Punishment

April 30, 2009 § 4 Comments

                                                               ANGER–HIERONYMOUS BOSCHhieronymus_bosch-_the_seven_deadly_sins_and_the_four_last_things_-_anger

The hardest thing to learn is how to endure emotional pain without believing that somebody has to pay for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a particular person or group or the world or that old stand by, oneself: the need to make someone pay, while denying that that’s what you want (in the case of others) or that there’s any reason not to (in the case of oneself)—this is something I keep battering against, dizzy with loneliness, self-pity and rage.

And that’s all. I’m lonely; I’m angry; I feel sorry for myself. Nothing novel, strange, frightful or even shameful. I don’t need to remind myself about how much worse some people have it or stoically push down regret.

I can feel it, and so what. Nothing has to be done. Delilah told me last week, when she was describing how she felt her way into a character, that she had to think of the character’s emotion as an action she wanted to carry out. That sounds right for her art, which usually means it’s what you shouldn’t do in life.

Don’t just do something; sit there. This should sound familiar if you’ve had any exposure to the infinite library of spiritual self-help. Yet all the times I’ve heard that slogan, I thought it was for other people. It excited guilt and dread—I don’t do enough, I’ve never done enough, my problem is stasis—which I would repeat ad nauseum without realizing that I was engaged in a frenzy of action, if only in my head.

A night of cold ashes, no charm, no stories. I’m angry and I can’t say why, and I’m angry that this blog can’t be like a diary where the secrets are told and somebody later decides for you whether to publish. Yet I prefer having readers before I’m dead, so I shouldn’t complain.

I’ve gotten away from the moment. The one after the tears  and the semi-hysterical punishment dramas. After I told the cat to fuck off and he galloped away to play lonely games in the living room. The moment when I realized my feelings were noisy but not important.

Punishment doesn’t work. I learned that.

I don’t have to act on my emotions. I learned that too.

I don’t have to stir them with a long spoon, imagining what I’d do if was going to act. Ditto.

I don’t have to not do that, either.

                                                                                         SLOTHsloth

 

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§ 4 Responses to Punishment

  • Litlove says:

    I relate to this, I really do. I was brought up with anger disallowed for me (but fully available to my mother) and even now it is the emotion I find hardest to deal with. It’s gone inside before I know it, but I’ll start to feel threatened by all the damage and the danger in the world. Paranoia holds me in its grip; I’m not sure how I’m going to survive. It’s a long way from the straightforward heat of rage, but that’s how it transmutes, and it is exactly as you say, the sense of a price that must be extracted from the universe, no matter what.

    You really are an extraordinary writer, by the way. The images you produce and the way you move through your thoughts are both quite brilliant.

    • Margaret Diehl says:

      Thank you for your kind words!

      In regard to anger, for a long time I felt thwarted by growing up afraid of expressing anger, and afraid of others’ anger, but now I’m glad I didn’t develop of the habit of losing my temper whenever I felt like it. I’m not sure it was worth all those years of smoldering and avoidance, but at least now it’s a good thing to be able to exercise restraint.

      • Ned says:

        I’m sorry you are sad and lonely right now. You inherited some bad brain chems…. But those piggies sure are cute! Call me when you feel like it. It is raining here.

  • That sloth has a terrific smile. He could star in a movie. I’m sure there’s a part somewhere for a creature like him: weird looking but not at all scary. The kind of creature that freaks out a young child lost in the woods, but then becomes her best friend.

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