I’ve had a pain in my chest the last few days. I figured it was the coffee. I get scary heart palpitations from too much caffeine (too much being more than a cup a day). I saw a cardiologist years ago, who told me to cut back on coffee and stress because there was nothing wrong with my heart. I have been intermittently successful at both. Four or five days ago, I sat bolted to the couch, waiting for the terror to pass. I’ve learned to talk myself through these little dramatic episodes, but as I pressed my hand to my chest, breathing deeply and waiting for a return to thump-thump, thump-thump, I knew it was time to say good bye to coffee again.
My chest hasn’t felt quite right since but I had a feeling it wasn’t about my heart. Not the physical one anyway. The tears haven’t come as frequently – or as easily – lately. The emotional hits have been piling up but my body seemed unwilling to release. I meditated. I did Reiki. I stretched my chest open and breathed. Nothing helped.
A friend called. One of my dearest, closest, soul-sister friends. She is a powerful, connected woman, an artist, a single mama with a difficult ex-husband and she was feeling the pain of another broken heart. As we spoke, she shed tears and I suddenly realized what I was hearing underneath her sadness. I think you need to get angry.
As a woman committed to spiritual growth, expressing anger can be seen as a failure. If we are adequately evolved – ahem – we should not need to feel angry. As little girls we are taught that anger is not pretty, not nice, and clearly not lovable. As women we hear talk of the crazy ex-girlfriends and ex-wives of the men we fall in love with. Some actually are unwell. Most just got angry.
I’ve been that woman. I’ve been hit sideways by rage after being lied to, disrespected, cheated on. Because I was unaccustomed to the feelings, because they were strong and I had no map for that terrain, I felt out of control, swallowed up. I took my anger out on others. My monkey mind blew it out of proportion and my ego took control. Then I grew. I read the books and talked the talk. It’s okay to be angry. It’s what we do with the anger that makes the difference. Anger is simply the sign that my boundaries have been crossed. Yes. Yes it is. It still doesn’t feel pretty, or nice, or lovable. I still don’t like it.
When Ben died, I didn’t get angry. I wasn’t mad at anyone – okay maybe secretly at myself. There wasn’t a lot of why me? and this isn’t fair. As I moved more deeply into grief though, I would get hit with moments of rage, triggered by something insignificant. My body shook and all I wanted to do was hurl dishes at a wall.
If anger doesn’t come out somehow, it lives on in our cells. It causes pain, suffering, even illness. If it comes out in a way that destroys others, it is even more dangerous. An ego attached to its anger can be deadly. I asked my friend to find a way to rage – to let her anger burn in its purity, to turn it into a creative outlet, to leave her mind out of it and let her body release, release, release. As Richard Bach wrote in Illusions, one of the first books I read that echoed my own budding beliefs, we teach best what we most need to learn.
I called the magician yesterday because I wasn’t feeling any better. He waved his magic wand – also known as intuitive muscle testing – and said, Ah. You’re angry at yourself. You’re angry at yourself because you’re doing better. You miss your grief.
The mind is a trickster. I can’t fully grasp what’s happened, but here’s my best guess. Ben died. I wanted my grief to open me up, to be the impetus for me to grow into the woman I want to be – believe I can be. If the grief is less intense then several things must be true. First I’m losing my connection with my son. Second I’m going to mess up, return to old habits and feel like a failure again. Third, I won’t have anything to hang my story on. I’ll simply be me.
Ah. That’s almost as scary as being angry.
Last night the anger surfaced. Not fully. Not honestly. But enough for me to beat myself into a state of release. I’m not done. I know I will circle back to this again, digging deeper, letting go more completely. I am learning to trust the process and the support I have on the journey.
I am learning to trust.
Not surprisingly, my heart feels better today.