Some days I wonder what it would be like if we could just grunt to each other as our ancestors did before language was constructed, and live that primal kind of life. Our level of communication would be simplified by necessity. With only grunts to get our points across, and the need to hunt, gather and fend off beasts off prey, our conversations would be short, succinct, direct. Type A. Our goals in human interaction would be equally as straightforward. They would center around food, survival, pecking order and mating. As in feed me, save me, me first and let’s do it. No need to get flowery about it.
A time machine might be the only way to find out how our ancestors, those that lived in caves and in trees, managed their emotions and expressed their feelings. Club-swinging can only do so much. They had no idea what was over the hill, beyond the valley. No newspaper to tell them of the latest ticked off predator headed their way. Weather was a beast to be reckoned with, literally anger from some unseen being, not a storm system to wait out with cocoa and a warm fire. There were no cocktail hours or holiday parties, but instead constant pressure to survive. They had s…tuff to do. Rattling on about hurt feelings, insecurity and anger never made it onto the to do list scratched on a nearby rock.
I imagine cavemen rarely got pissed off at the little stuff. They may not cuddle on cue or tell funny stories while stroking their lover’s hair, but they probably would be fairly predictable in nature because life was so elemental then, albeit dangerous, laborious and stacked to the cave ceiling with unknowns. Keep disease at bay, find food, procreate, and if the cave could be swept clean, awesome! I doubt they would gather ’round the fire (those fortunate enough to live after fire had been discovered) and grunt about all the pressure they’re under to make ends meet, and how their girls just don’t do it for them anymore, or how they’re so bummed they missed out on fight night because the kid had the flu. And how it all makes them feel.
Surely, they were emotional beings, experiencing joy and fear, love and anger, just as we do. But they didn’t have to talk through it. Some days I’d rather have my hair pulled while dental flossing a saber-toothed cat than converse with The Genius about the emotional fallout of his infidelity and our divorce. The other days? I’d rather eat my own tongue. On rye. So I get all gluten-itchy, while washing it down with a wheat beer.
Goodness, I don’t even want to discuss the weather with The Genius.
Why? Because there’s nothing to say. I rode the Mastodon all the way to forgiveness. Now, it’s not about him anymore. It’s about me learning how to be in this wide world, playing a whole new sport with no rookie season to shelter me. But he’s still sticking around, reading every post, my twitter feed, your comments. I shrug. What can I do? Can’t stop him. So I get a text every now and then, like today, telling me how angry I am.
Where did he find the time to get his PhD? (Juvenile humor alert – sorry, Mom – PenishappyDance – it’s a new degree. Takes four years to get it, but you can lie your way through the penis, I mean thesis.)
Every time I read about how angry I am, I do two things: say to myself, You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. (Thank you, Inigo Montoya of The Princess Bride) and then I look deep inside to see if I am still angry.
No. I’m not.
I was. And there’s always the potential for future anger, but as far as anger because of his betrayal and our divorce, there is none. It was left on mountains and in the bay, on my pillow, and on the shoulders of friends. It was written out here at HGM and gracefully whisked away by all of you. It spilled out during downward dogs and shook out during planks. It was laughed out, cried out, bitched out, and probably farted out at some point after a bean-heavy meal or at 13,000 feet on Mt. Whitney. If anger could fuel cars, I had enough gas for a fleet – especially on Whitney!
After several months of learning how to coax the anger out, dance with it, let it vent, have an imaginary conversation or 70 where I translate its message and deliver it with barb after barb, it got tired. Exhausted. It had been worked over so much that it was becoming translucent, no longer a dark, menacing cloud. Then gratitude threw it a retirement party; hugs all around, thanks for the memories and good night, Gracie. I couldn’t be angry anymore. I forgave him for the lies and his affair. As far as our relationship was concerned, I would never choose to be with someone who deceives. I feel relief, not anger.
I’m grateful that I had the presence of heart to know that anger would create major problems for me and the dudes. I credit my Mom with that nugget of wisdom. My health would be compromised, and their happy childhood would be shredded beyond recognition if I walked around pissed off at their Dad. I don’t stand on a stage and beg for a tiara often, but when it comes to processing my anger, I deserve one, as does anyone who bravely pursues an anger-free life. It’s grueling work, but so crucial. Processing my anger was one of my top five priorities. I knew it had to be done, or I would later pay an inflated and painful price for ignoring it.
So why does he insist on keeping me there?
Maybe he’s just confusing anger with aversion.
This may shock you, so steady yourself: I don’t like being around The Genius at all. I try to be even-keeled but there are many moments when he just irks me. He doesn’t send me off the deep end, ruin my day, make me cry – all the things he used to do – he just irks me.
Maybe one day he won’t irk me so much.
With anger out of the way, the other emotions get a bigger piece of the dance floor. Someone recently mentioned in a comment that I am really starting to feel. When I first read that, I associated the comment with the butterflies I experienced when seeing Mr. Wild Card at the Sand Dollar. Now, the meaning in her words is clear: with anger out of the way, I am able to feel, really feel.
Which means I can really feel them. The emotions that make me feel good and the ones that make me feel bad. On top of that, I’m discovering how I feel about how I feel. Lately, it’s made me feel like one of those perfectly preserved, skinless bodies in a museum exhibit – only I’m alive. My every nerve exposed.
It’s not all bad. I like big feelings. I’m not afraid of them anymore. And without skin, no stretch marks! But being so exposed requires a watchful Observer Self. Emotions like worry or concern don’t brew, they heat right to boiling. The butterflies don’t cause my stomach to flip, they stop my heart. I need her to be on it, coaching me like M to my James Bond, pointing out pitfalls and tendencies, reining me in. Helping me to be objective and emotive, not just highly charged.
This time last year I was angry. And angry is a one-woman show. With that show now dark, an ensemble gathers – happy, sad, scary, feisty, nervous, love, and a cast of other emotions looking to get in on the act. It was way harder to free myself of anger than it was to learn to recognize my emotions and decipher their origin and intent. It really requires nothing other than paying attention and taking the time to ponder. Getting rid of anger requires personal trainers and life support.
I had an encounter the day before Thanksgiving with a woman, divorced, around 50. We spent an hour together. I had not met her before. In the first 15 minutes she told me how she was finally at peace being alone. She didn’t need a man in her life. She actually preferred to make dinner for one and eat it on the couch with a book. She dated after her divorce, and eventually fell hard and fast for a man. The relationship fizzled out after burning hot for three months. After that she just didn’t feel the need to be with anyone. She was content and happy doing her own thing.
In the second 15 minutes she told me about the six guys she was dating. But it’s just casual. Happy hour dates and dinners at home.
At minute 30 she was telling me about how men just want to date and have ‘bootie calls’ (her word choice) and don’t want to commit. They want to come and go as they please. “If a guy doesn’t call me within seven days of a date I am done.” She would rather be alone than deal with that. She wanted a commitment. Someone who was ready for a relationship.
Someone who was emotionally available.
I spent the last 15 minutes talking about swimming. Which is exactly what I felt like I was doing. Swimming in her emotional debris. Debris, that if rescued, would make for a fantastic dwelling. But all ripped up and tossed about just created litter. Before she finds someone who is emotionally available she would benefit from knowing how she herself feels.
Now that the days of cave bears and saber-toothed tigers are behind us, and language has given us endless ways to describe how we feel, maybe the next step is being able to work with our emotions to finally figure this whole relationship thing out, as we order take out and shop for our disaster survival kit online.
Maybe we’re on the upswing!
I want to be in the lead pack.
But who am I going to figure this whole relationship thing out with? (I know, total grammatical bunk.) Well, he looks like this…