There is this brilliant scene in The Avengers where Captain America, referring to a quickly approaching city-block sized flying alien, tells Bruce Banner (AKA The Incredible Hulk) that “now might be a good time to get angry” as it’s when that happens that Dr. Banner turns into The Hulk. Without missing a beat, Dr. Banner glances at Captain America and says: “That’s my secret, Captain, I’m always angry.” Then in a blink as he turns to face the alien he has transformed and is on the attack.
It was brilliant for me because it was enlightening. I knew exactly what it meant because here is my confession: I am always angry.
Angry, by definition, is “having a strong feeling of or showing annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Anger has a lot of synonyms, some near the same, some less, but irritation, indignation, pique, exasperation, vexation, frustration are just a few. We think of anger as a negative thing and perhaps it is but it’s not wholly that way. It’s an expression of something – some need, some want, some desire – being unmet or unanswered. It can be a tantrum. It can be a rage. It can be the beating of walls, sweeping things off tables, clenching of fists, the grinding of teeth… Anger can be passionate and things that are passionate matter.
My anger is only brought to bear on things that matter and so, so much of my life matters to me. And it is when things matter that all of us are capable of great and powerful things. We find that immense strength inside of us that is always there but needs real need to be accessed and tapped and channeled.
In the shower this morning, I was angry. Shower handles are always directly attached to pipes and the handles in my house are not grouted down to the bathroom tiles and I hate those tiles and I hate that bathroom for reasons I don’t care to go into right now. So when I turned off the hot water and I felt the ever so slight give in it, I knew, deep down to my gut, and I felt, buried in the floor of my kidneys, that I could have pulled that pipe right out of the wall, cracking tile and dusting the tub with shards and dried chalk, I could have destroyed it all and it would have been the most satisfying thing I had done in years.
(I was angry and for that one moment, I was okay with feeling that and knowing what power that gave me. And, par for course, I tamped it down.)
I went to the office today and sat in meetings, civilized and friendly, and I was told things which disappointed me. Things which show you the difference between expectations and reality and the unrelentingly large gap in between. The chasm between effort and results. The trench into which fall hopes and dreams. With God as at my witness, I was pissed.
As I walked down the street later, icy rain drops hitting the back of my head, my hair, sliding underneath my scarf and touching the nape of my neck and chilling the tip of my spine, I couldn’t make eye contact with a single person walking down the same street with me. I kept my eyes on the ground, flicking upward to ensure I didn’t knock into anyone or a light pole or step into traffic because I didn’t want anyone to see, to know, just how angry I was.
It’s always there and that is how it always has been. I am driven to be nice, pleasant, charming, and generous because I know what lies underneath. I am focused and diligent at my work because it keeps my mind off of all the things that matter which I have no control over or any ability to effect or fix or change or soothe or banish. I work, I write, I drink (I drink!), I cook, I eat, I chatter, I quip, I lift, I drive, I push and I pull because the moment I give myself a moment to look at the grander scheme, to close my eyes or to gaze up into the heavens, I don’t find peace! I find the struggle. I feel the struggle.
I have never, ever wanted a plowshare – give me the damn sword.
So that’s my big secret and it is that simple: I am angry.