Feminism

laughter and letting it go

laughing
[at my wedding reception during my father-in-law’s toast]

If you’ve been around for any length of time, you probably know that I spent the majority of last week . . . well, pretty angry. And then being shamed and belittled for it. It was a difficult week for me– on top of all of what happened, two of my best friends are going through an extremely difficult time. So, by the time I made it to Thursday night, I was one big ball of emotion and utter exhaustion. I just wanted to go to sleep. I was puttering around before going to bed, and was chatting with a friend on facebook. She’s about to graduate from the college I attended for undergrad, and she told me that they’d decided to hire a man we both know for being… well, not to put too sharp a point on it, but he literally got his degree in Islamaphobia, no joke. So… I tweeted about it. (Seriously, you guys, twitter is like unicorns and puppies and kittens and so much awesomesauce it’s incredible.)

Oops.

Let’s see… In 16 consecutive mentions, I was practicing “feminist rage” (not sure what that had to do with anything, but ok); I “struggle with reality”; obviously, all my claims are “suspect” unless I report my rapist (which I’ve never specified if I’ve done that or not, it’s really nobody’s damn business); I’m “pontificating” and “spreading misinformation” (his own website bio substantiates what I’d said); I’m “delusional” and I have OCD, and, apparently, the “docs have meds 4 me.”

Sigh.

I read these right before I went to bed. I rolled over onto my back and stared up at the ceiling. I was so utterly exhausted, I didn’t even really have the energy to react. I turned my phone off at Handsome’s suggestion . . . but I was emotionally unsettled. So I prayed.

I am so sick and tired of being angry. I don’t want to be angry at this, there’s no point. I just want to laugh. I just want to be able to ignore this man. Nothing that he says matters– he doesn’t know me, he just makes his living off of hating people. I want to be able to see this for the absolute ridiculousness this is. Please don’t let me take this personally.

I woke up the next morning . . . and, unexpectedly, it was hysterical. Seriously, his tweets were some of the funniest things I’d read on the internet– at least, it felt that way all day Friday. As I type this, I’m sitting here giggling. Every time I’ve thought about it, my lips quirk, I shake my head, and I laugh. It doesn’t hurt that his tweets were so far over the top that they made fun of themselves. I mean, who says that kind of thing outside of a roast or a comedy? It also doesn’t hurt that anything he had to say wasn’t new– I’d heard it all before. It wasn’t the first time I’d been accused of being crazy– but this time, it was out of the mouth of a fool. And I do mean fool in the biblical sense.

It’s funny– and that’s all it is.

I shared what had happened with a few friends, we had a good laugh about it, I tweeted back at him tongue-in-cheek, and then I went grocery shopping. Handsome came home, we ordered pizza and watched Star Trek. Saturday and Sunday were equally as relaxing. We went to a museum here, got Starbucks, went out to the flight line… and through it all I laughed.

I’ve been thinking about these two emotions since then. The anger I felt earlier last week was justified, and I still believe it was appropriate and necessary. What I was reacting to was wrong— but I wasn’t reacting for myself. I was reacting, in anger, for every single person who’d ever been hurt like I had. I wrote what I did in order to help someone who’d been lied to the same way I had to recognize the wrongness about what was happening. My anger was not just an overly emotional reaction that was clouding my better judgment. I’ve calmed down since then– it’s only been a week, but when I think about it now, the only thing I feel is calm.

But just because I’m calm now doesn’t mean that my initial anger was somehow a less appropriate response.

And just because I can laugh and shake my head at the tweets doesn’t invalidate my anger toward David Cuff. One reaction is not “better” than the other. One reaction is not intrinsically more healthy, or more productive, than the other. Both responses, I feel, are the proper response to the situation. In one situation, being angry and bringing it to the attention of my readers was the only right thing to do. In the other situation, his tweets weren’t hurting anyone– they weren’t even hurting me. The only thing he was doing was clearly making an ass of himself. That doesn’t deserve a reaction besides laughter.

I’m learning, oh so very slowly, how to have emotions, and how to deal with them productively. I’m learning to recognize emotions for what they are– until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t even able to put a name to what I now know is anxiety. I can allow myself to be angry, and storm and rage and stomp and wave my arms and yell and clean everything in my house. I can be calm, settled, peaceful, and stand with my husband on the beach and watch a storm front come in over the Chesapeake Bay. I can even be happy. Allowing myself the full spectrum of human emotion is an ongoing process, and probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn, but I’m doing it.

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  • “Allowing myself the full spectrum of human emotion”. I read these words and scream, silently, in my head. I feel angry but i don’t know how to express any of that in any way that seems right, except my head boils. I just don’t know what to DO with that. My emotions were judged and squelched throughout my life and i just feel so angry about it, and i don’t know what to do with the anger and sadness, it terrifies me to feel it. I feel it but i hide it. Dammit, why is life so hard? it seems like feeling and recognizing emotions should be simple, something we know and develop from early childhood…
    I’m trying to name my feelings too. I found a chart full of emotions, i think it was designed for writing but i find it useful for describing more accurately how i’m feeling. Which sounds rather clinical but it helps me to put specific names. something about naming things…

    • Naming things for what they are has become so important for me. Last week, when I was up all night with anxiety, it was so much worse until I finally realized what it was that I was feeling. I’ve have bouts of anxiety in the past, but not knowing what to call it made it worse.

      • yeah, i used to think anxiety/panic attacks meant i was being attacked by demons. unfortunately the spirit was never strong enough with me for me to repel them :/ or they went away really slowly… kinda like a panic attack might. Plus of course there was guilt because obviously i was doing something to invite the demons into the house, as our house should have been otherwise protected… (this is all the convoluted logic of a child piecing together everything she was taught so yeah, doesn’t make a ton of sense).
        knowing ‘this is anxiety’ or ‘this is a panic attack’ means you can do something about it, even something as simple as finding a way to calm down as much as possible until it begins to wane. I finally began admitting this year that i have serious panic attacks. And it really helps. Even to the kids (because they can tell something is up) i admit i have panic attacks. Aiden (3) assures me ‘there are no monsters here’, but we all just give me space…

  • ps thanks for writing this. it’s helpful to hear how you laughed at that jerk dude on twitter, seriously 🙂

  • Tony

    The person you were dealing with on twitter is truly horrible. What’s interesting to me (in a sick and sad sort of way) is that these “pastors” are so comfortable just dishing out a constant stream of hate, antagonism, and posturing, all in the name of Jesus. I discovered him recently, and watch one other IFB pastor as well (even worse, if you can believe it), and I can’t yet figure out why I keep observing them. I guess it’s just too awful to look away from…yet. I know this can be attributed to my specific life experiences, but truly people like that are just as despicable to me as criminals or terrorists.

    • What’s truly horrible, and I do mean HORRIBLE, is that I didn’t realize I was terribly racist until one day in grad school I parroted something that man had said (I went to a college where he came and spoke regularly)– and the look on the face of the person I was talking to… It was something along the lines of “profiling is just common sense” … I wish I could take it back, especially since I’ve come to realize since then just how awful that was.

      • Tony

        He hadn’t started appearing there during my time at the college, but I got my share of the rest of the usual lineup. I really wish I had been more questioning of fundamentalism at that time, but I was basically trapped in the box and had not even begun to question the legalism. The “Fundy U” experience would have been so much more intriguing from my current viewpoint…although I doubt I would have made it through!

        And yes – I know the feeling you describe of starting to question the very stuff you’ve been hearing yourself say for years. I’m still in the process of constantly questioning myself – do I really believe that, or am I just repeating the rules that were ground into my head?

  • Margaret

    Bravo on this post. This is so healthy. Recognizing what your doing/feeling is a big part of the battle of understanding emotions and “allowing yourself” to feel them. Keep it up!

  • Margaret

    I can also relate to what Lana said about the kids knowing something is up. My younger son used to cry when he was little. He would get hurt or frustrated and cry until he hiccuped. Then I would offer him a glass of water and talk softly to him until he calmed down. One day, when he was about 3, I had been yelling at my husband, and really upset. The kids were standing back, trying to stay out of it. Suddenly, my little one came running up to me with a glass of water. “Mommy, would you like a drink? It will help you feel better!” I looked into his precious little face and sat right down and drank every drop. It didn’t solve the problem, but I sure felt better.

  • It took a bit of time for me to mentally get past “Literally got his degree in Islamaphobia.
    It lends more meaning to the lyrics of that South Pacific song about teaching them very carefully…to hate.

    And I’ll take feminist rage over the monsters with whom the fundies would like to keep us locked in their nightmare closets.