I’m not sure when it all started, this anxiousness, this elevated stress, this restless, unforgiving, ungracious, tightfisted, easily provoked state of being I’ve been living in. I do know it started slow, making me think I had PMS and it would pass the following week. Making me think I was tired of work or frustrated with P or just tired from a poor night of sleep.
I do remember it building, slowly, as I blamed the expansion at work, unrelated family stress, the chaos of holidays or the uncertainty of the economy. Perhaps I blamed it on my anemia or the stress of planning a wedding. Maybe I was worried about mi papa or the careful negotiations required in starting a wedded life.
I do know I found a lot of things that could be culprits of the awful growing monster that was feeding somewhere and getting bigger. As it started to choke me, I thrashed violently at night blaming it on bad dreams or reading my parents’ divorce papers. I blamed the cat who refused to give me space to sprawl out and sleep. I blamed P and starting using my own blanket. I blamed all strangers and their injustices against me – unkind words, poor driving, cutting me off in line, even intangible things like poor health care management. I lined it all up, a ragged group of ducks in a row, and funneled the entire internal dark and slimey mess in their direction.
I saw things I wanted and called it jealousy. I saw things I didn’t like and called it judgement and hate. I saw everything in terms of good or bad and couldn’t find the middle ground I much prefer.
It was taking over. I was so frustrated all the time, easily provoked but too well trained to do anything but swear under my breath and file it in the “Injustices” folder to brood over at a later date. Even if I stubbed my toe, the curse words came hot and hard, tears stinging my eyes, a breathless anger at my own stupidity and the poor location of whatever hard object I ran into. I couldn’t find a beginning or an end and was so overwhelmed I just blamed anything that came within reach.
I knew it was outrageous and unjustified, but I couldn’t find my way around it. I couldn’t just drop it and move on. I held on to my “Injustices” folder with tight fist that was white and cold.
I started wishing hard for a life that didn’t feel so goddamned rotten. And I called it jealousy. It was the closest word that fit the bill of the massive ball of rot I was holding on to. It didn’t fit the bill, really, but I had to start somewhere and that was the first word that seemed to fit.
But I’m not really jealous of anyone else. There are very few lives I would rather be living. I love staying home on Saturday night while P brews and I make bread and we listen to old episodes of The Splendid Table. I love riding my bike almost everywhere and fixing it when it breaks down. I love silly jokes and the color orange and the movie The Princess Bride. I love not having a TV in our apartment and I love working together in the garden. I love my curiosity and my endless busyness with knitting and sewing and food and gardening. I love almost all the people in my life – their silliness, their jokes, their quirks, and their support. I love my city and my means that pay the bills and leaves some for play. I really wouldn’t want to live my life as anyone else. But why am I so obsessed with what other people have and what I don’t?
A wise friend carefully mentioned anger and it all clicked. I don’t want what other people have. I am mad as hell I didn’t get what I needed when I was young. A fine distinction, to be sure, but a crucial one. I am angry. This makes me almost giddy with relief. Anger! I can deal with anger. I know anger. We’re old buddies, anger and me. It may have been a long time since we’ve really spent any time together, this is old hat and territory I can cover. I was terrified of jealousy. I didn’t know where it came from or how to get rid of it. I didn’t know how in the world I was going to find contentment with what I had when I had somehow acquired a breathless taste of something I perceived to be better. Ugh. That felt like a battle I wasn’t going to be able to win.
But it’s anger! I’ve been here before, albeit in different circumstances and for different reasons, but I can manage this. I feel a ton lighter just knowing what in the world is going on. I’m not sure, exactly, when it started. But it has been an difficult few years. Two years ago I was just home from India and the economy was starting it’s downward slide. I couldn’t find a job. Then the 35W bridge fell down, we went to help, and I struggled to come to terms with unexpected and awful tragedy. Then my dad got really sick. Then P started looking for a house and we had to start thinking if we had a future together. Then we decided that we did and we got engaged. Then I had to navigate an entire cesspool of conflict regarding my feelings about marriage. We eventually worked out a compromise and dove headfirst into planning a totally untraditional wedding that not everyone around us approved of (although most did and had a wonderful time). We did it in just a few months. Three of my best friends were still in town and moving to distant lands in a matter of months. One of my brothers was headed east for new permanent residence. My dad was still around, although he wasn’t able to make the trip, I am glad he was around and was able to see pictures. Then the holidays came and I had to work through my long, complicated relationship with families and holidays and figure out how to incorporate P’s family into my delicate balance. Then I got some news about my health that was a little scary. Shortly after, P and I were scheduled for our long-awaited honeymoon and general break from life. Eighteen hours before we were going to fly out, I got the last call that mi papa might not make it. He didn’t. It’s not surprising to me that I’m in the place I am, dealing with it all, feeling inadequate, and frustrated, angry that my parents didn’t give me skills to cope well. But I am coping, and I will make it, and knowing that I can still find gratitude and hope in this reminds me that I am still in here, somewhere. I am not an angry, festering wound. I am an angry, well-adjusted person and I will come through this.
Sweet relief. There is still a long, twisting road ahead with mean climbs and hearty headwinds. But I’ve done this before, I can do it again. Especially because I know I haven’t lost myself. Thank goodness.