Today a dear friend called to tell me how much she related to my grandmother’s story. She thanked me for showing compassion about the hardships Irene had experienced as a child, and for understanding how those hardships had affected Grandma’s relationships, including the one she had with me.
During that same conversation, my friend told me that her friend had read my book and asked afterwards, “Why is Jenney so angry?” I didn’t answer right away, but later I felt compelled to mention that I had addressed my anger by looking to the women I interviewed for understanding and advice. And that it had truly helped.
The problem is, I’m still angry.
In fact, some of what I was angry about twenty years ago is simply closer to the surface these days. When I sense that someone to whom I have given authority is about to abuse it, I feel angry. When I listen to the growing list of revelations about the celebrities and CEOs and football players who have harassed and assaulted girls and women, I feel angry. And when I hear women criticize other articulate, opinionated women for speaking up . . .when an articulate woman is referred to as a “bitch” for behaviors that would indicate strength in a man, I feel angry.
The difference lies in what I do about those situations. You see, life has given me the words to describe what I see, and the patience to stick with a “conversation” about it until I feel listened to and understood. I’ve lived long enough to have a “back pocket” filled with anecdotes—or even personal experiences—to draw upon when I need to emphasize or illustrate my point.
We tell little children to “use your words.” Well, the key to managing the anger that seems to have shown up in my book is to use my words. Once again.