A Short Study in Insurrection

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Jennifer Boykin, LATToday’s guest contributor is Jennifer Boykin, the Creative Visionary and Chief Rabble Rouser behind the midlife reinvention movement Life After Tampons. She also speaks, teaches, and writes about adversity, triumph, and Women Who Rise and is the author of Breakthrough:  How to Get on With It When You Can’t Get Over It (download it free, btw).

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I make trouble for a living, and while I love my job very much, I don’t think I was supposed to be so impossibly good at it.  In fact, I was raised to be the “good one.”  My brother had the opposite role nailed down.

But then, life had its way with me.  A bunch of “unfair” stuff happened, including the death of my first child, and all my goody, goody-ness evaporated in a flash.  All of a sudden, I was introduced to my beautiful ROAR.

I have a very scary ROAR, as it turns out, and, at first, I didn’t know how to use my roar rightly.  I had been the “good one” for too long.  I had no ability at all to finesse my new skill.

Here are two horrible examples:

Once, shortly after my daughter died, I was pushing my grocery cart up to the checkout line, and this other lady cut in front of me.  I just glared at her and told her she’d better “watch out” because “I was the mother of a dead baby and I wasn’t in very good humor.”

Another time, I’m really ashamed to admit, I was truly unkind.  I was waiting patiently like a “good girl” for another driver to leave her parking space so I could take it.  Just as the other driver left, someone else swooped in from the opposite direction, looked me straight in the eye, and grabbed the space before me!  Oh, I was FURIOUS that time.  I sped to the back of the lot, parked my car, and SPRINTED to catch up with the offending woman.

Here’s the part I’m none too proud of:  she was a larger woman, and I looked at her and said, “You know, it would have been better exercise if you had parked back there.”

Dear Woman in the Parking Lot, wherever you are, I’m so very sorry.

Anyway, this other woman was much more kinder than I.  She looked at me lovingly and said, “You know, you don’t have to get so angry.”

But, you see, I did.  After a lifetime of choking back the “bad emotions,” I was suddenly unable to do it anymore.  My daughter’s death had killed all of my “edit neurons,” those built-in social inhibitors that keep you from making an ass of yourself.

Eventually, I stumbled my way into a skillset that allowed me to use my beautiful anger in a way that served me and others, but, it took lots of trial and error, along with copious amends.

Years later, I happily make trouble for a living.  I work with women who want to change their lives and, almost always, we begin with shaking things up.

There’s something very daunting about a woman whose “not going to take it anymore,” but the truth is, the reason we suffer is because we allow it.

Oh, I know I’ve probably ticked quite a few people off with that statement, but hear me out.  I’m not saying you CAUSED every bad thing that ever happened to you.  But what I am suggesting is the pain that lingers in your life is there by your own invitation.

In other words, while you’re not responsible for everything that happens in your life, you ARE responsible for everything you allow to STAY.

And, believe me love, you WANT to be responsible for this part.

Here’s why: to the exact extent that you allow yourself to get mired in sorrow, anger, self-pity, and the like – to just that extent, you squander your ability to create anything new or magical or healing or transformative.

Hope abounds in the place hollowed out by the painful spots in your life.  You may not see it just now.  But trust me, it’s there.

Your beautiful anger is the booster pack that will rocket you out of self-pity.

Don’t worry if it all sounds too much like posies and unicorns.  You can love and laugh your beautiful cynical mind into compliance.

Begin with the insurrection.  Begin with the fury.  But don’t ACT on it.  You don’t need to swallow your anger, but you ought not spew it either.

Instead, allow it to fuel your uprising.  In this case, the “system” you want to overthrow is the one you created haphazardly to deflect the pain of things that didn’t go your way.

Let go of all that.  Put your attention on what is right in your life.  Allow that to be the foundation upon which you build this next amazing part of your journey.  And look for ways to transform your story of pain and loss and disappointment in a way that serves others.

Each of us has the potential to be a powerful catalyst for good and change in our own lives as well as the lives of countless others.  Think I’m wrong about that?  Well, this piece began with two 30-second exchanges with complete strangers – both of who taught me something very powerful about myself.

Imagine what you can do with and for the people who “really matter.”

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Jennifer Boykin, the Creative Visionary and Chief Rabble Rouser behind the midlife reinvention movement Life After Tampons, happily makes trouble for a living.  She also speaks, teaches, and writes about adversity, triumph, and Women Who Rise.  Please visit her site to download your copy of Breakthrough:  How to Get on With It When You Can’t Get Over It.  It’s free.  Because you’re priceless.

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27 responses

27 responses to “A Short Study in Insurrection”

  1. Akilah says:

    This truly fed me today. That beautiful ROAR can be used to fuel what will feed us long term. I know this from long stints in the trial-and-error department of my own emotional wellness. Today, I use intuition, self-inquiry, love, and beautiful expressions like this post to remind me how to choose to better use my ROAR. Thank you for this, Jennifer.

    • Oh, Wow. Thank you for sharing, kindred spirit. I’m so glad that bearing witness to my less-than-ideal behavior helped you. Sometimes, all you can hope for is to be a good example of a bad example.

  2. CJ Schepers says:

    Jennifer, I find your story honest, refreshing, and vulnerable. I too have experienced moments like these, especially when I was coming into my own power as an “adult” after surviving a really tough childhood. Of course, I had a different take on the woman in the parking lot. I saw her as passive aggressive. The point is: life is complicated. Situations are not so black-and-white. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for getting angry in certain situations but realize what that anger is costing us — and if it’s really worth it in the moment. I try and find the humor in that moment. It helps me express what’s bugging me but in a healing way.

    • Thank you for your beautiful compassion. I don’t regret getting angry with that woman, the anger was appropriate. What I regret was being UNKIND in my anger. I’m more graceful now with my beautiful anger.

  3. Beth says:

    My husband always asks me, “Why do you have to get angry when you’re cleaning the house?”
    My response is usually, “If somebody else helped clean around here, I wouldn’t have to get angry!”

    While partially true, the raw fact is that I find more energy and determination to change the things I can when I get ticked off about them. It’s a coping skill I learned from my mother. It’s a coping skill my boss wishes I would unlearn.

    “Put your attention on what is right in your life.” === that spoke directly to me. I know that all the negative circumstances in my life are a powerful tool to help others, but I have trouble seeing ‘what is right in my life today’ as a foundation to build on. Self-pity will cripple me!
    Today is a good day for Gratitude in Action.

  4. Gayle says:

    Thank you Jennifer. I often speak with women who have this “need” or “desire” to ROAR–but being the good, stable, well-respected member of the community that we are, just won’t let go of their “ROAR.” Most of us have been taught it’s not nice to be angry, we’ll hurt someone’s feelings, we’ll look “crazy”–that’s a big one for me. Through my life, when I’ve spoken my mind, let my anger show, those I cared about put it in the box of “crazy”–maybe because Mom, wife, daughter was supposed to be calm, compliant and non-confrontational. Thankfully, with age, times change and my ROAR may be uncomfortable for some but it feels good to me.

    • Age has its benefits. It’s funny. I’ve found that, now that I’ve learned how to roar rightly, I rarely have to.

    • Carla says:

      Hi Gayle,
      I liked the point you made here in your post about your loved ones labeling your expressing your anger as “crazy”. I have a family that does that too. It’s mostly been directed at my younger sister “the bad one” but recently I went through a extreamly difficult situtation with the family where I finally had to stop being the “good one” and express my outrage. It was shocking to feel that label being slapped on me for expressing my feelings but I realize that the label doesn’t belong to me. That “crazy” label is thier inability to deal directly with the issue and stands for their desire to deflect thier responsibility for their actions. Thankfully, the situation is no longer relevant to my happy life and I refuse to stop standing up for myself and expresing my anger when necessary. I also have more compassion for my sister. Thank you Jennifer for sharing this great post! I love the point you made about how you can’t control what happens but you can control the suffering you allow to stay in your life.

  5. Silver Huang says:

    Thank you Jennifer for writing something I’ve been trying to articulate for some time. Anger is such a misunderstood emotion in our society. It’s seen as ‘bad’. I, too, like you was taught to be ‘good’ and that bubble finally popped in February this year and I finally allowed myself to channel it out in my writing as a budding critic for personal change and independence by challenging comfort zones.

    I have always seen my anger to be my strength as, unlike most people, I seem to be at my most lucid when I allow my anger to guide me. It is not red rage as so many people assume, it burns steady and cold and I use it to challenge my own comfort zones and fears and to do what I feel is right in my role to help facilitate change in others.

    Anger suppressed or repressed is what’s truly dangerous. When anger is embraced as a natural emotional teacher, it becomes not only empowering, but healing.

  6. This really resonated with me. I don’t have even close to the same kinds of life experiences, but I did go through a lot so far. Because of my personality, I’ve always had a very strong ROAR. And I’ve never been good about hiding it. I’ve lashed out repeatedly in futile attempts to cover my pain and defend myself from the world. What I ultimately needed to learn was that the only way to heal myself was to start giving to the world, and that one of the biggest ways in which I could give was empowering other people to roar, to stand up for themselves and take their lives in the direction their heart told them to. Ever since I started doing that, I’ve found my roars softening, and being less about defending and hiding myself, and more about standing up straight, and opening up. Wonderful article – thank you so much for sharing and opening up so much.

  7. Wow, I say you are one gutsy woman with a message worth hearing.

  8. MJ says:

    Thank you, thank you. I needed this, because I’d always been the “perfect child” (actually a depressed, berated, miserable child whose parents and grandparents constantly told her what she was, and was not, allowed to think, believe, want and be). After very grudgingly giving up dreams and taking up what “They” demanded of me, I popped in the last year and have been fighting blinding, murderous rage for months. Seriously, if I could stab them all with my rolled up graduate degree and not do prison time, I would… Though I am not acting on it, my dedication to a compassion practice and not harming others will not let me act on the pure hate and rage.

    I’m also not acting on it because in her 20s my mom decided that she’d “had enough” and snapped, and by now (late 60s) she’s clearly addicted to the power rush of raging at others and verbal cruelty. THIS is where “I’m mad and not going to take it” goes when it isn’t harnessed, into cruelty that drives others away. I will never, ever, ever be like that.

  9. Thomas Mrak, Electronic Musician with entrepreneurial tendencies says:

    Thanks for sharing.

    Let us all make a little trouble of our own :-D.

  10. Sarah says:

    Jennifer, great article. I’ve always bent over backward trying to accomodate other people and over the last decade or so realized how much I undermined myself in doing so. The more I did it though – the harder it was to get out of this pattern. Not to mention, it was my way of avoiding really challenging myself to accomplish things that would give me the self-respect to demand more from other people i.e. get angry at them!

    Now I’m learning how to let it out and finesse it to. My husband has a great expression: Let emotions be the fuel in your gas tank. But drive the car using your brain/logic. A helpful way for me to think about how to use anger the right way.

  11. Gabby says:

    Thank you Jennifer for the great article. The two example really made me think. Thank for sharing.

  12. Looooved this! It’s a brave post and very true, we need to see the real deal about how we create suffering and delay delight by focusing on what does not serve. Thank you

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  14. Pamela Miles says:

    Great post, Jennifer! Both the over expression and the under expression of anger cause us unnecessary suffering. Often we cannot isolate a muscle and develop control of it until we’ve overused it a bit.