I think it goes without saying that I have a fairly shoddy family life. My relationships with most of my family members are strained at best, and completely beyond repair in a lot cases. While they’re not the worst people in the world, they aren’t exactly the best, either. Or at least, they’re not always the best for me. Maybe if I was straight, neurotypical or lacking in mental health issues out the wazoo it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But for whatever reason, my relationship with my family is still not ideal in a lot of ways.
Because of this, I hide a lot of what I do from my family. They don’t know about my personal life or my relationship with my partner that’s been going on for almost a decade now. They don’t know about my life in the Unseen (could you really imagine how they’d react?), and they don’t know about my work with the Kemetic community. They have a passing knowledge that I’m “not Christian” and that I’m “not entirely straight”, but that’s about as far as their understanding goes, and I like to keep it that way. I worry that if they were to find these things out about me, they’d eat me alive the first chance that they got.
This can be difficult to manage, though, as there are times when I would like to share these aspects of my life with other people that I know in the flesh. There are times when I’d love to show how my work online has influenced my life offline, or utilize online or religious experiences to show my family members how they’ve got the wrong idea about me.
A good example of this is the very frequently used “you’re so angry” trope. This usually happens when I’ve managed to catch a male family member off guard by calling them out on something problematic, and they end up deflecting with a “well you’re so angry all of the time, it must really suck to be you.” Of course, calling women angry as a means to belittle them and derail the conversation into a different, more personal topic (often called an ad hominem attack) is pretty well discussed and well documented in our society. In many ways, women aren’t allowed to be angry. We’re only allowed to be nice and happy and fluffy cuddles all of the time. So when this happens, I’m not entirely surprised, just agitated that this is how a grown man chooses to handle criticism.
And as I sit there and watch this grown man throw around the whole “you’re so angry!” as if that invalidates everything I have to say, I often find myself wanting to do one of two things. The first is to tell them that I am angry, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t be angry that their family treats them fairly poorly, or that their upbringing was less than ideal and how that still effects things to this day. Who wouldn’t be angry for being a second rate citizen within our culture. Who wouldn’t be angry about getting paid less for doing more work, for being shunned by politicians, the media, and the general population. Who wouldn’t be angry for getting the short stick. I usually want to follow this up with statements about how my gods have taught me not to fear my anger, but to embrace it and use it for making change. I want to tell them about how the NTRW have pushed us all to be more accepting of ourselves and our emotions, even if those emotions are not always considered “appropriate” by our society. In this moment, I want to talk about Kemeticism and how it has influenced my ideas about anger, and to push my family member to reconsider their ideas about anger (and women being angry). But as I said above, I can’t.
The second thing I want to do is to shout back at them “no I’m not!” and to tell them that they’ve got me all wrong. I want to tell them about all of the work I’ve done online, and how I’ve worked to help others, and the joy that that brings me. I want to tell them about how my partner makes me happy and has brought balance to my life in ways no one else has. I want to tell them that despite all of my shortcomings, I’ve worked so hard to make something of myself, and that I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot despite what I was born into. In this moment, I want to talk about Kemeticism and how it’s not only enriched my life, but allowed me to enrich the lives of others and how important that is to me. But again, I can’t.
But really, both of the above paragraphs are accurate. I am angry and not angry at the same time. Like most things, it depends on the subject matter as to whether I may appear more disgruntled or less disgruntled. I’m going to have a very different emotional response to kittens as opposed to rampant sexism. And to base a person’s entire personality off of the emotions expressed over one topic is really not cool or fair, especially if you’re using it to deflect criticism of problematic behaviour.
But more importantly than all of this, is the fact that I shouldn’t have to defend myself in regards to my perceived anger. I shouldn’t have to prove my worth based off of my community work. I shouldn’t have to prove my worth because “I’m not really all that angry, I promise.” I shouldn’t have to be ashamed or perceived as less than because of the emotions that I am experiencing. I shouldn’t have to defend myself at all for expressing what I feel in a healthy manner. And I shouldn’t have people trying to debase everything I say because of the notion of anger.
The more I reflected on this, the more I realized that while I had internalized all of the lessons that Set had given me about anger back in the Pit all those years ago, I still had more work to do in regards to my anger. Yes, I can accept that I am angry. Yes, I can utilize my anger in a positive fashion. Yes, I can control my anger and channel it a lot better than I used to be able to. All of these lessons are still with me today.
But what I didn’t internalize or take with me is that I can be angry without needing to prove that I am allowed to be angry. In so many ways, I have been conditioned to believe that I can be angry and upset because I do all of these other useful things that negate that anger. There seems to be this internalized idea that I can be “less than ideal” because I do other things that live up to our society’s idea of what we should be doing with our lives (hint: it centers around being productive for someone else 24/7).
My worth is not based around what I do for the community. My worth is not based around how productive I am or am not. My worth as a human and as a person is inherent simply because I exist. My anger is justified and valid because it is a feeling that I have, and I don’t need to go do all of these “good deeds” in order to be justified and valid in what I already feel. I don’t need to go do good things as a means to weigh against the “bad things” that I feel.
And above all, I don’t need to pull this information out to prove to random angry manchildren that I’m really “not all that bad if you’d just give me a chance.” I don’t owe him anything, and I certainly shouldn’t have to give out personal details in order to earn his respect (as the respect should be inherent). And really, none of us should have to. Our society likes to imply that we are only valuable if we are productive, but that’s really not true. You don’t owe society a thing, and you shouldn’t have to prove to anyone that you deserve to continue to exist.
Part of my practice has been about coming to terms with who I am and how I feel, as well as learning to embrace parts of myself I have been made to deny and hate for years. And while I’ve made a lot of progress, this past year’s interactions with the manchildren in my family has shown me that I still have a lot of work left to do. As I often say, the rabbit hole has no bottom or end, and so it seems to go with shadow work as well.