Avalanche

A while back, I was sitting outside at night listening to the frogs singing to one another across the reservoir. The wind was picking up pace, and creating a song of its own through the branches of the giant oak trees in our yard. I had been feeling on edge all day as it was, but sitting there by myself with only night sounds and my own undercurrent of thought to keep me company, I started feeling really angry. I couldn’t seem to name the source of it although I knew there had to be one — emotions don’t happen for no reason. I didn’t want to spend too much time trying to analyze it though, I just wanted to move through it which, for me, meant finding a way to express it without causing damage to myself or anyone else.

There was a time when I’d have just let it fly. I’d storm around, yell over seemingly nothing. If there was no direction to point in specifically, it got pointed in all directions — including at the people I love. It wasn’t simply that things annoyed me — those were merely the surface I was able to see. And yet, I would lose my shit on the regular over these little things, unwilling or unable at the time to look at what was happening underneath. Anger wants a reason — a harbor for blame — and if we can’t find one that fits, it will happily take up residence in places it doesn’t belong, causing us to misfire and do harm. Don’t get me wrong, anger has purpose and can be wonderful and powerful fuel for change. I don’t think negative emotions have to be “bad” unless they’re left to fester. It’s what we do with them that matters.

This tendency to pop my cork really bothered me. I didn’t want to be known as someone with a short fuse anymore, or someone who just seemed to always be angry. Through a lot of reflection, I began to notice a pattern in myself. When I am hurting, I am not always able to express it in the beginning. Actually, sometimes there’s quite a lengthy delay. I spent a long time dumbing down my feelings for palatability, because I tend to scale toward people pleaser. The trouble is, without expression, our pain can turn malignant. Suppressed, misdirected anger is one of those malignancies, and I think for me, a lot of that came with the lowering of my boundaries or the failure to assert them at all. On some level, knowing my own wounding, I think I thought it would lead to more love, more acceptance if I allowed more bullshit. It didn’t.

That night, sitting with my anger, I thought about how it might feel to just scream it out and have a full on tantrum, but since I live in a neighborhood with neighbors and stuff, I figured it probably wouldn’t be a great idea to try. As my thoughts carried on, I accidentally pictured myself on top of a mountain, completely isolated. This could work, I thought. I started remembering the smell of cold, and how it feels entering my nose and lungs. I remembered the way snow sounds as it crunches beneath my boots. I remembered the feeling of fine powder turning to mist as it touches the warmth of my face. I remembered how it feels when cold settles into my skin, making it difficult to flex my fingers. And I started thinking about avalanches.

Avalanches aren’t caused by screaming (not in real life anyway), although I suppose they could be caused by a toddler-style, throw-yourself-on-the-floor tantrum. 90% of them are triggered by human activity, but they do occur naturally too. The conditions have to be just right — the right angle of slope, the right snow pack, the right temperature, and a sudden change in the environment. The mountain, bearing all that weight, would have to be ready to let go… so to speak… unless, for safety reasons, a “controlled” avalanche were triggered. I actually started to really worry about this, because some of these avalanches can wipe out forests… or villages. I ran with the thought before I reminded myself that this landscape, while based in reality, is of my own creation and I can do whatever I want. There doesn’t have to be a village or a forest at the bottom if I don’t want there to be, and I can cause an avalanche with my screaming however impossible it is in the physical world — it’s my fucking landscape.

Maybe it sounds silly, but it didn’t feel silly. The idea of expressing myself loudly, and drawing attention to my person is very uncomfortable for me, even when no one is around — even in this format. It felt like something truly powerful to visit this place. I have never physically been to mountain peaks like Mt. Everest, but there I was staring at ancient earth formations, high above the altitude I am accustomed to. I did wonder how effective this visualization could be if no one were there to witness me. I think having our emotions witnessed is really important. Being seen is important. I wondered, could an experience be a true catharsis without someone there to see it? In other words — If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around, does it make a sound?? After considering this for some time, I think the answer is yes. This mountain range is a place inside myself, and I exist. Whether I choose to exist loudly or softly, every cell in my body bears witness and reacts accordingly.

I imagined the weight of the snow on the peaks as my own unexpressed emotions waiting to be released. I recognized myself as of the Earth. I let out my scream, I stomped my feet, I jumped up and down, running the gamut of tantrum having. The mountains seemed to rumble as the snow galloped wildly down the slope in a holy celebration of release, knowing the exact path to take from start to finish. The rocks, the trees, the very air itself — bore witness. The Earth, in all her ancient wisdom, took the anger — knowing exactly what it was even though I did not. She took it, diffused it, and turned it into something useful, as is her nature.

I took in a final deep breath of frigid air, and opened my eyes. I was back beneath the trees, the frogs still singing, the wind still dancing through the branches. I felt better — lighter, like a great weight had been taken from me. The sounds around me felt different, too. Whereas before they had been filtered through my own angst, I could now hear their joy.

I still get angry sometimes without fully understanding the source. It doesn’t happen terribly often anymore, but when it does, I know I can visit this place within me and tend to my need. It is not a place of blame, but of reclamation. Here, I stand fully within my own power. I can create and destroy at will. I can take back the power I have given away, I can take back all the places where stakes were driven in, and the gifts of my being exploited. Each time I do, I feel closer to the truth of me, and the truth is — I can move mountains.