Archives for posts with tag: anger
Photo from National Geographic magazine.

May 18, 1980. Eruption of Mt St. Helens. Photo from National Geographic magazine.

As you may already know, Mt. St. Helen’s erupted on this day, 34 years ago. This is a mountain in the Cascade range, one of the two mountain ranges in my state of Washington. I was in the 8th grade when it happened and although the mountain is nearly 200 miles from the city in which I grew up, I could see the ash plume from the home of the neighbor at which I was babysitting.

It was the first time I remember there being a natural disaster near where I lived. Unlike earthquakes, this seismic event could be predicted. The area was evacuated. Nonetheless, there were casualties, people who refused to leave the area. Harry Truman, an elderly man who lived on Spirit Lake, was interviewed prior to the eruption. He stated under no uncertain terms, would he leave the area. He stayed and he died.

What was most upsetting to me was the fact that two children, Day Andrew Karr (aged 11) and Michael Murray Karr (aged 9), were also killed. They actually lived in my town and their father TOOK THEM to see the mountain erupt. A photo of Day Karr’s lifeless and naked body, sitting in the back of a pick up truck was on the cover of a national magazine. I found the photo and planned to put it in this post but honestly, it is still too upsetting to me. The child had not been identified at the time the photo was published. As I recall, Day’s grandmother recognized him when she saw the cover of the NATIONAL MAGAZINE! What a horrible way to identify a body. My mother was asked to sing for the father and the boys’ funeral, which she did.

As I have mentioned, I have been dealing with anger about my cancer in the last few months. And as I have mentioned, anxiety typically underlies my experiences of anger. I feel it bubbling and sometimes it smokes and puffs a little. I have been less patient with my family.

I know that I am not going to blow like Mt. St. Helens. But I can feel something coming and I’m not sure how to prevent it. I can’t evacuate from myself. I keep walking in the woods, meditating, and so forth. I am trying to take care of myself. But this feels like a grief episode and likely increasing in part because next Saturday marks 2 years since my breast cancer diagnosis.

The other waves of grief have been ones I had to ride until I got to the other side. I suspect this will be the same. I can comfort myself with the view of a snow capped Mt. St. Helens that I saw from the airplane on my way back to Seattle from New Orleans. It was part of a beautiful range of mountains.

 

As I mentioned last week, I am dealing with anger. I am pretty sure that it is about my stupid cancer. Getting sick for my New Orleans trip was really disappointing. I had seen it as an opportunity for a romantic “second honeymoon”. Adding to the frustration, the trip almost didn’t happen and was also quite expensive.

We still had fun but I’ve got to tell you, sitting on the plane on the way over was pretty uncomfortable. I was coughing a lot, I mean A LOT. I believe that I was the least popular person on the flight. The man sitting next to me had his body turned as far away from me as he could. A kind woman behind me handed me a cough drop. I already had one in my mouth not to mention the fact that I was fully loaded up with cough and cold medicine. And then I started having abdominal muscle spasms, which made me cough even more. That was a new one for me. I wonder if it has something to do with the abdominal muscle that was re-purposed for my TRAM reconstruction. I think that by the end of the flight, the man next to me was wishing that he’d sat next to a screaming toddler instead of next to me while I spewed my plague all over the coach section of the plane.

We arrived to New Orleans at about 3pm on Saturday. I took a short walk to the French Quarter with John. We walked down Bourbon Street until I finally said, “Yuck, I’ve gotten enough of an anthropological experience.”We walked over one block and had a delightful change of scenery to art galleries and such instead of Hustler clubs with horrible names like, “Barely Legal” with young and not so young scantily clad women standing in the doorways.

Sunday was our only full day without any band performances to attend. In the morning, I felt like I’d been run over so after John brought me some breakfast, I went back to sleep and didn’t get up until 4pm. I know I felt a lot better, showered, and got dressed for dinner. I have no recollection of where we went or what we ate though I know we walked there from the hotel, at my insistence and John’s objection. (I was still going to get in my 3 miles of walking in each day.)

On Monday, we went to a band performance, which went well. Then we took the street car to the Garden District to soak up the ambiance and to tour one of the cemeteries. We did a lot of walking that day. There were definitely some positives but I must admit that I was in a foul mood and complained a lot. Then John complained about my complaining and I said lamely, “But I’m sick! On our vacation. Waaaaaaaaaah!” (Okay, I didn’t really say, “waaaaaaaah!”) His suggestion was, “So you’re sick. Can’t you just make the best of it?” “But I am!!!!!!! I am out of bed!!!!! Also, your wife is sick and cranky. YOU make the best of that.”

So at this point of reading this post, you may feel sorry for my husband. And if you do not, you probably should because although I snapped out of my disappointed child routine for the couple of days following, once we’d gotten to the day after the fashion show, I was exhausted and mad again.

I was annoyed about every little thing. I have not been in a nasty mood like this in quite some time. And I don’t remember the last time it lasted an extended period of time like this. And John got the brunt of my perpetual dissatisfaction. I actually felt a lot better after I wrote my post complaining about how John often doesn’t answer me when I talk to him. Writing has a way of doing that for me. But by last night I was exhausted and fuming again. “Why is this house such a mess? Why do I have to live like this? This isn’t the way I want to live!”

Truth be told, although my husband is not the best at housework, he is a really hard worker. He is really bogged down with work and helping our daughter keep on top of her schoolwork. She missed nearly an entire week of school for that band trip and she takes a very difficult schedule. John spent many hours with her over the weekend sorting through what she missed, what she has to turn in, and what assignments needed to be done over the weekend. She is not easy to help, either, and is prone to getting frustrated and losing her reasoning skills. “What do you mean I have to answer in paragraphs? What does that mean? This is so stupid!”

He was so patient with her all weekend and here she and I were providing grumpiness in stereo. By the end of the night, I was feeling pretty remorseful. Today, my first thought was, “Put a cork in it, Elizabeth.” I know that my anger is very understandable and that I need to process it. Managing anger is tricky, though. There are ways of dealing with it that make it worse, for example, constantly complaining to one’s husband.

Maybe writing this post will help. Maybe I need to keep reminding myself that my anger, just like sadness and fear, do not last forever.

Even though all feelings are right. Anger FEELS wrong and I find myself looking ways in which I feel that I have been wronged in order to justify its expression. And then once I realize this is what I am doing, I feel wrong again.

 

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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