A few years ago, just as my marriage was falling apart, I took my 11-year-old daughter back to my hometown in Georgia to attend a college football game and get away from the chaos.
I didn’t know it then, but my marriage would ultimately end in divorce. And if you had told me that it would, I never would have believed you.
I was trained that once you get married, you’re married for life. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Till death do you part.
I was also trained that once you get married, you become utterly selfless. Meaning, you abandon yourself.
So instead of being carried over the threshold, I became the doormat on it. And I let my husband walk over me to get to a life that mostly benefitted him.
I did whatever I could to be a good wife and a good mother. After all, that’s what I was told I should be when I grew up. A supporter of other people’s wants, needs, and dreams. And an abandoner of my own.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t just taking marital vows in that church. I was also taking cultural vows that taught me to be willingly subservient, to be silent when talked down to, and to shove down my anger and put a smile on my face.
All of that shoving down was the reason my marriage fell apart.
The falling apart was actually a slow erosion that began on my wedding day — and it matched the deterioration of my Self that almost extinguished the Real Me. The powerful, glittering, on-fire me that was always there, underneath the surface, desperate to emerge.
And that is what she finally did at the football game.
The Good Girl Goes Rogue
Parking is limited near the stadium, so unless you want to walk three miles, your best option is to have someone drop you off.
My mom agreed to take us, and when we got close to the stadium, we came upon the area where the football team does their ritual walk-in so the fans can cheer them on.
If you get there early enough, you can bypass this event and drive right up to the gate, which is perfectly legal. However, if you get there too close to the team walk-in, the campus cops wave you away, at which point you have to circle for about an hour to get another chance.
We had left in plenty of time, but as my mom pulled closer to the stadium, we saw that we were still going to be cutting it too close. The cops had already started waving people on.
However, several college students (no doubt half-drunk) were jumping out of their cars and doing a dead sprint, making their getaway into the crowd — without so much as a backward glance from the cops.
My mom and I decided, me being the rule follwer that I am and she being the upstanding citizen that she is, to pull far enough away from the scene to make it ok to get out.
But no sooner had I exited the vehicle — with my daughter still in the car — than one of the campus cops appeared and started banging on the trunk of my mom’s car to make her keep going.
When I told her that I needed to get my daughter out of the car first, she began yelling at me to get out of the way and kept hitting the back of the car.
In a split-second decision, as my mom’s car started rolling forward, I grabbed the door handle, opened the door, and told my little girl to get out. Which she did.
This did not go over well with the cop, who doubled down on her yelling. I told her I wasn’t about to leave my daughter in the car and be separated from her.
Before I knew it, a man dressed in plain clothes was before me, pointing his finger in my face and screaming.
He wanted to know why I didn’t get out of the way and let the car leave. Why hadn’t I done what I was told?
I didn’t know who this guy was, but he appeared to be some sort of authority figure. I didn’t know it then, but he was the campus police chief. (It was impossible to know this since he was dressed like one of the fans, but I digress.)
All my life, I have followed the rules, done what I was told to do, and fallen in line like I was supposed to. Especially if a man was directing me.
Well, that day something inside me snapped. It was partially the Mama Bear in me, instinctively shielding my daughter from his verbal assault.
But looking back, I can see that it was mostly the simmering rage that had been building as a result of a lifetime of silence and subservience.
The rage of the real me took on a life of its own and blasted through the Good Girl shell I had spent 48 years constructing.
The Rage Erupts
Rather than backing away from his aggressive stance, I took one step forward to meet him and pointed my finger right back at his. And the Me that I had no idea was inside of me screamed back at him: GET OUT OF MY FACE. YOU ARE SCARING MY CHILD.
It took him by surprise. And it shocked the hell out of me.
Once again, my defiance did not go over well. He shouted back to the campus cop to write me a ticket.
With a crowd of about a hundred people standing and staring at this spectacle, I yelled at him to GO AHEAD. WRITE ME A TICKET.
Then, with his beet-red face, he upgraded his punishment and officially banned me from campus.
As my daughter and I were escorted from the scene to have our campus privileges revoked, I felt a mix of triumph — and fear.
It was the first time in my life I had defied anyone. Much less a man.
My rage dumbfounded me. Where did it come from? Where had it been all these years? Why hadn’t I ever let it out?
Initially, I felt panic. I had broken the rules. I had stepped outside the lines. I had pushed past the boundaries and made my real self known.
I had taken a stand — and it felt uncomfortable and scary. It was totally foreign to me to say No. I’m not putting up with this. You can’t control me.
But I quickly identified the fear as being totally irrational. There was nothing wrong with what I had done. In fact, everything about it was right.
So I decided to embrace my jail break from the Good Girl life that was imposed on me — and revel in my newfound status as the powerful woman I was born to be.
Expressing Your Anger Is Life-Changing
This one decision to let my rage out changed the course of my life.
It set off a chain reaction of me telling other people in my life what I was and wasn’t going to put up with any longer.
It helped me leave an unfulfilling marriage — not easy for a girl who was trained to believe that lack of fulfillment is normal and that you stay married no matter what.
It helped me be a better mother, modeling what strength and confidence look like.
It helped me start this business to help other women find their own voices, live authentic lives, and reach their fullest potential.
And, most importantly, it helped me start listening to my gut, to pay attention when my intuition speaks, and to honor all of the feelings I have.
This is what I want for you. What I want for every woman.
The truth is that we all feel anger, but we don’t acknowledge it. And because we don’t acknowledge it, investigate it, or honor it, it simmers. And when we keep shoving it down, it manifests as rage — and the erosion of our souls.
That’s what makes us binge eat and binge drink. It’s what makes us focus obsessively on our looks and waste years of our lives on a diet. It’s what makes us choose the wrong life partner and stay in it for the kids. It’s what makes us abandon our hopes and dreams on the altar of service and self-sacrifice — society’s version of true womanhood.
I want you to start letting that anger out. You don’t have to wake up tomorrow and start cursing people out or pull the ripcord on your life. But I don’t want you to find yourself in a sea of people at a college football game, screaming at the campus police chief.
Say “no” more often. Stop apologizing for no reason. Stop moving out of the way at the grocery store. Don’t put on makeup to walk the dog. Don’t smile if you’re angry.
Just take up your space and BE.
But if you do find yourself on the verge of a rage breakdown, it’s ok.
In fact, it’s more than ok.
It may be time for you to give a big old F U to the garbage other people have dumped off in your life. It may be time to eliminate people from your sphere — even if those people happen to be close friends or family members. And it may actually be time for you to leave a life you didn’t sign up for, if that’s what it takes to make you feel fulfilled as a woman and a human being.
It may be time for you to get out of the car and not back down when you do. In fact, I’d like to see a lot more women getting out of their cars and saying enough is enough.
And when we do, let’s make sure to take our daughters — and our sisters, and our mothers, and our friends — with us.
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