Oh, anger, how I loved you so! How I believed the way you made me feel when I would embrace you: That I was Right and my husband was Wrong; that I was strong and untouchable; that I could erase every bad feeling I’d ever had by filling myself up with your blazing heat and certainty.
*sigh* Too bad it didn’t last. Or actually, wait a minute—good thing it didn’t last!
Anger takes all the bad feelings that divorce springs on you—the guilt, the sense of failure, the worthlessness, the joy of feeling unlovable—and turns them upside-down and pushes them away. But what I realized is that when my rage and outrage and cinematically inspired trash talk and fury receded, I was left with all the same bad feelings. And an anger hangover, to boot. Giving in to my anger made me feel dirty, because I knew when I was angry I said things I didn’t really mean: that I wanted to hurt him, that I wanted to screw him, that I wanted to keep him from getting any money out of our marriage. Sure, I felt those things for moments in time, but I didn’t want to hold on to those feelings, as if they were a life raft. The life raft for me had to be that I was worthwhile, compassionate, bigger than the pain and the anger; that I would and could be healed and whole a few years down the line.
Anger led me toward moments where I threw my dignity and self-respect out the window for the short-term thrill of feeling right. But boy, did I really need those things now. I needed dignity and self-respect and self-compassion even more than I needed to be right.
And so I slowly stepped away from the anger—I still had it, a lot of it, but I stopped trying to embrace it and hold onto it as if it were some kind of lifesaver. I could cuss and be angry and not vent it at him; I could have elaborate thoughts of doing him cartoonish harm, and then let those thoughts go; I could be outraged that he got to leave so much of the hard work of rebuilding our broken house behind for me to do, and then just let out a big sigh and call the contractor again, instead of tying myself into apoplexy. And after a few weeks of that, I slowly found myself starting to move on past all the thoughts and feelings that hurt me, and instead starting to choose the activities and friends and thoughts that made me feel good, made me feel whole.
In the end, nobody is satisfied by a tease. So let your anger course through you when it comes, and then wave goodbye again and again, until it’s gone.