My personality is such that I get furious when others are mistreated, but tend to give little thought to how I am treated. I am always going to fight for someone else, even if I am largely unwilling to fight for myself. There have been times I walked away without getting paid rather than fight about it, or I have had to pay more than I should have had to rather than fight about it, yet let me see someone else get taken advantage of and I will go into full-bore Hulk-smash mode. I am a much better negotiator for you than I am for me.
This has not always led to positive outcomes for me.
For more than 12 years, I survived on rage. I was deep in the fight on behalf of people whose voices had long been suppressed, and the sheer rage I felt on their behalf kept me going, long after it was no longer a good idea for me to do so. This rage led me to fight a city, several neighborhoods, more than a handful of slumlords, at least three churches, and dozens of individuals. Rage was my fuel.
Rage as fuel, however, is not sustainable, and I burned out – literally. In the years since then, as I have been in recovery from that period in my life, I have been working hard on anger management, on acceptance, and on advocating better for myself. I’ve been trying hard to learn to survive on hope instead of rage.
Most days it seems to be working.
Today, however, it did not.
I have been involved in a local campaign around working to make sure Black-owned businesses get their fair share of the city contracts here. In a city that is 85% people of color, less than 5% of city contract dollars go to businesses owned by people of color. This has led to all sorts of interesting interactions with the business community, local politicians, and the media.
And today I got interviewed by someone in the press who managed to piss me off. As far as this story goes, it doesn’t matter how they did it or why they did it, but in any event, I got pissed. Experience has taught me that when you are angry and in front of a television camera, that is not the time to take it out on the person who has angered you, so there I was, on camera, getting angrier and angrier.
And then I got angry at myself because none of my hard-won coping mechanisms were working. I was getting angry that I was getting angry. But I survived the interview and lived to fight another day.
But I got angry. Like not the general, have-you-seen-the-news-generalized-hellscape angry, but I felt real, genuine rage, at someone else and then at me.
I let them get to me. That was… disappointing.
I’m OK. And it’s fine, really. Nobody got hurt, my passion probably moved some things forward, and I came home and went for a long walk, and watched the tiny sparrows play in the leaves that had gathered in the corners of the creek, and came to terms with the fact that I still have more work to do.
I’m just glad I have a chance to get to do it.