By Anne T. Donahue
If you live in Ontario and you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re also full of rage. You’re angry about the impending shutdown that will largely do nothing (outside of continuing to fill up ICUs). You’re angry about the fact that my cat could navigate a pandemic better than Doug Ford. You’re angry that victims of covid are being blamed for not staying home despite them having to go to work because nobody’s being paid to stay at home, nobody’s getting paid sick leave, and people are being forced to the frontlines because, I guess, Ford cares more about hinting big announcements and posing in jackets than taking care of the folks who need help the most. And, of course, you’re angry that the vaccine rollout is . . . well, whatever the vaccine rollout is. (Bad? Not good? Failing citizens in the thousands? Millions? An absolute clusterfuck? You decide.) Anger is the currency of this cursed era, and the only thing we can really do is buy in. I don’t know how not to be angry anymore. I don’t know how to see a display of positivity and not immediately comment, “Who the hell do you think you are?”
Which is unfair, I know. Some people handle crises with telling everybody to smile or by showing us all the work they’ve done while the rest of us are now taking turns screaming into our kitchen sinks. They’re the people who, pre-pandemic, I’d liken to human golden retrievers; persons who are entirely made up of bumper sticker-esque mantras and “looking on the bright side” while refusing to engage in meaningful conversations about anything outside supremely topical, rah-rah-rah-oriented shit. And honestly? Bless these souls I cannot relate to. Bless them for choosing to live in a reality far from my own, and for believing that positivity is contagious and will erase the anxiety, fear, fury, and absolute, all-encompassing sadness that I know so many of us are now made up of. Bless them for the belief that a good attitude will see us through an abundance of trauma. Bless them for maybe still believing in Santa Claus, I don’t know.
The thing is, I’ve toyed a long time with whether or not I’m simply broken and/or whether my inability to feel anything but my small assortment of feelings speaks to my shortcomings as a person. (Spoiler: it’s both, but it’s fine.) I’ve wondered whether I’d be happier to believe that because I’ve decided something, it will happen, or if I began trying to find the good in everything I’d clench my jaw a little less. But then I know that doing these things would only make me more unhappy because I wouldn’t be myself. And that the years I did spend trying to assume this type of persona made me miserable and sick. Which might be why the forced positivity crowd makes me so angry: I’ve given it a go, I bought into the myth, and I tried to push it on other people, despite knowing in my gut that I was a full-on fraud. So when I see it in the midst of another terrible news cycle, I feel doubly angry. First, because shut up with your “Well, at least it’s nice and we can be outside!” rhetoric (yes, and also the ICUs are almost maxed, but sure: rock on) and second, because I no longer want to mute my real feelings. I am sad, and our circumstances are terrible. People are dying who don’t have to, and the government doesn’t seem to give a shit. Frankly, I don’t want to relate to anyone who doesn’t want to set fire to a chair.
The thing is, the longer this goes on, the more permanent I think our rage will be. And maybe that’s the upside to existing in the worst type of extremes. Maybe this is the shift we need for our anger to spark the type of changes a lot of people speak about, but never seem to act on. Maybe we’re finally angry enough to vote out bad leaders, push back on harmful policies, and face the sharp truth that the system we’ve been told to believe in doesn’t care about us. Maybe our anger will be why what’s happening now doesn’t happen again, or why prioritizing the safety and health of people who need to be looked out for most will become a mainstay in our society. Or maybe it will simply be enough of an armour to make it through another day; that instead of collapsing or crying (because sometimes I don’t want to) or giving up, we lead with our rage and let it power us.
Rage feels almost like a universal language, anyway. And frankly, I’d rather endure the effects of that than see the world we’re living in and deny one of the most important feelings that make us real people.
Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!