Okay, so I've been puttering here and there, working on stuff, but it's not like the rampant (initially typo'd as "armpit") energy I had over the last week or so.
Found some good stuff about rape in one of Shannon's old comics. "Good" as in useful for collage work. "Good" as in relevant to my childhood experiences with anger and fear. Not actually "good" in the larger sense, but "good" in the narrower sense, for my current artistic purposes.
I've been having quite a bit of trouble organizing collage materials into piles related to different emotions: in particular, I had a really rough time figuring out which stuff belonged in the "Fear" pile and which stuff belonged in the "Anger" pile. It seemed like a lot of stuff belonged in both. A Venn diagram would be useful here, but I don't feel like drawing one at the moment. Here's a description of how those categories can sometimes be separate for me:
- ANGER without FEAR: righteous indignation, standing up for what's right, defending the weak, holding strong against injustice, etc.
- FEAR without ANGER: drowning, monsters, claustrophobia, etc.
But more often for me those two emotions are entwined around each other. For example, in the case of my mom's rape: at the time, Ernie was angry, my mom was afraid, I was afraid. Looking back, I am angry, even while I remember viscerally how it felt to be afraid. I'm not only angry about what he did, I'm even angry about the fact that his anger made me afraid … among other things. The fear and anger are like threads in Celtic knotwork, constantly winding back and forth upon each other and themselves.
I don't have trouble differentiating between the two emotions -- I don't get them confused -- but they tend to be linked for me. Other people's anger tends to frighten me. I've bottled up most of my own anger for the past few decades -- turning it into anxiety and depression -- because I didn't want to be one of the Scary Angry People. I don't like shouting. I don't like violence. I don't like attacking or being attacked (be it physically, verbally, or emotionally). I don't like hurting people and I don't like being hurt … and that's pretty much what "anger" has meant to me for most of my life. I grew up with my mom telling pretty horrifying stories about the physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her dad, and yet when my mom was angry, she hit us (or pinched us or whatever -- once she even bit me, because I'd bitten my brother and she wanted to "see how you like it!"). So was hurting your kids good … or bad? Was anger wrong (Grandpa is mean) or right (you've been bad)?
It's only recently that I've started really working out that anger can just exist and not be right or wrong, that one can be angry without hurting anyone. It's honestly difficult to grasp the concept, because it's all knotted up inside me. Other people's anger hurts me -- makes me afraid -- so why would I want to be angry? I don't want to hurt people, especially people I care about. This idea of anger being okay -- that it doesn't have to hurt anyone or anything -- is strange. I told my therapist today that it's like learning a new language, one that uses an unfamiliar alphabet. The letters are strange … and there aren't any of those friendly old Greek/Latin roots … and the grammar follows rules I don't understand.
But I'm pretty good at learning languages.
So I figure I'm learning this one with flash cards. Okay, not really flash cards, but you know how when you're learning a foreign language they often show you pictures and then tell you what the word is for that object? They help you learn by seeing and experiencing the language. You learn words, and then you start to form sentences by putting those words together. So that's what I'm doing with my current major collage project: I'm making my own metaphorical flash cards.
For the time being, I'm not trying to separate anger and fear from each other, because they are too tightly tangled together. Anything that sets off my ANGER and/or FEAR buttons is going into the collage project binder, and I'll sort it all out later. Then -- when I'm ready -- I can start writing my first tentative sentences.
Right now I'm in the early stages of this Anger/Fear collage project, still just gathering materials in a fairly haphazard, purely visceral way, just grabbing things that seem relevant and putting them into a binder. When I feel like I have enough material, I'll start to sort things into categories or concepts, and this will get more and more refined until I'm eventually ready to open the jar of Yes paste. Then I'll start, one paper snippet at a time, one page at a time (or, usually, two pages at a time, since the facing pages speak to each other), one step at a time, one flash card at a time, I'll figure it out. I don't know the language yet -- it all looks like gibberish -- but I won't learn it in a day.