If I had to put a label on it right now, RAWR would be a toothy, spitty roar of frustration. For a variety of reasons that seem the pinnacle of importance right this minute, but probably aren’t, when it comes to the grand scheme of life. But that isn’t always the case. Every once in a while it’s pure joy. Sometimes it’s pain that fills you up to the point that your head jerks involuntarily backward as your esophagus straightens to release the pressure building in your head and heart. Sometimes it’s a noise you let out when the elements descend upon your town and the electrical current from the sky catches your fingertips and begins coursing like adrenalin through your bloodstream, when you momentarily revert from human, back to creature and take off on a mad dash through the rain.
Mostly, I associate it with times like that. When I shrug off the restrictions placed upon me by the culture we live in, and let loose whatever is in my heart. I used to be embarrassed when that happened. It is, after all, frowned upon, almost always. We’re supposed to be composed. Quiet. Respectful of other people’s space, feelings, beliefs, etc. We’re supposed to be cheerful, and look on the bright side. Responsible. Sensible. Mature. Politically correct. Culturally sensitive. The adjectives alone make me want to unleash the raptor claws. The labels that come with really letting go, in almost any fashion, are not ones that you want associated with your name in this day and age. Emotional. Unstable. Weird. When I was young, I really didn’t want anymore of those connotations floating around me, as I walked through senior hall in high school.
But then, when I was 19 years old, my Grandfather died. The man who, besides my mom and dad, had been more to me than anyone else on the planet. Not just a pillar, but a compass, a shelter, an anchor, and a guide. A good strong back that helped to build the neighbors houses. A shrewdness and intelligence that saw through false fronts and all attempts to mislead. A smile that drew everyone. A presence that demanded respect. A powerful, voice that carried each and every impossible note of his beloved operas through the house and out the windows. An artistic precision as a draftsman that earned him a career that far outweighed what his education should have allowed. A temper that frightened away men twice his size, and laughter that brought them all back. He’d quit school at 16 to help feed his family in the Depression, seen the ugliest part of World War II, raised 3 strong-willed daughters, loved my grandmother with unabashed adoration for almost 60 years, and loved me damn near as much. I was the only one of his empire of grandchildren that he called for when he was dying.
The funeral took place in the big church near my grandparent’s house outside of Fort Worth, Texas. They had dressed my grandfather up in a suit and arranged his face in an expression of peace that somehow made me feel revolted. He hadn’t gone quietly. He’d never done much of anything quietly. There were photos of him from his time in the service, as a young man that I didn’t recognize, there were near a hundred people walking through and expressing their sorrow for my loss, some of them I vaguely remembered, but most I didn’t. Everyone was calm, everyone was talking about how… much happier we should be for him now that he was with God. I kept looking around and wondering why no one looked like I felt, which was on the edge of screaming. My mother, who was more of her father’s spirit than either of her sisters, but who was trapped here in the binds of tradition and trying not to embarrass my grandmother, was thanking people for their prayers, when she has never believed in God. I had to read some Bible verse at the podium that I neither understood nor accepted. I was so angry at all of these people for their sterile, composed and precisely planned execution of this ritual. Obviously none of them had known him like I had. Obviously I was alone. Obviously I was wired wrong, that I couldn’t find any comfort in what was going on around me.
I was watching my aunt escort my grandmother slowly away from the coffin at the front of the church, this vicious torrent of anger and dismay chasing around in my head, when Grammy suddenly jerked her arm free of my aunt’s, spun 180 degrees, collapsed into a pew, dropped her face into her frail old hands and essentially burst wide open. She sobbed into her dress and slapped away the hands of anyone who approached to try and soothe away her grief. She threw off the responsibilities of a respectable widow hosting a gathering for the benefit of everyone who needed comfort less than she did, and reverted back into a creature who’d lost her mate, her partner, her protector, her lover, the father of her babies, and the other half to her wizened old heart. Everyone around her looked flustered and worried, not knowing what they should do, and I was secretly glad. There it was. That was what I felt, and I was so grateful to her for feeling it, and showing it, onlookers be damned. It did scare me, because I was of course, still just a kid, to see one of the ‘grown ups’ in my life fall apart like that, but that didn’t last very long, because it didn’t take much to see that it was primal and beautiful and the most real tribute to the loss of such a great man’s love as she could ever express. That short moment, when I watched her curl into a ball and roar ferociously against the pain she felt… I will never forget that. I knew then that our spirits were the same, and my pride could not have been contained in all the oceans.
When I am too full of something to keep it inside me, I let it come pouring out, just like she did, and I know that it’s ok, because that kind of passion runs in my family. We aren’t quiet. We aren’t composed. We’re a throwback to a lost tribe of true humans, who felt what they were supposed to feel, and had no concept that there should be shame attached to it. I take it to mean I am linked through my bloodline to the people I am most proud to call my family.
When the hairs on my neck stand up under a thick cover of lightning storm clouds, I let my eyes grow wide, throw the door open and charge like a savage out into the downpour.
When I am in the middle of a crowd of thousands, and music courses into all of us like a higher plane of collective consciousness, I let the tears bounce off my face to the rhythm of whatever hedonistic beat I feel.
When someone around me expresses an “opinion” that feels to me like an affront to our entire species, and the will I possess to hold us together where we belong, I admonish him or her with sharp whips of the truth, because the “right to your opinion” can kiss my skinny white ass, if you’re using it to spread hate or fear or ignorance.
When someone means or causes harm to a person that I love, my rage defies my slight stature, and my little fists ball up ready to fight back.
When a demon (for lack of a better word) posing as a person commits atrocities that wound us as a community, I am not embarrassed to join my grief with that of my people, in hopes that it crushes the perpetrators of evil back down into whatever cracks of hell they emerged from, and simultaneously spreads the roots of healing into those most robbed of happiness by the crime.
When my sweetheart is gone and I feel like one more appearance alone in public, one more polite refusal of the passes of a man who doesn’t know my heart belongs elsewhere, one more morning waking up in an empty bed, will drive me into loneliness that I will never return from, I scream into my mattress with a rush of adrenalin alike to that of one I’d feel running for my life from hungry wolves, and I hope that somewhere in the universe, he picks up this channel of raw emotion that means I love him so desperately that his absence drives me mad.
And when I lose someone, regardless of the fact that I believe our energies will in time be combined again in the cosmos, from whence we came, I will howl like a rabid animal and scare the living shit out of every single person in a ten mile radius, rather than stuff all that pain down inside, for it to poison my blood, until a more appropriate time arrives for me to deal with it.
I inherited my RAWR from a long line of men and women who refused to accept the rules they found to be unworthy of following. It is a part of me, even when that is inconvenient. Those around me who might momentarily be pushed backward by the force of it erupting from my lungs/mind/heart/soul, are quickly drawn back toward me, in curiosity at what force this little body could contain to create such power.
Be proud of what comes from within you. Share it with the world. Lord knows, our people are asleep at the wheel and in desperate need of some LOUD noise to wake them. Maybe if we could synchronize it, the force of it could change our course. Maybe it is healthier for us not to sanitize the less than perfect aspects of what being a human means. Maybe, in the pursuit of being my truest self, and encouraging others to do the same, I will earn the pride of my ancestors and I will deserve the love I was raised with. Maybe if I RAWR loud enough, my grandparents will hear me and know that they left something powerful in me, back here on Earth. I remain ever wide-eyed and hopeful. And loud.