Wishing a friend a happy sober anniversary, she commented that sobriety is easy. One step in front of another, one day at a time. Which is true enough.
Yesterday i was sitting in a meeting at lunchtime with the topic being ‘anger’, and found myself talking about the buried rage within and the old desire to kill or hurt myself when I was drunk. A great surprise to me and I felt embarrassed at having spoken out with such intensity and unresolved feeling. Went out and bought some groceries at a small farmer’s shop, small brown mushrooms, spring onions, pale green flageolet beans, sage drops for menopause. Then took a deep breath and walked across to join others at the cathedral close. Polly looked up with genuine pleasiure when she saw me approaching and I felt better. Sat down and Charles came up to sit next to me. ‘I was thinking you should come and sit with us for a cup of coffee,’ he said ‘I’m so pleased you felt the same.’ I smiled and didn’t say I had planned to run away and catch the bus back home.
I never found resentment to be a major factor in my stepwork or daily life. I don’t often feel angry, am quite relaxed in most encounters and my dreams are more sad than angry. The other evening I spoke to Jill who talked about the rage within and how she is learning to live with that. Volcanic. I like Jill so much, her eccentricities and vulnerability. As we were parting I said to Jill that we should do a session on rage and scare the men a little, joking. We both roared with laughter and off I went.
There is so much buried feeling within, and the fear is mostly all I can connect with. As I said yesterday in the meeting, I grew up with so many angry people around me, the violence of the state, the fury of the armed struggle, the fear of being imprisoned or tortured or murdered, the systemic violence of racism during the second Chimuranga and the heartless fury of apartheid, the wars in Angola and Mozambique, the sporadic violence in the townships, the spiralling crime. Death at the hands of a stranger.
And behind all that the terror within the family — those nights when I thought my father was going to shoot my mother,, lying in bed shaking with fear and looking at the light from the passage falling on the bedroom floor, listening to the screaming and threats. Silence all day, not a word said, just sulks and avoidance, then the screaming at night, the pounding of blows.
It was not safe to express anger. And feeling anger that could not be expressed was too unbearable, so I tried not to feel anger.
The anger around rape that feels like a wild veld fire in my head.
How little we know ourselves! Listening to women in recovery and hearing my own stifled voice insisting that everything is fine. And the volcano within lying dormant and waiting to erupt. A great scarlet and black Vesuvius, streaming red lava and belching smoke, splattering out rocks and debris.
So this was a diffcult moment, recognising the rage within and knowing I am going to need to feel it, little by little, month after month. Feel it and not act out. But our own inner nature is wiser than we realise and I draw strength from that, along with the comforting sense of togetherness. Others have come along this dangerous path and lived to tell the story. I can walk with them and learn how to pass the dragons.
Just near the bus stop there is the Catholic church of St Francis Xavier (the 16th-century Jesuit who went to the Far East) and I ventured in there yesterday to find respite from the sudden heat as I waited for the bus. Hideous church in some ways, cupolas out of proportion, gilt everywhere, smirking statues and a deep maroon that looked very ugly next to a glittering baroque alterpiece. The glass doors to the church were locked but I saw a few chairs and thought I would sit down and talk to the God in whom I am not sure I believe. Sat down but was distracted and didn’t talk to anyone. Just looked at the church, down the length of the nave and wondered about the persecuted Catholics and the problems of cultural imperialism. Then browsed around looking at pamphlets and went out again.
But the desire to talk to this not-believed-in-God stayed with me. Someone who watches over me, someone I know but do not like to acknowledge. That presence on the margins of my consciousness.