Anger Management 101: Porcupines and No Answers


There are moments when I’m so angry, I think I could physically rip apart the planet and send it careening into space. And would happily do so.

This is not peaceful.

I attended a Yin Nidra class last night. I’m not much of a believer in anything so I have to ignore much of what the instructor says when it starts heading in the direction of communicating with the divine. I’m allergic to that kind of talk. It increases my heartrate and blood pressure and causes a completely understandable desire to run screaming from the building. Nobody likes that.

But I liked what she had to say about intention. It comes up in my Headspace meditation a lot, too: keeping an intention in mind, what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your practice. Last night I really just wanted a good stretch for my aching body, but my overarching goal in all this meditation work I’ve started doing is to cultivate peace.

I’m not a peaceful person. I’m a bit prickly. I’m very prickly. In fact, I just decided my totem animal is a porcupine. I’m small but armored. I tend to avoid conflict, but if it insists on finding me, I pierce things. (Metaphorically, of course. Contrary to what my sister will tell you, I don’t actually stab people with scissors.)

I’m not certain where this comes from because the other women in my family become raging banshees when they’re angry. I just get quiet(er) and cold. And, well, prickly.

I now have this image of me sitting on a stool at my favorite bar, hearing something that makes me angry and instantly sprouting a mane of sharp quills, like a porcupine version of the Hulk. I kind of like it.

Here’s a bit of fun etymology. The word porcupine comes from the Latin porcus (pig) and spina (spine or quill). A regional American name for porcupine is “quill pig,” which isn’t nearly as fun as the Afrikaans name, ystervark, which means “iron pig.”

There are also characteristics that differentiate Old World porcupines from New World porcupines (which, geographically speaking, I would be.) According to Wikipedia, Old World porcupines are large and their spikes are grouped in clusters. New World iron pigs are smaller, have quills attached singly, and are excellent climbers. (Initially I read that as dancers, which tickles me.)

You now have a very good illustration of how my brain works.

What was I talking about?

Ah, yes. Anger. Intention. Peace. Porcupines. A natural progression. 

I’m trying to become less angry, more peaceful. To cultivate less longing for what I don’t have and more content with what I do. To worry less about what I can’t control and do more with what I can.

It’s impossible. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. I have always raged (albeit quietly) against the world. I really don’t know how to change that. Sometimes I wonder if the best way for me to be more at peace and worry less is just to accept that I’m meant to softly rail.

My favorite part of this cartoon from the Oatmeal that I linked to in my last post (and will link here again, because it’s worth looking at more than once) is at the end … “I do these things because I want to be tormented and challenged and interested. I want to build things, and then break them. I want to be busy and beautiful and brimming with ten-thousand moving parts.”

And sometimes I want to be still and silent, but even then my brain doesn’t turn off. It rages and rails and argues and counterargues and overthinks and keeps me up at night and will probably continue to do so until I’m dead. Which, to be clear, I intend to be very far in the future. If Billy Joel and Lori McKenna are anything to go by, I’ll live to a ripe old age.

So maybe if I can’t worry less about what I can’t control, I can at least *also* do more with what I have. I feel like I should be able to channel my anger, frustration, and cynicism into something creative. Something that matters. To someone, even if it’s just other lost and angry souls who are looking for something meaningful to which to cling.

I feel like every blog post I write is just another question. Why don’t I ever have answers?

2 thoughts on “Anger Management 101: Porcupines and No Answers

  1. Michelle

    I tried meditating for a while, but I struggle with stillness. Well, it’s not so much that I struggle with it as it is not a natural fit for me. I’m not even still when I’m unconscious. I do the morning walk of gratitude now. For my entire walk to the bus stop (1km), I stay focused on good thoughts. Things that I like. Things that are good in my life. Even just immediate things around me in that moment – birdsong, sunrise, that tree. This is working so much better for me. Walking has always helped me focus my thoughts.


    1. Jessica Post author

      I also love walking. I try to walk to work as much as possible anyway, though it’s not always practical. But when I’m in a rotten mood, I know I have to. It improves my outlook every time, even if I don’t try to focus on anything specific.

      I really love the Headspace app so far. But I’ve never gotten into meditation before this. I think some methods really pressure the whole “make your mind still” thing, and that doesn’t work for me. I’ll write a blog post about it.



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