This morning I got angry.
Those passing by would likely not have guessed it though.
I wasn't throwing things, hitting my fist against anything, screaming or even raising my voice.
But I was angry.
This fiery force surging through my body, strong words on my tongue.
The person sitting with me had taken their shirt off, casually enjoying the warmth of the morning sun. He didn't think twice about this.
I expressed my desire, "I want to take my shirt off too".
Then I sat and thought about this for several moments...
We were seated in the grassy knoll at the end of a street, overlooking a busy road below and the Sunday morning tennis players at the courts across the road.
A barrage of thoughts entered my mind in just a few moments:
"what will he think if I take my shirt off? I'm sure he'd be fine with it."
"but what will others think?"
"Will someone complain? Or call the police?"
"Will those going past on their way to the tennis courts grimace at the sight of my bare chest next to his?"
"Fuck it", I thought, and took off my top, my back instantly soaking up the sun's rays and warming my body all over.
We carried on in conversation, but this fiery anger remained in my body.
Finally, I blurted out, "So much anger just rushed through me these past few minutes."
My hillside companion made a joking comment about the current topic of discussion, then I brought it back to what was bothering me, why this anger.
I explained to him the amount of time I'd spent weighing up whether or not to take off my shirt. He confirmed my earlier suspicions of him being fine with me having my shirt off, and offered to wear his shirt in solidarity with me, should we find ourselves in a similar situation again.
My body coursed with intense energy - this clarity and precision, that's become familiar when anger rushes through my body.
"I'm so tired of being told what to do or not do with my body, how to dress or not dress."
These words came out sharp and full of emotion, fuelled by years of built up anger and sadness; a desire to have full agency over my body.
"You're nearly 30, shouldn't you be married and having children?!" - the voice of those from the small country town I grew up in
"Eeeww, you don't shave your armpits?!" - interpretation of random facebook comments from strangers
"Don't show too much skin."
"Wear a bra"
"Wax your genitals. Or better yet, get laser hair removal so you'll be rid of pubic hair forever." "Entice your customers with sex/eroticism."
"Wear this. Don't wear that."
"You look like a boy."
"You cut your nails so short... like a lesbian."
SO. MANY. VOICES.
SO. MUCH. ANGER.
Tears began to stream down my cheeks, as I let the words of anger fall from my lips to the ground.
I just wanted to be heard.
To be allowed to be angry.
To be acknowledged.
I expressed how I didn't want to be 'the rebel' or 'rule breaker' just for sunning my upper body in the park.
"Why is something that's no innately human have to be suppressed in women, but is permissible by men?!" I said with a heavy sigh.
I recounted my upbringing... of having to stand in front of my dad (or a mirror before getting approval from dad) and lift my arms, bend over, and measure the line of shorts.
"Don't expose your stomach."
"Don't let your bra straps show... a man's eyes will wander and imagine your breasts."
"Don't wear short shorts... a man will see your upper legs and imagine your 'private parts'."
So many rules. So much suppression.
And now... so much anger.
I took on the identity of 'the rebel' in my late teen years and into my 20s.
I think we all seek a place of belonging, a character to play out amongst the roles we perceive others are playing.
I seemed to stand out from the rest of my siblings (of whom there are 11).
So, I became the rebel.
The one who got my nose pierced at 19, just before moving to Germany.
The one who dyed streaks of my hair purple before my older sister's wedding.
The one who moved across the world for love.
The one who tattooed my fingers and chest - parts of the body not easily covered up.
But I'm tired of being the rebel.
Tired of breaking the rules just for the sake of being seen and acknowledged. (In the words of my teenage self, “Any attention is better than no attention, even if it's 'bad', right?!”)
I've been learning how to bring the rebel on board though. That instead of ignoring or shutting down that part of myself (which only serves for it to arch up even more), I'm giving that angry, hurt part of me space to be expressed.
Emotionally, I let this fiery surge course through my body.
I speak about what I'm feeling with others, and ask for their listening and acknowledgement, without need for solutions.
I let words and tears be released, recognising that they don't have to 'mean' anything about me.
And I'm getting creative... inviting that 'rebel' part of me to use it's ingenuity in my business. Letting it express through living a life of liberation and joy, not bound by the mainstream 9-5, picket fence life.
I'm okay with being fiery. With feeling fully.
Feeling and expressing anger, doesn't make me an angry person, it just makes me human.
Living life according to what comes naturally to me doesn't make me a rebel, it just makes me human.
I'm here to embrace all that it is to be human… and I’m going to keep living life on my terms.
Hairy armpits, angry words, tired eyes, and all...
How do you show up as HUMAN?