Anger gets a bad rap. We are told not to give in to it, or hang on to it, or let it rule you. Forgiveness is the way to go apparently. Most of the time I believe that to be true, but there is a time and place for anger. To slam and stomp, in the words of Nina Simone's "Breakdown and Let It All Out." (Preferably done in the confines of your home so as not to end up on an episode of "Cops.")
Anger for me was a gas pedal. It was the turbo boost I needed to get me out of the muck I was stuck in. The song I wrote as my personal anger management homework was "Mistake." It allowed me to have out loud the conversation I'd been having with my ex in my head while vacuuming, showering, doing yoga, etc. I didn't censor myself, I didn't worry about going too far or saying the wrong things. I put the pedal to the metal and let it rip and it felt glorious.
My ex kept referring to his infidelity as a "mistake." It was such a small word and seemed like such a throw-away comment. It grated on me. It felt like the people who say, "the gun just went off." Well yes, while you had your finger on the trigger. It didn't just go off all by its sweet little self.
What I really wanted to hear was "I fucked up." That I could have dealt with. That would've been a place I could have a conversation from. Honesty. Straightforwardness. A place to begin.
I got so tired of hearing the word "mistake" from him that I actually looked up the definition. My ex was an English major while I attended school sporadically. I grew up in Brooklyn during the worst budget crisis ever. Put it this way, English was not my strong point.
The dictionary inspired me to write this verse:
"My little English major
So into proper usage
Your misuse of the words
Are worse than your excuses
So let us turn to Webster
For a proper definition
Of the word mistake I
Present for your submission
It's to misinterpret or to misunderstand
To miscommunicate not a Ms. in your pants"
I know that being married isn't some magical bubble in which you and your spouse stop noticing or being attracted to other people. God knows I had my own temptations and attractions to deal with during the course of my marriage. But I never put my marriage at risk for the sake of an attraction.
I have heard from many people since then that infidelity is a symptom of a broken relationship, not the cause. Certainly this "Ms in his pants" exposed the cracks in our relationship, and something was clearly not working between us. Time and distance has reduced my burning sense of outrage to a better understanding.
Writing "Mistake" was a catharsis. But I realized one evening that anger had served its purpose and the better part of me knew it was time to stop. I didn't want to burn my wheels out on anger. I still had a long way to go and I'd need them.
By Terry Radigan, edited by Natalie Barratt