reduce, but really isn’t going anywhere far. I know I am a work in progress, I know I need to strive for more balance before I ever aim for complete eradication. Perhaps, if these past few years have taught me anything, it’s that anger and irritation are probably going to always be around, and the best we can probably hope for, as with this dreadful Covid that we thought we could beat, is for it to become endemic to the point of nearly neutered in its potency. (Yes, I just said Neutered in its potency, and yes that’s one of my finer sentences, thank you very much.)
We’re all a work in progress, you know this as well as I, but I want to work harder. I want to do what I said last week: Love myself but aim for more. That more, is actually less. Less angry, more patient, more calm, more mentally disconnected from the things that cause this emotion in me, more emotionally connected to the things that relieve it. I owe it to myself, I owe it to my friends and family, and yes Sarah, if you’re still listening in your little headphones while sipping some tea in between face lotioning and choosing what to wear, I owe it to you. I’m working on it, I’ll keep working on it, and I love you, all, for your patience with me.
Thank you for this place to be vulnerable, and thank you for being vulnerable with me in return.
If you’re feeling like it, we could all discuss what we’re wanting to work on, maybe if we do it together, we’ll be all the more successful for it. Maybe.
I’ll strive for balance,
joy to offset the anger
that rises in me.