To depress myself evermore, I skimmed this, being vaguely curious about the word ‘rage’ which seems increasingly to be a favorite of our time. It turned out to be not that interesting and devolved into the usual preachy list that inserts itself into almost everything that the internet has to offer these days.
So apparently rage is ok now, and mothers should get in on it, not wanting to miss out, I guess, and because everything in the west is so terrible that no one can even deal anymore. But the rage needs to be redirected away from the mommy wars and toward the stuff that really matters—like healthcare and…hang on, what was the other thing, oh, there it is…equal pay and affordable childcare.
On the other hand, I can’t see the word ‘rage’ without whispering that bible verse over to myself—can’t remember where it is, but I was made to memorize it as a child, proving to you that I am the best kind of Christian. It goes something like, ‘refrain from anger and leave rage alone, do not fret yourself, it leads only to evil,’ which goes nicely with the ‘turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it’ one of some other psalm. And seriously, don’t fret yourself that I can’t remember the reference and am not googling it for you. Chalk it up to imperfectly hiding God’s word somewhere or other.
I, like so many other human people, am easily inclined to rage, especially in my capacity as a mother—one of those jobs particularly characterized by frustration and anxiety, both of which are the seeds of rage. When I speak, literally nothing happens. When I work, it is to no effect whatsoever. If I clean the kitchen, I might as well not. If I ask a child to do math, I might as well save my breath. The work of the mother is, at its core, the Sisyphean business of doing the same sets of tasks over and over and over again, in the lunacy of hope, expecting just once some better outcome.
And so, if you have met a mother you have probably experienced rage of some kind. Either you have a mother, or you are married to a woman who is a mother, or you have pity on and take a mother out to coffee sometimes, or you have a vague, hopefully nostalgic remembrance of your mother completely flipping her lid for reasons you thought bizarre. And so you must certainly know that the deep wisdom of those verses—turn away from rage and go in a different direction entirely—is a hard, merciful, useful check on the natural and occasionally justifiable feelings and inclinations of the ordinary person.To confront yourself when you feel anger rising up in your throat, to pause and consider why it is that you are so angry, and what will be gained by you expressing your anger, is the sanctifying death of a thousand cuts. To leave rage alone means dying all the time…and going to bed when you can’t control it any more. I, for example, just get up off my kitchen stool where I have been, through gritted teeth, directing a child to scrape peanut butter off the floor, gather up my hot water bottle and my dignity, and go to my attic sanctuary, because I cannot any longer put my rage down, nor properly examine and consider it, as I have been doing since 4:30 in the morning.
In other words, rage should not be weaponized in service of some greater cause, or really for any reason that I can think of. And certainly, I would just like to gently observe that western women don’t have it that bad. We are not hauling our water in from a well ten kilometers away. Our children aren’t dying of malaria. We don’t have to work in the field and keep the literal fire burning so that dinner can be cooked. We are physically very comfortable, even if we don’t feel comfortable and happy.
And that’s the problem with rage—it is a strong, and in its essential nature, uncontrollable emotion. If left unchecked it spoils the lives of everyone in its sphere. It is selfish. It does not produce delicious dinners and healthy children. It raises the person in its grip ever more in her own estimation, cocooning her from the feelings and needs of everyone else. It is not a very good tool, in the way that most weapons are not good for more than the one thing they were designed to do. Anger is not a direct line to social cohesion, which is really what most mothers need. It is not the best producer of outcomes like health, childcare, meaningful and productive work, satisfaction, and mental, spiritual, and emotional health.
Indeed, the rage of the mother isolates her ever more—just as rage isolates every other kind of person. She isn’t the only one who should leave rage alone. Just about everyone would be helped by the divine call to put it down and walk away.