There’s not much to be said for moving house. There is a reason it remains third on the list of the most stressful experiences you can have in life, after bereavement and divorce (and may in fact lead to one of the other two after the latest bitter row about which mugs/rugs/cat you are keeping). It is an emotionally and financially draining hellscape and if I never do it again in my whole life it will be too soon.
BUT. I did learn something. Namely, that I can – if pushed, if really, really pushed, relentlessly, on all sides, by nine months of f*ckery from all known service and utility providers, estate agents and all points in between – get angry.
And I learned that getting angry is really, really effective. It gets things done. I remember, particularly fondly, the reaction of one estate agent (who routinely couldn’t answer any of a viewer’s questions) when I suggested with cold fury that I take 80% of his commission for doing 80% of his job for him. He turned up prepared next time.
It made me wonder why I don’t lose my rag more often. And then I remembered – it’s because I’ve always been told not to. We’ve all always been told not to. At school I remember boys fighting freely in the playground while we girls were admonished for so much as raising our voices or stamping our feet. You’re supposed to keep such negative, unfeminine feelings hidden and play nicely with others all your life. We all receive and internalise these messages to varying degrees.
But under pressure, we find the strength to resist them. Sometimes the pressure and the fightback is individual, like Kelly Herron, the jogger in Seattle who – primed by a recent self-defence class – screamed, “Not today, motherf**ker!” and fought off a man who attacked her in a women’s public loo. Sometimes it is collective, like the Women’s March, fuelled by anti-Trump rage (he is, I feel, very much the world’s most useless estate agent, after all. Keen on money, not on details).
Either way, it feels GREAT. Herron afterwards said, “My face is stitched, my body is bruised but my spirit is intact.” Every one of my friends who went on the march reported feeling uplifted, relieved and empowered by it. And I got so high on the endorphins of my contretemps that I almost long for another one.
In fact, psychologists say that anxiety and depression – more prevalent among women than men – are anger turned inward, and it certainly rings true for me. You don’t realise how much energy you are spending repressing even the rage of a normal day until you stop doing so.
So, anger is not a negative emotion, despite what my estate agent might think. It is not unnatural, though as women we are told it is both. Expressing it (positively – I don’t say you should just go round punching cats whenever you feel a bit stressed) is not only our right, but vital for our mental and emotional health. And indeed, in a situation like Herron’s, our physical wellbeing too.
It’s time to start re-routing our inner resources back down the channels that do us good instead of harm, so that we can stop being automatic conciliators and absorbing other people’s rage into the space that should be occupied by our own. Next time you find yourself doing it, try muttering an inward, “Not today, mother**ker. Not today.”