The slow realization that something about you is considered not as good as, seen as less than. Even though you don’t feel less than, everything you read and see and hear, watch and listen to, screams and whispers it to your heart.
The dissonance of questioning and doubting your own experiences. Making excuses for patronizing behavior, shushing. The strange discomfort of being patted on the head like a good, happy dog because everything you are seeing tells you that you are supposed to expect it and enjoy it–even though it makes your soul prickle. Denying your own emotions. Believing them when they tell you it will be fine, as long as you follow the rules.
Here is the list of rules. There are a million of them. They cover how to dress and talk and walk and act. They cover what not to do, how to do it, how to please, how to avoid displeasing. In between the lines it tells you how to keep your head down like a dog.
Follow a million rules to the letter and wait for a validation which never comes.
Oh look, here are a million more rules. Come back later.
Attack the rules with education and knowledge. Study the problem from a historical perspective. Immerse yourself in theory. Learn about the sociology and the psychology, the economics. The art and literature. Endure endless mocking and judgement for studying something invalid, some phantom, as if oppression and ghost hunting were Siamese twins.
Surround yourself with like-minded individuals to stockpile comfort and succor. Armed with others like you, you bask in conviction. You are tackling age-old issues, but from a new angle, one which will work this time. It has to work this time. How can it not?
Advance, retreat, advance. Repeatedly absorb and move on. Cling to the hope Pandora shut in her box despite being continually and perpetually let down. Learn to swallow the bitterness of betrayal–not only by those holding you back, but those who should be on your side as well.
Realize everything you’ve done, have studied for, have worked toward has achieved absolutely nothing. Out of two million rules, you are at #67. They’ve rewritten them when you were not looking.
Allow yourself to feel anger. Stop explaining. Cease apologizing. Begin actively demanding and agitating. Surround yourself in an echo-chamber of those who believe in the same things you do, who nod and agree and encourage.
Accept your goals, once so attainable seeming–will never be reached peacefully, with logic or reason, with discourse or compromise. Shift focus from demanding acknowledgement and equality to plotting revenge and seeking payback.
Jettison anyone who doesn’t fit your narrative. Escalate the rhetoric. Cocoon yourself in righteousness and anger. Hone in on the enemy. There is no longer a ‘we’, but an us. And a them.
Congratulations. You’re radicalized.
Years of living in this woman’s body, where compromise is not only a natural way of living, but a necessary tool of survival, has given me an awareness and understanding of my mind and psyche. I know the map of my heart. Lots of therapy and a liberal dosage of Prozac over the years have helped as well. So when I feel the quiver of rage that shakes my very bones, I know I must be careful not to let it tip the scale to hate.
And right now, it is very, very close.
I am fortunate to have friends who are open enough and enlightened enough to have begun the healing. I am not there yet. I am not sure when I will be. Maybe tomorrow, I keep saying to them when they ask. Maybe tomorrow. Though it may be four years of tomorrows, or eight, or a forever full of them.
I know that feeding the flames of rage long-term will consume me. It will consume my soul and my writing, my family, my friendships, my life. And so I must let those flames die out eventually. Whether it burns itself out one time or I must put it out myself, what walks out of the funeral pyre on the other side will be a changed version of myself. A Phoenix. A woman formed in the ash heap of disappointment and despair, of rage and whatever borders on the thin line of hate. The question remains if it will be a constant struggle to tame the rage, to direct it instead, into something resembling determination and focus. Today, I don’t know the answer.
I understand now how easy it is to lose faith so completely in a system which has continually let you down. I understand how easy it would be to turn to an all-consuming darkness. It is hot enough in there to melt your very bones–but it feels good–like a dark sunshine burning in your blood. I understand now the desire to burn, the desire to exact revenge. To take. That desire is delicious on your tongue, though I know it will turn bitter soon enough.
It frightens me that I do, yet at the same time, I’m glad.
Facing some sort of darkness and making the choice to walk away is its own kind of power. Another one I will add to the notch on my witch’s belt. Ultimately I will do that. I will walk away.
But not today. Maybe tomorrow.