Tue 2 Nov 2010
I am so angry. Livid even. Bubbling with wrath. Dripping with rage. And snot.
I’m not sure why it happens. I think I get it from my father. But almost every time I get sick I also get angry. Illness is such a waste of my time.
Sometimes I wonder if it is anger at the finger of mortality sticking up my nose or scratching at my throat or tickling in my lungs. But I’ve never really been afraid of death. I don’t know why I would be afraid of the inevitable. I’m not afraid of taxes.
I guess that it’s the method of death that concerns me. Perhaps that’s where the anger comes from; the clear and absolute show of physical frailty. And I’m simply talking about a cold here. I mean I’m tired and have trouble breathing and my nose hurts, but what of that? I don’t have cancer or some eponymous affliction.
Right now I have four friends who are dealing with cancer. And that makes me angry. But not angry at them. I am angry at the seemingly random willfulness of it, if that phrase makes any sense.
I’ve been in a fight with myself to get over my knee-jerk and often impotent reaction to injustice in the world. After all, there is not much I can do about it, and a good portion of the injustice suffered has no definable inciting agent. It simply happened by chance or circumstance. So who is there to effectively lash out at? Fate? She is cruel and indifferent figment of cause.
When I get sick, though, I get angry at myself. Perhaps if I had washed my hands that one more time. If I hadn’t stayed out too late or had put on some warmer clothes. Maybe I shouldn’t have jokingly licked the rim of that person’s beer glass when he wasn’t looking (sorry Richie). Any number of things that I controlled may have been a factor in my illness.
Well — and I think here is the crux of the matter — that presupposes that I actually have that kind of control in my life. I, of course, don’t. And that also makes me angry.
I think the fact that I can’t just think I’ll get better by 4:00 and miraculously be better by 4:00 makes me feel less than I am somehow.
Okay, part number two: some of my friends reading this might be surprised to discover that I had rage issues as a youngun. I remember that I came to grips with it when I found myself holding a coat rack with the full intent of smashing it though my bedroom window. I was a senior in high school. I realized that was pretty whacked out and started trying to work on it. As therapy was anathema in my family — my dad’s kind of a by-the-bootstrap guy — that meant I got to work it out by myself for a while.
A seminal day in my life occurred as an undergrad at Iowa. I had started having panic attacks — I thought I was either having little mini heart attacks, aneurisms or some kind of horrific flashbacks. Anyway, my girlfriend at the time had been in therapy for years and convinced me to go. I did.
I remember talking to my therapist after several weeks of emoting, and she was asking me about when I’m angry. I told her that I really didn’t get angry and she told me that probably wasn’t the case or that I was suppressing something.
I told her about my past “anger” issues, and she said, “That’s not anger. That’s rage. Anger is healthy, rage isn’t.”
It took a couple of weeks, but I finally got it. It made a hell of difference in how I handle things these days. Not a lot of bottling up anymore. Now I get angry, mostly at myself, but sometimes at others.
And always at illness.
I got to get a tissue.