There Was No Room For Anger

 

It was quiet in my growing up house. We closed the front door with silent deliberation and spoke to one another in soft tones. My parents didn’t raise their voices, either in anger or delight. We kept our feelings of fear, grief, sadness, even joy, corseted close, as if their release would tip the earth from her axis. Tears happened in muffled sobs in the corner of a bedroom. There was no room for anger. When that emotion thundered through my body, I clenched my teeth and held the fire tight between my shoulder blades, turned it in on myself and assumed that I was the one at fault.

Sometimes I beat my fists against a pillow.

I learned to master nice, reliable and an accommodating smile, as a protective camouflage for the deeper feelings. It won me teacher’s pet for several years running. I learned to master how to fit in and smooth things over, how to be agreeable and nod my head while holding my contrary opinions tight inside my closed lips.

I learned to move with caution so as not to ruffle or disturb, to modulate my voice and tip my head to one side to put off the scent of aggression. This, more than arithmetic and geography, is what my childhood education taught me.  

I learned what I needed to do, how I needed to behave in order to fit in and be liked. I learned who I needed to be to survive as a woman in a man’s world.

It is only now that I am beginning to notice the many ways that I contain my body, soften my voice, and play to those who hold the power. My stomach is in a knot, my chest is tight and there’s a fire welling up inside of me with no place to go.

I am tired of being careful. I’m tired of being quiet. Nice. Accommodating. But I’m scared. I see what is in store. I’ve always intuited the cost of standing in my power. My body holds ancestral memory, my body remembers what has been done to women. How we’ve been hung, drowned, and burned for the crime of being women. The memory is locked in my genes. This has been enough to keep me silent, to keep me demure, to dampen my fierceness. The memory has been enough to make me play by the rules. The other day I heard a woman say, ‘men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them.’ Yes and yes. The price is high.

But the price of silence is even higher.

 

4 comments on “There Was No Room For Anger

  1. Davia, this is very powerful. It reflects the systemic psychological poisoning of women in our society, whether families intended it or not. And I can relate. Keep up your powerful voice!

  2. Thank you, Davia. This post speaks to something deep inside of me.

    I too have stuffed my true beliefs and feelings for years. I still find it so hard to be with starvation in Somalia made worse by climate change and the devastation of rainforests to provide more grazing land for beef. This path terrifies me.

    Now, I am honoring those feelings and exploring how to express them in ways that move conversations forward. I am owning that I stuffed those feelings and forgiving my self for that. From there I am free to create new expressions, ones that provide others with openings for action on the side of solving climate change.

  3. Davia, I really like the first paragraph of your article. It’s so true. A song by David Wilcox, Covert War talks about the pain of living in a family that doesn’t talk. It’s a more graphic expression and apologies to our Antan for the gun references but it really says a lot:
    Dear Mom and Dad
    Here’s why I can’t home
    I can talk to either one of you just fine
    When it’s either one, alone

    But the Thanksgiving table
    Is going to be pulled out bigger
    If we talk at all
    One of you will pull the trigger

    I used to run those battle lines
    Trying to smooth over what got said
    Trying to get a medal
    Trying to get some shrapnel in my head
    Thought it was my duty
    To plead and to implore
    But I caught too much crossfire
    In your covert war

    The television talks, fills the air
    So you don’t have to start
    You claim you territories in the rooms upstairs
    To keep yourselves apart

    Holy days they bring us all together
    After so much left unsaid
    You taught us well not to kick under the table
    Kick under your breath instead

    I used to stand between you
    Trying to smooth over what got said
    Trying to get a medal
    Trying to get some shrapnel in my head

    Thought it was my duty
    To plead and to implore
    But I caught too much crossfire
    In your covert war

    Of course there was the anger where the love is strong
    It spilled like gasoline
    It’s crude but its a power we can draw upon
    If it fuels the right machine

    I love you and I’d never want to see you bleed
    When comments cut like steel
    So to hold your fire I’d block the shot and take the hit for you
    As if I could not feel

    I thought they’d passed right through me
    That I had no scars to hide
    But now I open up and try to love
    And I find they’re still inside

    I used to run those battle lines trying to plead and to implore
    Please won’t you hold the cease fire out a little longer
    Until the next uproar

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