“Friday!? I asked. The agency had just told me that my passport would be back two days later than they had originally told me. I was angry, I value my time more than anything. Time is finite, I can’t ever get it back after its used and that means when someone else forces me to wait for two extra days I don’t feel inclined to go easily into submission. I was especially upset because the person running the tour office seemed to have deliberately withheld information, aswell as lying to my face about the tour I had just gone on.
Anger is a funny thing for me.
I avoid it like the plague, in myself and in the people around me. It scares me and I cannot feel safe when there is anger within earshot. I have been trying for the past year to feel angry in a reasonable way. I don’t mean in moderation, I mean that I used to feel anger only when it was too much to control. It would make me lash out when it only hurt the bystanders, whether they were driving my anger or not. I hate that so much, the idea of hurting innocent people made me feel even more ashamed of my anger. I try now to feel anger when I feel it so that it normalizes and turns into the useful emotion that it is.
I think anger at its roots is a force for fixing wrongs. We feel angry when we sense a wrong in the world, when someone hurts something we care about we feel angry and that force gives us energy to throw into fixing the wrong. I don’t think it is always like that and I have plenty of examples of ways where anger was used in a rippling negative way but I like anger a lot more than I like depression, or shame. It seems to be capable of motivating action in the times when action could be a hard choice if left to logic. Those times when the right thing is not the easy thing.
The guy at the tour agency continued to explain how it took three working days for them to get the visa. “Yes and its been three days, you told me I would have it back today”, normally I would shut up and give in without a fight. I can be quite subservient but traveling has shown me that if I want to get what I want I have to fight for it. I guess this was one too many inconvenience because my wrongness alarm was going off pretty loud. I was raising my voice and actually channeling my anger, I wasn’t out of control and I wasn’t totally pretending to be angry. I have been known to only show anger when its acting, I didn’t trust myself to use real anger so I used to just behave as if I was angry when in reality it was only a show for a cause. Most people don’t really believe me when I say “I am very angry about this” unless I raise my voice and look the part (Believe me, I know).
I asked for a discount and he gave me one, he even looked worried by my anger. I don’t remember such a normal anger response from me. I was so happy with myself for being healthy that I lost most of my real anger and had to pretend for the last half of the conversation.
When I came back at noon two days later it wasn’t ready, I came back two hours later and it still wasn’t ready. Finally at 5pm they told me that they didn’t know where my passport was and a few minutes after that they said they had found it in Vientiane. Now that was very far away in the Capital of Laos, two days by bus away, so I was not happy with that. I was actually very angry with them for at first making me wait, then losing my passport and now they were going to make me wait another day for them to fly my passport back to me. I never yelled and actually after my first show of anger two days earlier they were being very helpful, I made it clear that this was a big problem and that I expected compensation for wasting my time. They gave me a free night in a hotel and half the price on a bus ticket out of town the next day. I have a sneaking suspicion that they would not have done that without my anger.
I’ve heard that depression is anger turned inward. Despite thinking that is too easily misinterpreted, it is true in a certain sense for me. When I am angry and I just hold it waiting for it to dissolve it usually leads to a particularly empty, depressive morning or week. I don’t know if that is because it takes so much energy to contain anger or if anger unused burns the holder or if anger is such a force for righting wrongs that holding it leaves me feeling diminished. I would guess that at least some of the time not using my anger leaves me regretting not acting to protect myself. When I hold my anger in it is almost always self harming, whether it leads to darker moods or the wrongness it was created to destroy hurts me.
This time the wrongness was lessened. I got a whole fried duck and a dark beer from the night market in Luang Namtha to celebrate (and also because it was 5 dollars for all of it.)
“Its for the wrong month” I told the guy at the tour office.
There had been many annoyances in the last few days but this took the cake.
Somehow they had managed to make me wait three days and spend 100 dollars on a visa that wasn’t even for the right month.
After getting my anger to do the talking I got 25 dollars back and I said Seeya later to Laung Namtha. I didn’t even mind being tossed around like laundry for 8 hours in the local night bus to Loung Prabang. Some things are just worse than other things.
Anger is starting to be a healthy part of me again.
And because I have had to get it back I will always know why it exists in the first place.