Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tempest in a Teapot

I've never been good at fury.

Sometimes I'd like to be. I've thrown things three times in my life in anger (coins on a German street, beer (still in its cardboard case so the smash wasn't very satisfying), and a teapot (whose smash was)), and each time, as I was in the very process of throwing, I felt such an extreme sense of relief that it scared me. There was something so terrifying about the whole bodily motion -- identifying what was to be thrown, picking a target, feeling the heft, rise and subsequent release of the object -- all the while knowing it was wrong, so wrong. But that terror felt so viscerally good, in a chilling way. Be it a harmless coin or a sharpened spear, the act of throwing something remembers a deadly act, and that gorgeous frisson of fear feels good.

That last throw, the teapot incident, was during a spousal fight. I honestly don't even remember what it was about, but I was furious, obviously, beyond the normal anger of a regular ol' argument. I saw the teapot on the table. Small and green, it had never been used. It was a wedding present and was pretty but not very functional. These actual, prosaic thoughts went through my mind as I reached for it. And then, up, over my head, smashed to the floor, and all the while I was thinking, I'm just going to have to clean this up. It's going to make a mark on the wood flooring.

I was right. The teapot smashed, leaving a small but distinct divot in the wood. Porcelain flew in large chunks and a shower of fine dust. I was immediately ashamed and embarrassed, and still, I was triumphant that I was feeling this passion. That something, anything, even an idiotic fight prompted mostly by exhaustion, could rouse me to this.

And seconds after I threw it (does hurling floorward actually count as throwing?), I had the broom in my hands, cleaning it up. Stunningly anticlimactic. The fight ended. We went to bed no longer angry, the point forgotten.

And looking back, I miss that teapot. I hate the scratch on the floor. It was a stupid, destructive moment in a life that (luckily) has very few of those. When I'm furious at circumstances within any small bit of my control, I write a blistering, heart-felt letter. When the circumstances are out of my control, my anger tends to dissipate quickly. I'm lucky that way, I know I am.

But I do understand fury's lure. Directed, worthy fury is good, no mistake there. We should be furious at doctors who misdiagnose, crooked judges, and dangerous intersections. Misdirected ridiculous fury normally has no place in my life, but when it squirrels its way in, it feels GOOD, just for those few seconds.

Then I just have to clean up. Best to save the fury for the big stuff. At least I know how to call it up when I need it.


Sophie Littlefield said...

when i was a freshman in college, my roommate and i stole a set of the cafeteria china, one piece at a time, over a semester. we had no real plan for what to do with it, and one day we took turns hurling each piece against the wall. we weren't expressing fury or rage or anger or anything - in fact i don't remember whose idea it was or why we thought it was a good one - but it felt so *good*....acts of rage, or even those that mimic rage may be good at dispensing with all kinds of pent-up emotions....a cleanse, as it were, for the psyche. :)

i also don't remember the cleanup...

L.G.C. Smith said...

LOL, Rachael. I was trained in the school of "Who's going to have to clean up that mess/pay for that?" One learns to be careful about what one throws and how. :)

Unknown said...

Somehow the satisfaction I know I'll feel if I throw something is not enough to overcome the annoyance of having to clean it up. :)

Juliet Blackwell said...

I've never thrown anything in anger -- haven't done much more than slamming doors and smashing down phone receivers (back in the old days when there *were* phone receivers, and phone units to smash them back into. Remember those? Somehow pushing a button in anger just doesn't cut it!)

Anyway, I always sort of liked the idea that I would get so fed up as to throw something...but then I feared I would experience immediate embarrassment and regret. And the clean-up, of course ;-)