I love to fight with Phoenix.
I love how it starts low and gentle, like a deep bass drum advancing across a tract of space. How the hum winds around and up and over and into me. How it builds. Our words missing each other until misunderstanding takes root. I love how free and open such a simple emotion as anger can come pouring out of me.
In the past, I’ve struggled with expressing my anger. The first time I encountered Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom, I had to intermittently stop reading while tears sped down my cheeks and my body racked with sobs. It wasn’t a sadness that made me cry. I couldn’t even put my finger on it. It was the simplicity of being understood.
In the section on polycystic ovaries, she spoke about unexpressed anger. I accessed the truth of her words as if looking into my cells with a microscope. Years of accumulated anger compressed into tiny balls in my consciousness just like the tiny cysts dotting my ovaries. I didn’t let it out because I didn’t feel safe enough to express anger.
Now I love it. I love watching it rise and directing it out into my life in productive ways. I love the wide and strong base inside myself that can handle if it sometimes gets the better of me. I love the life I’ve built upon that base that can withstand its humble wrath.
I move the extension cord out of the way and step forward, bracing up against the new counter. The measured birch rests on its support beams. I hold it in place as I anticipate which section Phoenix will next fasten on. Something isn’t working. He hesitates, grabs another section of the soon-to-be counter. “Move this part here,” he says.
More words upon words. And then the meanings of the words start to annoy me. Slowly they crash upon themselves into a tsunami of I can’t believe he thinks that I can understand the difference between when he says “this is the problem, not this,” punctuating each “this” with the exact same gesture and intonation, pointing toward the board trim.
It is unfathomable that he thinks I would understand what he means. And even more unfathomable that he not understand what I’m trying to explain, that this is where the board should go in order to line up at a 90 degree angle, perpendicular to the counter top with the half round edging.
Home renovations become exhilarating. My patience withers to the delicate point of a pinprick and I get So. Very. Angry.
It’s an anger that flows through me. That raises my voice and probably throws in a few ‘fucking’s. That escalates into a concentration of fury that crosses an invisible line in my mind. A point of no return. I am furious.
And then, suddenly, it’s gone. Like a wave crashing on a lava rock. It recedes and is an entirely deflatable anger. This fight becomes so mundane. So ordinary in its construction. It’s the most mainstream suburban thing we do — fight with one another like this. During home renovations no less.
We breathe. We look at each other. All anger fades. I ask him what he means, he tells me, and I explain what I am saying. Turns out we’re talking about a different section of the board. We’re both right.
We continue to affix the counter to the wall. It looks so beautiful. Phoenix has dreamed up an elegant and simple kitchen for our tiny jungle shack.
I once fought with Mark over home renovations. True to our style, the fight had zero raised voices and angry words. It was a conflict full of silence and deflection, standing in the curtain rod aisle of Canadian Tire. There was very little anger on my part and much more genuine confusion and incomprehension, our disagreement turning into a silence-match. We returned home from the store empty-handed. It wasn’t long before I left him.
Each instance of anger is now a passing wave in a life encapsulated by so much more. Not sequestered into a cage, never to be expressed, it walks alongside me, secure. It has a place and a purpose, teaching me what boundaries and value are, what safety is. Teaching me all the ways in which I am no longer afraid.