Love, Not Hate
When I was a kid, I was pissed off. Red-faced most of the time. Anger was my default emotion and served as the stand-in for most other feelings. Frustration, sadness, embarrassment, intimidation, even happiness or appreciation were all expressed through anger in some weird way or another.
Safe to say that years of therapy have helped me manage this tendency. Which doesn’t mean I’m ‘fixed’. No way. But I am able to healthily recognize when less-experienced emotions get the shove from the more comfortable feeling of anger or rage.
But I’d be lying if I said anger always loses these days. In fact, this week it won handily.
I am cursed with an inability to filter most external intake. I see everything, hear whispers, read into gestures, and pretty much over-analyze anything that crosses my path. Once, while listening to an interview with Chris Rock, he described his day-to-day experience the same way. A 24/7 flood of unstoppable stimuli. He’s managed to channel it into a career in comedy, whereas I’ve managed to, well, manage it. Except for the times I can’t.
Like so many others, since the election I’ve been caught up in the nation’s collective trauma. And though I probably should, I don’t shy away from the endless news reports or the constant buckshot of social media craziness. Last week’s loop of Charlottesville videos messed me up. The car ramming into the crowd of protestors and killing Heather Heyer, white supremacists waving makeshift weapons and Nazi flags, the brutal assault of Deandre Harris, and so, so much more.
Fact is, I am mad. Fucking mad. But this madness mostly exists because it’s all I really know how to feel. Like, really know. But I am aware that it’s actually a complex mixture of so many other emotions. But last week, anger took me over.
And as one of my platoon sergeants used to say, “You order the shit, you eat the shit.” Well, this week I ordered a big pile of it.
You know when you buy a new car and suddenly start seeing the same car everywhere you go? A version of this happened to me today during a 6.5-hour, 23-mile training walk from Carrboro to Hillsborough.
But in my case, all my internal strife was being externally materialized as conflicting images: Gorgeous caterpillars scooting feet away from rotten deer carcasses being devoured by a wake of vultures; A brand new stars and bars waving directly next to a tattered confederate flag; Tons of side-of-the-road beer cans laying in dew-laden crab grass, reaching for the morning sun.
The silence surrounding each set of opposing forms made me walk faster. Sub-15s. I often felt like someone was creeping up behind me and looked back at least a dozen times to catch them in the act.
In its own strange way, each mile represented my own battle with hatred. And my guess is that animals could sense this, too. Horses usually lope over to me for a scratch on the neck, but not today. In fact, not a one took a step in my direction. One just looked at me in a way that made me look away.
Dogs did the opposite. They charged me. But not to say hello. No—they (count them, four dogs) bum-rushed me, barking and slobbering and paying no attention to traffic. They were looking for a fight. I thank my trekking poles and loud voice for confusing the attacks. But each made me want to cry.
We attract what we are. And this past week I lost sight of who I’ve become. I slipped back into what I was long ago.
I suppose today shocked me back into the reality of all I’ve been working towards—love. Laugh if you want, because I know it sounds cheesy. And maybe it is. But I don’t care. I’d rather work on my willingness to love than clench my fist. Or worse, swing it.
As I walked the final stretch down Churton Street in Hillsborough, I saw this message written in chalk:
It was 97° outside, but I had cooled off. Seems I needed these 23 miles to do it.
I have so much I need to let go of.