"Do you ever feel, like, RAGE?" I ask my mother today as she is hanging her new white cotton curtains.
"Oh dear," she says. "I wish you had inherited more of my genes when it came to this stuff."
"No," I say, "I don't want to pathologize this. I'm just asking you, woman to woman, do you feel rage? Like, ever?"
She thinks as she shirrs the fabric onto the rod. "Regret, maybe, sometimes. But rage--"
"NO," I say. "Not what you feel toward you. What you feel toward other people. After so many years of people-pleasing."
"These also come in the 72" and the 63"," she points out helpfully. "I really like the fabric."
"I am serious. I don't know. Rage? I don't think so."
"Because I am feeling some rage these days," I say. "I am downright ornery."
She raises one eyebrow, amused. "Oh, you're definitely ornery. I think it's hormones. Like with Sophie."
"Or," I counter, "it's just that I'm tired of making nice. I'm tired of pretending that other people's problems constitute emergency action on my part. I've been envisioning FIERY PITS--"
She looks up and squints at me, shaking her head. "Fiery pits."
"Not hallucinations. Like, just...I am cordoning off fiery pit areas in my brain, and they are filling up with people I have just had it with."
"Fiery pits. Uh-huh. Can you reach that bracket?"
"Yes." I fiddle with the bracket. "But Mom. Really. My mental fiery pits? They are filling up with people. And I am sort of amazed at my level of rage. It's growing, not waning."
"Jennifer," she clucks, shaking her head again. "You can either let it eat you alive, or...you know...it's just bad for you. Careful with the bracket. You have to pop it back on, see? It's got two--"
"I see," I say. "But what if this rage is a necessary shift? I don't think it has to be bad. I think it's maybe just long-repressed anger. Maybe it's just a phase. And it's not like I OWN a fiery pit or anything. I mean, I know who would be the first in and the last to leave, and mentally, I really enjoy shoving them face-first into the flames, but I think, you know...this could all be part of the healing process. You know?"