I think this is the sister blog to Nourish, written last week. If Nourish was about good things in…. then this is about bad stuff out…..
Sometime being good and keeping things going just gets too much, right?
Sometimes, full of frustration or fear or disappointment, full of loss or anxiety or confusion, full of duty and responsibility, our ability to hold together the stitching of our better selves just… unravels… and we show up in the world in fearful, frustrated, broken ways.
When I’m fearful and frustrated, I can be sharp, rude, verbally rapid and, I’m told, a little intimidating. I can be judgemental and impatient. My “good girl” finds herself transformed, mascara-smeared and snarling (metaphorically, mostly) as my demon-self settles in for the fight.
It ain’t pretty. It’s also rarely gratifying, even in the moment… mostly because I have some awareness I’m being an arse, even as I continue to be one.
Yet, I have some love and sympathy for my Mad Woman in the Attic and I defend her right to exist with some relish (knowing, of course, a healthy dose of privilege means my mad woman has greater permission to roam than others’, which comes with its own set of stuff…) Anger is an energy and sometimes that white-hot crossness feels good.
Other times, when I’m full up with coping, with dutifully paying my bills, walking my dog, attending to work and the people I love and care for, eating well, exercising, being responsible and grown up… I just don’t have the energy to be a mad woman. Sometimes I just want to lie down and have a tantrum or wail pitifully into the wind:
It’s not fair.…. It’s so unfair.
I’m too tired.….. Are We Nearly There Yet?
Poor me.…. Poor us.
It’s too much. …. It hurts
….or variations of this with a lot more swearing.
Right now, I’m seeing more and more of this mad/bad/sad stuff in the collective consciousness. People tired, exhausted, digging in and working through stuff themselves, leaving less tolerance, less patience for “others”. I live near a crossroads in Edinburgh – I’ve never heard so many exasperated car horns as I have recently, as drivers are chivvied along for hesitating at the lights. What is showing up in our world – the external expression of our internal angst – can feel a little overwhelming and baffling at times… it can add to our sense of fear and anxiety…and so things spiral.
I am, therefore, committed to not add to it – to the collective mad/bad/sad – I try to manage my own stuff and be in the world with as much care, kindness and hope as I can. Sometimes, in order to be this way, I have to withdraw and re-strengthen.
One of the great joys of this year, for me, has been joining a virtual writers group based on Shetland. There has been a wellbeing project running, which involves writing and reading together – mostly around themes which allow collective expression. One of the sessions revolved around archaic or little-known words and my most favourite was “Growlery” – defined as “A place to retreat to, alone, when ill-humoured”– which is believed to have originated in Charles Dicken’s Bleak House:
“Sit down, my dear,” said Mr. Jarndyce. “This, you must know, is the Growlery. When I am out of humour, I come and growl here.”
You can see where I’m going with this, right? As much as we need to nourish and replenish ourselves, we may also need to get the filth and fury out of ourselves. Sometimes cosy socks and reordering our bookshelves is an inadequate response to the undulating, unsettling sense of madness and the world disassembling… sometimes you have to find a place to growl that will do no harm to others.
I tend to growl on page – writing the fury and fear out of myself until there’s space for the calm and the joy. I used to growl more to my loved ones, but everyone feels so full at the moment, I’m cautious about spreading my less positive stuff around unhelpfully. Maybe this is where creative outlets come in – dance it out, paint it out, dig it into the garden, swim it off in the sea, sing it, rap it, weep it out… I dunno….(I found myself crying over the video for Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber’s “Stuck With U” video last week and, mortifying as it was, I kind of just went with it and, after I allowed myself just to be sad for a bit, it was weirdly satisfying.)
I figure this is not the time for private stoicism. I figure we need to go somewhere with the mad/bad/sad…. If there are private places we can break, or show sorrow, or externalise our mad/bad/sad stuff, without publicly adding to a lot of the toxic BS that is out there…surely that is in service of everyone? Because fear and anxiety have viral elements to them – they spread, you can catch someone’s fear if you aren’t wise to what’s happening… and they can catch yours.
So I’m mentally building a growlery – lots of padding for the acoustics and a free space to set fire to the keyboard to be mad/bad/sad for a bit – on the understanding that I don’t hang out there for too long and I return to the world less infected with anger and fear.
Anyone joining me?
I’m Julie Drybrough, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Facilitator, Speaker, Blogger & Dialogue Guide. Working with people & organisations to improve conversations, relationships & learning – Doing stuff with love.
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2 thoughts on “Growlery”
What a great word …I’ll join you…I usually wear a hoodie on these days, pull the hood up and be ‘the growler’…but only for a limited time as you say…and then, and I think this is important, move into the adjoining ‘room’ which is a space for joy and peace to be felt. Staying there for a longer time than in the growlery helping to tip the balance of the systems.
Thanks Jools. I’ve been seeing a counsellor since first lockdown, when I was angry, fearful, felt impotent and without agency, and very aware of how those things make me behave and their impact on those around me. Second time around, and walking with my counsellor yesterday, I realised I am less all of the above, have come to some kind of internal accommodation with things as they are now, and I don’t have to apologise for being kind of OK this time; nor do I have to engage with the noise, comment or share my views about it. I’m not hiding, but I’m also keeping and sharing my counsel only with those with whom there is mutual respect and benefit. Hence, I suppose, this response. Stay safe and well, my friend.