Dear Lois, How do I channel the anger I feel into something productive?

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In terms of domestic life, I think a lot about what angers me.

As a cleaning lady, I’ve had clients who’ve pitied me, and others who’ve barked orders at me while offering me their scraps. I’ve had those who’ve stiffed me. Those who’ve looked down their noses at me. And those people made me mad. In all cases, I was on my knees, cleaning their toilets, feeling shame for failing to keep up with the preprogrammed standards of how my life was supposed to look. I was supposed to be better and more successful than what I had become.

Initially, I responded to these rude clients by accepting that life is terrible and people are awful. I quickly learned that this mindset isn’t at all sustainable, and not everyone is bad.

I then began to focus on learning how to release myself from those who made me feel this way about humanity and connect myself with those who uplift and support me.

I was determined to be cheerful, thankful and rise above the anger that was making me dread work. I shifted my focus from how I was being treated to how I was going to respond. I found myself dropping each disrespectful client and consequently releasing myself from all of their negative, judgmental energy. I would wish them well. This to me meant hoping they would lead a life where they became nicer people, so no one else would be subject to their disdain for themselves, projected onto those who they consider beneath them.

I was pleasantly surprised to gain two or three new good clients for every disrespectful client that I dropped. The more I respect myself and gain control of my response to my anger, the more freedom I find is available to enjoy the work at hand with people who I enjoy being around.

I built patience in myself to get the job done with my head held high. I also found that what was making me angry all along were things that were worthy of my anger. I loathe the spirit of condescension and belittlement. There’s no room for it. We should honor each other, no matter what path we’re on.

Pity is different from grace, generosity and compassion. Once you see the difference, it can’t make you “not mad.” My anger now takes on a new form; it is not self-sabotaging anger, it’s righteous anger. With this new lens, I examine what makes me upset in my own home.

Stereotypical women’s work and most forms of domesticity in the home have been deemed worthless (for lack of monetary exchange) and seemingly skill-less efforts for years upon years. Thus, some people scoff at the cost to get a proper professional cleaning, and others who value (and do) the work feel taken advantage of.

We might dread doing the dishes, maintaining the house and cleaning up after pets because it’s work we don’t get paid or recognized for. I get angry when it is socially acceptable to assume that women should embrace this relationship to domesticity over men. I’m okay with being angry about this and I’m even more okay with people disliking me because of it. It is their anger that fuels my belief that all people are created equal and have an equal responsibility to engage with the messy, banal, mundane aspects of life.

Illustration by Lois Volta.

Illustration by Lois Volta.

It is in the disengagement of the mundane where we miss how we could liberate and love the people in our own lives. We can empower by being supportive of the mission to dismantle unhealthy gender norms within the home.

But how can we break the chains of deeply rooted problems if we are not angry that we have been part of the problem? Am I not a woman in the home who has been conditioned by the culture to behave in certain ways? In my righteous anger, I place hope in myself, my family and my community, that we can reshape our culture one home at a time by lifting each other up.

How can things change around the house if we are secretly harboring resentment and hatred? Examine the areas of yourself that need their own type of mental and spiritual cleaning.  Things only change around the house when we turn our hatred into compassion.

We can respond to oppression, disrespect and pity with eyes set on change. When we take the onus off others’ judgments and onto the power we have to evolve, the sky looks a bit bigger and sunnier. We can use our collective hope for change by using righteous anger to fuel our creativity. When we are creative, we inspire.

I am the cleaning lady and I honor where I’ve come from. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m also happy to be who I am, in the thick of the mess with my sleeves rolled up.

We need each other right now and no one is better or worse, so roll your sleeves up too. Do your dirty work, find your own liberation, then choose to aid in the liberation of all women within the home by being an example of what human equality should look like. Do it for your partner, mom, sister, daughter. And do it for yourself.

Lois Volta is a home consultant, musician and founder of Volta Naturals. loisvolta.com. Send questions to thevoltaway@gmail.com.

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