Rage from the Chrysalis
Updated: May 19, 2020
CONTENT WARNING: domestic and sexual abuse
“The real revenge is to keep our records and memories alive.” Belonging, Toko-pa
Oh, sweet revenge. Something that has haunted me most of my life. That which is connected to the anger that lives within me. Like demons and dragons doing their very best to be the commanders of my physical vessel. Perhaps, if we were already doing something consciously strategic such as keeping our records and memories alive, our anger could be directed energetically towards the strategy as opposed to violently or aggressively towards others.
I believe that our anger and rage can serve us. But we must choose how we use that anger and come up with strategies in the present tense that can later serve us when the anger arises. Because it is precisely when it arises that we get to make this choice. Not when we are feeling calm and centered, rather in the exact moment the rage comes full on. That is when we choose the strategy instead of old patterns. By choosing the strategy, we create new neural pathways in our brain. And each time we choose the strategy, the new path becomes more deeply engraved in our brain and clearer as a choice.
It’s like using a machete to create a new trail through a jungle. The more and more you walk the trail, the more defined the trail becomes. It is the imagining of the trail to begin with that can seem daunting. The jungle may look intimidating, but if your life depended on it, would you chop onward in order to create that trail?
I know my life depends on creating the trail. Quite literally. Experiencing rage causes high adrenaline levels in my body. And high levels of adrenaline actually impair my memory. It also puts my heart at great risk, weakens my immune system, worsens my anxiety, is linked to my phases of depression and hurts my lungs. YUCK. Why would I knowingly do that to myself?
I want to be clear: I believe my rage is valid - healthy even - to a certain extent.
I am a survivor of 8 years of child sexual abuse by a man named Theodore Southwick Putnam (Ted). He pretended to be someone else to my loving and kind mother while wearing a completely different mask as he walked into my bedroom 5+ nights a week til I was 16. He got away without any accountability process, and now he is remarried and living in Arizona.
This I have forgiven (for the purpose of my own health), although I have not forgotten. What continues to ignite rage in me are all the ways that this personal experience is connected to present injustices (and historic) affecting women, girls and LGBTQ+ folx (and even some boys and men) all over the world and how that same patriarchal violence violates mother earth. My rage comes from settler colonialism, imperialism, Indigenous genocide, broken treaties, broken promises, neo-slavery, the burning of medicine people (witch hunts), people being caged, locked up, detained, forcefully separated from their loved ones. My rage sprouts from the sweet ecosystems, who are all life sustaining, being collapsed due to anthropogenic behavior... Oh, how I could go on and on.
Yes, my rage is valid.
The question is, is the way I am allowing it to manifest through me serving me? I know the answer is no.
I have hurt the people closest to me, the people that I love the most. My anger has splashed them and even targeted them at times. And that is not what I came here to do, this is not who I came here to be, this is not who I want to model for my daughter.
Since I can remember, my father was an extremely angry man. He screamed at me when I was trying to make him and Mama berries with whipped cream and told me to go to my room. He would throw things, yell, hit things, take his anger out on the cats, the raccoons, me. He would take my pants and underwear off, throw me over his knee and spank me over and over again until my bum welted with hand marks. I was three.
They say we are like sponges from conception until seven years, and that what we soak in during this time becomes our subconscious mind, our patterns. They say that the way our parents speak to us as children become our inner voices as adults. (Thanks mom for adding in some loving voices).
I no longer blame my late father, rather I understand him. I can’t bring myself to believe that he was born that way. What happened to you, Papa? What happened to you, Ted?
I also believe it has been easier to find compassion for these two men because they are no longer in my present. My struggle is finding compassion for present and ongoing injustices - from there my rage is triggered.
Compassion aside, that all doesn't make any less my own current experience of trying to make allies with my own demons and dragons. I am grateful that, for one reason or another, I've been given the tools and the conscience to become aware of my demons and dragons and feel empowered to reprogram, recalibrate and rewire my subconscious mind based in neuroplasticity. And yet, with all this information - of course I still fuck up. And I have an 11 year old to mirror all the best and darkest parts of me. And there are moments when I let the rage take control and wonder, is this one of those moments that will scar her for life like when I tried to make berries for mommy and daddy? Is this one of those moments that might create a core wound for her? Will this come back to me tenfold when she becomes an adult? Am I passing my poison down to her?
Like the time when I spoke truth to power to a border patrol officer, and as a result we were sent to stand in a line for three hours because I wasn't the humble sheep I was supposed to be. Or when I aggressively yanked my ginger from a TSA officer’s hand before he could touch it as we were traveling during the coronavirus pandemic. Or when I kicked the door open on our way out of a doctor appointment that wouldn't take in my daughter in an urgent state because of insurance. The root of all my anger is injustice. I am a very passionate person that won't take shit from anyone. And up until now the way I've allowed it to manifest is not where my true power lies.
I look to Nelson Mandela as my example. 27 years in prison for self defense of his people’s dignity. And he chose forgiveness. He chose to not flip the power dynamic or lead his people further into a bloody civil war. What made me so angry about this choice was imagining the colonizers' relief as a result of Mandela's strategy. I feel angry about there not being an accountability process. Same goes for Ted and most other sex offenders, zero accountability.
Some people would say “karma.” Karma will get them back in one way or another. And maybe I believe that to be true, but I also believe in a future with an accountability process. Not prisons. I do not support the prison industrial complex as it exists today. Rather some sort of circle where the perpetrators are held accountable amongst the communities impacted. Perhaps, some sort of healing center that must be attended for as long as it takes in order to face their own demons and dragons and become allies with them. Because until we each face our own demons and dragons - this shit keeps getting passed down generation through generation, regardless of policy change and cultural shifts.
“The real revenge is to keep our records and memories alive.”
I am not sure what strategy looks like for me yet, and maybe naming Ted’s full legal name (yes, this is Xan writing this) is one of the ways of keeping my records and memories alive. And whatever it is that my strategies may evolve to be, I feel like this entry and this song may be a damn good start.
As for my biological father: I love you and forgive you, Papa. And thank you mommy for being the equilibrium of love to all my darkest experiences. There is hope after all.
You can listen to the song on my PATREON.
Sacred Wild One
Dear sacred wild one,
I hope the happy child you’ve become
In a decade or two
Dear sacred wild one,
Know that you can overcome
Your core wound
Yes you can undo
The ache that poisons you
That was never yours to carry through
You can set it all down
recall this sound
You are good enough (8x)
Dear sacred wild one,
It isn’t worth the outcome
To push away those you love
with all your pain
And the armor that you wear
I know that it protects you there
what you guard hurts more
Than if you opened the door
You are lovable (8x)
Dear sacred wild one,
The judgement will succumb
When you begin
To be gentle within
You are not alone (8x)
Dear sacred wild one,
Alexandra Blakely has Scandinavian, English and Ashkenazi ancestry. She a settler on Duwamish and Coast Salish territory. She is a Senior at the University of Washington majoring in Comparative History of Ideas/minoring in American Indian Studies, volunteers with 350 Seattle and uses music as a platform for social change and internal awareness.