I’m filled with a mixture of despair and anger. I prefer anger. Anger is active, engaged, focused. I don’t know why anger gets such a bad rap; I think it can be very positive. Anger is at the core of all great liberation movements. In its purest form, anger is simply the recognition that an existing situation is not right, and an unwillingness to accept that situation. There is no better motivator than anger, no greater impetus for change.
What I find worse, far worse, is despair. Despair is the opposite of anger; it starts with the same recognition that something is wrong, but fizzles out. Despair is the person who says, “There’s nothing I can do” and then walks away. Left alone, allowed to continue for too long, despair ends up as either an abrogation of any sense of responsibility, or becomes a cynical ability to accept what is wrong and just not care. Me, I’ll opt for anger.
Right now I’m angry at a multitude of people and situations. I’m angry at having had so few years with Rick, and that many of those few years were marred by sickness and problems. I’m angry that intractable insurance rules eliminated the slim hope that existed for him. I’m angry with Rick for the mess I was left, both physical and financial. I’m angry at myself for having wasted so much of the few precious years we had with disagreements and issues that seemed important at the time, but I now realize were trivial. I’m angry at all the myriad ways that his death might have been prevented; at him, for what had to be an almost willful ignoring of an increasing illness; at his doctor, for not pressing the issue with him and confronting what was going on; and at me, for thinking there was a problem but not insisting on facing it.
I need that anger, I crave that anger, because when I’m not angry I’m in despair, a deep, dark depression. On angry days I can move; I leave the house, I get things done, I see people, I go places. Eventually the activity and interaction with other people makes me forget the anger; I’m engaged and involved in the world. I can laugh, and talk and even enjoy myself. There are moments when I remember and feel bad; today grocery shopping I pass by a product he likes and suddenly I’m back in a dark place. But the anger keeps me moving.
When the anger goes away there is only despair, and those are the really bad days. Those are the days where it’s hard to move, to engage, to do anything other than relive the same memories and mental pictures over and over again. Despair is inactive; there is no movement associated with it. The mental picture of an angry person moves; you imagine the person yelling, waving their arms, spinning about. Despair brings up a picture of a figure sitting, head down, face in hands, still and unmoving.
People are afraid of anger because it can lead to unpredictability, losing control. When there is control and anger, plans are made and progress is made. Anger cuts through sadness, grief, despair, and allows movement to occur. Anger can be dangerous, but so can despair. Anger is more obvious and violent in its danger, but unchecked despair leads to a complete shutdown. Not as dramatic, but just as dangerous.
So, for now, I’ll choose anger whenever I can. I won’t get stuck, not in permanent anger, but also not in despair.