I am on a date, and a man is critiquing my looks. It doesn't stop there. He goes on to tell me all the things unenlightened men will say, if given the opportunity. Ya know, more make up, smile more, etc.
But in this situation, I am calm. This, more than anything, is what is making the biggest impression. I am not full of rage. I am not trying to figure out every way possible to insult this man without his notice. I am actually in the midst of telling him that what he thinks of me is none of my business, and that I was not out on a date to be "approved of." I tell him this without a hint of anger in me. I am basically explaining to him how I operate. He is taken aback. And honestly, I am too.
For much of my life, I have been so full of rage in so many situations that I was forced, not long ago, to figure out a different way to react. Forced because I was raging at one of the people I love the most, the one person, who, I am sure loves me unconditionally-ish. I was becoming enraged with my boyfriend every time he made a small mistake. Or, even when he made a large one. And he was just about at the end of his rope.
I had always thought my anger was appropriate. I had always thought that was why people didn't fuck with me. I had always thought it made me a badass. But the other night, as I sat there calmly describing how I operate to this "date guy," I realized that THIS was actually badass. Being unmoved by this type of judgment. Understanding fully that how he sees me has nothing to do with my reality. After I finished explaining my views to him, he kind of just sat there in awe. So did I.
It was always very intellectual. I understood that I shouldn't strike out in anger at people who insulted me, or undermined me, or backstabbed me, but I could never really make the connection between my brain and my body. I could not go from knowing that keeping my cool was better, to actually keeping my cool.
Then I almost lost my boyfriend. It was pretty much the last straw for him. He had been screamed at needlessly for the last time, he said, and frankly, I was kind of sick of feeling so embarrassed by my behavior that I wanted to hide in a cave for a month or three.
So I took a step back. I made a decision to sit with my anger instead of throwing it at the nearest available person. Every time I felt hurt, I would sit with it. I would feel that pain instead of immediately trying to push it out of me. I would sit with it until the rage I felt would turn to sadness, then I would express that. It took a lot of practice. It took some time messing up. It sometimes took a day to feel angry. Yes, a whole day. I still mess it up sometimes. But I am so much better. I no longer send angry texts. I no longer explode at small things. Well, not lately anyway.
My anger was my body's way of trying to push back on the pain. It was my body's defense mechanism for rejecting the pain I did not want to feel around the sadness I held inside on a continuous basis. It was my body believing it could create a shield with a boomerang. My body was wrong, but you can see how that might work, in some situations. Or not....
So there I was, sitting with this dude who had basically acted disappointed with my looks, explaining to him why that didn't matter to me, and it hit me that this was true power. Not reacting to perceived threat or insult. To behave in a manner that did not cause me to want to hibernate. I could see a place down the road where I could choose my reaction to any stimulus.
That night I had a dream I was an old woman. In my dream, I looked a lot like Rambo. Actually, I was Rambo. I was just me, as an old woman. And a little bit of Rambo.
Even my dreams knew I was becoming a badass. Even though Rambo is more of a symbol of brute strength and violence in answer to external attack, I got the message. I am changing, and while I know this is but a mere step on a path that is long and painful. It is so wonderful to notice actual improvement.