what do you do with the mad that you feel?

Today, I feel a mixture of mad and tired, tired and mad. No contentment today, and not much comfort. Just mad and tired, tired and mad.

“What do you do with the mad that you feel? When you feel so mad you could fight? When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right? What do you do?

One of my current special interests is everything Fred Rogers related. He was a very wise, emotionally intelligent, and graceful person. I grew up watching him switch from shiny loafers to comfy sneakers as he explained the nature of things both complex and simple. As an autistic child, I found his kind words and consistent actions comforting in what was, to me, a very loud, painful world. As an autistic adult, I’ve been rewatching episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It’s provided me with the same level of comfort in a world that seems to have become increasingly loud and more painful to endure.

On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers testified before Congress for federal funding for PBS. In a mere six minutes, he softened the chairman of the subcommittee to accept his request, securing the $20 million needed to maintain public broadcasting. He did this by using phrases like “expression of care,” “feelings are mentionable and manageable,” and “I think it’s much more dramatic that two men could be working out their feelings of anger, much more dramatic than showing something of gunfight.” He did this by being himself: earnest, respectful, and gently in command.


I will not tie Fred Rogers’ goodness to “the good ol’ days,” for I believe this man was ahead of his time when it came to many of his personal values. I think Fred Rogers’ goodness was a choice he made every day as he got up early to read and swim. To carefully prepare the scripts for the Neighborhood. He was driven by a fierce determination to attune to the practical and emotional needs of children. Of adults, too, for I’m sure he knew there were many parents watching alongside their children.

On days like today, I sit in my adult skin and comfort the child within who feels lost and afraid. I recognize that madness and tiredness are part of a bigger wheel. And then, I let these words of Fred Rogers really sink in.

“I can stop when I want to, can stop when I wish, can stop stop stop. And what a good feeling to feel like this, and know that the feeling is really mine–know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can.

processing

Hello out there, you—whoever you are. Welcome to this post. You are welcome here.

I want to write out a blog post today because it is cold and rainy outside, and it is early November. Ideal writing conditions. The fact that I’m also listening to an 8D dreamscape oldies train journey ASMR video means I really have no choice but to blog today.

Earlier this season, I received some life-changing news—the details of which I am not ready to reveal to the Internet, but which have nevertheless had a drastic effect on my daily life. I have since logged off my Instagram and Twitter to aid in my ability to process this news. Having been off these platforms for a month now, I am beginning to understand their impact on my thoughts, opinions, and self-perception. My mind feels more spacious, but the desire to express myself has not gone away.

I’m someone who loves to acquire information. I do this hungrily throughout the day, often at the expense of my emotional self, who simply can’t keep up with the speed at which my brain processes thoughts. And so I become the little rainbow wheel that spins when a Mac can’t load an application quickly. Spinning but static.

I’m also someone who loves to share information. To express my thoughts, opinions, and the way I perceive myself in relation to things. Naturally, a tension builds between this simultaneous desire for input and output. Returning to the physicality of my body, and of wordless things in the physical world, is what I’m finding helps relieve this mental tension. It’s a shift in energy that equates to less input and output overall. A shift where energy gets funneled from thinking and expressing to being and doing.

All this is to say, I am working on processing. Recalibrating thought loops. What does this look like physically? Keeping my hands busy with embroidery. Listening to my monthly playlist while I walk. Diffusing cinnamon and ginger essential oils while I work. Wearing my masculine outfits because that’s what makes me feel good and calm. Writing by way of feeling my fingertips on the keys of my keyboard, the nib of my pen against the page.

Tell me: how do you process things? Do you write? Do you scream? Do you sit beneath the widening sky and ask “why me?”

on grief and worry

For as long as I can remember, I have wrestled with a callous set of twins: Grief and Worry. I’ve spent much of my life either wallowing self-indulgently in their company or scheduling as many activities as possible to prolong our eventual, inevitable reunion. Throughout elementary school, I remember flipping through a bright blue binder full of old photos containing memories of younger me and crying, understanding the terrible reality that I would never be where I was or who I was in those photos—at those precise moments in time—ever again. I would never experience the same feeling of being seven years old at Suzanne Shuff’s house eating cake and drinking a Capri Sun with the other girls of Troop 4023. Yet I did not bemoan the passing of these captured moments because I was distinctly happy in them. In fact, I remember feeling rather melancholy at most of my Girl Scout troop meetings. What caused my grief was simply that the uniqueness of the moments had passed—that the uniqueness of every moment always passes. 

While Grief prefers to spend her time ruminating on what has passed, Worry concerns herself with the meticulous details of all—and I mean all—conceivable future scenarios. Understandably, Worry likes to consult Grief when predicting patterns of possible emotional storms. Worry sits erect in a luxurious, mahogany leather chair at her command center, reference book of Past Transgressions in her left hand and all controls dedicated to the Prevention of Future Pain within reach of her right hand. What is unpredictable or potentially uncontrollable must be eliminated in order to sustain her white-knuckled reign. Worry’s presence in my life has materialized through a near obsessive pursuit of knowledge (what you know can’t hurt you, right?), a deep-seated fear of tornadoes (the essence of unpredictability), and the creation and subsequent abandonment of several five-year plans. Despite abounding evidence to the contrary, Worry operates methodically and reliably under the notion that all pain can be avoided if she develops a sophisticated enough life plan. 

While varying in actual emotional vibration—Grief churns and Worry quivers—what these two states have in common is their preoccupation with time: its simultaneous ephemerality and infinitude. Grief understands that life is fleeting, that life can end as abruptly as it began; Worry knows that a day can feel like a year if not structured properly. I wish I could say that I found a way to keep these evil twins at bay, but many days I spend too much time in their company. And there’s that word again: time. From practicing yoga, reading poetry, and attending regular therapy sessions, I know conceptually of Grief and Worry’s antidote, Presence. She beckons me to come dance with her, already, even if it feels safer to sit in my seat and watch, introspect, contemplate, yearn. Presence knows that some days I will dance with Grief or Worry, but there will be other days that I dance with Tranquility, Optimism, Wonder. Some days I might even dance with every emotion on the spectrum. What matters is that I try—we try—every day to let the rhythm of the dance envelop and deliver us to where we are supposed to go. 

reflections after may

I may need a little time to open up and be myself, but I am worthy of the space I hold.

My future is, always, an empty room to be filled with the objects, the people, and the activities that I choose.

I fear the possibility of it all receding away from me, in an instant. But faith is the key that unlocks the door to my glorious, empty room.

The beauty of life is too abundant, too plentiful to restrict oneself to pain. Pain is a cage that is self-imposed.


This song by Inner Wave that makes me want to daydream at dusk on a softly spinning merry-go-round.

This interview with Mary Oliver from the podcast On Being.

“What we are made of will make something else . . . There is no nothingness — with these little atoms that run around too little for us to see. But, put together, they make something. And that to me is a miracle. Where it came from, I don’t know. But it’s a miracle, and I think it’s enough to keep a person afloat.” 

Mary Oliver