Unmaddening

I had an experience a couple of months ago that I’ve debated whether to share. It was extremely personal and emotional, which is one reason I contemplated not telling the world (or the tiny sliver of the world that actually reads my blog) about it. This is probably a fascinating disclosure to those of you who are regular readers, given that I frequently spill the tea about other personal and emotional experiences in my life.  You might be thinking, “what in heaven’s name does this woman NOT share?” Truthfully, there is a line. There are numerous episodes of my emotional life that I choose to keep private.

Still, the more compelling reason that I debated sharing my recent experience has less to do with the intimacy of it and more to do with my own sense of self. When I choose to share with you all, I do so because I think other people will relate to the experience. Also, I believe the experience reflects something authentic and genuine about who I am. The recent experience with which I have been wrestling speaks to a piece of me that I did not know was there. I find myself wondering if it really does reflect something that is authentic and genuine about who I am. If it does reflect a true piece of me, I am uncomfortable that it  exists… and that it has been part of me for over 40 years. I am certain that sharing this story will give pause to people who know me in real life. It is such a “not Terri” moment. Also, as far as relatability, I think this one might fall under the heading of “Terri is a psycho” rather than “I understand exactly what she means.”

Ultimately, I decided to share this… maybe for no better reason than I feel like it is stuck in the writing part of my spirit. I need to download it. Maybe because Iknow that this experience truly does reflect some part of me that I’ve denied and hidden for many years. If I feel it, it is part of who I am. Maybe I need to acknowledge the “psycho” and accept her in order to fully embrace the benefit of the experience.

So… here goes!

You may remember that a year or so ago, I worked through some old, painful memories and misunderstandings of myself. I took the fun house mirror that distorted the way I saw myself and broke it into a million pieces. At least, that is what I thought I did. This was the 2023 Lenten miracle-  A Lenten Miracle – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement  I felt liberated from 40 years of hurt.

It turned out that I did not break the mirror into a million pieces. I simply cracked it. This past Lent, I found some of the old feelings returning after nearly a year of freedom. It perplexed me. What I discovered is that I dealt with the source experiences quite effectively in 2023, but there were still so many regrets about the life I could have had during the 40+ years I allowed those experiences to define me. It is hard to resolve regret. One cannot travel back in time and start a chapter over again with an untainted, better-informed perspective. As I have aged, I have less opportunities to “try again” in the present. There are biological and practical limitations.

In speaking to my life coach about regrets, he suggested that regret usually has one of two origins- guilt or anger. He pointed out that the origin of my regret was probably not guilt. The episodes that distorted my understanding of myself and limited the possibilities I saw for myself were not of my design. He let that sink in for a moment. Finally, I finished the thought. “I’m angry,” I said… tentatively, at first. I let my mind and heart explore that statement to see if it felt genuine. I said it a couple more times, emotion and conviction growing each time. Suddenly, I was absolutely, viscerally, completely positive of something that I denied 40 years ago and had been denying ever since- I was angry. I felt shame about the anger because it felt less “good” and less “Christian” than I want to be, but I could no longer deny that it existed. It had breached the wall of my psyche with a vengeance. I was furious in 3D, high definition, technicolor, and surround sound!

Once I reached the realization that I was angry, I wondered what I was supposed to do with that anger lo these many years after the fact. I pondered this aloud with my life coach. The same idea occurred to each of us almost at the same time. “Maybe I need a rage room,” I half-joked. My life coach replied that he had been just about to suggest the same thing. Before I had a chance to dismiss the idea, he was googling “rage rooms in central Florida” on his computer in Portugal. Through this wonder of modern technology, he discovered a couple of options and encouraged me to look into them.

After our conversation, I visited and revisited the websites for the various rage rooms within driving distance. It took me a few days of dithering, but I finally decided to reserve my appointment with a baseball bat. The rage room I chose gave the option of a 10-minute session or a 20-minute session. I was not sure I had the physical stamina to smash things for 20 minutes straight, so I initially chose the 10-minute option. However, before completing the reservation, I decided that I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. I went full-on medieval and booked the 20-minute session about a week later.

In the days leading up to the appointment, I vacillated between nervousness and elation. I was excited, yet fearful, to release my inner beast. I considered whether to invite someone to go along with me. I thought it might feel supportive to have a companion. On the other hand, it might make me feel inhibited. I decided that this experience should be personal and all mine. Sharing it with anyone just did not feel right in my gut. I created a play list of hokey, cliché empowerment anthems to blast during my session.

Finally, my date with destruction came. I found my way to the little industrial park studio in Orlando and entered the facility. The attendant had me suit up in a hard hat, goggles, and safety shield. He led me to a small cement room fitted out with an old television set, a couple of old tires, about twenty pieces of glassware, and a set of old dishes. He showed me the  bin of weapons… excuse me, tools. I had all kinds of lovely iron and wooden implements of mayhem. The attendant paired my cell phone to a blasting Bluetooth speaker. The whole building could hear Gloria Gaynor insisting that she (and I) would survive. Finally, he took my picture for me and let me start smashing.

Something definitely came over me. I had been concerned that I would feel silly and would have trouble engaging. Not a problem. I immediately started smashing with abandon. I began by throwing glasses to the floor. I pounded everything- dishes, glasses, television, tires, even my feet. As I danced my way around the room, I want to say that I had heavy feet, but that sounds like I had to drag them around the space. It is more accurate to say that I had powerful feet. They rhythmically propelled me to the beat of the music with force, strength, and purpose. I tried just about every tool in the bin. I belted out song lyrics along with Billy Joel, Twisted Sister, Missing Persons, and, of course, Gloria. When I finished smashing everything, I attacked the broken pieces on the floor until I had pulverized them into dust. I need not have worried about being too physically weak to smash things for 20 minutes straight. The attendant had to come drag me out after 30 minutes.

When I finished, I was panting, sweaty, and shaking. I had no idea that I had so much power and destructive energy within me. I took a selfie after I discarded my safety gear. I didn’t even look like the same person. The expression on my face was somewhere between “seething rage” and “hungover.” I left the smash studio and got into my car, but I did not feel safe driving. There was a jubilation- a sense of victorious triumph- running through me. It was such an adrenaline surge that I could actually feel my body chemistry changing. At the same time, I had scared myself. It was terrifying and disorienting to realize the sheer enormity of this rage within me. It made me wonder what I was capable of and how I could control this potentially devastating emotion. As I waited for the physical reaction to wane, I began to cry. I felt so strong and so powerful, but also so spent. I texted pictures to my life coach. I think he only half-believed that I would go through with it, and I wanted to show him the evidence.

Finally, I felt calm enough to operate a vehicle. I drove home and told Max about the experience. Max does not necessarily understand the intensity and all-encompassing nature of my emotions, but he is always supportive. He rejoiced with me that the experience was so valuable. I think he might have checked my car just to make sure I had not brought back any implements of destruction with me. He might have slept with one eye open that night. The rage had absolutely nothing to do with him, but, given my reaction, he could not be faulted if he were a little bit wary.

I had a bit of a crash and burn the next day or two. I felt washed out and limp. My whole body ached. This was hardly surprising when I considered the demanding physical work it had done- both in destroying stuff for 30 minutes straight and feeling emotions that my brain denied for over 40 years straight. Once I stabilized, though, my satisfaction and elation about the experience returned.

I processed the rage room experience more fully when next I met with my life coach. He asked if  I got everything from it that I wanted. I unreservedly agreed that I had. He was excited for me that it had been so effective. Then he asked me if I thought it was an experience that I would want to repeat. I thought for a moment and then answered no. There is no reason for me to repeat it. I am unmaddened.

Me, at lunch before the rage room- a perfectly ordinary, mild-mannered retired woman
Suited up and ready to smash!
A hint of the destruction I wrought
In case you had any doubt about the fate of the television
The extremely disturbing and wildly embarrassing “after” experience

So, am I psycho? Have you ever been to a rage room, or would you like to visit one? How do you acknowledge and drain off anger? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a smashing day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

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