Anger as a Vehicle. ~ Rachael Goss

Via on Oct 27, 2012

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This has been the worst year of my life. Anger was merely a vehicle.

At 32, I’m freshly divorced and living on my own for the first time.

My career isn’t stable, and while I love what I do, my work is not reliable or high paying. I have massive debt, both in student loans and credit cards.

I’ve lost two friends to suicide in the past year, a deadly diagnosis for a family member, and my own health has been rocky. I struggle with migraines so frequently that I take three to four painkillers in a week’s time. It seemed that just when I’d think that things were looking up, something worse would happen.

Just when I’d think that the hole couldn’t get any deeper—it did.

Car trouble that spanned two months, phone trouble that spanned three, unpaid doctor bills, and the worst, my newfound lover dumping me. Nothing like heartache to put you in the most vulnerable and self-critical place.

I was starting to feel like the universe was conspiring against me. A plot to overthrow Rachael! I mean, this was getting ridiculous. Who the hell was I, Job?

Everything in my life was falling apart and I could find no solace.

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I spun into a pretty deep depression. It seemed as though I had nothing left to hold onto anymore. I could not identify even one thing to give me hope or to get me out of bed in the morning.

Nothing, that is, until I finally stepped back on my yoga mat after an almost one year hiatus.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t show up to the community yoga class because I thought it would do a damn bit of good. My teacher and dear friend called one day, heard the emptiness in my voice, and begged me to come to class with her. I decided to go to make her happy, and to go through the motions, like everything else in my life.

At this point, there was nothing else but going through the motions because it all felt so empty. However, as I was flowing through a slow sun salutation sequence, I unexpectedly found my one thing to hold onto.

It was my anger.

As a yoga teacher and an aspiring Buddhist, this revelation was disturbing to me.

According to my practice, anger was not welcome in spiritual awakenings. “Cultivate compassion,” “Love thy enemy,” “Forgive” and all that hippie stuff were the mantras I tried to live by. I felt so ashamed that I was afraid my teacher, who was practicing on her mat next to me, would somehow telepathically hear this idea and reach over and slap the karma right out of me. But still, I had this haunting feeling that my anger, at least in this moment, was a gift.

So, I tapped into it. I dug deep to find all the things I could be angry about in my recent life.

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I made a list of “Things that sucked about 2012,” which was surprisingly cathartic. I spent three days gritting my teeth in this negative vortex. I listened to Ani DiFranco and Rage Against the Machine as loudly as possible, on repeat. I kept my head down, my eyes tight and I let myself wallow in it. Somehow, it gave me the strength to get out of bed in the morning and move through my day. If this is all I had to keep me going in my life, then it would have to be enough.

 Think about it: amazing things can happen in the world as a result of anger.

The Civil Rights Movement, for example, happened because someone was pissed off and wouldn’t move to the back of the bus. Someone’s anger got them marching in the streets with thousands of other angry people. Anger is powerful.

I think the trick is to not get stuck in anger or to be seduced by the power that comes with anger.

I needed that power in those desperate moments to stay alive. I think it would be easy to mistake the trees for the forest, as the saying goes. My anger was merely a vehicle. It got me where I needed to go. I did not set up residence in it—I did not let it take root in my heart.

After my three days, I came home one evening and I sat on the edge of my bed and noticed that the anger wasn’t there anymore. I started sobbing as I realized that all the hurt and sadness that I had been keeping out, was there in its place. It didn’t feel good, but it wasn’t numb anymore either. It wasn’t giving up.

I did what some wise yogi told me to do once when things get really bad: I “leaned into it.” I let myself finally feel that sorrow as deeply as I could. Just like in my yoga practice, I tried to become aware of every feeling, every ache, every strained breath. Eventually, I settled and found that stillness that often comes in savasana.

That stillness was fleeting, like everything else in life. But it was there for a little while when I so desperately needed it. And it comes and goes throughout the day now, intermixed with tears and heartache, which I suspect is how it’s going to be for now.

I’ve got a lot of healing to do and it’s going to take some time. I’m in therapy, I’ve got the support of amazing friends, and I’m back to running and yoga again. Life isn’t magically put back together, but it sure is a heck of a lot better than where I was a few weeks ago.

Life, like yoga, is a practice. Sometimes we find inspiration and motivation in unexpected places.

 

Rachael Goss teaches Sociology at various universities in Pittsburgh. She has practiced yoga for 6 years and is thankful she found it. She has a degree in World Religions and tries to find the sacred in everyday living.

 

 ~

Editor: ShaMecha Simms

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11 Responses to “Anger as a Vehicle. ~ Rachael Goss”

  1. Righton! says:

    Looks like you’re adjuncting. I did it, may end up doing it again. I wish you all the strength, focus, and stability in the world. I wish you great student evaluations, supporting dept. chairs, and a full-time line, tenure-track if you want it. And I hope for than anything for you that you have healthcare.

    You should be angry.

    There is no good reason for our profession to be so unstable, so painful. Universities glut themselves as the pig trough of the student loan business, but then turn around and downsize faculty. It’s disgusting. It’s corruption. You should get angry.

    • Righton! says:

      I know your work life is only one of the challenges you mentioned, but I want to focus on that partly to make a point.
      Anger is important as a response to injustice. It is unjust and unnecessary to cut teaching positions into little pieces. Yoga teachers who think they had a hard time teaching YOGA and making a living should understand they are SO not alone.
      Only the ignorance of Americans about our own history allows us to stupidly cast certain emotions as “good” and others as “bad,” and/or to freak about “how to use them.” We have a very bloody history of labor oppression in America, most of which has been twisted up with racial oppression. Mostly, the way people got out of that was they got angry and got organized and got moving. We coast now on the few gains those people paid in blood to win for us: a forty-hour work week, safe working conditions, at least a minimum wage, however paltry. The right to organize.
      There is nothing spiritually laudable about placidity. Nothing. Buddhist “traditions” grew up in countries often gripped by brutally oppressive regimes. In all our fetishing of “the East,” we seem to forget that. If you want to find ways to be “compassionate and detached” WHILE moving forward, great.
      But never fool yourself that in America, what rights we have, we have had to fight for, and will again.

  2. Shirley Bonicoro says:

    Rachael,

    You are a miracle!! You are learning so much on your journey. 2012 was not a good year for me either…in the middle of my 3rd (yep) divorce, breast cancer diagnosis, moved to a new state – no friends BUT grown kids…good. I am learning so much about myself, anger, sadness, walking the walk. You will come out stronger, the universe only wants what is best for you…obviously neither of us was in the right relationship. I have stopped ‘forcing’ things but actively participating in each day and feeling tremendous amounts of gratitude. Live in the present. The past we cannot change, the future is not here yet. Live for today. Sending you love and blessings – Namaste… :)

  3. Ann says:

    Your words and your honesty, in the midst of your pain have given me a new perspective today. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for you have inspired me. I have re-embraced the fact that a very challenging situation can be the catalyst for something better.

  4. [...] Anger as a Vehicle. ~ Rachael Goss [...]

  5. Rachael says:

    Thank you all for your kind words and support. When I wrote this, it was healing for me, but I had also hoped it would help someone else. Bright blessings.

  6. greateacher says:

    I appreciate this article.. " I did not let it take root in my heart." Right on! Thank you again.

  7. iambethanne says:

    I just read several articles hoping to find the message I needed today, and this was it! The details of my story are different from yours but I am feeling exactly what you described. And then you admitted to playing Rage Against the Machine on repeat and I started laughing, because that has so been my way of leaning into my anger and frustration and feeling stuck (even though I know I am not stuck). Love and blessings to you!

  8. [...] is a powerful emotion. As I mentioned in an earlier article, this has been the most difficult year of my life and I’ve become well acquainted with [...]

  9. [...] us who have been abused or oppressed by people or institutions that have power over our lives know how costly it can be to respond with anger. Our perceptive bodies may have learned to stifle anger in these situations. This is an intelligent [...]

  10. [...] That unshielded period had a limited run; it was truly a moment between. As the fresh, raw skin of the vulnerable self is exposed to the elements of life, it naturally begins to thicken once again. I now strive to keep it in check. In my weekly hot yoga class, my expectations and assumptions are washed away with the sweat. I try to maintain that open, questioning mind and to see things as they are, rather than how I desire them to be. I try to accept rather than to judge. And, most importantly, I no longer allow fear to be my chauffeur. I now drive my own life. [...]

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