I have always had a quick temper – whether it is really because of my hair colour or whether I developed it as a self fulfilling prophesy because people treated me as though they expected me to have a quick temper is a whole other debate for another day but I definitely have a low flash point. I’ve certainly mellowed as I’ve gotten older and tend to save my energy for fights that are worth it – I am more considered and better at choosing my battles these days. I rarely hold a grudge, I often regret losing my temper and always, always endeavour to put right any wrongs I have caused as a result of acting in anger. I should state that I am not and have never been physically violent. My weapons are my words, but as we all know despite chanting ‘stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ we can all recall words which have wounded probably with more remembered pain and clarity than any bruises over the years.
A little brother, a long life partnership with Ady, a career of working with customers and colleagues, bumbling through life for 44 years and (possibly most instrumental in teaching me a thing or two) motherhood have taught me patience, tolerance, skills in biting my tongue, in keeping my counsel and finding better ways to deal with the things which may have previously had me entering the spectrum of emotions from mildly irritated to incandescent with white hot rage.
Some things still push my buttons though and I feel the physical twinges in the style of the Incredible Hulk. I have been told my face changes and my voice alters, I feel a flush hitting my cheeks, I know my eyes are flashing. I feel icily calm even though I know I am actually quite the opposite of calm. The thing is though, like so many human reflexes there is a point to anger, to that adrenaline rush and the fight or flight response it is preparing you for. I feel taller, stronger, more lucid, more able to command attention and feel heard. It is my anger, my feeling riled that tells me something is worth my energy and gives me that additional energy rush in order to use up the extra required.
We all have our own causes that we would champion, things which we would march for, protest against, issues which we are passionate about, care about, are affected by. Some are those which directly challenge us or or those we care about, things that threaten our own way of life or those we love, some are those which we feel empathy for or can see how they might have an impact on us either in the future or in a hypothetical way. Some issues provoke a feeling of needing to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Fights for the rights of children, of animals, of women, of the oppressed, the needy, the helpless, the worthy, for all.
The feeling of powerlessness, of hopelessness, of having no rights, no choices is one we have all experienced at some point, in some capacity. It can have various effects on us – it can make us shrink and shrivel, feel submissive and without options. Or it can make us feel a stirring, of anger, of rage and able to unleash our power. The form of that power can alter from person to person, from situation to situation but it may be physical power; strength to fight, to run, to march, to overthrow. It may take the form of a creative energy – to shout, to draw, to paint, to write, to sing. It may be personal and individual, it may be collective and create a protest, a petition, a social movement.
Daily something will spark in me, in most of us I imagine. It may be a brief flash which we either swallow or deal with by uttering a swear word or slamming a door. It may build or fester, it may go away or it may keep getting bigger and building. Earlier this week Scarlett was angered, as so many people in the UK have been by watching the Drowing in Plastic documentary. We talked about what to do with that anger – what power she might have to use, ways in which she could use the energy that her anger had created to do something about what was making her angry. Short term things like picking up plastic when she walked along a beach, looking at every bit of her own plastic use to ensure it was as minimal as possible. Mid term things like petitions or writing or speaking to her MP, to the shops who stock items she may buy about why they are using plastic, making use of social media to spread the word, longer term aims like considering a future where she continues to use her power. Over the years we have met all sorts of activists using their power in various ways – people who work for Greenpeace, journalists, film makers, TV and radio presenters, politicians…. all inspiring people who find the way in which to use the power they have to make a difference.
Today Ady used his power – I had been emailing back and forth with the customer services department of the company who make our pressure cooker which had developed a fault. I was getting nowhere so Ady phoned them and used his power of reasonable, friendly, rational speaking, appealing to the better nature and common sense of the person on the end of the phone to sort out the problem and get a replacement spare in the post for him to fix it.
I have a few various things testing my patience and calm just now, some are big, some are small. Some I will probably let go, others I know are worth the fight. They are injustices, not fair, not OK, not something I can let rest and move on from. Rage can feel like such an impotent emotion, able only to wreak destruction or damage to oneself, but properly channelled anger is power, power to spur you on find the best way to fight and set right the wrongs. In the past I have used my power to complain, to raise awareness, to speak to my MP, to report wrongs, to march with banners, to speak to the media, to write blogs and articles. I have used it to spread the word and inform others, I have used it to join with people and add my might to a collective.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Sometimes that group only needs be as big as you and your own power.