When it’s Bitter, Sometimes Anger Roars

It’s been a mild winter so far, but the first bitterness, with wind chills below zero, sapped my energy and patience. My feet burned. My hands burned. The wind was roaring. I had to pee. I wanted to get done and get back inside to warm my fingers and toes. I wanted to eat. It had taken energy I didn’t have to haul three water buckets up from the basement and out the door. As I was pulling my muck bucket through the barn, the whole thing collapsed and tipped its load.

All right. Now I’d had it. It’s too cold for this new muck bucket rack to fall apart. I reached down to try to put it back together by pushing the two nobs into the two slots. A person has to be strong to put them in similtaneously. It wouldn’t give. (Do such things ever give in when we’re angry?) I picked it up and threw it into the hay and yelled. Then I threw it outside with another yell. Maybe some cuss words.

The first time I threw it, Morgen ran, I mean ran, out of the barn. Tessie kept eating.

Darn. Darn. Darn.

It took a year or so for me to get it, that these outbursts break my friendship with Morgen, that she mirrored me by becoming erratic and snarky. That when I became consistent in relating to her, she became consistent. Darn it all. When she came back in, her eyes were sparkly, not how I like to see them, soft and adoring. I told her it wasn’t her, it was me. It was the cold.

I had just seen a neuropsyche to test my memory because I feel stupid. I can’t remember things, from way back or just now. I am haunted by the twenty white matter lesions in my brain that run front to back like a group of majorettes waving their flags. White matter lesions that slow processing down. Nobody knows why I have them. My first neurologist got pretty excited, thinking I had MS, but no tests supported that diagnosis. Gradually I stopped feeling ill. (Believe it or not, Night’s arrival lifted the darkness. The ache in my legs and fatigue began to ease.) Now the docs say they’re normal for my age. They have not changed from the first MRI’s taken five years ago.

I played with red and white blocks, saying I was never good at Rubic’s cubes. My brother was but not me. I tried to remember a list of words, retold mini stories, drew pictures. I wondered at the publisher — Pearson, who seems to publish everything educational. But what stood out was Bruce asking Doc about the questions having to do with anger. I left the room, so he could be free to say. Later he said that he sees my anger as pretty normal when a person gets frustrated about things. I thought, “Well I don’t get angry.”

But that interchange between Bruce and the neuropsyche doctor turned my focus to my anger. I saw how my frustration with friends, politics and our culture rises pretty often. Awareness is good. Christianity says, if we confess our sins, God is able and just to forgive them, but if we deny them he will deny us (I John 1). The human wisdom here is that self honesty is a way to life, to forgiveness, but if we deny we have a problem, it stays, it festers, how can we find forgiveness?

On the other hand, being super aware of our flaws, drives us right to them. We practice what we look at. I think of the tree farmers used to look for so they made their rows straight. Once I became aware of my anger, it became my focus and I drove smack dab into a tantrum that felt ice cold inside and wrecked Morgen’s trust. (I know that there is a scale of positive and negative experiences, and this was just one incident buried with much that is positive. But I don’t like the backwards move into bad behavior on my part.)

I bought Tessie because the tears hadn’t stopped from the shooting at NIU, but since then I learned that horses aren’t for expressing your emotions. They call us to show them the best parts of ourselves, not the worst, so they can trust us, as much as we need to trust them.

Photo by Chris Mothkovich
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