June 02, 2008

Midlife Bloomers, not Baby Boomers

Charles Amable-Lenoir: Nymph with flowers and garland

Blog Reference: Asserting Ourselves

I’m the kind of woman who prefers a peaceful existence, rather than causing trouble. It’s easier to silence my dissent than it is to heed my internal warning system: Anger.

Psychologists suggest anger is an emotional response when underlying principles and values are threatened. Unexamined anger increases defensive behavior, rather than rendering anger transparent and gaining deeper insight into Who We Are and What We Believe In. We can ask ourselves: why are we angry? What's the underlying message we need to hear? Once we figure that out, we have a better chance to choose appropriate actions rather than allowing inappropriate reactions to choose us.

There were a few years in the past (what I call my ‘awakening to midlife’) when I’d likely have over-reacted. That meant setting my sights on the person triggering my anger and then launching an impromptu parking lot lecture on Feminism, Justice and Equality. Which usually resulted in a dueling repartee with both people trying to dominate the other person’s view of reality. When the argument was over, I'd end up questioning my behavior, overwrought with battling emotions, feeling absolutely terrible about myself.


Because my self-perception is that I’m a peace-lovin' flower child. A hippie chick of the 1960’s bursting into full bloom in her fifties. If my intention is reliably grounded in peace for all God’s chilluns, then I have gone about achieving my intentions in a very unmerciful manner.

It’s been a long journey towards understanding how to express anger without becoming just as reactionary as the other person who’s pizzed off and doesn’t know why. Maybe Mr. Home Depot’s entitlement was threatened when an older woman refused to play the gender game? Maybe my anger was triggered by my idealism? Idealism that views the Earth school as a peaceable kingdom with little-lambs-a-divvy cavorting alongside big-toothed lions, all of 'em sharing carrot sticks and potluck casseroles in a field of yellow daisies.

Sure--I’d like to see social change. Like right now. Like immediately. Like today. Like before my kids have kids who deserve a better life than the existing system of Power Over, “I’ve got mine!", and He Who has the most toys Wins.
“We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we won’t kill today.” ~James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise 
Putting myself in context with the past and the future, alleviates neurotic responsibility to bring about social change in two days or less. I’m sure grandpa and grandma and great great grandparents took whatever steps they could to make it possible for me to do my part breaking the chains of injustice. I’m also sure my son and daughter will do their best creating a more equitable future by taking one moral step at a time. I guess I’m finally accepting that none of us can change the world all at once and thank God for that. I’d hate for someone to have that much power, wouldn’t you?

Truth is, we can only change ourselves but we can also respect other folks as being capable of changing themselves. But maybe not until they’re forced to, though. Anyone who benefits from the status quo is gonna get real mad about unquestioned privileges being called into question.

If we’re invested in the Male Validation game, (and that includes men desperately seeking approval from other men), we’ll embroil ourselves in fruitless arguments looking for validation from someone who has a lot to lose if he or she identifies with the rebels. I figure most people resist giving up anything in a system rewarding winning over losing. I don't expect people to say, “Far out, chick. Like I totally GET where you’re at, man. What a groovy idea to be peers instead of competitors. So like, take my privileges away ‘cuz I’m totally not into the Power Scene, like not at all.”
"Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way... that is not easy." ~Aristotle
Maybe we can make anger our friend, awakening us to deeper values and principles we might not know are there. Maybe we can use anger’s energy to protect ourselves from being ‘discounted, demeaned and de-humanized’. Maybe we can use anger in such a way that WE don’t become abusers, too. Yea, it’s tricky. No, I don’t have answers. Yea, I know it’s a tall order for those who see the injustice of a system pitting men against women, women against men, women against women and most of all perhaps: men against men. Fact is, for most of my life, I didn’t object to the status quo game but that was probably because it worked for me as a white, heterosexual, upper-class female with privileges of my own. When the system quit working, when my participation was not rewarded as promised, that’s when I questioned my assumptions about power, privilege and justice.

Maybe the key to social change is in that last statement. When the status quo quits working, we're gifted with an opportunity to examine our beliefs and take appropriate responsibility for bringing about justice for everyone, not just ourselves.

"Like totally Righteous, babe!"

Hugs all,


  1. Anger is pretty untameable when you have squashed it for years. I grew up in an N family for twenty years, lived in a religious cult run by N men for twenty years, and finally at 40 left them all and came to my senses, largely through the help of people like yourself.

    I hate being angry, but in the last five years, I have dealt with Christian School administrations who not only refuse to deal with school bullying but indulge in a culture of adult bullying both within the system and to parents, and I have also dealt with various other christians in the religious system who are more interested in silencing abuse than discussing it.

    THAT makes me angry, and I am not going to excuse it. I don't know how to express anger without shaking and raising my voice. But I am not real good at objectively analysing my reactions either. I may think I came across really bitchin', but somebody else will say 'really? I knew you were upset, but you came across very self-controlled'. So, maybe I ain't that bad after all.

    Anger is such a foreign emotion, and such a taboo one. I am good at numbing and dumbing myself in the face of pain but anger itself is painful. The pounding heart, racing thoughts etc...I used to have panic attacks from about the age of 19 (they stopped from about the age of 40 - gee I wonder why) and the adrenalin of panic and anger are very similar.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that Anger is very important to me, but one day I would like to be so confident in my own ability to deal with people that it becomes a much less painful emotion, and instead becomes a helpful one.

    The key for me is knowing that anger is just as much acceptable, and necessary as the other 'feel-good' emotions, and once I accept that, it won't be so scary.

  2. I LOVE your writing,and your wisdom. I have to come back to this and read it closely....and I will today.

    Thank you, CZ....for what you do out in the world, and inside your kitchen!


    Lady Nyo


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